Well, yesterday was the only day for the Country Park in the list of six that HBC have been promoting recently on Facebook. There was just two of us that attended, hardly surprising from our existing group considering the 4 month gap and the lack of response by HBC to email enquiries that I have been told about but the flood of new volunteers that we were promised from using social media to promote volunteering has not materialised. I am told that currently there are no further dates in the pipeline for any of the sites in the Borough and given that I believe three of the days were cancelled due to various reasons and a low turn out for most of the others, I would not be surprised if no more dates were forthcoming. From a management point of view it must be difficult to justify tying up a ranger for the best part of a day for such small numbers of volunteers.
We switched days this week and worked Friday so we could meet the Green Flag Award judges. This is open to all green spaces throughout the UK and the Country Park has won it every year since it was first entered. We were in the Quarry to carry on with digging out the bramble regrowth and it was really pleasing to see a lot of sheep’s sorrel now in flower on the areas that we have cleared.
There is also plenty of wood sage and rosebay willowherb taking advantage of the light now available with the scrub gone. We hope that there will be a botany survey this year to highlight the increase in diversity of plant species.
This week we have been doing some “weeding” at both the heather patches at North’s Seat, removing bramble and cutting gorse to encourage the heather to spread. We were lucky enough to see some of the smaller wildlife too. First was a gorse shield bug and here is Sam’s photo.
I managed to get this picture of not one but two juveniles which I was pleased about.
Ok, that should have got the attention of loads of birders and some extra hits for the site!! This week we have been uprooting brambles from the areas in the Quarry that we cleared last year using a tool called a Lazy Dog which which Sam on the right in the first photo below is holding. We usually use these for pulling ragwort (that should get us some more hits too) but they are also great for removing bramble by the roots with the least disturbance to the ground. If not checked this bramble would spread all across the areas that we have spent so much time clearing and prevent the seedlings that we can now see from thriving.
This is Thursday’s pile which might not look much but there is a very large number of individual roots there. Sorry about the dinginess of the photo, it had been quite a nice day before that haze appeared. We also sadly had to say goodbye to Bob the Estate Ranger who has transferred over to HBC’s contractors The Landscape Group and will from now on be working from their depot at Alexandra Park but we may still see him up here from time to time.
Here is Sunday’s haul all loaded into builders bags, ready to be taken back to the green waste recycling at the farm to be turned into compost along with all the other green waste from the borough that the contractors produce.
As a change this week we worked on Friday and replaced the top six steps down into the Quarry from the Visitor Centre side. In order for us to do this safely it was decided to close the path which led to the inevitable complaints from some visitors but it was only for a day and hardly a time of peak usage for the site. The old steps had come to the end of their life and had certainly lasted well. We also cleared the ashes up from our previous bonfires in the Quarry and moved the Heras fencing in preparation for our next bonfire at the Quarry face to dispose of arisings left from last year.
Last Thursday we did the last cutting in the Quarry ’till the autumn when we hope to finish opening up the quarry face. The narrow path that leads to the stone steps is now more open and should dry up faster.
This pile is about half of the cord wood that we got from one sprawling willow that was partly dead and covering a large area. New growth will now be able to establish itself there and the dead wood on the stump will provide invertebrate habitat.
This split log shows the decay spreading out from the centre. There were signs of bluebells coming up in the area we have just cleared which will certainly benefit and something that we are not used to seeing in the Quarry.
This still leaves us plenty to do pulling up the bramble in the areas we have cleared before that takes over!
How’s that for consistency!! We have pretty much cut the same amount again this week. This just leaves the green shaded area on the map to do which coincidentally is again about the same size.
Despite being a little colder the weather was good both days and drier under foot than last week. More of the same next week, please, and none of that white stuff!!
Sunday 3rd being a tad wet we settled for having a meeting to discuss our work programme for the coming year so this week was really the beginning of our New Year.
Starting as we mean to carry on we are tackling the last gorse block on the Firehills to be removed in the current scrub reduction. This was to have been the subject of a controlled burn as a joint training exercise involving East Sussex Fire and Rescue, the Ranger team and us volunteers in November but had to be cancelled at the last minute.
This is possibly the single biggest area of gorse that we have cut down in one go measuring 0.6 acre according to my GPS and working Thursday and Friday this week we have already reduced it by a third. See map below, the area inside the blue line shows how much we have cut. This was mapped on the ground with GPS.
It is amazing to see how far in to scrub that we find tennis balls, we should have kept a count over the years but it is also surprising how little litter we have found here particularly in comparison to when we were in the Quarry last year. The notable exception was the can in this photo.
This prompted the obvious question. The best Volunteers in the world? Probably!
Well we got the hedge finished today with a few whips to spare but not many and fortunately the heavy rain forecast yesterday turned to light rain this morning and in reality we didn’t get much at all.
The next Sunday Conservation Day at Hastings Country Park is January 3rd 2016, a good opportunity to work off all those Christmas excesses! Back at the Milking Parlour today we decided that the 17th would be our last working day this year and to re-convene on the 7th January.
However Christmas Eve falls on a Thursday this year and Alex has offered to renew an old tradition of mince pies and mulled wine or tea/coffee for any Volunteers who care to drop in at the Milking Parlour in the morning like he used to do at the Cottage.
This week we have been planting a new hedge between the two parts of the newly divided field next to the Helipad (Fairlight Road Picnic Site) a length of nearly 200m. The species we have planted is a mixture of Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Field Maple, Hazel, Hornbeam and Pedunculate (English) Oak. The ten oaks in the mix will when mature provide standard trees along the hedge and at the ends will give connectivity to the existing hedgerows.
The plants or whips as they are called are in a double row, six to the metre with canes for support and spiral guards for protection against rabbit damage. There is also a fence either side to protect the hedge from grazing stock whilst it gets established.
So far on Thursday and Friday we have kept dry but the forecast for tomorrow (Sunday) when we’ll be finishing off the job is not so promising.
Friday was also a sad day for us as we said goodbye to Estate Ranger, Chris Morns, who is leaving Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve on Tuesday and we wish him all the best for the future.