As our winter season came to an end, our Thursday volunteers helped carry out one last and out of the ordinary winter task last week. Instead of the usual scrub clearance, our volunteers picked up their spades and mattocks to help create some new bee banks on Castle Bottom NNR.

Castle Bottom is a fantastic site for insects with 199 species of bee, wasp and ants recorded. Many of these species like to nest in bare soil, so the creation of bare banks of earth, by removing the vegetation and creating loose soil/sand banks on the south facing slopes, will have extended their habitat on the site.

 

Sunny banks like these provide vital nesting and basking sites for a range of pollinating insects. They are specifically important for solitary bees including Andrena flavipes Yellow-legged Mining bee  which is common across Southern England, Andrena praecox Early Mining Bee which will feed on the Willow found along the stream edge near to where the bee banks have been created, and Megachile willughbiella Leaf-cutter Bee. The bees will excavate holes and lay their eggs. The banks were created facing south, in order to benefit from the sun’s heat for the maximum period each day. This means that the bee’s nests remain at an optimum temperature for eggs to develop and hatch.

As well as the bees, these new banks could provide habitat for Ammophila sabulosa Sand Wasp, Mutilla europaea Velvet Ant and Anoplius viaticus Spider-hunting Wasp, all of which are found on the site.

The works carried out by our volunteers were very much a trial and involved us trying a variety of methods to see which would create suitable habitat.  We were conscious that we didn’t want to create large scars on the site, so the works were carried out by volunteers and hand dug to allow us to create shallow banks in the slope edge which would be less visually intrusive and more sympathetic of the natural slope.  In some areas we created small steps down the slope and in others we created larger terracing, we also took advantage of an area where a south facing cliff-like bank was already formed by removing the vegetation from the face of it.

   

Despite the cold wet weather the volunteers did an amazing job, far exceeding our expectations for the day.  Now we just have to hope the bees move in!

 

Despite a rather off-putting weather forecast, 164 volunteers came out and braved the weather on Saturday 29th February to help give Yateley Common a Big Spring Clean ahead of the bird nesting season.

The volunteers made up of individuals and groups such as beavers, cubs, brownies and scouts spent up to 3 hours each litter picking.  The aim was to cover as much of Yateley Common as possible with groups starting from Blackbushe Airport, Wyndham’s Pool Car Park and Stroud Pond Car Park.  In total the volunteers collectively spent 325 hours removing a variety of litter and fly tipped rubbish from the site.

Amongst the items removed were an oil drum, metal guttering, several hub caps, a fuel can, a road cone, fencing, a large gas cylinder, various metal, 1 tyre, car parts and wood, along with a total of 66 bags of rubbish being collected.

 

 We would like to thank everyone who came out to help make this years Big Spring Clean a success.  It is thanks to everyone’s hard word and support that we can ensure this rubbish is removed from Yateley Common before the start of spring.

Insect Investigators

Winchester City Mill have a new Insect Investigators trail which will be running every day this half-term. Pick up a trail booklet and learn about the different types of insects you might find in the Mill.

Suggested donation £1 plus normal admission.

Dates/Time

From:  15 Feb 2020 to 23 Feb 2020  
  Open 10:00am – 3:00pm daily

Location

Winchester City Mill, Bridge Street, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9BH

Further information

More details at https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/winchester-city-mill/features/february-half-term-at-winchester-city-mill

Why not investigate the rest of Winchester while you are there, visit the Cathedral and King Arthurs round table in the Great Hall at the top of the town.

 

Snowdrop Weekend

 Visit Selborne to see the pretty snowdrops covering the countryside a this time of the year.

Date/Time

Saturday 15 February to Sunday 16 February 2020

Open 10.30am until 4.00pm both days

Location

Gilbert White’s House, Selborne, Hampshire, GU34 3JH

Admission

Half price admission to house and garden tours running through the weekend.

Further information

More details are available from the website http://www.gilbertwhiteshouse.org.uk/

 

Elvetham Heath Ranger Ramble

Come and join the Elvetham Heath Rangers on a walk around the Nature Reserve.  They will talk to you about how they manage the reserve and the wildlife you might find there. This event is suitable for all ages.

Date/Time

Tuesday 18 February 2020

From 10.00am – 11.30 am

Admission

This is a free event but you need to book a space at http://www.hart.gov.uk/countryside-events-booking-form or email countryside@hart.gov.uk for details.

Crooksbury Hill

Crooksbury Hill is at the Sands, Farnham.  This is a nice walk for all the family and you can either scale the steep steps that lead straight to the summit or take the more gentle path following the side of the hill.

There is a mixture of heathland, birchwoods and pinewoods and the sandy soil makes for easy, mud-free walking.

Most of the trees are relatively young and the hill used to be part of Crooksbury Common once used by locals who collected wood and gorse for fuel, and grazed their animals.

While you are there, make sure you look out for a Scheduled Ancient Monument on the northern side of the hill.

Starting point

Park your car at the free Crooksbury Hill car park, Crooksbury Road, The Sands, GU10 1RF.

The walk starts with a climb of the hill which is the only serious gradient of the walk which is 3 miles long.  It is also dog friendly

The official footpath takes you up steep steps but if you go behind the car park past a noticeboard and benches, there’s a green arrow marked self-guided trail which avoids the steps.

When you reach the summit there is a pillar and some benches.

picture from Surrey Wildlife Trust website

 

I have lived in this area for most of my life and I have driven down Lakeside Road in Ash many times but didn’t know there was a nature reserve here!

The reserve is accessed through a height restricted barrier leading to a good sized car park.  To the right there is a play area with several climbing frames, including a zip wire which I thought would be fun for older children as well as their younger siblings.

 

 

To the left and also straight ahead are pathways leading to several very pretty ponds with platforms used for private fishing.

The paths are well defined and you can have a peaceful walk around the pond with lovely views from one side to the other.

 

 

 

Read the Nature Board half way around which gives information of wildlife and plants to look out for, I saw swans on the lake today who made a very noisy entrance!

I discovered that the Lakeside Nature Reserve joins up with the Blackwater Valley Path adding another dimension to my walk and making it longer, I was a bit lost at one point and had to turn around but it was quite easy to get back to the lake so I managed in the end!

Very enjoyable and well worth a visit.

Oh What Fun We Had……!!

Well, we have fun every Thursday, but I just had Madness’s “Baggy Trousers” on my mind all day!

On Thursday 26th September, we were graced with the presence of 20 temporary volunteers from United Way UK, on a corporate day out. The members of this multi-national organisation choose a worthwhile cause, once a year and, the UK element, being based nearby, chose us!…well, not literally we volunteers, you understand, but the tasking covered by our hardworking team of Yateley Rangers.

In anticipation of their arrival, we had erected a marquee, complete with real chairs…a couple of us tried out these luxury items, being accustomed to sitting on 3 legged stools, which, in boggy conditions, tend to become unstable….some might argue that this characteristic instability extends to some users of these seats!

Anyway, one of the reasons for our prominence of choice, was that they had heard that we did a good line in Custard Creams and Bourbons! Regrettably, Bourbons were off the menu today, as our resident Bourbon expert was not in attendance, so it was thought inappropriate to provide them.

It is to the great credit of our honoured guests that they showed great stoicism on hearing such sad news. This fine quality continued to be displayed by this impressive group, when arriving at the site to be worked on, and turning not a hair, when confronted with the rather extensive area of scrub.

Staff and volunteers from United Way getting stuck in

This scrub, consisting mainly of birch and gorse, has to be reduced, in order that long-dormant items like heather would, on being subjected to light, be re invigorated enough to grow, thus providing a colourful carpet, to be enjoyed by all Yateley Common users. Another benefit of maintaining such an area is that it’s the environment favoured by a threatened species, the woodlark.

Following our exemplary lead, they commenced the task in earnest…we were really appreciative of their efforts, and indeed, their presence, as it meant that their inroads into the scrub probably saved us 3 Thursday’s work at that site.

Area cleared of invasive birch scrub

So, a most productive day all round, enjoyed by vols and visitors alike. Indeed, one of the attendees, on leaving, kindly stated that she was in awe of us, so impressed was she by our work ethic, especially as it is repeated every Thursday.  I  accepted this kind comment…but, on further reflection, I wondered if she had meant that we are an awful group!

Answers on a postcard, please.