Meadow Park Diary Update

Meadow Park

The Park Diary. A short account of the activities of the Friends of Meadow Park.

Work in the Park January to April 2022

Over the winter months small groups of volunteers continued to work on hedge-laying, particularly in Play Field. In due course these new hedges will green up and become bushy and wild life friendly, as well as giving good definition to the meadow areas. The Saturday working mornings in December and January saw some general clearance of scrub type growth and the removal of some poplar and blackthorn growth in the Arboretum. Blackthorn is particularly prickly and vicious. In certain areas of the park it is allowed to grow freely as it is a food source for brimstone and hairstreak butterflies (both brown and black). However, in other areas, such as near the outdoor gym, it is cut back and never allowed to encroach on pathways.

The winter months saw pleasing numbers of birds in the park. Good numbers of the usual garden birds (e.g. robin, goldfinch, wren, chaffinch) were recorded and we also had good numbers of winter visitors (e.g. fieldfare and redwing). Flowers, e.g. white deadnettle and celandine, continued to bloom in sheltered places and a variety of fungus were recorded in the park.

The winter work was completed satisfactorily. The hedge in Playfield adjacent to Hall Field has now all been laid and the Oak Meadow tree border has had all the crowns on the trees raised to allow more light in and thus enable plants to grow at a lower level. A 'dead hedge' has been added to outline the border and give definition to the area

The brambles growing in on the two margins of Oak Meadow were getting too vigorous and a working party in April pruned some back and uprooted other plants placing them elsewhere in the park, mostly in the ‘dead-hedge’ on field edges where they will establish and  grow into the hedges. Brambles are useful for wildlife, the flowers for nectar and the fruit for foraging.

A number of new nest boxes have been fitted in various areas and others have been repaired. As in previous years the arrival of new nesting sites was readily taken up by blue and great tits that followed the team fitting the boxes and then took immediate ownership, no delay with estate agents and legal wrangles there!

A new Juniper tree has been planted in the Arboretum and various trees have had side shoots and suckers removed. Repair work at the base of various trees at soil level has been done. This has involved, on an experimental basis, the fitting of ground grab tiles around the trunk to prevent the soil being disturbed and the roots becoming damaged. A further three trees have been delivered - a Downy Birch, Wild Pear and Sweet Chestnut to replace trees that have died and these will be planted in the autumn.

The brambles growing in on the two margins of Oak Meadow were getting too vigorous and a working party in April pruned some back and uprooted other plants placing them elsewhere in the park, mostly in the ‘dead-hedge’ on field edges where they will establish and  grow into the hedges. Brambles are useful for wildlife, the flowers for nectar and the fruit for foraging.

A number of new nest boxes have been fitted in various areas and others have been repaired. As in previous years the arrival of new nesting sites was readily taken up by blue and great tits that followed the team fitting the boxes and then took immediate ownership, no delay with estate agents and legal wrangles there!

A new Juniper tree has been planted in the Arboretum and various trees have had side shoots and suckers removed. Repair work at the base of various trees at soil level has been done. This has involved, on an experimental basis, the fitting of ground grab tiles around the trunk to prevent the soil being disturbed and the roots becoming damaged. A further three trees have been delivered - a Downy Birch, Wild Pear and Sweet Chestnut to replace trees that have died and these will be planted in the autumn.

Some more wildflower seeds have been obtained and have been scattered in various suitable places around the park. The cowslips made a good display in April, particularly in Little Meadow. Wild flowers continue to increase in number and variety and include, in the early months of the year, coltsfoot, dead nettle (white and red), dandelion, cowslip, primrose, wood anemone and red campion and hawthorn.

Over the winter/early spring months a lot of work went into repairing the pathways. The latest section in the Arboretum areas has not only been repaired, but has been given an extra layer of limestone gravel. Our volunteers often work in small groups, sometimes with the Parish Council employee and the tractor and trailer. A further section of path at the bottom corner of Playfield is also on the list for completion in the near future, this part of the path is regularly under water after heavy rain.

Also 15000 + wildflower seeds have been sown in various parts of the park where bare soil has been available, the total number were a mix of purchased and harvested seed from the park from last year.

The sculpture border was also given a spring work over, the success of the bulbs which were planted earlier has varied, the snow drops have shown themselves and hopefully the wild bluebells will flower later this month.

Normally in April we have a session of litter picking in Kingston and Sheepwash brooks, we will now complete this in May depending on the depth of water, surprising as it may seem there is always a long list of volunteers who like to do a bit of paddling,

An overview of our work in Meadow Park in 2021

We did not hold an AGM in November last year so reports were submitted by email.

Chairman’s Report: Kevin Shaw

Two very testing years are behind us and thanks to the vaccine programme we are slowly starting to get back to normal, but a significant number of the ‘friends’ continued to work in the park, for which we are very grateful.

Secretary’s Report: Kevin Gibbons

In general the work has continued (under controlled conditions) with lots of work mainly led by Andy Denker. New benches have been installed, bulbs planted and general maintenance undertaken. Willow has been cut ready for use by Forest School children and hedges have been laid. Everything moves forward and the park continues to improve year on year.

Treasurer’s Report: Andy Denker

We have a healthy balance of over £2,000 in our general account and nearly £500 in our Arboretum fund. Some of the money will be spent on new tools, safely glasses and more native bulbs. 2021 saw some significant donations with Arch Communications donating £1,000 to mark their tenth anniversary which enabled us to place a new bench in Gibson Field (March) and plant bulbs in various areas of the park. A donation of £604 form the East Leake Strollers funded a seat in Bateman Field (October) and wildflower seeds.

Arboretum: Andy Denker

Fortunately no more trees have died in the Arboretum with the Downy Birch, Sweet Chestnut and Sweet Plum being the only ones over the year. We are at present looking to replace these with a supplier being located for the Birch and Chestnut. However the Sweet Plum is unavailable and could be replaced by a Wild Pear. A long standing member of FMP plans to donate the cost of the trees. The replacement Juniper is still in my back garden and will be planted in the spring.

Work Parties: Andy Denker

Because of Covid restrictions no work parties met in November 2020 and January to April 2021. Work was undertaken in an ad hoc way. However, due to a relaxation of the rules, but in keeping with those in force at the time, work was carried out in December 2020 and May to October 2021. Unfortunately during this period it was only possible to work with a restricted number of volunteers, thus the work parties were not advertised to the full membership. Work carried out over these months covered general maintenance along with harvesting willow and willow weaving, coppicing and pollarding the sculpture copse, opening up the sculpture border and adding more shrubs. Ground grip squares were laid under four seats. Oak Meadow ditch was cleared of brash and dead wood cut out. Hazel and crab apple were planted in certain places. Various paths were repaired with the arisings from the Green Climber Flail.

Total hours worked in work parties – 262

Whilst the monthly work parties were curtailed, the work by individual volunteers and those in pairs during the restrictions continued, more than making up the lost time. A major

thankyou to all our volunteers for their hard work and dedication throughout the last 12 months

Total hours worked in very small groups - 440

Overall Total volunteer hours – 702  

Forest School: Ann Weekley

The School has been attending more regularly after the relaxation of the Covid rules. We have supplied various lengths of willow for the children to build dens along with other activities. The only down side has been the strip barking of three more trees in the area, the earlier tree which was damaged and has since died is being considered for felling  and then used by the children for various activities.

Butterflies, Moths and Bee Worlds: Kevin Gibbons

There were 21 butterfly species recorded in the park this year, and it was pleasing to see a good number of the beautiful yellow Brimstone butterflies visiting and laying eggs on nearly all of the Alder Buckthorn plants that we put in the park in previous years. The new Butterfly bank in Play Field attracted good numbers of Common Blues as well as the uncommon Small Copper.

Birds: Eric Bryson

Some of the bird boxes have been badly chewed by squirrels. They are mostly beyond repair and need replacing with boxes that have hole-guards.  We have nearly forty bird and bat boxes in the park at the moment, but would like to buy more to replace the worn out ones. Almost all of the boxes saw birds nesting in them this year.

 

Wild Flowers: Gwen Mountain

In total 129 different types of wild flowers have been seen in Meadow Park from January to December 2021.There was a good range of species in flower from July to August with some southern marsh orchids, purple spotted orchids, pink mallow, orange hawkweed, ragwort, scabious, various bindweeds, willow herbs, teasel, corn cockle, upright hedge parsley and rough chervil providing a good quantity of flowers overall. Meadowsweet was a particularly striking feature in Hall Field throughout the summer months.

The hay was cut in August and possibly due to the very dry conditions for several weeks thereafter there was little evidence of flowers in the main meadow areas but in late September onwards buttercups, white nettle, dandelions etc began to reappear. The Oak Meadow flower strip was not included in the general hay cut. Wild flower seeds were collected in August ready for sowing in March 2022. There has been planting of daffodils, bluebells, foxgloves and snowdrops in the autumn and it is hoped there will be a good display of these native species in spring 2022.

December 2021

In December small groups of volunteers continued to work on hedge-laying, particularly in Play Field. In due course these new hedges will green up and become bushy and wild life friendly, as well as giving good definition to the meadow areas.

The Saturday working morning in December saw some general clearance of scrub type growth and the removal of some poplar and blackthorn growth in the Arboretum. Blackthorn is particularly prickly and vicious. In certain areas of the park it is allowed to grow freely as it is a food source for brimstone and hairstreak butterflies (both brown and black). However, in other areas, such as near the outdoor gym, it is cut back and never allowed to encroach on pathways.

November 2021

November has been a busy month for volunteers working in Meadow Park. The bluebells and snowdrops ordered in October were planted in the sculpture border and wild daffodils planted next to the two new seats in Playfield; nest boxes were surveyed and repaired with some new ones being fitted and there was a hedge laying working party in Playfield. We plan to extend the hedge in this area, but this will take time as we are working in small groups and rely on volunteers with the relevant skills and available time.

The actual area volunteers work on in the park excludes Lagoon Field which is the responsibility of Rushcliffe Borough Council. They employ the company Streetwise Environmental to maintain this area as it is the balancing pond for the Gotham Road estate. They carried out the flailing recently and clearly went beyond their remit and flayed areas outside the boundary of the lagoon itself and the edges of paths nearby. Some long grass areas have been cut to the west of the lagoon which had been deliberately left from creatures to over-winter in, especially small mammals.  This had also led to the crushing and destruction of quite a few Meadow Ant ‘hills’ which are becoming increasingly uncommon in the wider countryside.

We have a representative for RBC  on our committee and he has raised this with the RBC’s Streetwise Contracts Manager and the council’s Design and Landscape Officer (who has responsibility for the site) and will be seeking assurance that the area outside the lagoon will not be cut again. The area outside the lagoon is included in the Service Level Agreement between East Leake Parish Council and Rushcliffe Borough Council, but excludes the lagoon. Streetwise are due to return to fell the establishing trees within the lagoon in due course - the timescale will depend on the weather.

Another area of concern is the quality of the water in Kingstone Brook. A group of charities are working together to collate information and focus attention on the number of sewerage spills and the importance of clean waterways. The Rivers Trust has produced a map of England and Wales whereby you can search for information regarding the number of hours raw sewage has been allowed to flow into waterways. In 2020 East Leake treatment works spilled (untreated water) for a staggering 29 days in total. Broken down this number shows untreated water was released into the brook 58 times for a total of 715 hours. If you are interested in the scale of the problem or other specific areas of the country the relevant website to visit is: https://www.theriverstrust.org/key-issues/sewage-in-rivers where you can access an interactive map of the waterways.

The Rivers Trust is a group of conservation experts with a wealth of data and expertise who want all life to thrive in and around our rivers. Whether you enjoy fishing, canoeing, swimming or a riverside stroll, our rivers need this sort of expertise and care to recover and revive. An expert survey of all our waterways shows a very bleak picture:

0% of all rivers in England and Wales are in good overall health.

99% of British rivers have artificial barriers obstructing migrating fish

83% decline in freshwater species globally since 1970.

1% of the earth’s surface is made up of freshwater ecosystems, yet they provide habitat for 100,000+ species.

November and December can seem dull months as winter begins to set in.  However, look out for Fieldfares and Redwings as they come to winter here from Scandinavia, particularly if the weather further north is harsh. Some birds are resident all year round and these include chaffinch, linnet and goldfinch. We might see starling murmurations again this year. Wild flowers and fungus will be around as well so keep walking in Meadow Park and enjoying what it has to offer.

October 2021

October was a very busy month for volunteers in Meadow Park. We had the use of a flail machine, with its operator, once again. The LV 500 Green Climber is a long range (300m) remote controlled, steep terrain mower which is fitted with a high performance flail as standard, for use on roadside/overgrown areas. As the operator is not on the machine it can go into steep or uncomfortable areas i.e. mixed scrub/brambles/hawthorn/blackthorn. The debris left by this ‘Green Machine’ was used on path maintenance and spread over grassy areas prone to puddles and dips. Other tasks carried out on the working morning, Saturday 9th October, included litter picking, willow weaving to increase the strength of the willow tunnel near the Bateman Road entrance and cutting back brambles where necessary.

The shrubbery is looking much better after some serious work chopping back deadwood and overgrown bushes was completed. Several new shrubs have been planted and 200 native bluebell and 200 single snowdrop have been ordered for the shrubbery.

The shrubbery area was pruned and the resulting branches etc were sorted and used to repair/fill in some of the grass pathways in the area near the Gotham Road estate.

Early in October one volunteer put on waders and walked Kingston Brook and found it was very silted up between the bridges and the flow disrupted by thick reed growth. This may be good for wildlife, but could exacerbate flooding problems. He walked on into Sheepwash and found it very overgrown and at one point totally blocked by a fallen willow. The relevant authorities were notified.

A donation was received from the Rippon and Briggs families in memory of Beryl and David Rippon who were East Leake residents. Beryl Rippon was a founder member of Meadow Park Strollers and met new friends and had many happy strolls in the park. The donation paid for a new bench in Bateman Field and wildflower seeds for the wildflower area in the Playfield. The bench was put in on 14th October, it is adjacent to the brook, facing the Arboretum. Volunteers fitted the bench and it is great for those who appreciate security of having benches spaced at regular intervals.

August 2021

The meadows were mown as the flowers had set their seeds. The margins by the pathways are cut back on a regular basis to keep the paths neat but the meadows are cut once only once a year. Our August work session saw some volunteer harvesting wild flower seeds to be scattered next year in areas where flowers are sparse. Approximately 30% of the seeds were taken, allowing the rest to self-spread. Other volunteers used long handled bill hooks to attack nettles and Himalayan Balsam in the area of the brook. In general there are too many nettles in the park and we are trying to keep them in check (along with dock and ragwort). The swathe of nettles near the millstone entrance was cut back as it encroached onto the path and was a hazard.

Vandalism in Meadow Park

Last year a tree in the park was completely stripped of its bark. It has since died.  We hoped that would see no more vandalism of this sort.

Sadly that was not to be the case. In July two trees were attacked in this way. The trees are in the log circle area, close to the Bateman Road entrance. The youngsters attending Forest School will be upset by this senseless action which in effect damages their ‘base camp’.

Pesticides

We do not use pesticides in the park as they are harmful to wild life. Several of our members volunteer for the Wild Life Trust Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and for the Nottinghamshire Wild Life Trust and have let us know about steps being taken regarding pesticides. There is currently a petition on the Government Website seeking a ban on the use of pesticides in gardens and public parks. This petition has been put together by Professor Dave Goulson who is probably the UK’s foremost expert on insect declines and in particular bee populations. You may like to sign the petition. Remember the Government web site requires that you respond to an email from them in order for your signature to be counted. You have until January 2022 to sign it:  https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/590309

September 2021

Forest School resumed on Monday 6th September with all year three pupils from Lantern Lane spending the whole day in the park. The children enjoyed a range of activities and enjoyed a very pleasant day in the fresh air. The children usually spend one afternoon a fortnight in the park as year three is split into two groups. They have really enjoyed being back at school and having their usual time in the park. Over the years Forest School has been operating it is noticeable how much more observant and knowledgeable the children are about birds, butterflies etc. and how skilled they have become in tasks such as willow weaving.

On Saturday 11th September volunteers met in small groups to work on different projects in the park. Willow was harvested and sorted, the shrubbery was seriously sorted out, brambles, nettles etc. were cut back and trees in the Arboretum checked. The meadows have been mown (after wild flower seeds have set) and look quite neat. The Arboretum is cut alternate years and has not been cut this year so looks a bit unkempt.

July 2021

Our stock of limestone path gravel was diminishing so a request was made to the Parish Council to obtain a further supply. After a lot of good work by the council a contact was made with David Wilson Homes who are at present building on Rempstone Road. This resulted in a very generous supply of 20 tons of Breedon limestone path gravel which was delivered to Bateman Road entrance to the park and subsequently on two work sessions the majority was moved to the store. A big thank you goes to our Parish Council and David Wilson Homes.

The flowers in the park have been spectacular this year. We saw swathes of cowslips in April, buttercups in May and June and a good quantity flowers and species overall – in total 99 different types of flowers have been spotted so far this year. Year on year the wild flowers are increasing in the park.

The July work party was well attended with seventeen volunteers present. They cut back the growth over the paths adjacent to the Arboretum copse and Bateman Road. A large pothole had developed at the entrance to Gibson’s Field near the Bateman Road entrance and this was filled in and will hopefully not return. A group of volunteers worked on creating tunnels in the willow bed (ideal for youngsters to wander through).

Vandalism in Meadow Park

Last year a tree in the park was completely stripped of its bark. It has since died.  We hoped that would see no more vandalism of this sort.

Sadly that was not to be the case. In July two trees were attacked in this way. The trees are in the log circle area, close to the Bateman Road entrance. The youngsters attending Forest School will be upset by this senseless action which in effect damages their ‘base camp’.

June

In June Meadow Park is full of wild flowers so look out for herb bennet, yellow rattle, white dead nettle, creeping buttercup, meadow buttercup, red clover, ox-eye daisy ragged robin, red campion, meadow cranesbill, cornflower, foxglove and goatsbeard among others. Over the years we have scattered quite a lot of yellow rattle seed and this has helped keep the taller grasses in check. Yellow rattle is semi-parasitic plant that suppresses grass growth and allows a better display of wild flowers in meadows. It is known as ‘the meadow maker’ or ‘nature’s lawn mower’. Yellow rattle is an annual, completing its life cycle in one year. In early spring the seeds germinate and grow quickly. As their roots develop underground they seek out the roots of plants growing nearby, especially grasses. Once contact is made the yellow rattle draws water and nutrients from them, suppressing the growth of grasses by as much as 60%. In the resulting space, other flowers have room to grow.

On 12th June 16 volunteers worked in small groups on a range of projects. They fitted ground grab tiles under seats and benches, harvested willow from the trees in the corner of Gibson’s field (for Forest School), walked the paths to cut back overhanging brambles and branches and fitted some drainage pipes to the path adjacent to Bateman Road and the railway embankment. Much was achieved on that morning.

The Arboretum and our larger trees have been checked and unfortunately we have lost quite a few trees over the last 18 months - the sweet plum, the sweet chestnut and some of the large cherry trees in the copses adjacent to, and near the Bateman Road, entrance have all died. The downey birch, alder and a replacement beech are all struggling. As regards the downey birch and alder these are already replacement trees so obviously they do not like the arboretum area.  One committee member planted a downey birch in his garden at the same time the tree in the arboretum was put in. His tree is now 18 ft tall and flourishing.

In mid-June a small group of committee members took a walk round the park to compile a list of jobs for the autumn and beyond. A group effort was called for so that everyone has a better idea of what is being done where and by whom and so that we follow the approved management plan as best as possible in the circumstances. Here are some of the observations and plans:

ARBORETUM: The meadow flora here is looking particularly impressive this year – we are not sure that we should put any more trees in here as in the long term they will shade out the plants underneath (unless kept pruned back/pollarded - the Arboretum sponsorship fund may well be needed to pay for this sort of maintenance in the future). We have serious doubts about the provenance of the three lime trees - small-leaved and large-leaved are usually quite distinct - but these three specimens actually all look like the same sort so we may well have three of the same type of lime tree.

We would like to maintain and develop the arboretum in a better way, but we need more resources. You may be interested in supporting our arboretum sponsorship scheme. If you would like to help then you could give a donation, in multiples of £10, and the money would be used specifically in the area near the Bateman Road entrance. Your gift would be written up in our book of donations and you would get a card thanking you for your sponsorship. It is a novel way of giving a present or commemorating a life or a family event.

OAK MEADOW FLOWER STRIP: This appears to have badly degraded in terms of species diversity over the last few years, probably due to lack of cutting and the fertilisation effects of flood water. It still has a good range of flowers but it may be best to include it in the general hay cut.

HALL FIELD - NEW SPECIES & ORCHIDS: At the time of writing this we found no trace of any orchids in Hall Field, not even any leaves - things are a bit late this year due to the unusual weather of the past few months, so they might (hopefully) appear over the next few weeks and by the time you read this.

However, another species associated with old meadows and grassland was found, namely adders-tongue fern. We are not sure how it might has got here but it is another indicator of how ecologically rich this part of the park has become.

Work has continued in the park on an ad hoc basis, with a group of 16 (by invitation and split into smaller groups) working on Saturday May 15th. Dogwood was cleared, rank weeks pulled, the trees in the arboretum checked and the shrubbery weeded.

January to April 2021

Individuals have continued to work on general maintenance doing such jobs as picking litter, cutting back shrubs and branches overhanging pathways. A brash hedge has been created in Stonebridge Field. It is sturdy and neat and should deter dogs from rooting around too much in that area. Volunteers have planted some single snowdrops and native bluebells (the dainty, bowed head variety) in Stonebridge Field. A kingfisher was spotted in early January just outside the park near the firestation.

A lot of rain fell in January and the park was partially flooded from time to time. This, of course, is what is meant to happen as it is a flood plain. With the higher footfall in the park it has resulted in more than usual wear and tear on the grass but grass quickly recovers so this is not a problem. The Kingston Brook overflowed onto the park after the sleet/rain of 14th January. Though all the brooks in the village were brimming by the end of the 14th the water got away very quickly and more normal water levels returned.

The path from Stonebridge Drive has been the focus of some work by volunteers. If you walk along there now you will see a dead hedge has been laid in order that clear pathways into the undergrowth are designated. The idea is to guide feet away from areas where wood anemone rhizomes have been planted. Another swath of these rhizomes was planted near Heron Bridge near the entrance to Hall Field. Hundreds of wood anemone rhizomes were planted and they should flower in early spring this year. Native bluebells and single snowdrops are also planned for Stonebridge Field.

The trees in the Arboretum have been checked, birds have been observed using the nest boxes and some bramble/scrub has been cut back.  The limestone pathways in the park will need a little attention when everything dries out as there is a certain amount of pooling/unevenness that can be rectified with the extra limestone mix we have in store near the millstone sculpture.

Oak Meadow has been the focus of some serious hedge laying, dead hedging, coppicing and tree pruning. If you are walking in the park go and have a look. You will see a big difference. The native/English dogwood in Oak Meadow had layered too far into the meadow and was dug out on 16th March. There is still some work to do there, but we are well on the way to improving the habitat and general appearance of the area. We hope to be able to work in socially distanced groups in the near future and will dig up the American dogwood (which was planted in error and has much redder stems) that is growing around the edges of Hall Field, near Bateman Road and in Lagoon Field.

Volunteers also organised a litter pick on two days in March and the park is much better for their efforts. Many bags of litter were collected. Litter picked up included bottles, cans, a piece of lino, garden pots, all sorts of things wrapped around the branches from where the brook had flooded, a garden spade, a hammer and a seat cushion from a sofa/chair.

One volunteer has made it her task to remove the old plastic tree supports from the wooded area to the north of Play Field. So far she has collected eight big bags of them. Unfortunately the plastic cannot be recycled and her work continues.

We have ordered 500 wild daffodil bulbs for autumn planting. These will go along the river bank again at Heron Bridge. A new seat in Gibson Field may be in place by the time you read this. It is a generous donation from a local business. The cowslips will be in bloom in April – always good displays in the park, so try to find time to see them.

The only species of narcissus native to Britain is the rather demur Lent Lily, more at home in orchards and pastures than in the flower vase.