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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Heart of the Levels Group events.

An Art and Wildlife Workshop 26th July

"Level Light” an Art and Wildlife Workshop.

Date: 26th July 2008 Please note that at present this workshop is planned for Sat 26th only.
Time: 10:00 AM

Location: Stoke St Gregory village hall.

A moderate walk on the moor, led by Jenny Graham, a well known local artist, to explore visual images of the landscape which can be interpreted through drawings/paintings/poetry and photography to record its beauty and natural value for wildlife.

Bring your lunch, camera, sketch pad, suitable footwear and your imagination!

Meet at Stoke St Gregory village hall where parking is available. Adults £4. Unsuitable for wheelchairs/limited mobility.

Numbers for workshop limited to 20 so please contact David German , Heart of the Levels Group or Jenny Graham or the Somerset Wildlife Trust, telephone: , to reserve your place and to check on start time.

Walk on East Poldens Ridge

Date: July 19th

Time: 10.30 am.

Jane Salisbury will guide us on a favourite walk along
the East Polden Ridge. Great views, summer wild flowers and

Meet at the Combe Hill car park at Grid Ref ST 503 331
This walk is unsuitable for wheelchair user or people of limited mobility.
The Group would appreciate a donation of £2 for this walk.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Our local wildflower meadow

Our local Wildflower Meadow.

Although our meadow is a small 4 acre field on the outskirts of a village, it is part of a larger living landscape. Immediately along side is an almost identical 4 acre field privately managed as a wildflower meadow and beyond that is farm land, run on a wildlife friendly basis. It is also linked by hedges and generous margins to small fields some of which have been turned over to wildflower meadows by the same farmer. In the area generally hedges are being allowed to grow taller and occasionally trees are left to grow. However all this could change; farming methods could revert to past intensive practices and the rich biodiversity of the meadow could be easily destroyed

The history of the field is only partially known but its use for agriculture probably ceased around 1985. It was used briefly for sports activities but that also ceased after three or four years around 1993. Since then it has been left alone with only an annual hay cut by a local farmer with the hay baled and removed. The hedges were not managed and have spread into the field in places. It was given the status of a County Wildlife Site in 2007.

The meadow has now come into the ownership of the Parish Council which has to decide what to do with it. A number of options are still being considered.

The field is regarded by informed observers as being of high ecological value which explains why it is attracting a great deal of interest. The most detailed assessment of its value is in a flora report made after a survey of the adjoining field by Dr Jon Marshall for the private owners. The survey described that field as herb rich, unimproved neutral grassland of nature conservation value. It was carried out in two stages in Aug 2005 and May 2006. It lists a total species count of 105, made up of 15 woody species, 61 flowers and 29 monocotyledons (including two species of Orchid, Bee and Pyramidal).

Dr Marshall commented that the two adjacent fields have essentially the same species present. Arrangements are in hand for two further surveys to be made on the new field and reports are awaited. The findings will be important.

Birds of prey hunt over the fields and small mammals must be present. Grass snakes have been seen.

There is a blackthorn hedge running across the eastern end of the field and the eggs of the Brown Hairstreak butterfly have been found on new growth. All the usual meadow butterflies are present including a large population of the Marbled White seen for the first time this year on June 22nd, Large Skipper, Meadow Browns in large numbers, Common Blue and the day flying Burnet Moth.

Another first sighting for this year on June 24th was a Great Green Bush Cricket which does indeed make the grass shake as it moves. Among the large number of grass species present is the delicate Quaking Grass.

One of the most curious plants to find in the meadow is the perennial and parasitic Broomrape which is present in significant numbers distributed across the 4 acres. The exact species identification is still being argued about!

Despite the sometimes dominant grasses the Bee and Pyramidal Orchids continue to show each year in most areas of the field sometimes in quite numerous groupings.

Visitors to the field have all commented on its quality, the variety of its flora and its potential with good management to develop its beauty and diversity. However the future of the meadow is uncertain.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Save our wildflower meadow

Here are some photos of a Bee Orchid and two specimens of Broomrape found in the meadow in the last few days and actually only discovered after the letter shown below had been written.

I am reproducing this slightly abbreviated letter sent to our local council as part of our campaign to get the ecological value of a meadow recognised before decisions are taken that could destroy the impressive
diversity of the flora and fauna. I hope that this letter and other submissions will be sufficient to win the argument. If we don't succeed the field will become just like any other recreation ground and, by comparison, virtually a green desert.

Dear ,
re: future use of the 4 acre field
I have recently had discussions with David German (Chair: Heart of the Levels group, SWT) about the above-mentioned subject.
My own interest in this is as an academic biologist who has had extensive experience in ecological research and fieldwork in the UK and African countries. I have been resident in South Somerset since 1988.
I have had a recent opportunity to examine the field in question and I have known the adjacent plot for about a year. At present both effectively form a single ecological entity which is an excellent example of an increasingly rare habitat in England. The species-rich meadow on the adjacent field has been found to harbour over 100 higher (flowering) plant species, including grasses and two orchid species: it is virtually certain that a similar composition exists in the field subject to debate.(Report by EJP Marshall, 2006).
My further comments in this letter will focus primarily on the field now proposed as a nature reserve. When seen on 8 May this field was impressively wildflower-rich, which emphasised the striking botanical biodiversity of the site. No doubt, the animal biodiversity will be similarly rich, particularly with respect to the insect life. For example, it is known that the nationally rare Brown Hairstreak Butterfly is established there and the nationally very local Marbled White Butterfly also breeds on the site, along with many commoner species.
The Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 states that "Every public body must, in exercising its functions, have the purpose of conserving biodiversity". The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) indicated in its Guidance for Local Authorities on Implementing the Biodiversity Duty (2007) how local authorities can be assisted in fulfilling their duty in this respect.
A local authority can demonstrate that it has fulfilled its Duty with regard to biodiversity aims in several ways. For example, it can show that opportunities have been taken to integrate biodiversity considerations into all relevant service areas and functions, and in particular, to have ensured that biodiversity is protected in line with statutory obligations. Also, the local authority needs to raise awareness of staff, managers and elected members about biodiversity issues, and to demonstrate a real commitment and progress in relation to key local biodiversity initiatives, such as the field under consideration.
Full ecological protection and management of the field is urgently required in my own view as a professional biologist and ecologist. The Council is indeed fortunate to possess such a wonderfully diverse ecological site, the like of which, unfortunately, does not exist in my own parish. In order to conserve the structure of the flower-rich meadow it is important that the greater proportion of the field should not be altered significantly in any way. One or two pathways across the field could be mown to allow access so that the public can better appreciate the plant and animal (especially insect) life through the seasons. A track winding around the perimeter of the field would allow walkers and joggers to follow a fitness trail and would also encourage the inspection and appreciation of the hedgerows bordering the field. For example, searching for, and finding eggs of the Brown Hairstreak butterflies on blackthorn twigs in the winter would be a fun activity for children and families. And, a competition could be organised to find the first recorded sighting of an adult of the same species of butterfly on the hedgerows. They are incredibly difficult to find, even though they may be numerous in a particular area!
I hope these comments help you in deciding on the development and management plans for the field. If you have any general or specific questions I will be happy to try to answer them.
Yours sincerely,

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Somerset Wildlife Photographs around our local nature reserve

To see the photos more clearly just click on the picture.

Not really in a recognised nature reserve and not very well camaflauged I found this moth sitting on our front door!
I make it a Pale Tussock ( Calliteara pudibunda)

Our new 200m native species double hedge soon after planting in April and it is now looking quite healthy after about 6 weeks. Included, spindle, field maple, wild privet, blackthorn, quickthorn, wayfarer tree and common dogwood.

And finally a photo of the first Bee Orchid of 2008 I have found in our local nature reserve.

We have also got a good crop of Yellow Rattle now flowering and hopefully beginning the job of suppressing the grasses to give other flowers a better chance.