March 2011


Felling scrub Ash on Butser Hill

Felling scrub Ash on Butser

 The downland of Butser Hill is made up of a mosaic of scrub and grassland communities, an ever-changing relationship influenced by the climate, the rabbit population and the grazing of cattle and sheep. Where this becomes unbalanced in favour of the scrub, species such as Dogwood or Hawthorn quickly dominate to the detriment of the grassland. Soon after the small Ash trees arrive, protected from the grazing animals by the scrub, and within a few years a small woodland block has established. The steep wooded slopes  that are a common feature along the northern edge of the South Downs are testament to this process.
Ash poles awaiting transport to the yard

Ash poles awaiting transport to the yard

 
 
The Parks rangers do all the felling work with chainsaws.The Husqvarna 357 being the favoured model. The timber extraction is carried out by Rick Rowe a local timber contractor. When all the slopes are cleared the cut timber will be removed to the yard to season. Next winter this will provide wood chip to heat the visitor centre and provide firewood for local customers.  
Scrub Ash felling
Scrub Ash felling

The Park is due to start a new grant scheme on the 1st May 2011. The Higher Level Scheme (HLS) is a DEFRA initiative, in the case of Butser Hill which is designated as a National Nature Reserve, our first point of contact is the local Natural England officer Alan McVittie. This scheme should guarantee the funding which is so necessary  for the practical works to keep Butser in ‘favourable’ condition. 

 
Overgrown fence line in Rake Field
Overgrown fence line in Rake Field

The Parks rangers spend alot of the winter working in the western half of the Country Park on Butser Hill. Three key tasks form the bulk of this work. These are, scrub control on the downland, woodland manangement and fencing.  The winter weather on Butser, the highest point on the South Downs at 270 metres, can be severe and when wet access can be problematic,  so the  recent dry weather has been welcome. All this work must be completed by the end of March before the start of the bird nesting season.

Cutting back prior to fencing

Cutting back prior to fencing

Fencing if put up properly will last for at least 25 years. With treated posts, livestock netting and two strands of barbed wire to keep both cattle and sheep in the right place. The fence line must first be cut back, the brash burnt and sufficient deadwood left to protect any coppice stools from deer browsing, and as habitat piles. Next the large straining posts are put in to the ground at the ends of every straight stretch, and finally the wire is put in place.

Strainer and intermediate posts  
Rake Field where this work had been taking place is a large twenty acre meadow situated to the north, and below, the  steep scarp slope of Butser Hill. Unlike the majority of the hill this field is not designated a SSSI, it  does however have a fantastic range of flora. The sheep flock have just left Rake to have their lambs. This early grazing reduces the coarse grasses allowing the more important meadow species to thrive. Grazing will not resume until after flowering in late summer. 
 
 
Work in progress

Work in progress

Work has just finished on a refurbishment of the gents toilets and a redecoration in the catering area. The gents had retained its original stainless steel basin and urinal for the last 25 years and was in desperate need of change. The catering area gets a more regular decoration to keep it up to with the relevant food hygiene regulations. 

New fittings

New fittings

The kiosk was built on top of Butser Hill in 1985. The style was influenced by the surrounding Scheduled Ancient Monument, which protects Iron and Bronze age archeology, and the building contains a set of toilets, and a catering facility which is open daily through the summer season, and at weekends thereafter.
Butser kiosk

Butser kiosk

Butser Hill, the highest point on the South Downs, is a part of the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and has its own car park open daily from 8.00am through to 8.00pm.

Club members in the visitor centre

Club members in the visitor centre

The Crossway Carvers are regular visitors to the QECP centre throughout the year. The club is for wood carvers and is based in Porchester, meeting monthly at the Community School. Members do demonstrations at shows and craft fairs across the south and make an annual visit to an Austrian village where everyone carves wood.

The tutor for the club is Pete Hurrell who can be contacted via the visitor centre. Dates for future visits are contained in our events guide, the Park Pages. This is available from the web-site home page.

Gold fish in the pond

Goldfish in the pond

Today four gold-fish were removed from the visitor centre pond. They had been released there some weeks ago and were caught by one of the QE volunteers who will be giving them a more appropriate home in a garden pond.

Ornamental fish are occasionally released in to the Park’s ponds and this can cause problems for the native wildlife already in residence. Fungal diseases ,which have decimated the frog population in certain parts of the country, are easily transferred from pond to pond in this way. Additionally, the goldfish will grow to a good size in a large pond at which point they will predate the young frogs and newts, and eventually when adult they will reproduce with obvious consequences .

Gold fish in pond

Gold fish in pond

The only fish that now remain in the centre pond are the  stickleback, a small native species that is much harder to spot but can be seen from the bridge, or more easily at our next holiday activity pond dipping session on Tuesday the 31st May (pre-booking required).

Rave-Sunday morning

Rave-Sunday morning

At 1.20am on Sunday the 13th March the police became aware of a rave in the area of the Country Park. At 8.30 am the rangers were confronted with the reality of this situation. A heavy metal gate on the eastern side of the forest had been disc cut allowing access for the hire vans and transits brought in by the event organisers. These were then followed by many other smaller vehicles bringing in the ravers. By the time the image was taken there remained about 120 individuals with some 40 vehicles.

The party had taken over one of our group bbq sites, breaking the hearth and ruining the grassy area that goes with the site. We have two weeks to get the area back to normal before the first booking of the season.

Police attendance was welcome on site and despite the decision not to close down the event it did ensure that the trouble was contained, and that the staff could start the process of tidying up. In the end two rangers helped by four of our volunteers spent 6 hours cleaning up.With no provision for litter collection and no toilets, the mess can easily be imagined.     

A police traffic unit was called in to ensure that those individuals driving home were safe to do so. One individual was arrested at the scene for possession of a controlled substance.

The Park received many complaints from visitors upset about the mess or the loud music, and the event eventually came to a close around the middle of the day. The police and Park will be following up all possible leads to ensure that this nightmare experience is not repeated later in the season.

Red Cedar planks and wany edged cladding at ride side

Red Cedar planks and wany edged cladding at ride side

Head Down is an area of 300 acres to the east of QE Forest, owned by the Forestry Commission and with the recreation managed by the Country Park. A wide variety of activities take place on a pre-booked basis, including 4WD training, motorbike trials, field archery and orienteering.

Last week Sequoia Tree Services were in the woods felling, extracting and planking some large Red Cedar trees. These where they exist in small blocks are targeted in the Forest Design Plan for removal as non-native conifers. Most of these within QE Forest have already been taken out leaving open space which will develop in to valuable habitat.  

Red Cedar planks

Red Cedar planks

This timber was cut to order to supply a neighbour in Buriton who was building a large steel framed timber clad agricultural building.  The trees can be felled and planked straight away and the building work will take place without allowing the timber to season. Red cedar is traditionally used for making garden sheds and lap-board fencing.

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