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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!