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September - December 2011
in reverse chronological order.

WILDLIFE REVIEW OF 2011 - by Brian Fellows

Water Voles

A total of 86 Water Vole sightings were reported to me in 2011 which is a slight improvement on last year's total of 77, but well down on 2008 (124) and 2009 (161). Good news was that Water Voles were seen in all sections of the river, suggesting that several pairs were in residence. Not such good news was the presence Brown Rats on the river banks. Thanks to Jeff Fleming on his long vole watching vigils for alerting us to this problem. Rats can cause serious damage to a small population of voles like ours, by predating youngsters and spreading disease. David Gattrell sets traps for rats on Peter Pond and this is something we need to consider on Brook Meadow.

 Birds of Brook Meadow

52 birds were recorded on Brook Meadow in 2011 from a total of 71 on the all-time list. All the common residents were present, ie, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Gt Spot Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, Collared Dove and Woodpigeon.

As for warblers, all three of our regular summer visitors, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Whitethroat, arrived on time, though their breeding success was not clear. We also had a fleeting visit from a Cuckoo and the Cetti's Warbler, which was regular in 2010, showed up briefly in spring and went.

Of the corvids, Carrion Crows and Magpies were ever present and a Jay was often spotted flying towards Lumley, where it probably nests. We have also had regular sightings of Nuthatch in the north-east corner, though this is probably a visitor from Constant Springs.

Meanwhile, on the river, Little Egret, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail were frequently seen and at least 3 pairs of Moorhens nested along the river banks, and probably Mallard, as well, though how many youngsters survived is anyone's guess.

Of the birds of prey, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were often seen over the meadow, but we missed the 'resident' Buzzard which we had last year. Other notable absentees in 2011 were Water Rail, last seen in 2008, Turtle Dove, not seen since the summer of 2008 and Mistle Thrush, which has nested near the south bridge.


A total of 255 plant species were recorded on the Brook Meadow site in 2011, from a total plant list of 335. Some on the complete list were one year casuals and others have not been seen for many years and are probably gone for good. However, all 12 of our sedges were found, with Divided Sedge and Distant Sedge (a meadow indicator) doing particularly well on the Lumley area.

Of the other meadow indicators Hoary Ragwort showed well on the west side of the north meadow and Strawberry Clover likewise on the path round the Lumley area. Pepper-saxifrage came up on the Lumley area as usual, but I could not find any Marsh Arrowgrass despite a lot of searching!

Tall Fescue dominated the grassland, while the rare Festulolium Hybrids were also showing well.

As for the orchids, seven Southern Marsh Orchids came up where two were planted in 2005. We found 8 Common Spotted Orchids, but Bee Orchids (2 plants) and Pyramidals (only 1) were very hard to find.

Of the two plants that I count every year on Brook Meadow, Butterbur continues to go from strength to strength with a record 859 flower spikes in 2011. A large increase over the past three years is mainly due to the continued spread of plants onto the meadow in front of the seat, which now accounts for over 40% of all the plants on the meadow. In contrast, I was only able to find a maximum of 214 flowering plants of Ragged Robin on the Lumley area, which was well below the record set last year of 625, but that was exceptional.


21 species of butterfly were seen on the meadow in 2011, including Brown Argus and Ringlet, which are fast becoming Brook Meadow regulars. Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper were abundant in the summer, but Small Tortoiseshell continues to be scarce. Of the migrants, Painted Lady was very scarce and Clouded Yellow was not seen at all.

Of the other insects, we had plenty of Ladybirds, Soldier Beetles, Froghoppers, Hover flies, Meadow Grasshoppers and Bush-crickets. Richard Somerscocks spent hours stalking damselflies and dragonflies with his camera lens and got some great images for the web sites.

CONSERVATION REVIEW OF 2011 - by Wally Osborne

Practical Work

Out of 24 practical work sessions held during the year 2011, only 1 was abandoned due to bad weather, a testament to the dedication of all of the average 10 Volunteers per session, who put in a total of 480 hours of conservation effort. As always the sessions were organised to BTCV standards, with our 4 experienced Volunteer Leaders providing the task and safety briefings and latterly, joined by 2 newly qualified Leaders Lesley Harris and Maurice Lillie who will share the load in future.

General work - The cruel weather of early 2011 left the Meadow a sorry sight but, in the first quarter, we managed to complete a good amount of formative pruning and selective bramble control plus the finishing of our annual schedule of the grassland mosaic cutting. Palmers Road Copse paths were spread with wood chippings arising from some nearby tree surgery work and a lot of effort was put into blocking off unauthorised paths out of Gooseberry Cottage onto the South Meadow, plus creating dead hedges on riverbanks to protect Water Vole habitats from dog intrusions.

Path maintenance - The vigorous spring vegetation growth always creates work for us in keeping the occasional paths open to all visitors through both hand and power scythe cutting, whilst appreciating the wonderful wild flowers developing. Some new paths were cut in an attempt to relieve footfall on some of the heavily used stretches, and as ever, visitors created their own new routes which we try to discourage by brushwood barriers, particularly around the North Meadow wild flower rich area.

Annual cut - The annual cut by our Contractor (paid for by HBC), began rather late this year, following the standard practice of mosaic cutting non-adjacent sections, which had not been cut in 2010. This work included the cutting of the heavily overgrown northern most part of the South Meadow, not done for many years and now included in a 3-year rotational cut system. A further benefit from this work was the access provided to the Alder Buckthorn plantation to enable it's nurturing.

Special projects - In the last quarter, two rather special projects were begun at the instigation of the New Committee, in addition to the usual work of keeping the site tidy and free from litter. Firstly, the Hawthorn hedge planted in the North Meadow about 7 years ago was 'laid in the midland style' by a strong team led by Mike Probert and, as he said, it is 'a pukka job'. Secondly, they decided to plan and execute the extension of the Native Hedgerow along the western boundary of the Seagull Lane patch, taking advantage of the Woodland Trust scheme, which celebrates the Queen's Jubilee. This project entailed the somewhat controversial removal of a large patch of brambles and it is now ongoing towards the planting date of 4th March 2012.

Tree Work - The big stock of Crack Willows across the site need regular attention and 3 in Palmers Road Copse were pollarded by HBC early in 2011 whilst volunteers started the 'cut back' of many big branches fallen across the river below the North Bridge. In late summer, a huge collapse of Crack Willow across the river 'S bend' required a big clearance effort by volunteers, supported by HBC's Andrew Skeet. HBC and BMCG shared the cost of the tree surgery work needed to complete the clear up of the area and we now look forward to the spring growth masking the 'desolation'.

Child visits - During the year we welcomed visits by the Emsworth Guides as part of their 'Service to the Community' and also 4 pupils of Glenwood School who helped with our work. We thank Pam Phillips for providing hot tea, coffee and biscuits to volunteers, whilst being a very active one herself.

Annual Inspection of Brook Meadow Trees

The annual inspection of the Meadow estate of trees by HBC Arborist Andrew Skeet, took place on 16th December with the Group represented by Maurice Lillie and Frances Jannaway. This inspection enables us to give Andrew our views and also aids his preparations for his Budget for year 2012 / 13. The visit was very constructive and the following work may be done during January 2012: In Palmers Road Copse a number of Crack Willows will be pruned and a White Willow pollarded. On the eastern riverbank in South Meadow, two large Crack Willows leaning towards the footpath will have their lower branches removed to reduce the load upon them. At the river 'S' bend east bank in the North Meadow, a previously pollarded Crack Willow will be done again.

 Final word

As your new Chairman, I would like to thank all Members for their continued support of the work of BMCG through their subscriptions and donations, both large and small. We can always use of some additional Volunteer Workers but if you are unable to help in a physical way, your moral support and financial contributions enable us to maintain the meadow as a much loved Local Nature Reserve. 


Report by Brian Fellows

Bramble clearance

I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to take photos of the work party continuing to clear the roots of Brambles from the Seagull Lane patch. I was asked about planting in the cleared area. I suggested that they do not attempt to plant anything new in the cleared area, as there will be a good existing seed and rhizome bank which would dominate anything new. In any case, it will be interesting to see what comes up in the spring in the disturbed ground.

The workers on the Seagull Lane Patch

Clearing the brambles

Hawthorn hedge laid

Mike explained how he and others had laid the Hawthorn hedge on the west side of the north meadow in the past week. The line of Hawthorns, originally planted by the HWT Watch Group several years ago, had grown very tall and was ideal for laying. Mike used some surplus stakes and binding from the Chichester Harbour Conservancy work at Salterns Copse. In a few years time the stakes and binding will have rotted and the hedge will be sprouting well. At this stage it should be trimmed at the top to encourage it to bush. Laying of hedges is a practice that goes back to medieval times to contain stock.


Report by Wally Osborne

Photos by Brian Fellows

10 Volunteers turned out on a cold, grey but dry morning and after the briefing at Lumley Gate, we decamped into the north meadow and the Seagull Lane patch. The north meadow group took advantage of the continuing low water levels in the River Ems, to rake out all of the accumulated winter tree debris, onto the riverbanks, and at the same time remove any litter. In this way, the stretch of river from the NW corner through to below the 'S' bend was cleared so that increased water flow will not cause any blockages.

Maurice and Dave busy in the river by the S-bend


The larger group went to the Seagull Lane patch, where our contractor's clearance job (see Native Hedge Project Extension below) left behind a field of bramble and nettle roots. We set to with forks to dig out as many roots as possible before raking the cleared area of all arisings and taking them to the sacrificial dump area. This was a really tough job and the volunteers stuck at it 'manfully' and 'womanfully', to make an excellent start on a task, which will occupy a few more workdays ahead.

Richard and Mike struggling with a reluctant Bramble

We know very well that the brambles will start to regrow in the spring but our future tactics will be to keep this area under control, since there are very ample bramble patches close by. Many thanks for the dedication and effort by Jennifer, Maurice, Patrick, Richard, Mike, Tony, Gordon Dave and Penny.

Penny keeping the meadow nice and tidy

Forthcoming work sessions: Thursday 15th December & Sunday 8th January 2012 Come and join us for the next workday when seasonal refreshments will be provided.

Native Hedge Project Extension

A couple of years ago, a native hedgerow was planted along a section of the western boundary of the Seagull Lane patch and it is now getting quite well established. We have decided to extend the hedge by about 20 metres, up to the railway embankment fence. The Woodland Trust Jubilee Woods project is giving both trees and hedgerow plants free of charge to approved organisations and BMCG have been selected as a worthy cause. Preparations for the extension are already underway and you may have noticed that the large patch of brambles has been scrapped off and the arisings pushed as far as the embankment fence. This action may appear to be drastic to some but the Committee decided that the timing was right for it and our next workdays will see the site tidied up ready for a new length of stock fencing to be erected, protecting the site. The planting strip of ground will then be prepared for planting of the 'native hedgerow whips' with their protective sleeves, in early March 2012. At that time we will be looking for extra help with the planting and would therefore encourage both old and new Volunteers to come along and help with this worthwhile project. Details will be published in the new-year. Project completion will enable us to restore the newly 'exposed ground' back into a wild flower rich meadow, joining into the rest of the Seagull Lane patch.

Hedge Laying

We've talked about the need to 'lay' the short Hawthorn Hedgerow planted some years ago and located near to the central line of Crack Willows and intended to provide both a habitat and a food source for birds. The job has now been organised to go ahead on Tuesday 6th & Wednesday 7th December (weather permitting), using stakes and ties obtained free of charge by Mike Probert. Mike has some experience & training in hedge laying and a rota of Volunteer Member helpers will support him during both mornings & afternoons. We are uncertain how long the job will take us but if you would like to watch the work in progress or even assist, just turn up on the appointed days.

Wildlife Observations

by Brian Fellows

A small group of Wood Blewitt (Lepista nuda) toadstools were growing where the bramble clearance was taking place on the Seagull Lane patch. Most were young specimens, with rounded thick fleshy caps and solid stems, though there was also one older one with a flat cap and wavy margin. However, the most distinctive feature of this fungus is its blue-violet colour. Ralph Hollins drew my attention to an alternative identification - the Amethyst Deceiver, but having seen the second photo below, he agrees with Wood Blewitt.

Here is a photo showing the purple gills and chunky stem of a young specimen

A clump of Honey Fungus is growing at the base of a pollarded Crack Willow tree on the western side of the south bridge over the river. Not a serious threat to the trees in that area, but worth knowing about.

Dog dips

I read in the current Wildlife Trust magazine (Winter 2011) that two dog dips have been installed on the Itchen Navigation canal. They are the first of their type to be used in the UK. They hope that the dips will reduce bank erosion to the benefit of wildlife, such as Water Voles, as well as providing a suitable place for dogs to swim. Maybe, this is an idea the Conservation Group might consider for the control of dogs entering the River Ems on Brook Meadow.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Work Party with Hampshire Wildlife Trust Watch Group

Report and photos by Lesley Harris.

Six young people with their leader, Sally Rumfelt and assistant Judy, plus two accompanying adults, turned up in the warm sunshine to help rake and bag the arisings from the mown wildflower area in the North Meadow. Great fun was had dragging, spreading and trampling in the sacrificial area. Oliver, the oldest boy, was inspired by the power scythe and helped Richard to move and clean the machine. It was great to see Richard Jannaway working in Brook Meadow after so long hors de combat. Isla, Erin and Sarah were the indefatigable workers, dragging heavy branches to protect the wildflower area from excessive footfall. Several boys and girls had a go at using a bow saw. Frances led the work session assisted by Jennifer, Lesley and Pam, who also provided welcome refreshments. One lesson we learnt was to request that girls (and boys) with long hair tie it up to prevent it getting tangled up between branch and bow saw!

Curtis, wearing camouflage jacket and hood, disappeared into the soft heap for several rests.

Laura was delighted to find a Field Vole nest

Thursday 17 November 2011

Work session - report by Frances Jannaway

Splendid warm and sunny weather greeted the 12 volunteers including a new volunteer, Jane, for the last work session in November. The main task was to cut, rake and remove the arisings from the Lumley wet area which was successfully completed with Maurice on power scythe by the tea break provided as always by Pam. Another task was to carry out a thorough litterpick of the whole meadow including Palmers Road copse. This yielded 3 bags of rubbish including a bird feeder and a pair of shoes. In addition, all the sign cases were given an expert clean by Lesley. Finally, several paths in the central and north meadows were widened with Patrick and Phil on power scythe and the arisings raked and removed. The same treatment was given to the area around the Hawthorn hedge just north of the central line of willows in preparation for it being laid by Mike and Co. in a few weeks time.

Photos by Brian Fellows

There was a good turn out for this morning's work session

Maurice made a start on cutting the Lumley Area before we arrived

Everyone got down to raking up the cuttings

It's hard work

And bagging them

That's quite a bagful to drag

Not to forget the litter collectors in palmer's Road Copse

And Lesley cleaning the Water Vole signcase

Here is the Lumley area cleared - a very good job well done!

The first Winter Heliotrope was flowering along the main river path

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Annual cut - report by Brian Fellows

I spoke to a young chap named Paul who was clearing the arisings from an area that has just been cut on the north meadow.

Paul works for John Blamire who is contracted for the annual cut of the meadow. This is the final stage of the patchwork annual cutting that is now standard on Brook Meadow. It was a long job as Paul not only had to rake the cuttings but also transport them to the sacrificial area using a normal wheelbarrow. But from what I could see he was doing a very good job.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Conservation work session . . . report by Wally Osborne. Photos by Brian Fellows

Contrary to the forecast, the morning was bright but with a chill wind which encouraged the 11 Volunteers to get going promptly on the many tasks listed and awaiting action.

Firstly, Maureen and Tony Wilkinson set off to cover the badly needed litter pick of the Palmers Road Copse and everywhere else, this task taking the best part of an hour.

Tony keeping Palmer's Road Copse tidy

Maureen litter picking on the edge of the car park

The remainder of us, Pam, Richard, Lesley, Tony B, Debi, Penny & Patrick, set about clearing the dense bramble and nettle growths, crowding out the Alder Buckthorn plantation on the southern slope of the central bund.

Clearing the scrub around the Alder Buckthorns

The recent annual cut of the northern section of the South Meadow has exposed the site and made this arduous task a little easier to get at although the cutting with shears, raking, bagging and removal of the arisings was a mammoth task. The team stuck at it both before and after the coffee break served up by Pam.

Careful, Wally

Got it

Meanwhile, Maurice used the Power Scythe to cut a small nearby area of scrub/low bramble and cut the exposed bramble stems to ground level where possible. Later, Patrick took over, to widen the South Meadow occasional paths.

Maurice handlles the power scythe like an expert

These tasks took the whole of the session so that the other ones on our list remain there 'waiting for another day'. We were pleased to have Brian Fellows on hand to photograph some of our activities in progress and intend to ask him to take a picture of the completed job, giving a 'before and after' record.

Here is the photo of the area cleared by the conservation group, taken on a very murky November morning.
The clearance was excellent and opens up the Alder Buckthorns like never before.


As we stood admiring the results of our labours, Pam spotted a Weasel coming out of nearby undergrowth and then turning to dash back in. To our great surprise, all of us then saw the creature dash 20 metres or so across the open ground and disappear into a remaining patch of brambles. Unfortunately, Brian had moved on before this happening.

This photo of a Weasel was kindly provided by Mike Wells

Thanks to all Volunteers for the sterling efforts which warmed us through thoroughly and, hopefully, we'll meet again Thursday 17th November, for an action replay.

Sunday 2 October 2011

Workday - Report by Mike and photos by Brian Fellows

Eleven volunteers met up on a lovely, hot morning, including a welcome newcomer, Maureen.

Wally had already made a head start on cutting the grass paths with the power scythe and the remainder of the group divided into teams:

The main team commenced the trimming of the large willows which had fallen by the 'S' bend, in preparation for their removal by tree surgeons at a later date. They cut back accessible branches and cleared all the brash to the east bank or the path side. This was a formidable task. Good progress was made with some more work needed on the next work day.

The other teams trimmed back overhanging vegetation from the hard paths, litter picked Palmers Road copse and raked up the path cuttings where necessary. Pam provided refreshments at half-time, much appreciated in the hot working conditions.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Workday - report by Frances Jannaway and photos by Brian Fellows

It was a gloriously sunny morning for the select band of 7 volunteers. Before starting the morning's tasks, Brian pointed out several important wildflowers which should not be cut down as they are still flowering and setting seed. These included Pepper Saxifrage, one of the 8 meadow indicator plants which is growing well on the eastern edge of the Lumley wet area. Brian also pointed out that the litterbin near the north bridge was overflowing and clearly had not been emptied for quite some time whereas the other bins had been emptied regularly. Dealing with this was added to our tasks.

The first task was to cut with the power scythe (Lesley and Phil) the SE corner of the South Meadow. This area was not cut last year. The arisings were raked and removed to a nearby sacrificial area (Pam, Ute, Frances, & Gaynor).

After cutting and raking, the vegetation (mainly Sea Couch) became alive with small frogs and toads jumping every which way (see below for photos). Several were removed to the uncut vegetation to avoid damaging them. Meanwhile, Maurice did a litterpick of Palmers Road copse as well as cutting back the Hawthorn hedge along the Water Vole fence to aid visibility from this vantage point. Although not much litter was found, Maurice did remove two green containers full of petrol which have been reported to HBC. Incidentally, if anybody sees or finds anything on Brook Meadow which shouldn't be there, please phone HBC Customer Services - 02392 446010.

After a well-earned break provided as usual by Pam, volunteers dug and cut excess vegetation from both sets of steps near the central seat, making them safer. The team went on to clear vegetation from around the young Wild Cherries and Rowans in the North Meadow and cut down suckers of Purple-leaved Plum on the southern side of the raised path near the Lumley gate. And finally, Maurice emptied the litterbin near the north bridge into another purple sack but struggled to move it to the bin near the central seat because it was so heavy, mainly due to the enormous amount of dog mess deposited there in bags. The incident was reported to HBC who removed the very full bag on Friday. Apparently Dave Lee had already reported the overflowing bin to HBC last Monday! I am waiting to be assured by HBC that this omission and health and safety hazard will not happen again in future. Many thanks to the small group of volunteers who worked so hard - a good morning's work!

Wildlife observations

Wildlife seen: a small brown frog and 2 tiny field mice in a nest, which was disturbed in the cutting but was returned to the right spot in the hope that they might survive.

Brian's comments

From the description of the nest the mice might have been Harvest Mice. We have occasionally come across nests on Brook Meadow during the clearance of vegetation. Here is a photo of one such Harvest Mouse nest that was discovered on Brook Meadow in December 2007.

For earlier Diary entries go to . . . 2011 - Jan-Jul

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