Woodland Pond Assistance Received

The Sayers Common woodland pond which had been progressively restored by The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group since 2013 had been subjected to a massive spread of reeds during the summer. This was mainly due to the very hot weather experienced in 2018 which caused the pond to dry up completely but with dampness remaining in the silt that their roots flourish in. This problem, when  added to the on-going difficulty of containing the continuously sprouting willow stumps that had previously been cut down within the pond, but had been far too difficult to remove the roots, proved a major headache for the group to tackle.

The restored pond was a haven for wildlife.

 

This followed years of  dedicated work by group volunteers.

 

The pond was continuously maintained to keep it in good condition.

 

In the heat of the summer in 2018 the pond vegetation became rampant.

 

Despite our considerable effort we could not get on top of the vigorous spread.

Each reed root had a spread of over half a metre and proved very difficult to pull out to restore the area to a pond rather than a reed bed. The hot weather also caused the willow growth to accelerate so that cutting back was required several times during the summer season. Volunteers gamely tackled the problem but struggled to make much impact in the near-tropical conditions as re-growth seemed to be overtaking their clearance effort. It was at this point that the landowners of the area, generously offered to step in to give assistance to our difficult task. We discussed the problem and they came to our aid by employing  a firm of specialist professional contractors to help us at their own expense as a donation to support our work.

 

Specialist contractors were employed by the landowners to help us.

With the massive mechanical equipment the contractors had at their disposal, the willow stumps were quickly removed and the reed roots taken out with the extraction of the silt they grew in. The improvement was instantaneous and open water was once again restored for the wildlife to return to.

 

The stubborn willow stumps and reed roots were no match for the giant machines and were skilfully removed.

 

The pond very quickly became the open water attraction for wildlife once more. 

 

This allows us once again to manage this valuable location to keep it in good condition. 

We are obviously extremely grateful to the landowners for their generosity which has allowed us once again to keep on top of the maintenance task required each year to keep it in the condition it deserves following the tremendous number of volunteer man-hours spent on its restoration. This now fully compliments the ecological value of the surrounding countryside and woodland area.

Nature Reserve Restoration

Since 2009 The Woodland Flora & Fauna Group has been inspecting and maintaining bat and bird boxes within a small wood on Talbot Field Nature Reserve in Hassocks on behalf of Hassocks Parish Council. The area has proved very successful with the majority of boxes always occupied. The bat species mostly found are Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Brown Long-eared with mostly Blue Tits, Great Tits and Nuthatches occupying the bird boxes. The wood provides a welcome sanctuary for these species.

 

The woodland is a valued sanctuary for bats and birds. 

The reserve generally had progressively become very overgrown with brush and unwanted seedlings spreading throughout the area since and our group was approached by the Council to enquire if we would be prepared to remedy the problem. Talbot Field is an extremely valuable location providing much needed opportunities for nature to flourish again so agreement was readily given.

 

The thick bramble understorey advances across the surrounding meadow.

 

Elsewhere brush of all descriptions determinedly spreads throughout the reserve.

Initially we removed the densely spreading white poplar saplings which had invaded the reserve via windborne seeds from neighbouring species and cleared overgrown footpaths. We then tackled the thick growth of bramble which was rapidly spreading outwards from the wood. Bramble growth, mixed with stinging nettles was also invading the reserve around the boundaries.

 

Spreading white poplar saplings were speedily tackled by group volunteers.

Volunteers are steadily tackling the overall task and already significant progress has been made. The dense bramble removal is proving to be very challenging but work will continue until the reserve is once again in a well-managed condition for the benefit of nature.

 

All cleared cuttings were burnt as piles were created.

 

The wood as it appeared later after clearance work had been undertaken by the volunteers.

Hopefully next season when all restoration work is finished, Talbot Field will flourish with increased vigour to significantly benefit the indigenous flora and fauna species. These benefits to the natural world are the reason our volunteers work so hard and give up hours of their valuable time to achieve. We are very fortunate to receive such support and are extremely grateful for it, as we are for the generosity of Hassocks Parish Council in designating this location as an area for nature.

Meadow Cut At Pond Lye SNCI Continues

Work has steadily continued with the annual meadow cut at Pond Lye SNCI. It resumed in the late summer when group volunteers gathered to undertake the task of cutting all meadow growth and removing it.

Volunteers tackle the annual meadow cut.

Having now cleared the meadow of the jungle of brush that had virtually destroyed it, all attention is being given to restoring its quality so that all previously recorded distinctive flora species can return. This is a task which like the original brush removal, will take many years to achieve.

  The meadow is cut in sections.

The cutting operation is a considerable one for our volunteers to complete. The meadow covers an area of approximately 6 acres and takes a long time to cut so the more volunteers we can attract the easier it is to undertake.

Brush cutter operators begin the task.

 

Progressively the selected area is cut.

 

The cuttings are raked up and burnt.

 

Each volunteer selects an area to complete.

This year we were fortunately joined by a volunteer with a tractor and cutter who kindly assisted us. This helped us enormously and advanced our task significantly towards completion.

Our tractor volunteer steps in to assist.

 

The difference his help made was enormous.

 

Within a few hours he had competed a whole section of the meadow which would have taken weeks with brush cutters and scythes.

 

He then moved on to another section of more difficult terrain.

Due to the rough terrain in many areas with ant hills etc., the tractor and cutter were unable to cover the whole meadow but have completed a vast area.

The progress viewed from the car park entrance when the tractor work was completed was impressive and we are extremely grateful for this assistance.

The remaining difficult areas are being tackled with brush cutters and scythes and will hopefully be completed in the next few months, weather permitting. We are very grateful to all our volunteers for their help. If you are able to provide any assistance please contact us as there is a lot of raking and burning still to do.

Due to the uneven ground in many areas the tractor and cutter were unable to cover the whole meadow but have completed a tremendous amount. Completion is hoped for in the next few weeks when the remaining difficult areas are cut by hand. 

Local Bat Population Flourishes

Each year we inspect all of the bat boxes that we have erected around the local countryside to provide roosting habitat for this threatened species of wildlife. This year we found a lot of residents in the scores of boxes erected in many woodlands proving that our effort is contributing to their well-being. The summer has been a good one for warm weather and insects and the bats have capitalised on this.

 

One of the occupants found in our many boxes this year.

Breeding takes place earlier in the summer and when we inspect the boxes later in the season the young are mostly faring for themselves. Bats are sociable creatures and it is not uncommon to find groups clustered in the boxes, although the number found varies generally from one to ten. Not all boxes have residents in as they tend to move around a lot to obtain the best current locations which are dictated by weather and warmth. Even when empty there is a lot of evidence of use from the droppings left so we can determine whether a box has been occupied recently.

 

Two Soprano Pipistrelle Bats found huddled together in another box.

 

A pair of Common Pipistrelle bats enjoying the box sanctuary provided in one of the many woodlands we survey.

 

A young bat found attached to a removed door is gently returned to the safety of the box.

The task requires a dedicated working party of volunteers to manhandle the sections of ladders needed to get up to examine the boxes and a licenced person to undertake the activity. This year we were fortunate with good weather whilst undertaking the task so it was possible to achieve up to three excursions to different woodlands each week. Wet or windy weather makes the activity hazardous as the  boxes are mounted high in the trees. With wet ground the ladder can slip despite a volunteer standing on the bottom and trees swaying in the wind move the ladder resting against it. This is why inspection dates are chosen carefully to avoid these situations.

 

The success of the task is dependant on willing volunteers.

 

Considerable effort is required to transport and erect the ladder sections.

 

Every box is examined and results recorded.

 

Each working party member carries a section of the ladder between the boxes.

 

A hibernation box is examined for occupancy and cleaned out for future residents.

 

Written and photographic records are created for each occupant found.

This year we found a predominance of Common and Soprano Pipistrelle bats unlike last year when Brown Long-eared bats were more in evidence. Each bat presence is recorded and the results submitted to a national database which continuously monitors population numbers. We are fortunate to have volunteers who are prepared to undertake this very strenuous activity and are grateful for their enthusiasm and help. This year Mike, Steve and Jennie gave up many days of their valuable time to join me on this important exercise.

 

This gathering of Soprano Pipistrelles we found in one box demonstrates the value of our conservation initiative towards their survival. 

 

Sayers Common Pond Work Continues

The pond at Sayers Common was revisited this summer to undertake annual maintenance work. The summer was an extremely hot one and when we returned to maintain the area we found no water in the pond. This is an unusual occurrence and was found to have accelerated the spread of reeds and the integral willow stump growth to a degree that made it appear like a jungle scene. The damp mud and the lack of pond water beneath the blazing sun were obviously ideal conditions for these species to flourish in. This was very disheartening for the maintenance working party and took many weeks of extremely hard work to bring conditions back under control.

 

An explosion of reed and willow growth faced the volunteer working party.

The root spread on the reeds was considerable and each one we managed to pull up carried a root foot of over half a metre. This was entangled with the surrounding mud which lifted out with it and made it extremely heavy to manhandle. Such was the spread of these reeds which had transformed a beautiful open pond into a reed bed, that we had to resort to chopping them down rather than removing them. This was obviously not a long term solution but at least it returned the area to a semblance of normality in the interim period.

 

The reeds were cut back to the dry pond base.

The willow stumps were more accessible to cut back their growth as we were able to walk across the mud to them rather than wade through water. This was done as one of the first tasks but such were the favourable growth conditions during this hot spell that by the time we had completed our period of work they needed cutting back again.

 

All cuttings were manhandled to a central collection point for disposal.

We completed this task and removed the spreading brush around the pond so that it once again looked like the pond that had attracted so much wildlife but we knew that a more permanent solution was required. This is being considered to make it more manageable in future years.

 

Each visit progressively restored the pond to its previous state but still without the water that was necessary for wildlife to return again.