November 2011


Tree signs

Tree signs

 
Despite the warm unseasonal weather, preparations continue for Christmas. The first trees arrive on Tuesday and will be ready for sale on the 1st December.
Last year the weather could not have been more different with lorry loads of trees caught up in the snow on the M25.
 
Tree sales area

Tree sales area

 
The tree sales area is ready, the Christmas trail is ready, and Santa’s grotto will be constructed next week ready for his arrival on Saturday morning. A total of 900 children will see Santa this year, as part of a two-hour activity which includes crafts, a tractor and trailer ride, a trail in the forest and finally the Grotto. Unfortunately all the Santa sessions are fully booked.
On Sunday the 4th December the annual Rowans Hospice Santa Stroll takes place. This is a fun sponsored walk where everyone is dressed as Santa or Rudolph. At the finish there will be a drink and a hot mince-pie for everyone.
Please register in advance, £10 for adults and £5 for children under 16. This includes costume and refreshments.
 
To register go to www.rowanshospice.co.uk or call 0239223 7146  
  
Runners getting ready

Runners getting ready

 
The recent 10km race organised by the Portsmouth Joggers Running Club attracted just under 400 entrants. This figure was far in excess of the expected number and was no doubt influenced by the fantastic sunny weather.
The club uses the Park several times each year to put on running events. The next date in the calendar will be the Meon Valley Plod which takes place on the 12th February 2012. This race covers a distance of over 20 miles and takes place in and around the Park, based at the nearby Clanfield Scout Hut.
 
Waiting to start

Waiting to start

 
The club is open to men and women of all ages (over 18) and seeks to provide a welcoming environment for running and jogging at all levels. Details of membership and future events are avaliable on the web-site  www.pjc.org.uk 
 
The finish

The finish

 
 
 
 
Tractor unit and swipe

Tractor unit and swipe

 
 At this time of year the Park’s Ranger team is busy with numerous practical projects on Butser Hill. Due to the sensitive nature of the site most of these jobs, such as fencing and scrub control, can only take place now when the potential damage to the rich habitats and species can be minimised.   
Contractors are often used to catch up on this workload and the tractor seen here belongs to Natural Land Management Ltd which a part of the same set up as Rother Valley Organics who look after the Park’s flock of sheep.
The machine is a 200 horse power Fendt with a front mounted swipe, or heavy-duty mower.  
Cutting thich ash and dog-wood

Cutting thick ash and dog-wood

 
As well as the benefit of huge horse power this brand new tractor has a fully computerised traction system which will allow the driver to concentrate on the working implement without having to worry about the slopes and safety.
The target areas  for use are thick beds of dog-wood and young ash trees which have become too overgrown to use hand tools or pesticides. 
 
Before and after

Before and after

 
Once the machine has dealt with the problem the aftermath will then be managed using grazing animals and annual cutting . This will allow the areas to return to a more desirable downland sward.
In key areas on Butser hand tools and small teams are still the only way to deal with the scrub. Regular work parties are held throughout the winter and details of these can be found on the web-site www.hants.gov.uk/qecp 
 

  

 
Work party

Work party

 
 The development of the Buriton Chalk Pits Local Nature Reserve has been followed in this blog from the initial Open Day to the guided walks, the animal sculptures and interpretation panels.  There is now a small but growing group of volunteers who keep and eye out for problems, collect litter and report wildlife sightings.
They have just had their first group work party where 15 people spent the morning cutting back scrub and clearing the paths. To celebrate this happy occasion soup was provided afterwards in the nearby Five Bells public house (lunch boxes will be required for future sessions).
 
Young rangers

Young rangers

 
 The plan is now to meet on a regular basis in order to catch up on all the key tasks in the management plan. The contact for anyone who would like to get involved is Abi Peet, the site ranger. Her e-mail address is abi.peett@hotmail.com and telephone 02392 595040. 
 
Work party

Work party

 
The final image shows a large area cleared of scrub and young tree saplings. Last summer a few orchids struggled through the thick undergrowth to find what little sunlight was available. Next year the area will burst in to life as the seed bank, which has remained dormant for many years, acts as a memory for times past.
 
For more information on the Buriton project go to the community web-site on http://buriton.info/news   
 
 
Hampshire Down ram

Hampshire Down ram

 
 A key period in the life of the Butser sheep flock has just got underway with the arrival of 5 rams. Firework Night is appropriately enough the target date for the breeding of spring lambs. The Butser flock is a productive one and averages one and a half lambs from each of the 220 Beulah ewes.  
The ram breeds are selected to produce the best lamb carcass in terms of size and quality. This year we are using Texel. Hampshire Down, Charolais and Wiltshire Horn. They are very quiet and safe to approach. However all dogs must be kept on a lead near livestock. 
 
Wiltshire Horn ram

Wiltshire Horn ram

 
The main flock is currently grazing on the southern or lower slopes of Butser. Last years lambs have now been weaned off and are grazing nearby. As they hit the target weight they are taken away for slaughter and processing at the Rother Valley Organics plant at Rogate. 
 
April lamb

April lamb

 
 The flock is on Butser Hill to help with the management of the National Nature Reserve by grazing the downland sward at key periods of the year. Rother Valley Organics look after the Park’s sheep and currently have 32 of their own Aberdeen Angus steers on the hill for the same purpose. The income from sales of lamb and grant from DEFRA help balance the books. 
 
Butser lamb ready for sale
Butser lamb ready for sale
 
 
Under the canopy

Under the canopy

 
 QE Forest is largely made up of beech trees which are now starting to change colour in a big way. Under the canopy there is still a lot of green but where the sun shines the colours are fantastic. 
The science behind this effect involves the process of photosynthesis where the trees convert carbon dioxide, sunlight and water in to glucose. The glucose, the inevitable waste products, more sunlight together with cold nights all then conspire to  produce the oranges and yellows that we love to see at this time of year.
 
QE Forest

QE Forest

 
 The spectacle will hopefully last for another week along with the un-seasonal warm weather.
One of the benefits of the warmth and lack of frosts at night has been the continued presence of  butterflies particularly the Red Admirals and Commas. These can be found feeding on rotten fruit, crab apples and wild pears, around the forest. 
    

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

 
  
Comma

Comma

 
 
 
 
Monsters!

Monsters!

 
On Saturday night after 5 days of children’s Halloween activities it was time for the adults to get scary. The evening started off in the QE theatre which had been taken back to the 1930s. The ‘theatre manager’, his wife the ‘usherette’, their cleaner and our monster provided the drama whilst the audience watched two locally made horror films. During the interval there was a chance to speak to Gary Mancini the director…and to wonder where the monster had gone!
Suddenly the centre lights went out, the alarms sounded and the visitors were left with no option but to make for the forest.  
 
QE theatre

QE theatre

 
  The short walk was brought to a halt….by the monster of course, and the group then made for the  safety of the classroom and a story telling session by Red Phoenix. Finally, the evening ended with a farewell from the theatre manager who was by then the only one of the four still standing.
 
For further information about the Mancini films go to www.myspace.com/mancinipicturesltd 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Forest walk

Forest walk