Biodiversity Project – Next working Party – 9th March 2019
Biodiversity Project Site in 2018
Recently someone asked me how biodiverse our biodiversity site really is and wondered if it amounted to little more than a pleasant place to take a walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
I was a little taken aback by the question and also unable to give a well-informed answer, at the time, since our record of plants and other life was not
very up-to-date. However, one of our volunteers, Avril Patterson, has now surveyed the wildflower meadow, wood and pondside and found thirteen previously unrecorded plants.
These include mugwort, hop trefoil, hedge mustard, water figwort, silver weed and wood avens. None especially rare but, when added to those already identified, a surprisingly large number of plant species have been spotted on our site over the past six years. Out of 149 species, 3 are ferns, 20 are woody plants and 7 are grasses (there must be many more) leaving 119 other kinds of flowering plant. The water meadow is especially species-rich, considering
its small size, but the pond itself has very few aquatic plants despite our efforts to populate it with species such as fringed water lily, bog bean and hornwort.
The reason is probably the large number of ducks that call our pond home and readily consume almost everything in it. Yesterday (17th August), I counted at least 125 ducks and not a true Mallard amongst them, only hybrids! This severe overstocking can only be because they are being regularly fed. This results in a pond that lacks aquatic plants and is surrounded by mess from all the droppings. Will those in the habit of feeding the ducks please stop doing so?
Thankfully, ducks are not the only birdlife on the site. In addition to water hens (moorhens), the usual range of woodland birds such as great spotted woodpecker, blackbird, house sparrow, great tit, blue tit chiffchaff and wood pigeon have been seen or heard regularly. We hope to increase numbers by putting up several more bird boxes (including owl boxes) and improving the bird feeding station and the range of food on offer. Hedgehogs, grass snakes
and frogs come and go and, on a single day in August, Avril Paterson recorded nine species of butterfly.
Naturally, I am hopeful that these records will convince my sceptical questioner that not only is our site an attractive place for a walk but it holds a surprisingly wide range of plants and animals for anyone with an observant and appreciative eye to enjoy.
The next working party will meet on Saturday 6th October from 10 am. If you are interested in helping us maintain and improve the biodiversity on the site please join us.
May 2018 Working Party
Biodiversity Project Site in 2017
Our last working party was small but effective. Hay was raked off the wildflower meadow and the last of the weeds dug out from the west end of the wood where I hope we can sow suitable woodland species next spring.
The next working party will be on Saturday 7th October,at 10 am as usual. I hope you will be able to attend. This will be the last regular working party of the year. The hellebores and stinking iris could do with relieving of overwhelming ground elder and those of you with petrol strimmers might like to help me cut down the nettles etc in the wood. There may also be the opportunity to put in place the drainage pipes we plan to use to bridge the inlet channels to the pond.
Anyone interested in helping-out with two or three hours maintenance work will very welcome. This will be the last regular working party of the season. It ends a particularly busy year for the Project. The winter months saw the pond cleared of numerous willow trees and decades-worth of soft mud excavated to return the pond to something like its former size and depth. A combination of much sawing, several bonfires and a chipping machine dealt with most the woody material pulled-out of the pond; a tractor and trailer being needed to remove the rest (thank you Mr Brun).
By the spring, half of the wild flower meadow had also been renovated to encourage flowering annuals. This yielded spectacular results later in the summer. We intend to repeat the exercise in the coming year on the other half of the meadow and will soon complete a footpath around the west side of the pond.
Next spring, the range of plant species (currently about 120 have been recorded) will be increased further by new sowing and planting at the west end of the wood.
Work on the site started in earnest in 2011 after a successful application to the Big Lottery allowed us to clear part of the pond, lay paths, install bench seats and a viewing platform, and prepare the wild flower meadow. A key aim throughout has been to turn this formerly neglected and little-known part of the village into an attractive and peaceful place to walk and enjoy wildlife. Step by step, we are achieving that goal.
There are too many ducks on the pond. This may well be because they are being fed by enthusiastic villagers. If you know of anyone who feeds ducks at our site please encourage them to desist. Bread, biscuits etc are, in any case, bad for ducks especially if it leads to overpopulation and pollution. There is more about this on the following web site: https://www.thespruce.com/is-feeding-ducks-bread-bad-386564 .
I have added a bulletin from Sculthorpe Moore about their campaign to raise money to buy adjacent land that is at risk of being developed. They are doing well with this but are still below target. Click on the link for more info. If you have not donated before, please consider doing so. The web site for this is: https://www.sculthorpefen.co.uk/index.php/donation:
Dr M.B. Jackson
Long Barn, 6, Kennels Farm, Castle Acre Road,
Great Massingham, King’s Lynn,
Norfolk PE32 2HD
Tel: 01485 520 056
In case you missed the recent visit to Chapel Cottage Garden at Rougham, this will be open to the general public this coming Sunday (3rd September) from 11 am to 5 pm. More distantly, Robin Arbenz (with help from David Butterworth) would like to hear from you if you’re interested in a guided trip around Sculthorpe Moor Nature Reserve sometime in the future (a few of you have already indicated a wish to go but so far numbers are rather low). Sculthorpe is an outstanding site for wildlife and conservation and, of course, is so very close. Robin’s trip would be an ideal way to see more of what is going on at Sculthorpe from Nigel Middleton the person who manages the site.
May I remind you that our next working party will be this coming Saturday (9th September) starting at 10 am as usual. The main job will be to rake up the hay from the south side of the wildflower meadow. This, plus digging-out what remains of cow parsley and nettles from the east end of the wood and more general maintenance tasks should keep us busy for the morning.
Saturday 9th September is the next date for our working party. On the day we can, hopefully, clear the hay from the south side of the meadow and finish preparing the west end of the wood for a later sowing of woodland species. Please let me know whether or not you can make this date.
Last Saturday, in addition to some strimming and topping-up of the bird feeders, we raked-up the hay from the north side of the meadow, dug-over and weeded part of the west end of the wood and treated miscreant Norfolk reed and common dock. Thanks go to everyone who turned out. Overall, the site looked very well, although the pond is proving increasingly popular with ducks. Yet another family of hatchlings was seen enjoying the morning sunshine and our newly created expanse of clear water.
Mike Jackson (01485 520 056)
Biodiversity in Rougham
Eleven biodiversity enthusiasts from Great Massingham visited Chapel Cottage in Rougham on 29th July. Sarah Butler who is a keen amateur ecologist and garden designer had invited us for a private view prior to opening her garden to the public in September.
Having successfully reached Rougham we were warmly greeted by Sarah who gave us an interesting and informative talk on creating a garden for biodiversity and tips on how to conduct a survey of the range of wildlife in our gardens. We were then given clipboards, recording sheets and pens and invited to investigate a specific part of the garden of our choice.
Sarah’s garden consists of a number of separate “rooms” with a rich variety of plants many of which have been chosen to attract pollinators and other invertebrates, and we each went our separate way to try to identify the many insects that we found. Hoverflies proved particularly challenging as there are innumerable types and rarely stay still long enough to identify.
After approximately an hour we then assembled for refreshments and although we proved to be rather useless as botanists we all left with increased enthusiasm and awareness of the importance of providing a nature rich habitat in our gardens.
Rougham is a charming village and Sarah’s garden is equally charming. I would recommend you make the effort and visit Chapel Cottage when it is open on Sunday 4th September.
Biodiversity Project – Report
On Sunday 25th June we held our fourth annual open garden in aid of the village Biodiversity Project. About 45 people, including many families, looked round Andrew and Rosemary Bickerton’s multi-featured and wildlife-friendly garden, enjoyed some excellent tea and cake and bought numerous plants, books and greetings cards (see photographs). Over £380 were raised to help towards the cost of seeds, plants and other needs connected with developing the biodiversity site on Sandy Lane. Thanks go to everyone who came and supported us so generously. In July, our biodiversity group visited Hindringham Hall (near Little Walsingham). This is one of the locality’s outstanding gardens and the visit proved both instructive and enjoyable. A trip is also being arranged to the Chapel Cottage Biodiversity Garden in Rougham later in the summer.
While much of our focus this past year has been on restoring the pond itself, our winter work on the wild flower meadow paid hansom dividends, giving a striking show of cornfield annuals throughout June and July; the effect being reminiscent of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee summer when seed sown by local school children made a similar impact. Regular working parties have ensured that paths are clear and easily walked and have continued to add to diversity through various plantings and sowings. If you would like to join us for 2-3 hours enjoyable and rewarding work please come to our next working party. You can be assured of a warm welcome. The next meeting will be on Saturday 19th August from about 10 am.
Mike Jackson (01485 520 056)
Biodiversity Project – next working party will be on Saturday the 8th of July
The next working party will be on Saturday 8th July meeting at the biodiversity site off the Weasenham Road at about 10 am.
As usual, there will be a mid-morning break for tea/coffee and biscuits. A major task will be to clear the bonfire site at the west end of the wood and prepare it for sowing a range of under-storey species, including foxgloves and white campion. A small area in the wild flower meadow will also need to be prepared for seeding with yellow rattle.
New members will be especially welcome. Gardening gloves and strong shoes are recommended and a rake or fork would also be helpful.
The photograph shows the extensive re-greening of the north side of the pond that has followed the wintertime excavation and enlargement of the pond.
Notable on closer inspection are crowded seedlings of starwort, a floating aquatic with rosetted leaves.
Biodiversity Group – next working party Saturday 10th of May
The next working party will be on Saturday 10th May at the biodiversity site from about 10 am with a break for tea/coffee and biscuits at 11 am. We plan to rake over the spoil deposited during pond renovations and sow with a mixture of wet-pasture species. The viewing platform and bridge still need a spruce-up and there is a need to burn some of the woody material accumulated from clearing scrub etc. As always, new members are especially welcome. Gardening gloves and sensible shoes are recommended and a rake or fork would be useful but not essential.
Mike Jackson (01485 520 056)
Biodiversity Group – next working party April 8th
The next working party will be on Saturday 8th April at the biodiversity site on the Weasenham Road, starting at about 10 am. In addition to general maintenance, woody brush from the recent pond clearance needs collecting up and burning and the viewing platform and bridge could do with cleaning. There will be tea, coffee and biscuits at 11 am. New members especially are assured of a very warm welcome. Gardening gloves are recommended and a rake, fork would be useful but not essential.
Mike Jackson (01485 520 056)
Biodiversity Project – Progress at School Pond
You may recall that, thanks to those who supported us recently by voting on-line, the Skipton Building Society awarded £500 to help renovate School Pond. This, together with a matching grant from the Parish Council, has allowed us to engage a contractor to remove invasive willow trees and Norfolk reed along with many years-worth of accumulated silt and soft mud.
Our Borough Council has statutory oversight for the Great Massingham Conservation Area and its approval was given in time for most of the work to be done during February. Experts at the Norfolk Wildlife Trust have guided the operation throughout and the outcome has been an area of open water about three times larger than before (see photos) and a much-increased water holding capacity.
The size is now close to what we believe to be the original. An unavoidable expanse of exposed mud is unsightly at present but this should soon be masked by fresh vegetation. Much of the woody material from the pond has already been disposed of and the rest will be dealt with in the coming weeks. Some of this material will be used to create habitat for invertebrates and fungi etc.
Our first working party for 2017 will be on Saturday 11th March, starting at about 10 am with a break for tea `or coffee mid-morning. An important task will be to prepare part of the wild flower meadow for re-sowing. Please join us!
Mike Jackson (Tel: 520 056)
Biodiversity Project Thank you for your votes in the October issue of The Mallard, readers were asked to vote online in support our application for a grant from the Skipton Building Society to renovate School Pond. We were already on a short-list but needed lots of votes to secure a grant. The response was magnificent and sufficient to qualify us for a £500 donation. Grateful thanks to everyone who voted for us. To add to the good news, the Parish Council has since agreed match the Skipton grant. Thanks to the Council’s generosity, we now have enough to pay a contractor to extract extensive tree roots from the pond, remove some of the Norfolk reed and dig-out much accumulated silt and mud. The work will restore the pond to approximately its original size and create gently sloping banks needed to encourage plant life and aid the movement of toads and other amphibians. The online votes cast in our favour and the generosity of our Parish Council should soon make these much-needed improvements a reality. Thank you to everyone who has supported us. If you would like to join our group of volunteers and help maintain the biodiversity site you are welcome at our next meeting on December 14th at 6.30 pm for pre-Christmas discussions, food and drinks. If you plan to come, please ring 520 056 to let me know by Sunday 11th December. Mike Jackson, 01485 520 056
VOTE NOW !
Great Massingham Biodiversity Project
Volunteers turn unloved corner of village into haven for wildlife.
Great Massingham is a Norfolk village of about 1000 people set in an area of intensive arable farming that no longer sustains the diverse flora and forna of earlier times. To help counter this decline, a hitherto neglected part of the village (about 2.5 acres) is being renovated to create a species-diverse woodland, meadow and pond area that is attractive, informative and encourages local people to take responsibility for their natural environment.
The site is run by a group of 16 volunteers who meet regularly to maintain and develop the site and enhance their own knowledge and interest in local wildlife. The site is proving useful to the nearby primary school for nature studies. The wood, and wildflower meadow areas have recently been linked by an all-weather path, making the site a popular and informative walk for local residents of all ages (including wheelchair and pushchair users). Talks and articles in the village newsletter raise interest in the Project and the local environment more generally.
How would this funding have an impact on your community?
A prominent feature of the Biodiversity Site is a sizeable pond that holds much promise for encouraging diverse plant and animal life. However, at present it is clogged by willow trees and Norfolk reed. Removing these invasive species to create open water and a perimeter suitable for wetland plants, newts, toads, dragon flies etc., is beyond the physical capability of our volunteers. The work requires specialist outside help. A £500 grant from the Grassroots Giving Team would pay for outside contractor to remove the trees and reeds. Once the earthworks are completed, our volunteers would introduce aquatic and marginal plants chosen with guidance from a Norfolk County Council ecologist. When completed, visitors will enjoy a diverse range of aquatic plant and animal life to add to that contained in adjacent meadow and woodland areas.
The appeal and benefit to our village (1000 residents) can be expected to last for many years and offer the opportunity for future generations of local people to engage in a practical way with caring for local wild life. The site lies 250 metres from the local primary school and acts as an outside classroom for biology lessons.
“The Great Massingham Biodiversity group is steadily transforming a once neglected and unloved area of the village into an attractive and varied nature reserve that can be enjoyed by everyone thanks to its central position and to the its easy-access pathways. The planned overhaul of the pond area will add considerably to the appeal of the overall biodiversity site and create a valued asset for our village that will also be useful to the nearby school . The assistance you may be able to give through your Grassroots Giving Scheme will be most gratefully received by the Village.
Geoffrey Randall, Chair Norfolk Wildlife Trust Local Members Group and Trustee of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Beverley Randall, Chair of the Governors of Great Massingham and Harpley Church of England Schools Federation.”
There will be a working party at the biodiversity site on Weasenham Road on Saturday 14th May, starting at 10 am. We hope as many people as possible will come and help us keep the meadow, wood and pond areas up to scratch.
A three-part guided tour of the Pensthorpe Natural Park is planned for Tues-day 24th May with a few places still available. If you want to join us, please call me as soon as possible on 520 056. The Biodiversity Project had planned to open the garden at Long Barn, Kennels Farm on 26th June but the date will now be Sunday 19th June to be part of the Parish Council’s village open gardens. We’ll have tea, cake, strawberries & cream etc and plants for sale. Please include us in your garden tour! Mike Jackson
New recruits to the project and old hands will be most welcome. Gardening gloves and a rake and hand fork are helpful but not essential.
Much good work was done on our biodiversity site last year and the range of established plants has continued to expand.
The number of species logged has now reached 126. This will increase further following an extensive planting of the woodland fern Polystichum setiferum (the Soft Shield Fern) in April. It will also soon be time for our first working party of the year.
This has been arranged for Saturday 12th March starting at about 10 am at the site off the Weasenham Road. If you are free that morning please join us. You will be very welcome. The first jobs will be removing the piles of hay that have overwintered on the wildflower meadow, attending to the recently planted blue bell area and to the intended site for the ferns plus some general post-winter clearing of paths and margins. A rake and a garden fork would be helpful but not essential.
There will be a tea and coffee break at about eleven o’clock (see photograph below). For the past two years we have held an open garden day to help raise funds for new plants etc.
These have proved enjoyable occasions and on Sunday 26th June this year, the garden at Long Barn, Kennels Farm will be open to visitors in aid of the Project.
More details will follow nearer the time.