April 2013


The Park has 11 family bbq hearths which can be hired for two-hour sessions through the day from 11.00am.  There are also 4 group bbq sites where groups for up to 120 people can enjoy their own private space for a whole day with a shelter and picnic tables. Additionally the visitor centre shop can provide charcoal, and organic meat and venison to order.

The group bbq sites are used for everything from corporate parties to wedding receptions. These large spaces allow people to bring in marquees, caterers and even entertainment.

For those wishing to do something on a much bigger scale the two largest bbq sites, called Cannonball and Coneyacres, can be joined together with the camping area to create an 8 acre space that will be used for many unusual events during 2013.

These include the South Downs Wood Fair in July and ButserFest, a teenage music festival in September. For more information about these or other events, or to book a bbq site on-line see the Parks web-site on http://www.hants.gov.uk/qecp

The Park’s ranger team has been spending time getting the group bbq sites ready for the Summer season. This has involved replacing some of the fencing and repairing picnic tables. In addition the events field needs to be chain harrowed, fertilized and when the grass finally starts growing, to be cut.

There are 4 full-time rangers and a part timer. Each day one will work as the duty ranger, with duties which include opening the Butser gates and toilets, cleaning and getting ready all the bbq sites and then dealing with whatever the days visitors may bring. All are well-trained with subjects as diverse as first aid or issuing fixed penalty tickets.

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A small work party has just finished clearing the ‘small quarry’ at the Burton Chalk Pits Local Nature Reserve. This same area was first cleared of undergrowth last year with the intention of establishing some valuable open space in the quarry.

20 years ago the older residents of Buriton can remember the presence of snakes and butterflies,  both now sadly lacking. With each clearance the task becomes easier and it is already possible to see the changing nature of the vegetation.

The site is owned by East Hants District Council and run in partnership with Buriton Parish and the Country Park. We are coming to the end of three years of Heritage Lottery Funding and at that point the site will have to rely even more on volunteer help.

Many improvements have been made during this time period and the one major project yet to be realized is the restoration of the pond at the top of the site (see earlier posts). The relevant grant application has been submitted so fingers crossed that it will be successful.

New volunteers are always welcome to these regular work parties. For more information go to the Parish web-site at http://www.buriton.info

There will be a guided walk looking at the bird life and bird song in the Chalk Pits which will take place on Wednesday the 8th May, starting from the Buriton Pond at 6.30pm. Stout shoes or boots are required and steep gradients are to be expected.

Last Friday an evening preview marked the start of a 6 week exhibition at the Country Park. Titled ‘A journey through the landscape’ it has been put together by three local artists to display their complimentary styles.

George W Gascoigne teaches as well as paints, and has exhibited several times before at the Country Park. More information at www.gascoigne-art.co.uk

Trevor Glover works in oils and watercolour an also runs painting courses a Liss and Selbourne. For more details ring 01730 894397

And last but by no means least Sharon Hurst whose inspiration comes from Tolkein’s Lord of the rings and captures a fantasy world of landscape and character figures. Sharon  runs courses on fantasy painting and first exhibited here in 2002. Further information at www.sharonhurst.co.uk

There is a second exhibition  displayed in the theatre which has been designed by the County’s own archivists. This covers last years Jubilee celebrations and reflects on Her Majesty’s reign with specific references to Hampshire. As well as printed panels there are video clips and mention is made of the occasion back in 1976 when the Queen opened  the Country Park. This exhibition also runs for 6 weeks.

The scrub cutting and the topping of coarse grass and bramble on Butser Hill all stopped at the end of March in order to give our wildlife peace and quiet for the breeding season.

The restoration of the Holt pond was finished in time for the return of the amphibians, and the practical tasks that so dominate the Winter period have nearly all been completed.

An impressive 2km of fencing has been replaced by the Park’s ranger team with help from contractors ‘Leydene Fencing’. The specification used is treated softwood posts with two strands of barbed wire and livestock netting.

This copes well with the largest beef cattle and the smallest lambs. There is also the added benefit of being able to keep dogs on the right side of the fence line.

This year the National Park have kindly provided grant support to replace 10 stiles with kissing gates. These helps improve access to the far-flung corners of the site whilst keeping the livestock in the intended compartments.

The standard design has been customised for the Park to ensure that the gate self closes and that it remains lamb proof thanks to the addition of weldmesh on the lower sections.

The Park welcomes volunteers who are interested in learning practical tasks such as fencing or gate hanging. For more information contact the visitor centre reception on 02392 595040

Throughout the year the Park is a haven for bird life of all sorts whether the familiar residents or occasional migrants. And with 2,000 acres and divers habitats such as chalk downland and beech woods the variety can be staggering.

Regular visitor and one time staff member Mike Wearing has been out and about recently with camera in hand looking at the Park’s birds of prey.

These two species are not easily seen particularly around the main facility areas and visitors will need to get to know the site well or to attend one of the many guided walks that are put on by the rangers or volunteers.

The sparrowhawk is perfectly adapted to hunting other birds in confined species. Having evolved for woodland work this adaptation suits suburban gardens and it is the bird of prey that you are most likely to see at home.

The males are smaller and can tackle birds up to starling size whilst the female is much larger, seen here with an adult wood-pigeon. Unless the hawk has caught something and is on the ground you only generally get a fleeting visit. Often the pile of feathers from the recently plucked prey is the only sign of what has taken place.

The barn owl is much harder to see being less common and largely night flying. Prey species are chiefly rodents and this bird prefers the grassland and open woodland areas.

The most likely place to spot one is if you are taking part in an evening barbecue on the lower slopes of Butser at the Cannonball or Coneyacres sites.  

On Sunday the 12th May there will be a chance to see many of our bird species on the annual Dawn Chorus Walk. This starts at the crack of dawn (4am), and ends with an organic bbq breakfast cooked by the volunteers.

 The walk must be booked in advance from the visitor centre on 02392 595040. Cost £6.00 per person.

 

The plainly titled ‘Concrete pond’ is hidden away on the southern slopes of Butser Hill adjacent to the A3. Once an ancient dew pond it was concreted over at the turn of the last century and  then fell in to disrepair from the 1960s.

One of its last functions was to act as a safe store for all the ordnance ploughed up on the lower slopes during the 1950s when barley was being grown on the hill. Target Valley lies immediately to the south-west and was used as a military range from Napoleonic times.

By the year 2000 the pond was dry and full of spoil. This was all removed and a new reinforced concrete bottom laid. Two thirds of the brick walls were replaced and rendered, and the pond has held a perfect level ever since.

It provides a home to dragonfly and damselfly species, a small number of amphibians, and is used for drinking water by a wide range of wildlife.

The pond contains a great many Ramshorn snails and quantities of these are being removed from the water to be eaten by something. We have no idea what this could be and are appealing for information from anyone who might have seen this before.

Whatever it is tends to select the largest shells which can be almost an inch across, and then keeps a tidy pile of all the arisings. There is no shortage of snails in this pond and our concern is simply to find out what happens to them.

If you can help a small reward awaits.

  

                                                                                                                                                 

Energy workers with a passion for the outdoors braved chill conditions to repair a well-used section of cycle path for mountain bikers at the Queen Elizabeth Park. 

From Southern Electric’s offices in Havant, Dave Goulson, Graham Banks and Damien Baldwin, left their computers for a day to turn themselves into volunteer ground workers. 

And after a day of digging, shovelling, raking and laying hardcore aggregate, they had repaired a muddy section of the cycle trail to make it much easier to ride and to extend its lifespan. 

Dave Goulson, who is also part of the cycle trails’ committee at the Queen Elizabeth Park, explained: “The park has two mountain bike trails, one of which has been upgraded over the last two to three years by volunteers.  We opened it last year and it’s been a huge success with the park seeing a massive increase in usage by cyclists. 

“After a year of hard use, it needs repair in some sections and this is what we were doing, removing very muddy sections by digging down to the base chalk layer and filling it with hardcore aggregate, which should provide a weatherproof and enjoyable trail to ride. 

“It certainly made a complete change from our normal day job!  We shifted about one ton of aggregate through the day, which was hard graft, and we all had aching muscles afterwards, but it was well worth all the effort.  More work will be required to improve the second trail, which we are hoping to start later this year. 

The team from Southern Electric was able to volunteer its services as part of the company’s Community at Heart scheme, which gives employees a day away from the office to help out in the community.  

Southern Electric is a leading UK-owned provider of electricity and gas. Its principal centres of operation are in Havant, Reading, Portsmouth and Basingstoke. Southern Electric’s parent company, SSE, supplies more than 9 million customers through its retail brands, Southern Electric, SWALEC, Scottish Hydro and Atlantic. SSE is one the UK’s largest generators of electricity with over 13,000 MW of generation capacity in total (UK and Ireland). More information at http://www.sse.com/Home/

For more details on the QECP Cycle Collective go to www.qecptrailcollective.co.uk 

 

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