Welcome to our Summer Newsletter. Currently the sun is shining strongly and seems set to continue....Well it was at the time of writing. It is vital to be vigilant when out and about for signs of fire, or potential fire hazards. The passing months since our last Newsletter has continued to be busy and there follows some of the highlights which have been held alongside our regular works.
Work has continued throughout the year, with our wonderful volunteers maintaining enthusiasm by providing 630 voluntary hours which averages 16 people attending each session. This is well above other local voluntary group’s attendances. It is pleasing to have regular attendances by pupils doing their Duke of Edinburgh awards as well as local Scouts and Army Cadets. Some continue to attend even when their particular remit has been completed, thus hopefully helping to encourage the next generation to continue to be involved.
A variety of tasks including clearing overgrown brambles from pathways and of late, the ongoing dreaded clearance of the Himalayan Balsam have been undertaken. It is joyous to note the increasing eradication of its stranglehold on the banks of the stream and the rise of a variety of indigenous vegetation including Rosebay Willow Herb.
Such is the success of the project, which has taken several years to achieve, we are now needing to deal with outbreaks in the deeper areas of the trees, which only adds to the difficulties of access. We recognise that total eradication will never be possible due to the presence of Balsam further upstream, from which seeds will always be washed into our area and hope that relevant land owners will start to take their own steps for dealing with this attractive thug.
Andy recently met up with Mike Abraham, Beat Forester & Shaka Nares, Beat Works Supervisor. They inspected the sites we had been working on in the last year (CHS & CHN) and are really happy with what we have achieved. He reported that Mike is working on the Forestry 10-year Plan at the moment and is very keen to consult with us when he has a rough draft. He would welcome any ideas we may have as to what we would like to see happen in the woods over the next ten years.
• Understorey planting of the mature pines along the top ridge track with mixed broadleaf trees.
• Felling trees by the top burial mound to give a view out towards the Purbecks and installing a bench.
• Replacing the post and rail fence around the burial mound with a split chestnut one.
• In conjunction with and on the suggestion of Colin the FE Wildlife Ranger, creating some heathland habitat in Uddens Plantation. This is an ideal volunteer task for the autumn and we will be undertaking commencement in our 6th October Work Party. We are very excited to be involved in such a major environmental project in keeping with the aims of the Friends.
The steep entrance at Bridle Way which is causing concerns to local residents has been discussed with Dorset Countryside Rights of Way team and we will continue to do so, but it is recognised that due to its location and geography it is likely will never be suitable for those less able. It is therefore recommended that they utilise the easily accessible pathway via Colehill.
We have continued to site Perch Benches throughout the area which will provide respite along the way. Hopefully you have noticed the maintenance of the pine built benches in the Spring which will help their longevity, but oak replacements will ultimately replace them.
We have been advised that the pathway along the re-planted site where the oak and rowan are growing in the plastic tubes, we have been advised not to clear any of the birch etc that is growing up along it at this stage as it will crowd out the bramble a little and is doing no harm at the moment as they are thriving.
Although some vandalism and small fires have been noted within the woodland, it is thankfully on a small scale. The big increase in clearing cover, along with public usage of the area over the years, has ensured that potential vandals do not have the privacy which normally encourages such behaviour. The Beat Foresters will report the use of motorbikes and antisocial behaviour earlier this summer to their Police contact who is part of the Urban Heaths Partnership. They advise the public to report every occurrence to the Police on 101 or online.
CLLR GEORGE RUSSELL BENCH PROJECT
Using timber from local sawmills (Thank you Linwood Sawmill at Mannington), installation of an oak bench along the disused railway site, with funds donated by Cllr George Russell, will shortly take place. As well as making the benches, Jeff is donating patio stone left from his home project which will form a suitable setting around the bench and help with winter drainage. A plaque honouring George’s input will be added and funds will also provide for an Interpretation Panel in situ close by near the old railway hut. George has now retired from his long held role representing our area and we wish him well for the future and thank him for his support of the Friends.
Information Leaflets have now been photocopied free of charge (thank you Caroline) and distributed to local libraries. They are also available at The Old Thatch, and some have been posted door to door locally. Others are available for handing out at future Work Parties, the AGM and other sites as appropriate. Glossy printed leaflets will be considered when the mapping on the rear is officially updated in due course.
For the first time in our history, our AGM was held at High Mead Farm, Longham. We were pleased to see so many familiar faces attending. Janet and Andy outlined the achievements made by the Trustees and volunteers of the Friends, most of which have already featured in this Newsletter. As part of the conditions for being a Trustee, three members stood down and were unanimously re-elected unchallenged. They are: Andy Hartstone, Jimmy Burbidge and Lin White.
NEW COMMITTEE MEMBER
We are delighted to welcome Jean Loader to our committee. Jean has long been a very keen regular Volunteer at our Work Parties and has personally been responsible for pulling massive amounts of Himalayan Balsam on her daily walks. She has a wealth of knowledge for all aspects of flora and fauna within the area and will add much to our environmental remit. We very much look forwards to working more closely with Jean.
• Discussion with the Beat Forester regarding the mess and damage to pathways by a contractor during the major harvest of timber. Although very destructive at the time, it has been well restored prior to their departure. It is unfortunate that it is not economically viable for them to remove other than full loads of timber from site, which results in the various piles of cut timber. It has been decided to embrace these piles as potential for bee and insect habitation in support of Dorset Wildlife Trusts "Get Dorset Buzzing" campaign; holes have been drilled to help facilitate this. A future project will be to clear the shade producing growth developing in front of the bee wall in Cannon Hill North to allow full sun to continue to encourage their activities and welfare.
• We have been asked to assist with the Castleman Trailway ‘Way Marker Project’, whose Rangers have asked for help with the renewal of signage, way markers and posts.
Thank you all for your continued support of the Friends and we look forwards to seeing as many of you as possible at our future work parties.
On behalf of the trustees