Annual Report 2019
by Ian Bushell
Background. The following programme of actions was taken as an outcome of the review of the park on 27th January 2013 by the Wiltshire Countryside Team and Friends of Southwick Country Park. It is intended that this is a living document: a record of previous projects and tasks conducted, and an update of works carried out during 2019, a review of the park in general, and suggestions for possible future progress.
The overall priorities of the Countryside Team and FoSCP are:
- Health & Safety of the volunteers working in, and public using the park
- Increasing biodiversity and gaining Local Nature Reserve status.
- Providing public access for all groups and abilities.
- Maintaining the park so that its appearance and ambience attracts the public.
Highlights of 2019
- Countryside Team. The Countryside Team has remained under great pressure. We are most grateful that, despite this pressure, and with our Countryside Officer’s enthusiasm and support, the efforts to enhance and increase the biodiversity within the park continue.
- Tenant Farmer. Again only one hay/silage crop was taken, this in June. As agreed the tenant farmer made two cuttings a few days apart thus allowing, particularly for invertebrates, some sanctuary. The Ragwort problem remains [particularly in Sleeper, Corn and Kestrel Fields plus Lambrok Meadow] and a low dose spraying was made on these fields in April. Additionally hand pulling by the FoSCP ‘cleared’ Village Green, Sheep, Brunts, the Race, Allotment area and the bottom of Corn Fields prior to the cut. This programme of spraying and Ragwort pulling, together with patchwork harvesting has provisionally been agreed for 2020. It is encouraging that biodiversity within the fields is again increasing.
- Ancient & Veteran Oaks. A survey of all veteran trees within the park has been conducted, a prioritised programme made, and work has started to halo these trees and construct protective barriers around them. This is a long term programme. Oaks [5554 to 5558 & 5549] in the corner of Sheep Field/Sleeper Field were haloed in October and November.
- Main Car Park. Parking remained free following the agreement by FoSCP with the Wiltshire Council for FoSCP to maintain the Car Park to an agreed standard. The worst potholes were repaired in December, and now await further planings to be delivered to complete the task. Non-native plants removed by contractors. To make the area more welcoming 50 native whips were planted, scrub cleared towards the Lambrok Stream, dragons teeth replaced and some pot holes filled in.
- Proposed Development Church Lane. This proposed residential development, although outside SCP, shares a common border with the park for some 500 metres along the Lambrok Stream. FoSCP are deeply concerned and believe that Lambrok Streams’ ecological importance has not been properly assessed. Furthermore we believe that it will not be possible to protect Lambrok Streams’ biota from the consequences of development at the Church Lane site and that the development of the site will incur loss of habitat for the park’s wildlife. FoSCP continue to question developments and intend to commission a more rigorous ecology survey.
- Working with Groups. During the year the Countryside Team and Friends have hosted groups:
- In April with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust a survey of the Lambrok Stream was conducted
- and in August as part of their River Day a public pond dipping afternoon was held.
- In July FoSCP hosted Studley Junior School & Police CSOs to a day in the park to raise their awareness of the benefits and possible dangers of nature.
- Hope Nature Centre: development of a defined parking area on Simpsons Field.
- parkrun continues to attract with an average of about 300 participating in each event. However, this is affecting the hard path and certain areas of the circuit which continue to deteriorate. Action to rectify this is becoming urgent.
- Friends of SCP During the year great deal has been achieved in the promotion of and maintenance of the Park:
- A vibrant Webpage – https://southwickcountrypark.com – edited by Suzanne Humphries now has more than 800 followers and apart from providing information and photographs on the fauna and flora within the park and all the works carried out by the FoSCP leads on campaigns directly affecting SCP, in particular the RPS’s planning application to develop the Church Lane site.
- FoSCP have a regular contribution, provided by Sarah Marsh, in the Southwick Village News.
- The haloing programme of Veteran Oaks and Ash is now well established.
- Coppicing Hazel and creating glades in the Simpsons Field copse.
- Brambles and undergrowth cleared around newer plantings [Sheep Field, Heritage Orchard, the Arboretum] plus widening various gateways and paths throughout the park to make them more accessible to the public and runners.
- FoSCP continued:
- The Ephemeral Pond in the Allotment Field cleared and barricaded. Puddle Corner drained and the pond area cleared.
- Ragwort, principally in Village Green, Corn Field, Sheep Field and The Race pulled, prior to the hay cut.
- FoSCP members now qualified to use the Countryside’s Brushcutter.
- Planting. 100 Fritillery bulbs planted in Lambrok Meadow and Village Green, WW1 memorial tree planted in Simpsons Field.
- Following the agreement with the Wiltshire Council for FoSCP to maintain the Car Park to an agreed standard in order that parking remained free, Pot holes were repaired in December.
- Fund Raising. Through the Friends [Southwick Fete, Aluminium cans, HNC Christmas Market and other projects] some £225.00 + raised. Additionally an Area Board Grant of £800, for replacement rubbish bins and additional access from the car park was received.
- Flora & Fauna Slow Worms and Grass snake recorded during the year. It was, however, a poor year for lepidoptera, surveys made in June and September, generally numbers were down but new records of Painted Lady and Wall Brown were made. On a happier note during the summer nine (9) species of Odonata were confirmed, including the Emperor Dragonfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly and Ruddy darter plus Bullheads in Lambrok Stream.
Future Projects and Considerations.
- Veteran Trees. Veteran and Ancient Oaks are a key feature of the park. A long term programme of haloing on a priority basis to continue.
- Local Nature Reserve status. Gain LNR status – this is very close now.
- Lambrok River. Obtain funding for an ecological survey of the river. Organise a clean-up and seek help and advice on bank conservation.
- Main Entrance. Maintain car park surface and construct alternate access nearer Lambrok Stream.
- Woodland Trust will provide 400+ whips in March 2020 – planting to form a hedge around new HNC car parking area in Simpsons Field.
- Litter Bins. Replace and/or relocate to provide a better ‘spread’ throughout the park.
- Encroaching vegetation. Brambles, Nettles etc. have in some areas [particularly Lambrok Meadow and Corn Field] encroached on to the hard path. Reduction of this growth and reinstatement of the path is probably a contractor task.
- Bat Monitoring & Moth Trapping. Organise evening events for these activities.
- Permanent Path. As ever, seek funding to refurbish/improve. However, at an estimated £100K+ this will be a major undertaking.