April 2012


Art activities

Last Saturday was the annual Open Day for the Chalk Pits and despite constant rain about 70 people from the parish of Buriton took part in various activities throughout the day. The parish hall had been booked in case the forecast proved correct and this made an ideal base for story telling, chalk carving, clay sculptures, coppice crafts and wildlife identification.

QECP staff, members of the Buriton Project team, and the site’s new volunteer group were all involved in running the day which was aimed at raising the profile of this small but important site.

The Chalk Pits are located on the edge of the village adjacent to the Country Park and can be reached using the Hangers Way. 

 

Clay crafts

One benefit from all the rain was the huge turnout from those creatures that enjoyed the wet weather. In total 20 different types of mollusc (slugs and snails) were found and identified on the site. This is a high total and contained the rare Cheese Snail which is found in only a few locations nationally. Other snails, all with great names included Glass, Strawberry and Garlic as well as Tree and Keeled slugs.

Two were particularly unusual both in their scarcity and in the fact that they are non-native species. The Girdled snail is from continental Europe and has been introduced to this country by accident, as was the Worm slug which was not discovered over here until 1972. The latter is normally a subterranean species, living in worm burrows, where the wet conditions had probably brought it to the surface for us to find. So clear proof that every cloud has a silver lining, at least as far as bio-diversity is concerned!

    For more information about the site and the parish of Buriton go to www.buriton.info/parish-council  For other events taking place at the Country Park see the Park Pages on www.hants.gov.uk/qecp

Rare Cheese snails

Worm slug and Girdled snail

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The Saturday shift

After a year of hard work the ‘QECP Collective’ is now just over two weeks away from the launch of the revamped Orange/Advanced mountain bike trail. Many previous blog posts have charted the group’s progress through the cold wet days of Winter, and the even colder wetter Spring! Last weekend another 30 volunteers turned up to carry on this tradition. 

The recycled plastic posts have just arrived, along with the new trail markers, and both will need to be installed in time for the launch on the 19th May.

The bike press has been really supportive of the new developments at the Park and a recent review in the Mountain Bike Rider is attached to this blog.   For more information about the magazine, with news and reviews on the best places to ride, go to www.mbr.co.uk

More details about the QECP Collective can be found  at www.qecptrailcollective.co.uk  

 

Mbr review

   

Mbr review

Mbr review

Mbr review

Cowslip on Butser Hill

The recent spell of cold and wet weather has reversed the positive effects of the early Spring, with the Park’s reptiles and butterflies disappearing from view. Even the tadpoles in the visitor centre pond have sunk to the bottom feeling the temperature drop with the last frost which occurred on Friday night/Saturday morning.

The wildflowers however have benefitted from much-needed rain and can cope a little better with the cold. Across the site, both on Butser and in the Forest there are many species currently in flower. At this time of year blue and yellow are the most common colours.

The centre shop sells simple identification guides and there are regular walks and talks in the events programme to help visitors to learn more about the huge number of plants growing in the Park. For more information see the Park Pages on the web-site at www.hants.gov.uk/qecp

To see the slopes of Butser covered in Cowslip at this time of year it can be difficult to see the obvious need for habitat management. But without the grazing animals and assorted tractor mounted cutting machinery (see earlier posts), at key times of the year, these wonderful wildflowers would be swamped by more vigorous species. Shrubs and bramble would soon take over and the grassland would revert to scrub and eventually woodland.

The Cowslip and Primrose are food plants for the Duke of Burgundy butterfly, for which Butser Hill is a key stronghold for a population that is under pressure on a national scale  due to habitat loss and climate change. Early sightings of the DoB have stopped all together due to the poor weather and the early season generation will not have a good breeding year as a result.

Primrose growing in the Forest

   Butterfly Conservation a national charity committed to ‘saving butterflies, moths and our environment’. They are currently running a 3 year project which is called ‘Dukes on the Edge’ which is trying to halt the decline of the DoB across an area of S.E England.

 The project funded some Winter habitat management on Butser, specifically on Little Butser and Wascombe Valley.

This Saturday Butterfly Conservation are running a training day about the DoB. This is taking place in the Park theatre, and weather permitting one of these fascinating butterflies will put in an appearance on the hill. Pre-booking is required for this event.

More details can be found at www.butterfly-conservation.org

Club members at work

This weekend saw a visit by the Crossway Carvers, a group of local enthusiasts who have a regular programme of visits to the Park. They also demonstrate at craft fairs and shows across the South.

 

The group tutor is Peter Hurrell who is also involved in an Austrian Woodcarving School where you can learn woodcarving and sculpting techniques high up in the Alps. Peter can be contacted on 02392 373899. More information about the school can be found on www.woodcarvingschool.com

 

The group will return to the Park on the 26th/27th May, the 2nd/3rd June and at the South Downs Wood Fair, here at QECP, on the 21st/22nd July.

They use many different types of timber including some sourced from the Park. We are currently selling our own beech, alder, pear and cherry all of which are suitable for carving and turning.

Club member at work

 

Spalted alder, and yew from the Park shop

Paul from the Sign Workshop

Work continues on the refurbishment of the  QECP Orange  mountain bike trail. Earlier posts have highlighted the work of the volunteer group and their monthly weekend sessions, with the next one taking place on the 21st/22nd April.

The trail will be getting colour coded as part of a National Forestry Commission scheme which grades the  trails according to the challenges that they present to users. The idea being to match the individual’s ability to the trail that they chose to use where ever they are.

The new waymarked posts will be made of recycled plastic and the signs themselves will be made in the County Council’s own Sign Workshop based at Kingsworthy. Production is already underway and the deadline for the end of the project is the 20th May when there will be an official launch. 

The Sign Shop can design, produce and install signage of all types for private customers and businesses alike. For more information contact Kim Baker on signshopenquiries@hants.gov.uk       

 

Nick from the Sign Workshop

For details of the mountain bike group  go to qecptrailbuilding@yahoo.co.uk  and for information about the Cycle Festival taking place on the weekend of the 19th/20th May go to www.hargrovescycles.co.uk and look at the events page.

 

 

Orlando and the ash poles

The Park contains over 1,000 acres of woodland, from the yew growing on the slopes of the Butser National Nature Reserve to the beech plantations in Queen Elizabeth Forest. Timber of all sorts has a value and whilst this is obviously more relevant with the areas of plantation that were specifically planted with production in mind, we are always conscious to make the most of any opportunities. Particularly where there is also a wildlife benefit and the possibility of preserving traditional crafts or creating economic activity.

The Winter and early Spring are the best times for cutting, to minimise wildlife disturbance and to work with timber when the sap is down. The image shows Orlando removing the last of 120 ash poles which are to be made in to a 16ft yurt. He is a boat builder by training using related skills to create a traditional Central Asian accommodation tent. The next project will be a 35 foot version so that the family can relocate!

The ash poles are approximately 8 ft in length and 1.5 inches in diameter. They cost 50-60 pence each from the Park. This is the first time that this area has been cut, the ash having seeded naturally after the 1987 hurricane cleared the area completely. Compared to hazel which grows much quicker, and can be used after 5-7 years, ash typically takes 21-27 years to get to this stage.

Help and advice on yurt construction comes from West Country expert Paul King who has written the appropriately named ‘Yurt Builders Handbook’. More information on his web-site at www.woodlandyurts.co.uk 

For more traditional skills the Hampshire Coppice Craftsmens Group ‘supports the work of coppice, underwood and associated craftsmen in Hampshire’. Members will be present at the Buriton Chalk Pits open Day on Saturday the 28th April, and in greater numbers at the South Downs Wood Fair which takes place at the Park on the 21st/22nd July. 

Further details about the group can be found at www.hampshirecoppice.org.uk  and more information on the Wood Fair at www.woodlandcrafts.co.uk

Team building

A company called Battlefront Games has been working here at the Country Park for several years now, providing all the excitement of paintball and airsoft but without the pain and paint.

Their base in just off the Forest Drive, close to the Juniper car park and kiosk. They operate in an area of forest using the natural features and vegetation as cover for a variety of different game plans.

Popular with stag and hen parties, birthdays and corporate team building,  over 8,000 people take part during the year. Recent bookings include the Petersfield and Haselmere Rugby Clubs, Churcher’s College and Naval personnel from Portsmouth.

 

Motiv8

Motiv8 are regular visitors to the Park taking part in lazer games and mountain biking.

 The charity works with 13 to 19 year olds helping to reduce offending and anti-social behaviour. More information at www.motiv8south.org.uk

For more details about lazer games and to book a party go to www.battlefrontgames.co.uk  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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