October 2011


Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

 
  It is not often that early morning visitors to Butser can bump in to one of the 19th Century’s great civil engineers. Recently at dawn a small film crew waited for the sun rise to catch the view, from this the highest point on the South Downs, as part of a series of short docudramas about famous characters from our past.
 Isambard Kingdom Brunel was surveying the scene prior to his construction of the first major British railway the Great Western. History buffs will have realised that certain geographical liberties have been taken with the true location, a fact that was confirmed when the crew moved to Fort Widley to film the tunnel scenes.
Other characters in this educational series included, Florence Nightingale and Harriet Tubman. The target audience is children between 5 and 7 with the aim of bringing history, geography and science to life. 
 
IKB

IKB

 
  Other film crews have been working on Butser recently as part of the ‘7 Dwarves’ documentary currently out on tv, and the  docudrama ‘Fireball of Christ’.  Filming the latter involved setting up a 4th century temple complete with partying pagans in the area known as Grandfathers Bottom.  
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James (in red)
James (in red)
 
QE  staff got together this week to say farewell to James Reed who is leaving after 18 months on an apprenticeship scheme.
This was part of a County Council project that supported 21 apprentices across all departments. The actual qualification involved was an Apprenticeship in Environmental Conservation, NVQs level 2 & 3, supported by Sparsholt College.
 
 
As well as the practical experience and the NVQs, James was able to add several additional certificated training courses to his CV including tree climbing and pesticide use. He has already landed a job working for a Surrey based tree surgeon and starts next week. We wish him well for the future.
 
Pesticide use

Pesticide use

 
 
  
Pic-nic area in the forest

Pic-nic area in the forest

 
 At this time of year the QE Rangers start their maintenance programme, a long list that includes scrub control, fencing, ride mowing and replacing play equipment.
Most of these tasks can only take place in the off-season to reduce any negative effects on our visitors and wildlife.
Work has just started in all the forest picnic areas. This involves cutting back the scrub edge and removing the lower limbs from the trees around the outside of each area.  Left without management these picnic areas, which are great for both the visitors and bio-diversity, would simply close over and revert to woodland. 
 
Tractor and chipper

Tractor and chipper

 
 The QE tractor and a pto driven wood chipper are used to process the many branches which are cut with pole-saw and chainsaw. The chipper has been borrowed from Staunton Country Park and is a great way of being able to deal with the arisings without having to have a fire. The chipped material is then put into habitat piles. 
 
The end result

The end result

 
 The end result can look a little severe but with the first growth next spring the benefits will soon be realised. These open areas are remnant patches of downland that survived the planting of Queen Elizabeth Forest in the 1930’s and 40’s and as such they are key to re-populating any further open space.   
A document called the Forest Design Plan (2005-2036) has been produced to provide a vision for the future management of the forest and this is available on the QE web-site and as a hard copy from the cafe.
Developing open space and removing non-native plantation blocks are typical aims.   
 
Tractor and log splitter

Tractor and log splitter

 
  One of the by-products of the maintenance programme is timber. A proportion of this is left to provide a dead wood habitat for wildlife and the rest is sold as firewood to help raise funds for the Park. About 70 pick-up loads will have been produced by the end of the winter.
Logs, wood chip and wood for turning are all on sale from the visitor centre shop.  

 

 
Churchers College

Churchers College

 
 
 
‘Battlefront Games’ are a company in their third year at QECP. They have an area of forest close to the Juniper play and picnic areas where pre-booked groups can come and take part. This is team building with a difference, where two teams compete to capture the flag, ambush the enemy or defend their camp.
Unlike Paintball where paint and pain can linger long after the event, the weapons used incorporate the latest infra-red technology which is safe and accurate. Ideal for corporate events, birthdays and stag/hen parties. 
 
Park Community School

Park Community School

 
Over the course of a year about 7,000 people will take part in a laser game at QECP.  During September 676 people took part. Key bookings have included;
 
Pompey Pirates Football Club
Plymouth Argyle Football Club
Petersfield Rugby Club
HMS Darin
Clanfield Scouts
St Swithens College, Winchester
Park Community School, Havant
Churchers College, Petersfield
Denmead Activity Centre  
Blue Sky Fostering 
 
Further information on 07817 012311 or http://www.battlefrontgames.co.uk
Looking west from Butser

Looking west from Butser

 
At this time of year the warm days and cold clear nights produce some spectacular views from Butser Hill, the highest point on the South Downs. At 270 metres high, the three-sixty degree panorama is one of the best and is easily reached by a short walk from the main car park. A popular spot with photographers and film crews as are the autumn colours of the QE Forest across the other side of the A3. 
 
Looking north west from Butser Hill

Looking north west from Butser Hill

 
 For those interested in photography, or just great views, a new exhibition has opened in the visitor centre. ‘The Landscape Photographer of the Year’ runs from Friday the 14th of October through to Sunday the 27th November.
This exhibition celebrates all that is best about the UK with special categories including Network Rail’s ‘Lines in the Landscape’ award and the ‘Sunday Times Magazine Choice’.
The photos are judged by a prestigious panel of photographers, editors and leading figures from within the industry. The 2010 winner, with a £10,000 prize, was Mr A.Spencer with a superb image of Corfe Castle in Dorset.  
 
Female Polecat

Female Polecat

 
  Last week a large female polecat was found by the A3 under-pass. Unfortunately it had been killed on the road, however this did give us the opportunity to make a close examination.
The Polecat became virtually extinct in this country thanks to over enthusiastic ‘vermin’ control on behalf of poultry keepers and organised shoots. A top predator, the Polecat will make its home in and around rabbit warrens whose inhabitants make up about 85% of their diet. During the winter they may move to farmyards, and rodents.
Over the last 20 years this fascinating creature has been staging a comeback, moving south from strongholds in the north of England and in Wales. Sightings in Hampshire are still rare and very welcome. 
 
Polecat

Polecat

 
 The Polecat is the sole ancestor of the domesticated ferret, and the two are superficially similar.  Lost and abandoned ferrets do turn up in the Park from time to time but they do not generally thrive. However size, colouration, length of coat and general behaviour help tell them apart. Hybridisation does take place and the final and absolute test involves DNA.
For this particular animal all the signs were positive, particularly the white muzzle and chin, one of the best indicators. The weight was 858 grammes and the length 500 mm from the nose to the tip of the tail. 
It is good to know that Polecats have reached the area and hopefully they will soon become a permanent fixture.
 
If you do see anything that looks Polecat like in the general area of the Park, and inevitably this means road kill, then please report it so that we can build a better picture of the local population.       
Roesel's Bush-cricket

Roesel's Bush-cricket

 
 The recent spell of warm weather has galvanised the grasshoppers and crickets in to one last burst of activity. Once the first frosts arrive their time is up and that is it until next spring.
The Park has 5 species of grasshopper, 5 species of cricket and two groundhoppers.   With the exception of the Woodland Grasshopper, which prefers the conifer blocks in QE Forest, all the rest can be found in the grassland and scrub across the site.
 
Dark Bush-cricket

Dark Bush-cricket

 

  The Roesel’s Cricket was until relatively recently a coastal species of the south and east. Then about 10 years ago the first individuals were found on Butser, and now as well as being found across the site they are common over the southern half of the country. Temperature change is the chief reason for this dramatic expansion in the Roesel’s range.

The male’s song is a loud and continuous ZZZZ but can only be heard by relatively young ears. They prefer to live in the long grass areas. 
The Dark Bush-cricket is much more widespread and can be found along the woodland edge, hedgerows and scrubby areas of the Park. The song is a short repetitive ZZZT.    
 
Garden Spider

Garden Spider

  
Where ever you find grasshoppers and crickets there will also be the heavyweight web-spinning spiders. The common Garden Spider and the more unusual Wasp Spider both spin sophisticated patterns with radials and spirals that are strong enough to deal with the larger prey. These are easy to spot along the woodland rides or other long grass areas. If a grasshopper inadvertently falls in to one of these webs they will remain still for some time to avoid the movement response from the spider.
To find out more about these and the Park’s other fascinating creatures there are still guided walks taking place at this time of year. These are detailed in the 6 monthly events guide the ‘Park Pages’ which is avaliable as a download from the web-site or as hard copy from the visitor centre.  

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