Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Countryside Code: 4. Keep Dogs Under Close Control

A series of posts relating to the Countryside Code as published by Natural England to help us all to respect, protect and enjoy our countryside.

Keep dogs under close control

The countryside is a great place to exercise dogs, but it’s every owner’s duty to make sure their dog is not a danger or nuisance to farm animals, wildlife or other people.
  • By law, you must control your dog so that it does not disturb or scare farm animals or wildlife. On most areas of open country and common land, known as 'access land' you must keep your dog on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July, and all year round near farm animals.
  • You do not have to put your dog on a lead on public paths, as long as it is under close control. But as a general rule, keep your dog on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience. By law, farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals.
  • If a farm animal chases you and your dog, it is safer to let your dog off the lead – don’t risk getting hurt by trying to protect it.
  • Take particular care that your dog doesn’t scare sheep and lambs or wander where it might disturb birds that nest on the ground and other wildlife – eggs and young will soon die without protection from their parents.
  • Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is and it can cause infections – so always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly. Also make sure your dog is wormed regularly to protect it, other animals and people.
  • At certain times, dogs may not be allowed on some areas of access land or may need to be kept on a lead. Please follow any signs. You can also find out more by phoning the Open Access Contact Centre on 0845 100 3298.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

RSPB Pulborough Brooks - Volunteers Summer BBQ

Every year the RSPB Pulborough Brooks hosts a summer BBQ as a 'thank you' for the volunteers.  The weather hadn't be great today, so I was expecting this year's event to be undercover or at least the possibility that we were going to get wet.  However, arriving at the reserve the sun was out, although showers loomed on the horizon.

The BBQ was in full swing cooking up the burgers and sausages for later.  We assembled and set off in three groups to survey the heathland area.  Paul - one of the wardens talked us through the changes that have been made so far and the plans for it's long term development.

A number of trees have already been felled and the idea is to return it to heathland over time.  Highland cattle have been grazing in the central fenced area and have done a good job of trampling the bracken and opening up areas.  The black pond at the bottom of the hill is a great attraction for dragonflies, although it's dark, peaty water doesn't look very appealing.

More felling later in the year will clear areas and thin out denser woodland but leaving some specimen trees and a few dead ones for interest.  There are some old oaks around the edge of the heathland, down near the pond and apparently, if you clear everything around them too quickly they can go into shock and die, so the trees will be thinned gradually.

Paul also explained their plans to introduce a series of ponds and streams running down the hill, great for more dragonflies and to channel the rain water which tends to just pour straight down the hill.  Where the vehicle tracks have disturbed the soil you can already see the heather starting to come through.  Give it a few years and the area will look completely different.

They've started coppicing the sweet chestnut again which will improve the area for wood larks and nightjar and you can see the difference between the two newly coppiced areas and the thicker stems in the old coppiced area.

Back to the Visitor's Centre and some us walked down to The Hanger to look out for barn owls.  They've been making a regular appearance between 6-7pm  on recent evenings.  Inevitably with dozens of binoculars trained on the brooks this evening wasn't one of them, although it was turning in to a lovely evening.

Back for food and a brief chat with the others volunteers who were already done with eating.  Many of them are regulars on the working parties, so I rarely see them except for these events.  Finishing off with a few long service awards and thank-yous.

Those of us who were left and still keen, headed back out to the heathland at around 9.00pm to listen out for the nightjars.  We stood at the edge of the new chestnut coppice with a view of one of the favoured singing perches and waited.  Shortly after we arrived one churred close by and then stopped.  A small bat (pipestrelle?) was flying past above our heads.  There were a few distant churrings heard and still we waited.  A couple of people could wait no more and went off home.

Finally at about 10.00pm, just after another person had dropped out - we had a great view as one flew over our heads to the perch and proceeded to churr loudly, readjusting itself and then carrying on for several minutes.  A great end to the evening and worth staying for.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Countryside Code: 3. Protect Plants And Animals And Take Your Litter Home

A series of posts relating to the Countryside Code as published by Natural England to help us all to respect, protect and enjoy our countryside.

Protect plants and animals and take your litter home

We have a responsibility to protect our countryside now and for future generations, so make sure you don't harm animals, birds, plants or trees.
  • Litter and leftover food doesn't just spoil the beauty of the countryside, it can be dangerous to wildlife and farm animals and can spread disease - so take your litter home with you. Dropping litter and dumping rubbish are criminal offences.
  • Discover the beauty of the natural environment and take special care not to damage, destroy or remove features such as rocks, plants and trees. They provide homes and food for wildlife, and add to everybody's enjoyment of the countryside.
  • Wild animals and farm animals can behave unpredictably if you get too close, especially if they're with their young - so give them plenty of space.
  • Fires can be as devastating to wildlife and habitats as they are to people and property - so be careful not to drop a match or smouldering cigarette at any time of the year. Sometimes, controlled fires are used to manage vegetation, particularly on heaths and moors between October and early April, so please check that a fire is not supervised before calling 999.
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Countryside Code: 2. Leave Gates And Property As You Find Them

A series of posts relating to the Countryside Code as published by Natural England to help us all to respect, protect and enjoy our countryside.

Leave gates and property as you find them

Please respect the working life of the countryside, as our actions can affect people's livelihoods, our heritage, and the safety and welfare of animals and ourselves.
  • A farmer will normally leave a gate closed to keep livestock in, but may sometimes leave it open so they can reach food and water. Leave gates as you find them or follow instructions on signs. If walking in a group, make sure the last person knows how to leave the gates.
  • If you think a sign is illegal or misleading such as a 'Private - No Entry' sign on a public footpath, contact the local authority.
  • In fields where crops are growing, follow the paths wherever possible.
  • Use gates, stiles or gaps in field boundaries when provided - climbing over walls, hedges and fences can damage them and increase the risk of farm animals escaping.
  • Our heritage belongs to all of us - be careful not to disturb ruins and historic sites.
  • Leave machinery and livestock alone - don't interfere with animals even if you think they're in distress. Try to alert the farmer instead.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

BBC Springwatch

If you haven't already tuned into a daily dose of Springwatch, you're missing a treat.  We're in to week two and we've already watched beavers, dippers, otters, red kites, barn owl chicks, blue tits, pied flycatchers, sandpipers, oyster catchers, buzzards on the webcams and a real treat - the first osprey chicks to hatch out in Wales - three of them currently.

I really have to say a huge thank you to the team that pull together this magical TV every evening.  There's a mix of live footage and recordings of what's been happening during the day, interspersed with documentary and features.

The star of the show has to be the Ynys-hir RSPB reserve, which is where they're based this year.  Stunning scenery, a varied environment and great wildlife.  But we also get to see other areas around the UK with a guest presenter each week.  Last week it was beavers in Knapdale Forest, this week puffins and manx shearwaters on Skomer and next week a rubbish dump in Essex!

Thank you BBC and the RSPB.

Join the fun on Twitter with @BBC_Springwatch.  Watch the live webcams for the other 23 hours when it's not on.
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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Countryside Code: 1. Be Safe, Plan Ahead And Follow Any Signs

A series of posts relating to the Countryside Code as published by Natural England to help us all to respect, protect and enjoy our countryside.

Be safe, plan ahead and follow any signs

Even when going out locally, it's best to get the latest information about where and when you can go. For example, your rights to go onto some areas of open land may be restricted while work is carried out, for safety reasons, or during breeding seasons. Follow advice and local signs, and be prepared for the unexpected.
  • Refer to up-to-date maps or guidebooks, for details of open access land visit the maps pageexternal link on this website or contact local information centresexternal link.
  • You are responsible for your own safety and for others in your care, so be prepared for changes in weather and other events. Visit our countryside directory for links to organisations offering specific advice on equipment and safety, or contact visitor information centresexternal link and libraries for a list of outdoor recreation groups.
  • Check weather conditionsexternal link before you leave, and don't be afraid to turn back.
  • Part of the appeal of the countryside is that you can get away from it all. You may not see anyone for hours, and there are many places without clear mobile phone signals, so let someone know where you're going and when you expect to return.
  • Get to know the signs and symbols used in the countryside. Visit our finding your way pages on the website for more information.
  • If you’re looking for ideas, explore our things to do pages.

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Springwatch - Stanmer Park June 2011

In contrast to yesterday, today was grey and overcast but still windy.  Headed off early to Stanmer Park for this year's Springwatch.

We were all kitted out with our new SDNPA shirts (a little on the small side), although wishing I'd worn my thermals and remembered a waterproof.  Luckily we had gazebo's to shelter under and fortunately lots of people had marquees, so it was relatively easy to hide from the rain, although the leaflets definitely weren't as popular as usual, especially when they were soggy.  Not quite enough room for them under the awning or a gazebo with a couple of dozen volunteers and staff to shelter and the 'workshop'.

Before the rain started

It didn't seem to put too many people off - while not as packed as it might have been on a sunny day, there were still plenty of people around and a reasonably steady stream turning up at the South Downs stand to build a bug box, make badges or play with felt which had all been moved under shelter.

We even had a rota this time - although as things weren't as hectic in the bug-box building tent, it was reasonably flexible.  Letting small children lose with hammer and nails is asking for trouble but they enjoy it, even if you do risk the odd blackened finger.  Although I'm not sure how many of the bug boxes actually make it out into a garden.

One of the birds of prey went AWOL again - seems to be a regular occurrence and there were plenty of local produce stalls to choose from.  Anyone with a bit of shelter immediately attracted a crowd.

By about 4pm most people were heading back home as the rain wasn't easing up, stall holders were packing up but the organisers had let a little power go to their heads and refused to let any vehicles on the site - 'elf and safety... of course.  No sign of any common sense or executive decision making.  Oh no, instead, rules is rules.

In theory we'd have to wait around for an hour until the public were officially off the site - then another hour before vehicles were 'officially' allowed back on the site.  I'm surprised they actually allow pedestrians and traffic to mingle in the park at all!  Good thing they weren't at Saltdean yesterday, they'd have had apoplexy!  To say nothing of

Anyhow, someone with a little more common sense did make a decision and having packed everything up, we loaded most things in to the SD vehicles and took them up to the office.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Saltdean Fun Day June 2011

Sunny but as ever - windy, for our day at Saltdean Fund Day with the FoTT.  Blue sky, sun hats and plenty of sunscreen.

Setting up the stall doesn't take long and this time we brought along some of the tools to add to the display, especially as anything else was likely to get blown away, even though I'd tried to pin things down on our display board.

We also had a good selection of bird boxes that John Carden had brought down for us to display - along with bug boxes, butterfly boxes and a bat box.

Most of the stall holders ended up in the marquee as it was too windy for them outside.  In the time until the event officially opened I had a chance to whizz round the other stalls and pick up a few vegetable plants for the garden.

Strimmer and brushcutter
Lots of people came out in to the sunshine and we had a steady stream of people to talk to.  Many people have been impressed and enjoying the wild flowers on the Tye and wanted to know when the working horses would be back again.

As it proved so popular and we want to spread this year's seed even further, it looks as if it might well happen again later this year.  Keep your eyes out for details once dates have been finalised.

Thanks to all the new members who signed up on the day - we'll look forward to seeing you out on some of the tasks.

If you're an ex-member, would like to become a member or want to know more - get in touch.  You'll find details on our website - www.friendsoftelscombetye.co.uk.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Wild Flowers on Telscombe Tye

A swathe of wild flowers has appeared on the main Telscombe Tye where the bunding used to be.

Last September the area was harrowed and reseeded with chalk grassland wildflowers and grasses.  Organised by over 500 volunteers from Saltdean Residents Association and Friends of Telscombe Tye, with the assistance of horses from the Working Horse Trust.

Most visible are the ox-eye daisies, agrimony, red and white campion.  Over 20 species were included in the mix and will flower through to September.

We'll be carrying out a survey on the main Tye next weekend to see just how many species have appeared on the bunding and to see what other species have started to recolonise other areas of the Tye.

If you'd like to join us or offer your own expertise and observations, contact the Friends of Telscombe Tye.