Volunteering


On the 18th/19th May the Park hosted the annual QECP Cycle Festival. Run by Hargroves Cycles this popular event started as a dealer day and has developed into a two day celebration of everything to do with cycling.

This year Cancer Research was the nominated charity which received a substantial donation from Hargroves at the end of the event.

There were all the major manufacturers and suppliers of bikes and parts present including Cube, who had come over from the continent specially for the event, Specialized, Scott and Shimano.

The two permissive mountain bike trails that run through the QE Forest provided the means for potential customers to test out the latest models.

The highlight of the weekend was the Saturday evening Enduro. This was a 4 hour off-road marathon with the entrants individual or team categories had to perform loops of a purpose designed course.

The winner of the individual event was Joahnnes Sickmuller who was racing for the Stevens Team. Johannes has been regularly placed in off-road events at European and World level for several years now, and was also first in last years race.

Alex Smith from the QECP Collective managed a very respectable 22nd place out of a field of over 100 entrants.

The Collective who are the Park’s own volunteer group, are now preparing to run their very first event which will take place in Head Down on the 1st June.

This will be the 4th Round in the National Gravity Project Race Series and will be the first downhill race to take place at QE for 17 years. The Collective have teamed up with British Cycling who also officiated at the Cycle Fest’ Enduro.

For more information about the Cycle Fest’ including a course video and race results go to http://www.qecpcyclefest.co.uk

Details about the forthcoming Gravity Project event can be found at facebook.com/gravityprojectgp   or on the Collective’s twitter @QECP_collective

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

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.

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.

 

  

                                                                                                                                                 

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 

 

Work continues on the restoration of Holt Pond which is filling with water and nearly complete. The area will now be fenced off to create a wildlife zone where public access can be managed. The bare earth will be sown with wild flower seed harvested from Butser Hill during last Summer.

Pond weed will be brought across from the ‘concrete pond’ on the other side of the A3. This pond was restored some years ago and has large quantities of Water milfoil and Curled-leaved pondweed.

The Holt Pond has a good population of Palmate newts and these need aquatic plants on which to attach their eggs which are individually wrapped one per leaf.

 

 

The old rotten concrete slabs will be used to create a hibernaculum or reptile refuge. This will be built in a such a way that will allow the Grass snakes, Adders, Slow worms and Common lizards to hide away from the freezing Winter temperatures. And also being South facing they will be able to warm up quickly when the sun does shine. The blocks will be covered in soil and the grass kept short to aid this process.

Much of this work is carried out by the park’s volunteers who meet every Tuesday morning for practical work sessions across the site. More information can be obtained from the web-site at www,hants.gov.uk/qecp

 

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