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.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park are having a family open day on 19 October 2019 to introduce the public to their new Visitors Centre and Beechwood Kitchen.

Why not pop along and enjoy some food tasting, live music, birds of prey and lots of kids activities.

This is a beautiful park especially with autumn approaching so enjoy some lovely walks with your dog at the same time!

 

Visit their website for more information at https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/countryparks/qecp/whatson/open-day-19oct

 

 

Autumn Pumpkin Festival & Scarecrow Avenue at Royal Victoria Country Park – 12 October 2019

Come along to this charity festival to celebrate the onset of Halloween with the spotlight on Pumpkins and Scarecrows.  Fun for all the family with autumnal food, drink, music, dance and much more.

Bring along your own Scarecrow to be displayed in the Scarecrow Avenue and see the biggest pumpkins in the UK.

The event will also have lots of children’s activities, sports and games.

Dogs on leads welcome.

Visit https://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/whats-on/autumn-pumpkin-festival-and-scarecrow-avenue-at-royal-victoria-country-park for all the information.

 

 

Magical Mayhem at Queen Elizabeth Country Park – 28 October 2019 – 1 November 2019

The Magical Mayhem has returned to Queen Elizabeth Country Park where you can meet the Scarecrow witch in the pumpkin cave to make a magical craft or meet Robbie the Wizard with his amazing magic show.

Ride on a tractor to the woods on a quest to find where the magical cauldron stood.

This even is suitable for children 2 years & up and is priced at £12.50 per child (Adults are free!)

Visit their web site https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/countryparks/qecp/whatson/magical-mayhem-28-oct for session times.

 

 

 

Room on a Broom Story Trail and Craft at Royal Victoria Country Park – 29 October 2019

29 October 2019 11am to 1pm

Collect your free broomstick and join Royal Victoria Country Park on a scary ramble through the woods on this story trail then enjoy a drink and a biscuit.  The event is a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. Suitable for up to 5 yr olds.

All children must be accompanied by an adult. Please wear winter clothes and wellies. Cost £6/child (non – refundable. Tickets are available from the shop (10am – 4pm). 20 children max. Normal parking charges apply.

Visit https://www.visit-hampshire.co.uk/whats-on/room-on-a-broom-and-apple-day-at-royal-victoria-country-park to book a place.

 

Below is an article written by one of our dedicated Conservation Volunteers, if you fancy joining us weekly on Thursdays or monthly on Sundays, please contact northern.sites@hants.gov.uk to find out more!

 

Hello There,

We are an enthusiastic group of volunteers (or “VOLS”…thanks Sam!), working, (very happily!), under the direction of our similarly dedicated Northern Sites Rangers.

We meet every Thursday, at 0930, at various locations on the Common, finishing at 1500 hrs, with time off, for good behaviour, from 1100 to 1130, and 1300 to 1330.

We carry out many tasks, from cutting back overgrown vegetation, to pulling ragwort, all requiring varying degrees of effort.

In truth though, each team member works to their own physical capacity..it is not, after all, a competition. We thus enjoy a jolly good day out, in superbly sociable company, with loads of fresh air thrown in for free!

The age range of our exceptionally friendly group is 18 to 70-odd years, and it is quite amazing what we can learn from each other. Now, most of us didn’t realise that, if you eat 193 bananas in one sitting, you could become an “ex banana eater”…maybe even an “ex eater”.

We were incredulous when told this rather sobering fact by our youngest fellow volunteer, who at the time, was only 17!

We can only wonder at what facts he has amassed thus far, on his life’s journey.

But please, don’t let this deter you from joining our group…all sorts of subjects are covered, from Astrophysics to the latest Soaps’ revelations…so scintillating are our “coffee convos”, that we are disappointed when our ever-so nice Rangers have to remind us that it’s time for a “work break”!

 

And lastly, but by no means least, we learn much from that same great team of Rangers, who have a wealth of knowledge,( some of which it could be said, remains well hidden!)

But seriously, Folks, many users of Yateley Common would be impressed by the level of estate management and knowledge required, and displayed, to keep this vital site at its optimum level of sustainability.

So, this is just a short introductory piece to set the scene…it is hoped that we may do follow up bits and pieces to let you know what we are up to.

But, in conclusion, please be assured that every member of this (Thursday) group, (and also an existent, monthly Sunday group), are committed, under the expert guidance of our superb Rangers, to keeping this local green and pleasant land, an area of which we can all be justly proud.

 

Yours Ecologically,

Dave Rich.

PS  I guess I should add the disclaimer that any views or opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of our mentors, the Rangers…although I’m sure there are some things herein that do!…eg “great”,”expert”, and “superb”.

Historically, lowland Heaths such as Yateley Common, Castle Bottom NNR, Shortheath and Broxhead Commons were open landscapes with few trees and traditional uses of the land, such as gorse coppicing, grazing and birch cutting prevented trees and scrub from dominating the landscape. In the absence of these activities, tree removal and scrub control work is necessary, now carried out by HCC staff, contractors and volunteers alike, all working to preserve the open character of these important heathland sites.

The following scrub removal and mowing is taking place this winter in order to restore these areas to heathland, recreating and reconnecting the open character and landscape of the Common. Works are part of an on-going heathland management programme and are approved and funded through Natural England.

 

Yateley Common:

 

Castle Bottom NNR:

 

Shortheath Common:

 

Broxhead Common:

 

We appreciate that these works can sometimes seem quite destructive and can initially be visually unpleasant, however, after a relatively short period of time and with some targeted follow-up management the open heathland habitats begin to flourish and species typically associated with them start to utilise the additional habitat available to them. It is hoped that within 3-5 years heathland habitats within these areas will have restablished and in fact have begun to  flourish.

These works are important for several reasons:

  1. Lowland heathland – the type of habitat found on Yateley Common, Castle Bottom NNR, Shortheath Common and Broxhead Common – is highly threatened, with at least 80% of lowland heathland being lost over the last 200 years.
  2. To restore and preserve the open character of the landscape, which is of value to many users of these sites.
  3. Many special plants, birds, insects and reptiles rely on the heathland habitats found on the Common, the species and habitat for which the site is protected and designated under UK and EU law.

If you have any queries about these works or Yateley Common in general, then please call the Rangers on 01252 870425 or e-mail us at northern.sites@hants.gov.uk.

This year we have made the difficult decision not to run our annual Christmas Trees for Conservation event on Yateley Common.

Over the last few years we have been able to offer the opportunity for local families to join us on Yateley Common to cut scrub and in return cut down their own Scots Pine Christmas Tree. However, this year we do not feel that there are enough appropriately sized trees to be able to run an event.

Historically, Yateley Common was an open landscape with few trees and traditional uses of the common, such as gorse coppicing, grazing and birch cutting prevented trees and scrub from dominating the landscape. In the absence of these activities, tree removal and scrub control work is necessary. As a by-product of the management of the heath we have been able to offer Scots Pine as a locally grown alternative to traditional Christmas Trees, however as the Scots Pine are naturally growing, our supply has always been limited and this year we do not feel that we have enough of the right size tree to run an event.

Maintaining an open heath has always been the primary focus of our winter work program and the fact that we do not have the number of Scots Pine trees to run this event is reflective of the hard work of our staff, volunteers and the local community over the last few years.

We are very sorry not to be able to run this event this year, which is always very popular and great fun, but will review the number of Scots Pine available on the Common in the hope of running an event in future years.

In Astronomical terms Autumn this year officially starts today, 23rd September. Today is the autumn equinox, the point in the year when day and night are roughly the same length; from now on the nights will get longer and the days shorter until the spring equinox.  As winter approaches the temperature will fall as a result of the northern hemisphere tilting away from the sun.  You have probably already notice a distinct change in the weather and it won’t be long before autumn is well underway.

For some of our British wildlife this is the time of year when they start to think about finding a nice cosy spot to hibernate. Unfortunately for us work and school continue, but there is still fun to be had out in the countryside, so why not find out what is going on in your local area and enjoy this colourful time of year?  Here are some ideas to get you going:

Blackwater River Festival

From the 21st – 29th September there are all sorts of activities and walks to get involved in as part of the Blackwater River Festival: Visit http://www.bvct.org.uk/brf19/ for more information.

Hibernating Hedgehogs at Barton Meadows 

Why not take your toddler to a fun outdoor Wildlife Day all about hibernating hedgehogs at Barton Meadows Nature Reserve near Winchester on Tuesday 1 October.  The event is aimed at children between the ages of 2 years and 5 years old and costs £5 per child.

If you wish to book go to their website at https://www.hiwwt.org.uk/events/2019-10-01-barton-meadows-wildlife-tots for more information.

ungi Weekend at Sir Harold Hillier Gardens

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens will be hosting a Fungi weekend on the 5th and 6th October.With walks in the Gardens and a display in the Education Centre the diversity of garden and woodland fungi will be shown to you by experts from the Hampshire Fungus Recording Group. Past walks have revealed over 80 different types of fungi. Field trips at 10.30am and 2pm will be bookable on the day on a first come basis.  For more information visit: https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/hilliergardens/whatson/events/fungi-weekend-5-6oct

Hillier event

 

Apple day at Royal Victoria Country Park

Why not celebrate this years apple harvest by visiting Royal Victoria Country Park on the 31st October for a day of family fun celebrating one of the nation’s favourite fruits.  To find out more, visit: https://www.hants.gov.uk/thingstodo/countryparks/rvcp/whatson/apple-day

apple and tree

 

What ever you do this autumn, we hope you have a lovely time in the countryside!