Rangers


On Monday the 17th May BBC South Today and BBC Radio Solent came to the Park to see ‘adder tagging’.

This is not some traditional countryside pastime of old but rather an innovative way of monitoring this scarce and fascinating reptile, and only the second time that this project has been carried out in England.

The Park has a very healthy population of adders which happily co-exists with the many recreational users. This project will hopefully inform and improve the management of both the snake’s habitat and also the way our visitors use the site.

Ten adders have now been radio tagged and for the next 6 months the rangers and volunteers at QECP will be following their every move. 

The tags are attached using clear porous tape and need to be found and retrieved should the adder shed its skin.

This project is supported by the QECP Volunteers and the South Downs National Park.

For more information about the adder tagging there will be a reptile walk as part of the 24 hour BioBlitz on Sunday the 11th August. Pre-booking is required. For more information go to www.hants.gov.uk/qecp

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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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For the last two weeks of the Spring term and most of the Summer term the Park is really busy with school visits. From an annual  total of just over 10,000 school children and students half receive some form of direct delivered activity. The Education Officer plans the programme, books in the schools and is helped by several Education Assistants and the Ranger team.

 This week the majority of students are studying for their GCSE Geography and are specifically looking to see how the Park manages its visitors and their impact on the site and its infrastructure. Project work will involve measuring erosion on Butser or counting cyclists in the QE Forest.

Two or three coaches arrive each day and the Park’s classroom, theatre and activity area are all used for teaching and refreshments.

For more information, or to book a school visit, the QECP web-site has good information including risk assessments and specimen lesson plans. Go to www.hants.gov.uk/qecp

At this time of year the Park’s rangers are coming to the end of the routine Winter work tasks such as fencing and scrub control. Additionally the bbq shelters and picnic tables need some tlc in preparation for the first bookings over the Easter holidays. All this activity produces large quantities of waste timber.

The majority of these furnishings are made of softwood that has been treated with preservative. After 20 or so years when the old fence posts are pulled out of the ground this chemical will still influence the way that they can be disposed of.

The Park’s biomass boiler can only burn clean timber and the firewood that we supply to local customers must also be un-treated. As a consequence some 60 cubic metres of waste timber each year has to be containerised and taken away for processing.

First the large pieces of metal, fencing wire, gate hinges and the like are removed, and then the wood is chipped. The chips can then be transported to the nearest power station and be burnt to produce electricity.

The only other option for this type of waste is to bury it as landfill. Either way there is a cost for disposal of about £10 per cubic metre.

The Park re-uses and re-cycles where it can and this includes metal, timber, light bulbs/flourescent tubes, batteries, paper and cardboard. And even the cafe food waste is composted.

If any one has an alternative use for this timber then please get in touch with your ideas. Unfortunately it cannot be burnt in open fires or domestic wood burners.

 

 

Visitors to the Park over the last two weekends will have noticed a small group of people involved in strange scenarios on the edge of the main car park. A first impression might have been that a major incident had taken place and the ambulance was on its way.

In fact a first aid course was being taught in the classroom and was using the forest for practical sessions. A company called Re+ction First Aid delivers training under the Rescue Emergency Care scheme (REC) which is designed specifically for outdoor  professionals and enthusiasts.

Designed for locations such as QECP where casualties may be waiting for the emergency services for extended periods, the courses were attended by members of Hampshire Search & Rescue and included mountain bike leaders and canoeing instructors.

The next available dates are on  the 4th/5th May and the 27th/28th July.

For more information and to book a place contact Steve on 07944 555587.

All the Park’s front of house staff including the rangers,  education officers and receptionists are first aid trained and the three 4WD vehicles all carry first aid kits. Over the course of a year, despite the total number of visitors exceeding 300,000, only about 30 entries are made in the first aid book.

 

Now that the snow has all gone we can catch up with the Winter work tasks. To date two fencing contracts have been completed on Butser and in addition contractors will soon be starting on a third and then replacing 10 stiles with kissing gates.

Two scrub control contracts have just been finished. The first carried out in Target Valley on the southern slopes of Butser, and the second on Little Butser to the north. Both the fencing and the scrub work have been covered by previous blogs.

Half of the Hill Top has now been topped with tractor and flail. The remainder will be dealt with when the ground dries out a little more.

There are only two months left to get everything finished so more dry weather will be crucial.

As a brief interlude from life at the Park the County Council owns 32 acres of SSSI chalk grassland located 5 miles to the south.  This site is called Catherington Down and is managed on a lease by Horndean Parish Council who have their own ranger team and look after other local sites such as Hazleton Common Local Nature Reserve (LNR) and Yoell’s Copse LNR.

The Park however retains responsibility for capital projects such as the site’s water supply and the replacement of fencing. As a consequence the QECP rangers are currently in the middle of re-doing the Catherington Down fencing.

The site is grazed by cattle which would normally only need barbed wire to keep them in the right place but due to large number of dogs which visit daily sheep netting has to be used. Once the fencing has been completed then it is back to Butser for the team.

For more information about Catherington Down or other sites managed by Horndean Parish Council go to www.horndeanpc-hants.gov.uk

The Park is used by many different organisations for training purposes. Often this simply involves using the classroom or theatre to deliver such diverse subjects as gilding or first aid.
This week a number of Hampshire County Council Rights of Way rangers have been learing about pole saws which are effectively chainsaws with long handles.These will used to cut back the County’s many miles of rights of way during the growing season.
For the technically minded the course was titled ‘CS48 Use of Powered Pole Pruners’ and the content involved risk assessments, personal protective equipment, safe working practices and pruning & cutting techniques.

The end result of the course after next Monday’s assessment will be a certificate from the National Proficiency Tests Council. Further details at http://www.nptc.org.uk.

The Park is always happy to provide a venue for practical training courses and will often benefit from the targeted use of chain saws, stump grinders and the like.

The training in this instance was provided by Dale Valley Training based in Southampton. More information at http://www.dalevalley.training.co.uk

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