Friday, 4 May 2012

Birds Take Up New Homes

Nine eggs in the nest 2nd of May 2012

The Wye Valley AONB volunteers and the Youth Rangers were busy back in early spring creating new homes for hole nesting birds, such as blue, coal and great tit.

Some of the bird boxes have been taken up. We have fitted a nest box camera to this box which contains nine eggs. Keep checking back for new posts to check on the progress of this nest site and we will update you on the others.

Blue Tit on the nest 3rd of May 2012

The boxes were constructed by Volunteers and Youth Rangers using recycled materials; scrap wood, aluminium cans and old bicycle tyre inner tubes.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Joan's Hill Farm 26th April

Haugh Wood stands at the top of the Woolhope Dome an area of geologically older rock poking out of the Old Red Sandstone at the northern extreme of the WVAONB. Tucked away on the northern edge of the wood is Joan’s Hill Farm. This is a 46 acre site of un-improved pasture land which provides a rich and ancient flora. Under the auspices of the charity Plantlife this area is being managed to preserve this special habitat.
Within the farm is an orchard which has been in existence at least since 1843 and the task of the WVAONB volunteers (with some volunteers from Plantlife) was to help in its preservation by building some wooden tree surrounds to protect from cattle new trees when they are planted.  Cattle grazing is an important part of ancient meadow management but the cattle tend to damage newly planted trees as well unless they are protected. Under the direction of Joe Costley who provided us with some background to the site and a pile of posts and rails with which to construct the cattle barriers we set out with our usual enthusiasm.
Despite the forecast we were spared all but a few drops of rain although the grass and soil was very wet in places. There were two basic techniques for building the shelters: either dig a hole for each corner post or hammer in the corner posts. Both techniques were pretty strenuous and at the end of the day achieved the same ends. Getting corner posts square on and the rails horizontal proved something of a challenge and we nearly had to resort to Pythagoras’ theorem at one point but ultimately all the timber was used up and all the shelters made without anyone managing to hammer their own thumb as far as I am aware.
As a distraction from the construction works Joe took us into an adjacent field where the green-winged orchid was known to exist and amidst a swathe of cowslips it was there in abundance.  We formed a human ‘transect’ across the field and counted by eye at least four hundred plants as we traversed it. A great advance on the hundred or so plants counted last year.
This is a really lovely area and it is well worth a visit – we hope to return in September by when the new trees should be well established.

Green veined orchid

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

From October 2011 to 2012

Hedge Clearance 2nd of February
The blog has been silent but the activity has been intense. Volunteers were busy in November 2011 at Joan's Hill Farm and in December we saw out the year  at Staunton Meend battling through stormy weather to set stone walls straight and removing silver birch from the common soon to be grazed by Exmoor ponies.

I can hardly believe we are approaching the end of February, it has been a busy and fruitful period for the Wye Valley AONB volunteers. On the 19th of January we embarked on a minibus tour of the Overlooking the Wye sites and discussed the groups involvement in the ongoing maintenance at a selection of these historic locations.

In February  several attempts were made to plant new hedging and trees and Kate Humble's Farm. Twice thwarted, yet undaunted we returned on the 23rd of February to complete the task.

Volunteers have been busy checking walks leaflets, soon to be published as part of the legacy of the Overlooking the Wye Project. Many thanks to Sally and David for this work.  Elaine Savage has undertaken web site training, and is now able to update the events pages remotely. Liz and David Berry,decked out in Georgian attire, assisted with the filming project undertaken by the Youth Rangers (see Youth Rangers blog for further details.) The following account is written by Guy Moody who captures the spirit of the proceedings at Kate's Farm....

Meend Farm revisited
Thursday February 23rd saw us once more at Meend Farm having been here three weeks ago when ‘earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone’ as the hymn goes.  On this occasion it was altogether more balmy, being the hottest day of the year rather than one of the coldest.  The task in hand seemed straightforward plant up some native mixed species hedges around the proposed garden perimeter of the farm house.  A more than abundant supply of whips had been supplied by the Woodland Trust and a more than abundant supply of volunteers, spades, canes and plastic tubes had been provided by WVAONB.
So after a welcome cup of tea or coffee courtesy of Kate and Ludo we were divided up into teams and set to work. All went well until we discovered that in many places our proposed hedgerows were following the same line as the hidden footings of some previously removed stone walls.  The engineers and strong men amongst us managed to lift most of the stones out of the ground and with the aid of a mini tractor supplied by the builders on site they were moved to a less inconvenient place.
After that the planting was completed in good time despite the soil in places being quite ‘clayey’ which seemed to double the weight of our boots and stick very efficiently to our spades. In addition to the hedges there was time to plant some larger trees in the adjacent fields and also to enjoy the February sun at lunchtime from the vantage point of a convenient rubble heap.
We also tried to teach Sarah (Sawyer) some of the fundamentals of rugby, but I am not sure we succeeded.
Guy Moody
Thank you Guy, and thank you to everyone. It will be great to revisit the farm and see how the new plants are doing later in the year.

Neil and Dorathy digging deep!

Peter, Guy, Roger and Andrew in action