Mother Shipton moth on Pyramidal Orchid, Hedgley Bottom Key Wildlife Site, June 2009
Mother Shipton moth on Pyramidal Orchid, Hedgley Bottom Key Wildlife Site, June 2009
Chedworth Environment Group
Chedworth Environment Group

Chedworth biodiversity

Hedgley Bottom Pond Project

 



Within days of the official end of the 2013 wildlife breeding season work began on the restoration of the Pond in Hedgley Bottom after a twelve-month delay caused by last year’s very wet weather. An enormous quantity of silt was removed and the sides of the pond profiled to produce a range of water depths which will provide habitats for a variety of plants and animals. An enlarged silt trap at one end and a water
level control structure at the other will reduce silting-up in the future. All the pond needs now is a constant supply of clean water from upstream. Riparian landowners (i.e. those owning property alongside a watercourse or with a watercourse running through it) have an obligation to maintain the banks and
bed of the stream and to transfer the natural flow downstream without obstruction, pollution or diversion.

 

Returning the surrounding area to a stable and varied Cotswold limestone grassland habitat will take time but in the process we will be treated to a clear illustration of the principles of ecological succession –
i.e. the way in which bare soil eventually turns into a complex and self-perpetuating ecosystem. First onto the scene will be a small number of pioneer species – fast-growing annual “weeds” because, as is well-known, nature abhors a vacuum. Each year more species of plants and animals will appear, adding to the complexity and variety of the ecosystem and, importantly, to its stability (for, as any unicyclist will tell
you, four wheels are more stable than one).

 



ChEG is indebted to the Sustainable Development Fund and to local charities for their financial support.

chedworth biodiversity project meadow flowers Chedworth meadow flowers
 
Cherishing Chedworth’s Biodiversity
Guidance for landowners and gardeners prepared by Chedworth Parish Council in
conjunction with the Chedworth Environment Group
What is Biodiversity?
“The variety of life, including habitats and species (both plants and animals)
and the way in which these things interact  with each other in an ecosystem”. 
“Wildlife” does almost as well but does not convey the value of the variety and range
of species.
Why is it important?
The more complex the ecosystem, the more stable it is. Where a large number of species are acting
interdependently  – as  food  sources, protection and shelter, for spreading seed, causing decay – the 
system withstands  pressure  far  better  than  one  with  fewer  components.   
It’s much  the same  way that  a  four-wheeled  vehicle  is more  stable  than  a unicycle.
Not a hedgerow in site

What are the threats to Biodiversity?

Our  richest  habitats  have  developed  over  millennia  of  traditional  land management  and  lifestyles.  However,  the  19th and  20th century technological revolution provided the means for changing the landscape on  a  scale  never  seen  before.  Wildlife  habitats  have been damaged or even destroyed through:

  • overly-intensive farming during  the  20th  century with  its use  of herbicides, pesticides  and  artificial  fertilisers all  designed  to favour a single species (the crop) at the expense of others

  • building development

  • habitat removal – drainage of wetlands, destruction of old hedges and meadows and an obsession with “tidiness”

Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, climate change also threatens to wreak further havoc on already fragile habitats.

What can WE do?

The  Biodiversity  Action  Plan,  or  BAP, is  the  best  tool  we  have  for  the practical conservation and enhancement of wildlife at all levels.  The UK BAP identifies a number of priority habitats and the species associated with  these  habitats  that  are  recognised  as  being  important  for biodiversity conservation. 

Chedworth has  its  own  BAP,  drawn up in response to the requirements of  the  2006  Natural  Environment  and Rural Communities Act.  This places a duty on Parish Councils to ensure not just  the  maintenance  of  Parish biodiversity but  its  active  restoration and enhancement.

 

Within  Chedworth  Parish  we  have examples  of  a  number  of  priority habitats  including  ancient/semi-natural  woodland  and,  most importantly,  areas  of  unimproved limestone  grassland,  a  habitat exclusive to the Cotswolds.

The Chedworth Biodiverist Action Plan proposes:

  • a Parish survey to identify our initial biodiversity status

  • measures to protect our “good” habitats

  • measures  to  enhance  and  extend  habitats  by  creating or recreating links  between  habitats  by  providing  networks  and “corridors”.


Our  roadside  verges,  hedges  and  our stream  provide  ready-made wildlife  corridors  ripe  for  enhancement  but  there  is  also  scope  for providing a continuity of habitat throughout the gardens, smallholdings and larger land units within the Parish.

Mother Shipton Moth on Pyramidal Orchid

 

 

Gardening for Wildlife


The  essence  of  gardening  for  wildlife  is  to  encourage  the establishment  of  food  chains. There  is  always  a  plant  at  the start  of  a  food  chain because only  plants  can  harness  the  sun’s energy through photosynthesis.  Generally the plant will attract the attentions of  bugs  (invertebrates)  or  small  plant-eating  animals which are  in  turn fed on by larger animals including birds.

Plants and animals need places to hide and breed with plenty of natural food and  freedom from  toxins.  They  also  need time to  grow undisturbed, to reproduce, die, be recycled after death and to develop a web of life  in the garden.  By allowing just a part of your garden to be “untidy for wildlife” and avoiding the use of chemicals in the “tidy” parts wildlife will be allowed to flourish and provide interest all year long. A number of things help to provide the variety of habitats needed for a stable  ecosystem  to  develop in  your  garden and  benefit declining species  such  as  the  song  thrush,  bullfinch,  hedgehog,  toad,  newt  and dragonfly.

  • Use  native  and  locally-found  plant  species  wherever  possible  as these will fit more naturally with the wild habitat
  • Plant evergreens such as holly and ivy for winter food and shelter for birds
  • Plant  nectar-rich  flowers  for  insects  – especially  white-flowered ones for night insects
  • Create a compost heap – not only to make your own nutrient rich, high organic matter soil supplement but to encourage the worms, woodlice and slow-worms which make the compost
  • Create  a  wildlife  pond  with  gently-sloping  sides  to  help amphibians get  in  and  out  and  with emergent native  vegetation for  cover  from  prey.    Fish  are  not  a  good  addition  to  a  wildlife pond as they will eat the invertebrates
  • Leave a pile of logs to rot down in a damp and shady corner and provide habitat for hedgehogs and beetles

Whatever the size of your patch, there are several things you can do to encourage a varied plant and animal population, which will help us all maintain and enhance the Parish biodiversity:

  • Allow an area for nettles to flourish – they are an important food source for butterflies
  • Leave areas of long grass for grasshoppers and young amphibians
  • Stop using slug pellets and other chemicals – hedgehogs will eat slugs
  • Encourage  bats  and  nesting  birds  by  providing  boxes
  • Putting  black sunflower seeds on a feeding table near a hedge will delight field voles
  • Seed-eating birds  are  usually  well  catered  for  at garden bird tables  but  don’t  forget  the  insect-eaters  (like  robins) who enjoy porridge oats soaked in fat and old cheese
  • Keep  cats  indoors  at  dawn  and  dusk  when  birds  and  bats  are feeding

 

Ragwort - pretty but a 'pest'

Managing grassland for wildlife


The variety  of  plant  and  animal  species found in  old meadows has  arisen  from  traditional  management  practices  of  cutting and grazing but the UK has lost 95% of its wildflower meadows over the last  few  decades. Our  characteristic  Cotswold meadows are a Priority Habitat under the UK Biodiversiy Aaction Plan and we have a responsibility to ensure their conservation.


Much of what has been said above in relation to gardening for wildlife - such  as  leaving some long  grass, undergrowth and  decaying  matter  to allow food chains and habitats to continue – will also pertain on a larger scale.    However  grass  is  a  crop  and  does  need  management  or  it  will revert  to  scrub  which,  while  a  habitat  for  many  animal  species,  would without management flourish at the expense of our nationally valuable limestone grassland wild flowers.

 

Not all wildflowers are good flowers.  Ragwort – a pretty yellow-flowered plant – is poisonous to livestock,  while Japanese  knotweed  is invasive to the point where it will squeeze every other species out.  There is a legal obligation on landowners to control these and other noxious weeds.

 

Grazing by sheep is the traditional  grassland management  method  in  the  Cotswolds  where Ragwort: needs action to control it the terrain is often steep and uneven but other grazing animals can also do the job, albeit  it in slightly different ways.  Cattle are more likely to destroy the  soil structure with their large feet  and tendency  to  gather  in gateways and under trees – but scuffing up the turf also  provides  a  good  seedbed  for  the germination of small-seeded wild flowers.

 

Cattle also need more substantial fencing and can damage our traditional dry stone wall field  boundaries. Horses  are generally  picky  eaters  and  cannot  be relied  upon  to  satisfactorily  graze  a precious sward.    They can also upset the balance  of  the  soil’s  microorganisms  by dumping  quantities  of  veterinary pharmaceutical compounds on the land via their dung. Grazing density must be carefully tailored to the productivity of the grassland.

 

Cutting may  prove  to  be  a  simpler  and  more  economical grassland management technique  on  smaller  and  flatter  areas  – and  there  is  no need  to  provide  a  water  supply. It  is  also  easier  to  control  the  finer details of timing, area and height of cut but it is necessary to remove the cuttings  from  the  field  to  allow  wildflowers  to  grow. The  correct combination  of  cutting  and grazing  will  also  control  problem  weeds such as docks and thistles, without having to resort to herbicides.

 

Whichever technique,  or combination of  techniques, is  adopted,  a crucial  factor in  striving  for a  species-rich sward  is  the timing  of  the operation.    A trim by animal or  machine  in early  spring (late  March)  will  knock  back  thistles  and  vigorous  grasses  which  may have taken hold over the winter.  There may then follow a  long period during  which  wild  flowers  and  grasses  may  grow,  flower  and  set  seed before early September when another trim will prevent the incursion of less  desirable  plants  such  as  thistles,  docks  and  brambles.    It  may  be necessary from an animal husbandry point of view to continue grazing through  the  summer  although  this  would  decimate  the  insect population if carried out every year.  Similarly it may prove desirable to take a hay cut in late July but this will also reduce the number of plant species  setting  seed;  consider  instead  making  early  and  late  cuts  in alternate years.

 

The  old  system  of  giving  incentives  to  farmers  to  maximise  food production caused surpluses  (“mountains”  and  “lakes”)  and  serious harm  to  biodiversity.  This  has  now  been  replaced  by the “agri-environment” approach through which financial incentives are available to  farmers  and  landowners to  manage  land  for  the  benefit  of  wildlife and biodiversity.  Measures to enhance the well-being of farmland bird populations and to encourage a diverse agricultural ecosystem in which natural  predators  contribute  to  “pest”  control  are  already  reprieving species  from  the  threat  of  extinction.    The  schemes  are  widely applicable  and  are  operated  by  Defra  via  Natural  England  (website addresses at the end).

 

Managing the stream

 

The stream,  a  tributary  of  the  River  Coln, is  a  defining  feature  of Chedworth, providing  a  natural  link  and  valuable  wildlife  corridor throughout the village.  In the past, it’s likely it also featured as a source of power for a number of mills in the valley.

 

If  you  own  land  adjoining  the  stream,  you  have  certain  rights  and responsibilities (and in legal terms, are known as a ‘riparian owner’. For full  details,  you’ll  need  to  consult  the  Environment  Agency  (EA),  as some activities may even require its permission.  But, as a quick guide:

  • Don’t start work on or near a watercourse without first consulting EA
  • Environmental  factors  that  will  need  to  be  considered include flood risk, wildlife management and the reshaping of the stream and its course
  • You  must  keep  the  bed  and  banks  clear  of  anything  that  could cause an obstruction, either on your land or downstream
  • You must not obstruct the free passage of fish
  • Alien  species  such  as  Japanese  knotweed  (see  above)  are  your responsibility to control
  • You are responsible for work required to reduce bank erosion.

With  support from Gloucestershire  Wildlife Trust, ChEG has initiated a project to bring together  the  many  landowners  through whose  land  the  stream  flows,  so  that  we may reinvigorate the stream:

  • Improving flow rates and so reducing flooding problems
  • Enhancing biodiversity
  • Reinstatement  as  a  community resource

ChEG  will  have  more  information  on  the stream project as talks progress. See also the guide on this web site for more details or go to:

http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/floods/31626.aspx 

 

http://www.ada.org.uk/showmembers.php?fs=&type=idbs is also a useful link if you are a member

 

The Law is on wildlife’s side

  • A number of well-known “protected species”( such as water voles, great crested newts and  all  British reptile species) have  acquired this  status either  under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981  or the European Habitats Directive 1994. 

 

  • All  wild  birds  are  protected  under  the  Wildlife  and  Countryside Act  1981  (as  amended) whilst  they  are  actively  nesting  or roosting.  Section 1 of this Act makes it an offence to kill, injure or take  any  wild  bird,  and  to  intentionally  take, damage or  destroy the nest of any wild bird while that nest is in use or being built.  It is also an offence to take or destroy any wild bird eggs.

 

  • In practice, and given that not all bird species nest at exactly the same time,  the  convention  is  that  no  operations  resulting  in habitat  destruction  (e.g.  hedge  cutting)  should  be  undertaken between March 1st and September 1st.

 

  • Habitats  deemed  to  have  “priority”  status  for  conservation  are protected through national planning policies.

 

  • Parish Councils have a legal duty to promote the management of sites for nature conservation.

Where can I go to find further information?

 

NEWS

 

Hedgley Bottom Pond Project

 

The Project progresses - dredging of the pond and the fencing is now complete.    Next spring we will be asking for lots of volunteers to help continue the project.

 

Read Susie Moore's report on work to date here.



The CHEG Constitution Published

 

Read about our new constitution here, our aims and objectives and how we work with the community in Chedworth

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© Dave Whittles