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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Woodland path work at Underway Meade

Thanks to four of the Neroche Volunteers, and two of our own volunteers, we had a really successful session levelling out the woodland path and building new steps at Underway Meade today.

Levelling the path

New steps being built

Path almost complete
The work went so well we even had time to collect up all the brash produced from the hedge laying sessions into one pile. The next task, which we hope to do in the next few weeks, will be to hire a chipper and put the resulting wood chips on the path to improve the surface.
Collecting up the brash

Friday, March 25, 2016

Underway Meade- Stop press

Due to the good weather today, Good Friday and the poor weather forecast for the rest of the weekend, we decided to try and finish preparing the wildflower patch today.

We finished picking out the obvious stones from the patch and then set to with the rotovator.
Digging the stones out by hand

Rotovating to prepare the soil for sowing

The job was finished in two hours and we can now rake it over and plan our sowing event.

Underway Meade Jan - Mar 2016

If 2015 was a busy year, then the first quarter of 2016 was even more so, but it was also tinged with sadness with the death of one of the earliest Trustees for the Meade, Gerry Sayers. We will be commemorating his contribution to the Trust in particular and to the parish in general, by placing a memorial bench in the Meade. A collection will be arranged for anyone who wishes to contribute - details will be on the village noticeboard.

Good news, received just before the end of last year, was that we had been successful in our bid for a grant of £4,000 from the Somerset County Council's Health and Well Being Fund due to support from Nigel Pearson, our County Councillor. The grant was kindly topped up by the Parish Council, Gala Committee and local donations and has been used to improve the access to the Meade with new gates and paths. Work started at the end of February and was completed in just over a week, thanks to B.E Powell and Sons contractors. It means that you can now get in and out of the Meade along the road at both ends and in the middle by the dog waste bin, so there’s no need to walk along the main road to the Clayhanger turning or to make a detour to the bin. It inevitably looks a bit raw at the moment, and we have quite a bit of tidying up and fine tuning yet to do, but it’s all usable and we are pleased to report that more people than ever are using the Meade as a result and we have received some very positive feedback.

Fencing before path work began

Cutting through the new access point
Digger on site

New path taking shape

Work continues

New access point and path

In the middle of February we held a hedge laying training day, paid for by the Blackdown Hills AONB Natural Futures project.Two experts from the Blackdown Hills Hedge Association came and showed 4 of the Meade volunteers and 4 others how to lay a hedge in the Devon style and as a result, we not only got trained, but also a good stretch of one of our hedges was laid free of charge!
George and Richard our trainers
Volunteers gathering for the hedge laying training day
Working hard
Part of the finished hedge
Some of the brushwood that was cut down will be used for dead hedging along one section of the recently fenced dog-free picnic area. The rest will be chipped, once we have arranged for the loan of a chipper, and then spread on the woodland path to improve the surface.

We had a lot of rain in January / February and this caused some flooding which we are trying to deal with by laying some pipes to re-direct run off, should it happen again.

Flooding due to heavy rainfall and run off

Position where pipes are being laid

Pipe laying

Other jobs that have taken place include the annual hedge cut along the road edge. The contractor, Ian Farmer, has started to shape the hedge for us with a sloping top, which is more suitable for nesting birds as it encourages the rain to run off and it will also help it thicken up in future years.

Hedge cutting 
Lastly, you may have noticed some of us clearing stones from the bare earth patch alongside the pond. This is being done prior to bringing a rotavator on site (with thanks to the Sunday School Wood team for its loan) to prepare the ground for sowing wild flower seeds. Hopefully some of the children from Combe School will come down in April to help us sow the seeds - watch the noticeboards for details.

Wildflower patch

Saturday, December 12, 2015

2015 at Underway Meade

2015 has been a busy year for Underway Meade, as this month by month report illustrates.
We spent time edging the path in the wood with dead hedging, using cuttings from our hedge-laying endeavours. We also had many positive comments about the beautiful snowdrops on the banks.

We continued hedge-laying along the boundary when weather permitted, it was slow going though!

In March we were successful in our bid to Monkton Elms Garden Centre for free hedging saplings which we proudly collected in person.

We also worked on putting in some dead hedging around the pond, both to protect some of the saplings we planted and also to provide a useful habitat for wildlife. The dead hedging also provides a good boundary between the pond and the footpath.

The pond itself was looking quite bare but we were very pleased to spot some frog spawn at the end of the month,which, despite not hatching out, proved that there are frogs around that visit the pond, so if we could improve the vegetation in it we might see tadpoles in future years.
In April the crab apple tree by the small bridge over the stream was in full bloom and very pretty it looked too.

Children had found some of our remaining hedge cuttings and built a very impressive den in the woods.

The sight of some lovely patches of bluebells in the wood made all the hard work of the previous winter, thinning out the trees to give more light to the plants, very worthwhile.

Out in the meadow though, the grass was growing apace and, as we had decided not to use sheep until we could complete our botanical surveys, we had to find another way of controlling the growth. Luckily our call for help was answered by Ian Jones, who, with his trusty tractor, came not once but four times during the season to cut the grass for us.
We also took turns to regularly mow paths through the Meade to make it easier for visitors to follow a route when walking on the site. We think this was much appreciated especially by the many dog walkers who now pop in regularly. 

June - July
We are grateful to Colin volunteer ecologist, who has been undertaking a detailed survey of plant species during the year and so far he has identified over 160 species. A full list will be added to our web page on the parish website in due course.

We have had some other interesting wildlife visitors during the year as well, including this colourful Mullein moth, found on some figwort when we were clearing the stream of false watercress.

Also, this beautiful Grey wagtail which was enjoying a feast of flies which appeared over the pond in some warm weather. 

In July we were also very proud to be presented with a cheque from Wessex Water for £450 to buy bird and bat boxes for the Meade. This came from their Community Grid Fund, which was available to bid for from any community which would be affected by the installation work of a new water grid for the region. 
We have been grateful to receive much help and advice during the year from the Blackdown Hills AONB team, which has included assistance with bidding for funds, supporting us with events and also, providing us with  free training courses, such as one on scything.
Thankfully Lynn, seen here trying out her new skills,  returned with all her fingers and toes still intact!
The dry summer weather took its toll on the pond which became covered in algae as the flow from the stream was severely reduced. However, this picture does show that some of our plantings of lily pads and sedge, have taken root successfully.

The upside of the dry weather though was the chance to install
a new gate into the wood to allow more walking routes. 

This was single handedly tackled by Bill and we are grateful to him for all his hard work, on all kinds of tasks over the year, as well as the loan of tools and provision of storage space for our gear.

We held our first public event during half term "Build a Bug Hotel". 

Unfortunately the weather could not have been wetter
and the hoped for crowds were somewhat thin on the ground. However, some brave volunteers and a number of Friends as well as some determined children, helped us build a splendid "hotel" and we all went home feeling very pleased with ourselves.

November - December
Finally, over the last few weeks we have been gathering all the bird and bat boxes
that we have been able to purchase, courtesy of Wessex water and when weather has allowed, been steadily putting them up. First of all we have put up a Tawny owl box in the big ash tree. This entailed use of a ladder and ropes and pulleys to get such a big box high up in the tree.

 Next we have put up five open fronted boxes, mostly in trees with ivy, to attract robins and wrens and maybe even starlings. (Thanks again to Bill!).
All in all it has been a satisfying year and we look forward to next year, when we hope, if we are successful with our bid for more funding, to be able to make a start on the new access gate and path.
Thanks to all our volunteers, regular or occasional, everyone's help is very welcome. So if you want to join us on a Saturday morning for an hour or so, please get in touch!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Underway Meade- Update 2

It has been an exciting few months for the Underway Meade with a £200 donation received from Combe Local Ladies and a donation of saplings from Monkton Elms, all reported on in the Chard and Ilminster News

Local Ladies donation

A Friends of Underway Meade Group was launched at the AGM and volunteers continued to work on making improvements for wildlife and the local community.

The meadow has been mowed, thanks to a local resident and his tractor and volunteers are now busily raking up the grass so it can be moved to ensure the soil is not provided with too much nutrient, which would deter wildflower regeneration. This is an ongoing task and we may have to think about different ways of achieving it in the future.

The ongoing survey of the flora has listed over 130 species so far and we expect this list to grow over time.

Last week, during a hot and humid few days there were a lot of flies hovering over the pond and this attracted a pair of grey wagtails. They used the water lilies as a base from which to bounce up and down catching the flies, which you can see were fairly dense!

We are also seeing a regular pair of mallards on the pond, which is nice, though they would eat any frog spawn / tadpoles, so it might be a mixed blessing.

Watch out for more news in the Cloveleaf magazine and on the parish website.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Swifts, hedgehogs and orchids, it's all happening!

It has been an exciting few days, with the arrival  of the The first Swifts arrived in the village on Saturday 9th May. I counted three over Wadeford and the same number later over Combe. By the middle of the week the numbers were up to 12 and the summer sound of them screaming through the skies had begun.

On Sunday, as we closed the blinds in our conservatory at about 9pm, my husband noticed a movement outside and to our great delight, there in the middle of the lawn was a hedgehog! I managed to get a few photos using a flash and when I tweeted the event I had a number of re-tweets and favourited notifications, which for me was pretty unusual.  I had obviously struck a chord!
It seemed healthy enough but was the first we had seen in the garden for a long time. My untidy borders must be paying off!

The next day whilst actually doing some gardening to make space for some plants a friend had kindly given me, I noticed that a pair of blue tits were visiting a nest box on the lime tree in the paddock next door.  They took it in turns to go and catch caterpillars and other insects, then dive into the box, reappearing after a few seconds and depart again very quickly. They must be feeding young so I must watch out for the fledglings.

It was quite hard to get a good shot of them, but after persevering  I managed this one as it darted out. They seemed unworried by my presence and I continued gardening.

Later in the week I went on a woodland walk arranged by the Chard History Group. It was to a small patch of local ancient woodland which was full of bird sound from chiffchaff to "chipping" woodpeckers and blackcaps to wrens but it  was also smothered in bluebells and amongst them were some beautiful early purple orchids.

I love this time of year, with everything looking so fresh and the migrant birds arriving and spring flowers blooming. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A walk in the lanes

Since Easter weekend the weather has been glorious with warm sunny days. The birds are singing, the wildflowers are brightening up the country lanes and butterflies have been on the wing.

On a walk around Scrapton there were a few linnets passing through and one alighted on the top of a sapling in a hedge which was yet to sprout its leaves.

This one is a female as it is lacking the pink on its front and forehead of the male. A bird of mainly farmland which is in serious decline, with over 50% fewer than 40 years ago so it is always nice to see one here.

Another noticeable bird, identified largely by its song, were the numerous chiffchaffs, making their distinctive sounding "chiffchaff call, often likened to a knife being sharpened. Whilst some overwinter in the milder south west, most are returning from their winter sites in the Mediterranean and West Africa and will gradually spread throughout the UK for the breeding season.


One of the brightest flowers in the hedgerow at the moment are the Lesser celandine. They may not be a favourite of the gardener, as they spread rapidly in the borders, but along the verges in the lanes they are a valuable food source to early flying insects and butterflies and when the sun shines they open their petals and I think they are really beautiful.

Proving that they really are a useful food source, a Comma butterfly was flitting from one flower to another in the warm sunshine taking its fill of nectar as it went.
Comma butterfly feeding on Celandine flowers

(Apologies for the quality of the Comma pictures, but it just wouldn't stay still for more than a second or two!)