January 2012


Neil Shearer

Neil Shearer

 Last Friday night two events took place in the QECP visitor centre. Firstly an evening preview to mark the start of the next art exhibition. These run for 6 weeks at a time and are put on by local artists whose work is appropriate for the venue. So popular is the space that we are booked out for the next year.

Neil is based in Waterlooville and works in acrylic paints, pen and ink, graphite and pastel pencil. His influences come from a spell living in New Zealand and time spent in the Army. For more information go to www.neilshearer.co.uk

Preview night

Preview night

 
The second event on Friday night was an update on the Queen Elizabeth Parks Twinning Project for the QECP Volunteers who run the initiative. With video clips, food tastings and short talks, and the highlight of the evening a presentation by Boni Mpario about his upbringing as a Masai.  
 
Boni Mpanio

Boni Mpanio

More information at www.queenelizabethparks.org
Rocket making

Rocket making

On Saturday the 21st January the BBC stargazing theme was continued, this time led by a group called Caterpillar Crafts who ran two workshops for children and young people with disabilities or additional needs and their families.
The cosmic crafts on offer included rocket making, a theatre show and a walk along the Park’s very own astronomy trail.
 
The launch

The launch

A member from another of the local astronomy clubs, the Hampshire Astronomical Group (HAG) was on hand to  give the audience a virtual tour of the solar system.  For more information about the club please go to www.hantsastro.org.uk
Caterpillar Crafts will be running many other themed activities at QECP throughout the year. The next date is the 16th of February when the subject will be adventurous activities including cycling and den building.
More information at www.caterpillar-crafts.com
Telescopes on the patio

Telescopes on the patio

 
On Friday the 20th January, following the hugely popular BBC Stargazing Live tv shows, over 300 people came to the visitor centre to view the night sky through a variety of telescopes and binoculars.
The event was hosted by the HantsAstro club whose members were on hand with their equipment to help and advise the general visitors.
Looking at Jupiter

Looking at Jupiter

 Despite a cloudy forecast the sky cleared giving good views of the solar system.  And just in case the weather proved inclement a succession of presentations were put on in the theatre, and an information stand was set up in the centre with all sorts of BBC freebies for the young astronomers. 

QE theatre

QE theatre

 
The club will be running a series of events from the Park in 2012, and also uses other local sites. For more information go to www.hantsastro.co.uk
Ready to go

Ready to go

 
On the night of Friday the 20th January a large group of runners gathered outside the main visitor centre which was open as part of a ‘Stargazing Live’ astronomy event. About 45 people warmed up before setting off on a 10 mile run with a small group taking part in a shorter walk. At 10.30pm when the centre closed for the night these intrepid athletes were still out in the dark.  
Their next event in this area is the Meon Valley Plod, a 21 mile run along trails and roads, which takes place on Sunday the 21st February starting at 10.30am. The start point in the nearby Clanfield Scout Hut.
 
 For more information and an online entry form see the Portsmouth Joggers web-site at www.pjc.org.uk  
Butser Hill from the south east

Butser Hill from the south east

 
Finally some proper winter weather has arrived with several days of hard frost on Butser Hill. The weekend was very busy with walkers and cyclists all over the place. The Park’s sheep flock of 221 ewes are not troubled by the temperature and there is plenty of grass available across the hill. Lambing for the main flock is a while off in April and as a consequence they can cope with fairly rough grazing for a little while longer. Currently they are in ‘Grandfathers Bottom’ an area where a winter graze is essential as part of the sward management of the National Nature Reserve.
 
Shearlings on the southern slopes

Shearlings on the southern slopes

 
On the southern slopes there is a small flock of this years lambs which are waiting to go to market. And finally in Wascombe Valley there is a flock of shearlings, last years ewe lambs, which have met the ram for the first time and will lamb in March this year. They have just been wormed and ear tagged and will be grazing an area recently cleared of scrub by the tractor and ‘destroyer’ (see earlier blog post).
 
More sheep

More sheep

 
Butser Hill and its livestock are all registered as organic and the management regime is designed around a low stocking rate and slow growth for our lamb, mutton and beef. No fertilisers or herbicides whatsoever are used on the hill.
The sector body which inspects and licenses this registration is the Organic Farmers and Growers who are based in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.  www.organicfarmers.org.uk 
The flock is also registered under the FABBL Scheme, otherwise known as the Red Tractor Assurance Scheme. This ensures high standards of animal husbandry, quality control for feedstuffs and traceability for all livestock movements.
Their web-site  www.redtractor.org.uk contains the latest news, recipes and campaign activities.
Organic lamb and mutton are currently on sale from the visitor centre shop. 
Loading woodchip

Loading woodchip

 
 Every three weeks during the winter the Park’s biomass boiler is topped up with a trailer load of woodchip. The boiler is an 85KW Froeling Turbomatic with a 2,000 litre buffer tank and is now in its 6th winter. As a rule of thumb each KW needs 1 tonne of chip for the cold season. This timber is either sourced from within the QE forest or brought in from local Forestry Commission plantations. Having seasoned for a year to reduce the moisture to below 30% the whole years supply is chipped at one time and stored in a large purpose-built barn.
 
View from inside the boiler hopper

View from inside the boiler hopper

   

 The boiler has the capability to load chip on demand and to remove the ash. The chip specification is described as W40/G50. This means that the moisture can be as high as 40% and the bulk of the chip particles must be 50mm in size.
The boiler heats the visitor centre and main facilities, and provides some of our hot water.
 
The Park runs regular walks and talks on the subject of biomass. The next one will take place on Saturday the 21st January at 1.30pm. Pre-booking required @ £3 per head for the two-hour session.   
Fallen tree on the Hangers Way

Fallen tree on the Hangers Way

 
Last weeks storms, with gusts of over 70 miles per hour, caused some serious problems for the Park staff. Fallen trees or those that had shed large branches were reported across the QE Forest by early morning visitors.
The heavy rainfall proved too much for the already sodden ground and the drains and soak aways quickly overflowed. 
Sandbags had to be used around the visitor centre to prevent the water flooding in and thankfully the damage was limited. 
 
The back of the visitor centre

The back of the visitor centre

 
At this time of year the yard is full of timber which has come from windblown trees or those waiting for the chipper to become fuel for the biomass boiler. Any interesting pieces are put to one side and cut for sale in the visitor centre shop.
 
Beech log awaiting chainsaw

Beech log awaiting chainsaw

 
This is a useful source of income for the Park and provides a good many visitors with woodworking projects for the home. If you are looking for timber for carving, turning or special commissions then please get in touch.
 
Beech log and chainsaw

Beech log and chainsaw

  

 
 
 
 
 
 

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