The Government’s current policy for all new development to achieve a biodiversity net gain of 10% should be reassuring to those who are anxious about the loss of our natural environment and our dwindling wildlife. In practice it means less, for bringing human habitation closer to whatever close-proximity measures like small areas dedicated to nature and wildlife corridors next to estates of houses, are destined to be reduced to children’s play areas or a dog walking exercise facility over time, however well intentioned the initial concept might be.
That is why the continuation of work of groups like The Woodland, Flora & Fauna Group is so vital by enhancing areas of countryside and undertaking compensatory measures to keep wildlife populations flourishing.
Last month we revealed our installation of a new roosting habitat for bats in our local area. This month we are able to reveal similar initiatives for dormice as we have installed many new dormouse boxes in two further woodlands in Sayers Common.
The woodlands were selected as the most encouraging dormouse habitat locations in the area.
A team of group volunteers prepared and erected boxes following encouraging signs in the initial installations of temporary dormouse investigation tubes erected in previous years.
Two of the team members prepare to undertake the work which took three days to complete in the two woodlands.
The newly prepared boxes were transported to each site.
A marked-up location map was consulted to identify existing tube positions.
The tubes were then located and removed.
Permanent box positions were placed as close to those of the temporary tubes as possible.
They were then fixed securely to withstand buffeting from adverse weather conditions.
Each new box was marked on a map….
….and its ordnance survey reference number noted.
The whole wood was steadily covered, installing boxes as the team progressed.
All areas for dormouse habitation within the woodland were included in an installed grid formation….
….to meet national result monitoring requirements.
About 80 new boxes were mounted in total throughout the two woodlands.
All redundant dormouse investigation tubes were removed from site as the permanent boxes replaced them.
Dormice are very scarce nationally so every one found is recorded to monitor population numbers remaining. All positive results are entered on a national database so that further support can be provided if necessary.
+ MEADOW IMPROVEMENT EFFORT.
Similarly our work restoring the valued local meadow at Pond Lye Site of Nature Conservation Importance has been continuing throughout the early summer.
Pond Lye Site of Nature Conservation Importance.
With an encouraging return of previously recorded distinctive flora species that had virtually disappeared due to encroaching brush prior to our intervention (including a record number of returning orchids this year), our latest attendance concentrated on reducing the number of less desirable species that were prompting complaints from neighbouring properties.
Thistles were increasing dramatically throughout the meadow.
Many were visible but others lurked amongst the grass waiting to shoot up when conditions were favourable.
A thorough search had to be conducted….
.…with volunteers collectively marking out sections of meadow and pacing every metre….
….to remove all that was found.
When one section was declared clear….
….all moved on to an adjoining section to tackle those flourishing nearby.
Local piles of uprooted thistles were created to minimise continuous walking to the main stacks.
Each person selected a portion of the current section….
….and determinedly cleared it.
With progressively more fluctuating wet and warm, dry weather occurring each week….
….the volunteers faced increasingly taller meadow growth to work within.
The thistles got larger….
…and appeared in varying sized clusters as big thistles often seemed to accumulate a family of thistles around them, making removal more difficult.
The small individual piles were collected in wheelbarrows and transported to the main heaps.
By the time we reached the final sections to clear….
….the grass was so long that we occasionally lost site of each other….
….so as well as a tool count at the end of each session, we were prompted to conduct a head count to ensure no-one was left behind lost in the undergrowth.
When all thistles had been removed and stacked….
….the huge piles were transported from the meadow and disposed of.
We encountered many species of the indigenous wildlife during the course of our work including, frogs, toads and voles. All were treated with care. We after all, were the visitors to the area they regarded as their home.
A spider clambers across a thistle leaf within the undergrowth.
This frog was another of the many species of wildlife found in the meadow.
Initially we had tackled both the ragwort and thistle growing in the meadow but in due course we transferred our attention exclusively to the more troublesome and profusely spreading thistle. This attention each year will hopefully achieve the reduction necessary to prevent further complaints about airborne seed spreading to the properties of others.
Our volunteers have achieved the goal we sought over several months of hard work and we are very grateful for their effort.
A thistle free meadow as it appeared when we had completed our work.
Both the dormouse box installation and the meadow improvement work provide additional help in keeping our local natural environment in better condition to support the species that rely on it for survival, whilst addressing human concerns when ambitions conflict.