SOUTHWICK COUNTRY PARK LOCAL NATURE RESERVE
PROJECTS PROGRAMME SUMMARY UPDATE – FOR 2022
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 (FoSCP). 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 2022, a review of the reserve in general, and suggestions for possible future progress.
The overall priorities of the Countryside Team and FoSCP remain as: the Health & Safety of the volunteers working in, and the public using the reserve; increasing biodiversity and developing the Local Nature Reserve status; providing public access for all groups and abilities; maintaining the reserve so that its appearance and ambience attracts the public.
Highlights of 2022
- Covid-19. The aftershocks of Covid-19 continue and the park remains a refuge and place of sanity to the public and has many new users and admirers other than dog walkers. It was a pleasure during the long hot summer to see family groups of all ages and abilities enjoying strolls and picnics throughout the reserve.
- Local Nature Reserve. A major advance and gradually getting more acknowledged. New signs for the SCPLNR were erected by the council at the entrance in October.
- Countryside Team. The Countryside Team (CT) has remained under great pressure after being reorganised and amalgamated with the Rights of Way (ROW). Gemma Thorp standing in for Vicky Roscoe who is currently on maternity leave, and Paul Millard are now the first points of contact and the close liaison and support with FoSCP and our common goal to enhance and increase the biodiversity within the reserve continues; Ali remains a constant.
- Tenant Farmer. In early May 2022 one spraying of Magneto Herbicide was made on the most ragwort affected fields of Lambrok, Kestrel, Village Green, Corn, Sleeper and Sheep. A hay cut in late June was made from Lambrok, Kestrel, Corn, Sheep, The Race and Sleeper fields. Simpsons, The Arboretum, Triangular, Brunt, Allotment and Village Green were cut, baled and removed in early July. As agreed two cuttings were made at the harvest a few days apart thus allowing, particularly for invertebrates, some sanctuary. The Ragwort problem remains [particularly in Village Green, Sleeper, Corn and Sheep Fields plus Lambrok Meadow] but is reduced. It is encouraging that biodiversity within the fields is again increasing.
- Weather. It has been a challenging year for survival for many of the reserve fauna and flora. January was warm followed by a very stormy (Eunice) February and very dry spring. A heat wave during the summer led to streams and the pond vertually drying out. Autumn rains caused flooding with a prolonged very cold spell at the beginning of December followed by more flooding.
- Ancient & Veteran Oaks. A survey of all veteran trees within the reserve 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.
- Proposed Development Church Lane et al. This proposed residential development, though outside SCP, shares a common border with the reserve for some 500 metres – the Lambrok Stream. The 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 reserve’s wildlife. FoSCP are also concerned that the proposed developments at Upper Studley and Southwick Court could also adversely affect the Lambrok Stream. FoSCP continue to question developments and intend to commission a more rigorous ecology survey.
- Working with Groups
- As part of the ABBA [A Better Biss Approach] we have joined with Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts’ Water Team with the aim of modifying the Lambrok and improving ponds to attract and enhance aquatic diversity. In February the Iris pond was cleared of the Willows growing in and around it and deepened, and in September in Lambrok Meadow an extensive scrape was developed across the boggy area and two scrapes connected to the Lambrok made either side of the ford which itself was extended into a dog dip.
- In May the Countryside team and Friends hosted the Wiltshire & Swindon Biological Records Centre (WSBRC) team and 10 of the County Recorders to a day within the reserve. During this visit the Recorder for Flowering plant and Ferns, Richard Aisbitt, identified 22 plants not previously recorded.
- In September RSPB set up a stall by the main entrance.
- In October Dr Robert Brown from New Zealand visited the reserve and dug up two wasps’ nests to successfully collect particular Hoverfly larva for a biological control programme in New Zealand. He intends returning next year.
- A mutual concern for the safeguarding of the Lambrok Stream’s ecology has meant we have formed a close liaison with the owners of Southwick Court, reflected throughout this report.
- Parkrun. Continues to attract good numbers.
- Friends of SCP. During this difficult time the Friends have changed their working party routine to every Wednesday morning, very ad hoc during limiting times, however, this has resulted in a great deal being achieved in the promotion of and maintenance of the reserve, plus three new friends have joined our happy band.
- A vibrant Webpage – https://southwickcountrypark.com – edited by Suzanne Humphries now has more than 900 followers and apart from providing information and photographs on the fauna and flora within the reserve and all the works carried out by the FoSCP leads on campaigns directly affecting SCP, in particular planning application to develop the Church Lane, Upper Studley and Southwick Court sites.
- FoSCP have a regular contribution, provided by Sarah Marsh, in the Southwick Village News which has been resurected as an on-line newsletter.
- The haloing programme of Veteran Oaks and Ash is now well established and continues.
- Brambles and undergrowth cleared by the hard path plus widening various gateways and paths throughout the park to make them more accessible to the public and runners.
- Ragwort, principally in Lambrok Meadow, Kestrel Field, Village Green, Corn Field, Sleeper Field, Sheep Field and The Race. Although sprayed the problem is not reducing.
- Bat Monitoring & Moth Trapping. Unfortunately no Bat monitoring or Moth trapping was carried out in the reserve this year. It is hoped to rectify this in 2023.
- Planting. The fifteen (15) Disease Resistant Elm trees planted in the Corn/Sleeper hedgerow to encourage the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly were checked and are doing well. The remaining whips were planted in the extended bunding of the HNC car park and along the HNC fence line at the top of Brunts. Some 100 plus Knapweed plugs planted in set sides.
- Fund Raising. For the first time in 3 years the Southwick Show was held and the Friends stall run by Sarah, Pat and Joan made some £200. A big thank you to Rick and Katy from Wessex Rural Crafts Ecology & Arboriculture for sponsoring the Friends volunteers for hedge cutter training with Roland Heming in February 2022. In February an Area Board Grant of £576 enabled the purchase of a STIHL cordless chainsaw in August with the Friends subsquently funding the required Training, again with Roland, in September. With this training the volunteers now have a far greater impact on the better management of the site.
- Flora & Fauna The highlight of the year is probably the photographing of the Water Shrew by Simon. Notable were the first records of an Eel in the Lambrok and an Eft in the Iris pond. The Recorders’ visit in May was much appreciated and greatly added (22) to our flora knowledge. Again a mixed year for lepidoptera. Only one transect was made, numbers generally were down, however, both Riglet and Marbled White numbers were well up. The heatwave reduced the Lambrok to a trickle and the pond to a puddle limiting Odonata identified to nine (9). Also newly identified were 15 invertibrates and one (1) new fungi.
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.
- Lambrok River. Together with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust enhance the Lambrok and ponds [Puddle Corner and Tadpole] within the reserve. 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 to agreed standard with Wilts Council.
- Woodland Trust will hopefully continue to provide whips needed to complete the hedge around new HNC car parking area in Simpsons Field.
- 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/tenant farmer task.
- Tools. Determine additional tools and materials required by the Friends to complete tasks and obtain through Area Board grants.
- Permanent Path. As ever, seek funding to refurbish/improve. However, at an estimated £500K+ this will be a major undertaking.
Ian Bushell 31.XII.2022