Thanks to Froglife’s initiative, and Bexley’s council officers we have kept us informed of progress, we are now able to announce that funding has been obtained for substantial changes to be made to the pond area on the Open Space.
The latest schedule of work to take place is as follows:
Nov–Dec 2015 Pond creation: Installation of two new ponds, replacement of the fence with chestnut post and cleft rail (with stock wire fencing ) to deter casual dog access. Recycling the old fence with soil, to create a hibernacula (habitat pile offering winter shelter for wildlife).
Jan–Feb 2016 Tree works: Some coppicing of the south-facing woodland strip, to create sheltered sunny areas for reptiles and butterflies. Arisings to be stacked on site.
Planting of some smaller trees and shrubs along the north face of the woodland west of the new ponds. Volunteers can help with all the planting activities.
April–May: Planting up the new ponds and carrying out some amphibian and reptile surveying activity and training on site.
Late spring/summer: Celebration Dragon Day event for the new ponds.
Froglife will also offer a wildlife workshop for the adjacent allotments during the summer.
We congratulate everyone involved in the successful grant application and look forward to these improvements which will benefit our wildlife population. Those directly involved in the work are aware of the sighting of the hedgehog mentioned in our last post and care will be taken not to disturb these creatures.
We will soon be able to make an exciting announcement about improvements which will shortly be taking place to the pond area on the open space. This is how it has looked for the past few years:-
In the meantime a few of us have worked around the current pond configuration to transfer a few wildflowers from the fenced off area to a nearby location before the planned transformation takes place in the winter months. During our session we were taken by surprise with a very rare appearance of a hedgehog who pottered around looking for food. After entertaining us for around half an hour it returned to a safer hideaway and crossed the pond back towards the leafy more dense shelter in the board walk area. Our tiny resident appeared from the left and moved to the right of this picture and retraced his route back again to the left (within the rustic fencing).
This was only the second time such a creature has been sighted on the open space during the time the volunteer conservation group has existed.
The variable weather over the last few weeks has given the open space a fresh, green almost spring like appearance and the grass has grown fairly rapidly during this time. Much of the wildlife has temporarily disappeared, but there are occasional signs of activity.
Green wood-peckers have benefited from the conditions and can be spotted feeding. There are also various species of toadstools and mushrooms which have sprung up quite rapidly in the area surrounding the children’s playground. A gentleman was recently seen walking across the site with a bird of prey sitting on his gloved hand but there was no evidence that he had been flying the bird which may have been a hawk or falcon (it was around 18 inches long and a darkish brown, but not easy to identify at a distance).
More recently, a wasp nest has been discovered on the east side of the boardwalk approximately 10 metres from the end, and we have managed to alert a few dog walkers and parents of young children of this hazard, prior to advising the appropriate council department of this development.
August is usually a quiet time on the open space and this year, apart from one or two exceptions, many of the regular users have probably disappeared on holiday. On Saturday morning (8 August), however, a team of nine cyclists, who looked as if they may have competed in the Tour de France and were presumably from a local club, sped around the circular path. Despite the shock of their sudden presence they courteously shouted a loud “thank you” as I hastily stepped aside to avoid them as they flashed by in a blur of light green high visibility vests!
We have also noticed a further example of athleticism in the form of an increase in runners using the site for training, doubtless due to the “Run England” status of East Wickham Open Space which was marked out on the paths and launched this summer.
Apart from the Kestrel reappearance noted in the last news report, several green woodpeckers were spotted this week feeding on the short grass on the natural paths which cross the wilder middle of the site.
Unfortunately a small section of the long grass near the green chain walk has been set alight in recent days; we hope this is just a temporary glitch that will not be repeated during the remainder of the summer.
During my visit to the site yesterday, I was delighted to see a pair of Kestrels hunting even though the breeze was fairly strong at times. We had not seen any for several months and were starting to think they had deserted us.
A big surprise early this morning! The “Run England” logo has suddenly appeared on the circular path – Run England is the official English recreational running project which aims to get the whole nation running. We presume the course provider is Bexley Council but I don’t think I’ll start tomorrow as the distance is around 1800 metres – not a good idea with a predicted temperature of well over 30 degrees!
The Open Space has currently been basking in its Autumnal splendour, looking absolutely stunning in the sunshine as the leaves change from various shades of green into yellows, orange, pinks, rust and brown and many shades in between. We are so fortunate to have such a lovely space just a stone’s throw away.
During the summer there have been steady improvements and more recently a very obvious change which visitors cannot fail to spot.
Firstly, there have been significant sightings on our workdays and when surveys have been carried out. Although we were aware of a number of green woodpeckers, several speckled ones have also been seen on a number of occasions. During September a goldcrest was spotted and earlier, on a very hot Sunday, three buzzards were seen using the thermals to soar high in the air; one of these graceful raptors drifted downwards and closer to us perhaps looking for suitable prey on the site. It was a rare glimpse of a welcome and slightly unusual visitor.
The Council and their sub- contractors have been busy installing additional seating and replacing litter and dog bins with more robust receptacles. Various plantings have also been carried out and a large section of the cemetery wall is now protected from graffiti by a thick mass of bushes, shrubs and small trees. The volunteers too have not been idle, with regular litter picking, ragwort clearance and more recently the planting of daffodil bulbs and a variety of wild flowers on each side of the slope to the top of the hill from the Highbanks entrance.
The most noticeable change to the landscape has been the placing by the Council?s contractors of large cut tree trunk sections, either moved on site or imported from other parks and spaces in Bexley, to create a new natural division of cut and uncut grassland.
This will help establish and develop a new habitat for wildlife which are known to exist on the land. It is hoped that slow worms and a colony of lizards will start to breed and thrive in this new environment.
Aesthetically the layout of these giant logs has been carefully planned and looks like a well-crafted piece of land art which should perhaps be considered for the next Turner prize!
New information leaflets on East Wickham Open Space are available from various points of information such as local libraries, Hall Place and members of the Conservation Group.