MANAGEMENT OF LAND AT NETHERNE ON THE HILL FOR NATURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The long term goal for the amenity fields was always to combine managing the land effectively for both nature and the residents. With a view to this, in 2011, NOTHRA invited Graham Manning (South East Area Manager for Surrey Wildlife Trust) and Frances Halstead (Surrey Green Space) to view the land and recommend how best to move forward with this goal in mind. They were very positive about our desire to encourage wildlife and natural diversity in this area of the village, and with their help we initially put forward the following recommendations to NML.
The “Amenity Fields” – 2011 Management Plan
- Cut diagonally facing sections in rotation every 2 years – ideally late summer (August/September). This will provide varied, but linked, areas of vegetation at different heights, maximizing the variety of species of flora and fauna.
- The vegetation around the trees should be strimmed. It was noted that the trees in the area to the south appeared to be growing very slowly. This could be down to grazing by deer, but is most likely down to the particularly poor quality of soil here. To aid the growth of the trees, it was suggested that we remove weeds and mulch around them, and also maintain them individually by removing weeds growing within the tree protection tubes.
- It was suggested we leave the area of trees around the bottom of hill on the middle field to go wild.
- This middle area is particularly good for bird life. Grants can obtained through the Surrey Community Foundation (Orchid Trust) for bird hides, paths and interpretation boards, so this is something we may look to pursue in future.
The “Amenity Fields” – 2012 Management Plan
During the very wet weather of 2012 we needed to re-think our original plans for managing this area. The grasses and invasive Goat’s Rue had flourished, and were hindering the plans for a diverse ecology. We therefore sought the opinion of Alex Baxter-Brown of the Downland Countryside Management Project to get his advice on how to move forward. It was agreed that controlling the Goat’s Rue had to be the initial priority, and this would require a the less sympathetic approach of cutting all vegetation both in autumn and early spring, with systematic spraying of the Goat’s Rue as it comes up over the spring. If we can control this plant, then we can go back to the original plan of rotational management.
Year on year with this sort of management and advice we can look forward to ever increase variety of flora and fauna. Last year we already had the beginnings of a wide variety of flowers, and these attracted the associated insects and butterflies. In particular you may have spotted the Common Blue Butterfly.
With the help of Frances of the Greenspace Project, we carried out a flower survey in June to start to monitor our progress in encouraging flora, which in turn encourages fauna such as butterflies and insects. If you would like to print out this list (with photos) and see what you can find yourself on the amenity land click here Flower Survey 2012. Although the weather was not kind to us in 2012, and the rain favoured the grass and the tough and invasive Goat’s Rue, the variety of flowers that we already have does bode well for the future.
One more unusual, but prominent bird which we have already been attracting are the flocks of Goldfinches feeding on the tease, creeping thistle and alder. Siskins will also enjoy feeding on this food source.
If you were walking at the north end of the village around Boxers Wood at the bottom of Park Lane, you may have spotted piles of pigeon feathers and heard the screeching of the family of buzzards who had made their home there. Often if you hear their call you will see them circling overhead with their broad wings. Let’s hope they return next spring.
Land to be Left Wild It was suggested we leave smaller areas of undeveloped land to go wild. As we are surrounded by farmland and woodland, we attract larger mammals such as badgers, roe deer and foxes, and these areas create foraging for them. A family with 4 fox cubs lived behind Harden Farm Close last spring. The parents would be seen catching the early morning sun, whilst the cubs played. The deer give another good reason to take care whilst driving up and down Netherne Drive as they can often be seen crossing the road.
The Cemetery It was originally suggested that we leave this wild. As it is, it provides excellent cover for small animals, and the nettles provide an increasingly necessary environment for butterflies.
However, there is also a concern about keeping the site in an orderly state out of respect for those who may be buried there. NML are continuing to consider ways of restoring the cemetry, including a memorial. Grant money may also be available from English Heritage. If all goes well, it is hoped to start work in 2013 – maybe with the help of local volunteers. Look out for requests for help if you are interested in being involved at the time.
The Trees of Netherne One of the attractions to many of Netherne on the Hill are the wonderful trees. The Horse Chestnut is the most prominant tree, lining Netherne Drive and the areas around the cricket pitch. Limes are also a big part of the landscape. NML are responsible for maintaining these trees, and have to this end had a Tree Survey done of all trees over 150mm stem diametre. All these trees have been numbered with a small silver disc. If you would like to take a walk around the village and identify these trees, please use this tree identification link – Tree List
Trees which did not make it on to this list, because of their size are many. Most notiable we have Ginko Biloba (Maidenhair Tree) on the land next to the Leisure Centre. These are a unique species, now native to China. Fossils which are recognisably related to this tree link it’s ancestory to as long ago as the Permian 27- million years ago.
The sapling trees planted on the amenity land include a good selection of native trees, including alder. The path down to Hooley is also lined with Blackthorn (sloe berries).
The Birds of Netherne What can you spot? Why don’t you email us on email@example.com and tell us if you see anything more unusual? We will then add it to the list below so that others know what to look out for.
Spotted in the South of Netherne (Sports Fields and The Shaw) – LINNET, YELLOW HAMMER, CHIFFCHAFF
Spotted in the East of Netherne (Amenity Fields) – SKYLARK, GOLDFINCH, GREEN WOODPECKER, MISTLE THRUSH
Spotted in the North of Netherne (Park Lane, Farmland, Boxers Wood) – BUZZARD, BLACKCAP, LITTLE OWL (heard), HOBBY, SPARROWHAWK FAMILY
What to look out for in the Spring? This is the time of year we can be most aware of the birds. The daylight hours tell them it’s time to attract a mate and stake their claim to a nesting area. Their song is the most obvious way in which they do this. Above the chatter of the smaller, more easily identifiable birds such as the blue tits, great tits, sparrows and chaffinches, you may spot the more melodious song of the robin. More unusual sounds could be the knocking on wood of the woodpeckers – both Green and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers are
in the area. Then you have the Thrushes. If you hear a lower toned melodic song of repeated phrases it will be the Song Thrush. The similar sounding Mistle Thrush does not repeat the phrase, and can be identified by it’s bolder spots on it’s chest. In the adjacent farmer’s fields you may hear the continous warbling song of the skylark as it flutters high above the ground. Once the nest is built, it will use this song to persuade potential predators away from it.
What to look out for in the winter? Winter is a great time to see birds, not least because they are easier to see without leaves on the trees! We also get a lot of winter visitors here for the milder winters. In the winter you may be able to spot flocks of fieldfares over the amenity fields. They are part of the thrush family.
Flora we don’t want!
- Unfortunately we have identified a problem with
Japanese Knotweed in the village, which is a notifiable weed. This should ideally be removed by a specialist contractor. If you identify small amounts of this on your property, you may want to try initially digging up the WHOLE plant, and disposing of both it and any infected soil by either burning or landfill. This plant was present in Boxer’s Wood. the owner has carried out the appropriate treatment, but is concerned that people/children using the area could potentially spread it back into the village, as it can regrow from small fragments. For more information please check website http://www.devon.gov.uk/japanese_knotweed.htm.
- Goats Rue. This is in all areas, and is particularly invasive. In 2012 we organised a party of volunteers to pull the weeds out before flowering (June time). However, the problem was so big that we will follow a more aggresive course of cutting and spraying to further control this plant from smothering the area and not allowing diversity of other flowers.
The Shaw (Ancient woodland on southern edge of Netherne-on-the-Hill) –
We were very pleased to receive information that indicated that the Forestry Commission have noted that this woodland is in serious need of “tlc management”, and were trying to contact the owners. Although it may take a while before they are able to carry out any work (with the help of a grant), it is very good news that they recognise the importance of this bluebell wood. The Downlands Project have also shown interest in helping the Forestry Commission with this. Maybe it is also a project which residents of the village will be able to get involved with. In the meantime, let’s hope that not too many more trees come down across the paths, forcing people to create new paths where bluebells would otherwise flourish.
The Surrey Green Space Project
Surrey Green Space (SGP) is a 5 year partnership funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, the Surrey Wildlife Trust and local borough councils, which helps communities access and develop their green spaces. If you would like to know more, take a look at their website:- http://www.surreygreenspaceproject.co.uk/index.php
Frances Halstead of the SGP will offer her advice, help with setting up volunteer days, and offer provision of tools, so that as a community, we can come together and develop the land for nature. Although some of the maintenance can be done by NML – for instance the general cutting of the land – individual management of the trees, setting up hides and information/interpretation boards can be done by residents interested in volunteering their help. Volunteer days will be promoted, and we hope you can help out!
PLEASE VISIT THE WEBSITE AGAIN! This site will be updated every so often with more and latest information. In particular look out for the flower survey, and opportunities to help if we have a volunteer day.
If you have a particular interest in wildlife, and feel you may be able to contribute to this website, please contact us via the “contact us” link.