Witchford Village

Open Spaces Group Update - May 2013


Posted on: May 3, 2013
Posted in: open-spaces-group news

Planting of the Jubile

Diamond Jubilee Tree

During 2012 the Open Spaces Group proposed to the parish council that to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee a tree be planted on the Common. A hornbeam was suggested and a tree duly obtained on behalf of the parish council. Hornbeam is a broadleaf woodland tree that is native mostly of the south east and so is less common in Cambridgeshire. It grows up to around 20 m high and can be managed by pollarding should it need reducing in size in years to come. It was planted in December 2012, and in April a commemorative plaque was unveiled by parish council chairman Alan Shield at an informal gathering.

Amphibian survey of village ponds

In April Jane Andrews-Gauvain, the Biodiversity Outreach Officer of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Environmental Records Centre led an amphibian survey of the Village Green and Sandpit Drove ponds. With the aid of information sheets she described all the species of amphibian native to the UK: two frogs, two toads and three newts. We began at the Village Green pond and found several clusters of frogspawn, and by searching with a powerful torch five common frogs and four smooth newts were identified. Unfortunately a goldfish was also spotted. This was a new introduction after all the fish previously present were killed when the pond dried up around three years ago. Fish are most unwelcome in a pond as they can devastate not only the amphibians by eating the eggs and tadpoles, but also invertebrate populations such as dragonflies. We then moved to the larger pond at Sandpit Drove. Here we also found frogspawn and saw several common frogs, and were lucky enough to have clear views of another four smooth newts. These results were encouraging, showing that both ponds are healthy enough habitats to support these amphibians, though we would have expected also to see common toads at both locations.

Witchford Open Spaces Group - Wildflower Meadow

Sandpit Drove Wildflower Meadow

We met in April at the wildflower meadow in Sandpit Drove to remove some of the unwelcome plants such as nettle, dock and burdock (which if not controlled can take over), plant some specimens of oxe-eye daisy and red campion, and sow the bare patches with the small amount of wildflower meadow seed remaining. Because of the cold weather there has been very little growth, but some wildflowers were evident. Following last year's successful show of flowers, we are hopeful of a similar result this year, but we will need to deal with the weeds through the spring and summer as they emerge.

Community Orchard Maintenance

We will have a session at the Community Orchard at the Old Recreation Ground in May, the first gathering since the planting day in February, though some volunteers have been busy here at various times to place carpet squares. We hope to attach a label to each fruit tree with the variety name, and carry out any other maintenance works in the Old Rec and in the adjacent Edna's Wood.

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