Witchford Village

Open Spaces Group Update - September 2017

Posted on: Sep 13, 2017
Posted in: open-spaces-group news

Sandpit Drove Conservation Area
The meadow will be cut for hay in September, by which time the summer flowers will have set and dropped their seed for next season. Although there have not been spectacular shows this year, there has been a steady flowering of many species over several months, including common knapweed, tufted vetch, wild carrot and yarrow. Tall melilot and common birdsfoot trefoil were late putting in an appearance but there were in due course a number of patches of yellow of both these species across the meadow. Some problem species such as creeping thistle and broad-leaved dock have been removed in considerable numbers to prevent their spreading, as well as greater burdock, hemlock and stinging nettles – these are all fortunately declining year on year.

At the end of August there was a good display around the pond of purple loosestrife - tall spikes of purple - and water mint, which are excellent for insects. At night a ten minute search in the pond shallows revealed five efts, or newt ‘tadpoles’. They look like miniature newts, with front and back legs, but retaining feathery gills which disappear when they in due course move out of the pond as adults. Finding so many so quickly means that there is likely to be a healthy population of newts in the pond, probably smooth newts.

Old Recreation Ground and Community Orchard
The community orchard fruit crop has been disappointing this year, especially when elsewhere the yields of apples, pears and plums have been so good. Perhaps the dry spring may have adversely affected the trees, which are still quite young. There were a number of Wayside and New Rock Pippin dessert apples still on the trees at the end of August. All the trees seem to have survived through the summer months, although one of the two quince trees that died earlier in the year will have to be replaced during the autumn if a replacement tree can be found.

The wildlife of the Old Rec suffered a set-back in August when a young grass snake, about a half metre in length, was found dead near the pond. It had been cut through in two places, perhaps during grass mowing which had taken place the day before. This was an unfortunate incident but we can take heart in the likelihood that grass snakes are still present at this site.

Open Spaces Group volunteers cut the hedge on Broadway during August and replaced the guards to a number of native shrubs planted with the hedge in January 2014. The hedge, which consists of hawthorn, hazel, dogwood, field maple and blackthorn, has continued to thrive and is now of a size that it might be used next spring by nesting birds.

Toad Corner
Toad Corner is a pool on the drainage ditch that lies alongside Footpath 1 as it passes to Old Scenes, the drove south of Rackham School that joins Grunty Fen Road. The drain widens into what looks like a pond, and this becomes very overgrown during the summer. The Open Spaces Group will attempt to clear the bank to open up the view to the pool in a session on 1 October, to which all volunteers will be welcome.

And the plaque at last….
At the end of 2014 an oak tree was planted along the Permissive Path in Edna’s Wood to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Witchford Open Spaces Group. A plaque mounted on a section of tree trunk has now been placed alongside the tree to record this occasion.

Witchford Open Spaces Group relies on volunteers for its work encouraging wildlife and promoting green spaces and access to the countryside. We need more volunteers to continue working for conservation and people’s enjoyment of the countryside into the future. In particular we would welcome the support of younger members of the community. For more information about the Open Spaces Group contact Richard Braund on 665222 (e-mail richardbraund50@hotmail.com).

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