Update from Langley Vale Wood!
We are so lucky to have some fantastic woods in the South East of England and one of our larger sites is Langley Vale in Surrey. There is a fantastic team of staff and volunteers who work together to raise awareness of the wood and drive the project forwards. We caught up with Simon Bateman-Brown, Site Manager, about what has been going on in the past month…
“It’s been a busy and pretty positive month with regard to the planning application. Surrey Highways set provisional conditions for planning consent which we weren’t happy with, but after pushing back on this they have given their approval for the application and ensured that the relevant planning officers are aware. One very positive comment they made was that they did not see the increased traffic as an issue, which is great considering most of the local concern has been on this subject.
We have also met with the Jockey Club to address their concerns around the horse crossing, close to where the car park entrance will be. We have agreed a design for a crossing that is a compromise between both proposals and they have agreed to assist with the costs. We are also looking at creating a new horse path at minimal cost to the Woodland Trust, but which will make an existing route much safer for the horses and riders in icy conditions.
A meeting with local planning officers took place on Tuesday, 2nd April, where we set out our concerns around the delays with the planning application and will be pushing for a committee date as soon as possible, hopefully in May.
A drop-in session to answer questions from the public will be planned for Langley Vale shortly.
All tree planting for the site is now complete and this season we’ve planted 90,000 trees, bringing our site total to 150,000, most of which have been planted by volunteers, general public, corporate groups and sponsors. Hurray!
During March, we carried out two grove planting events with sponsors, a corporate planting day with the BBC and our final tree planting event for the site – planting Jutland Wood with the Royal Naval Association and Sea Cadets. This was a brilliant event that saw the planting of 14 standard oak trees, one for each of the 14 British ships that were sunk in the battle, along with the completion of 8 groves that make up 6,097 trees – one for each life lost in the battle. A huge thanks to everyone who helped make this final event such a success.
We may still have more tree planting to come in the future, in the form of hedge planting along the multi-user paths, but this is still subject to planning consent.
We have contracted a local ecologist, Giles Groome, to again survey the main arable plant areas this year, looking specifically for rare arable plants, but also other plants of interest. The surveys will take place over the spring and summer, with the final report expected in October. The report can then be compared with previous years’ data and we can see if the general trend is positive or not. Either way, it really helps to feed into our on-going management.
In addition to this survey, our volunteers will be out very soon to start surveying for birds, bumblebees, butterflies and arable plants. This data will add to everything else to create a site-wide picture of the ecology at Langley Vale Wood and how it’s changing as the project progresses. If you would like to get involved, please do let Anna know!
Open Space management
The Open Space Advisory Group (OSAG) met this month to discuss the management of the arable and species rich grassland habitat areas on the site. It was agreed to change the grazing slightly so that some areas are not grazed for 2019, thus allowing us to monitor the areas as a control and compare the differences. There was also concern raised that we had not been able to connect the grazing areas to mains water yet, but this is associated with the planning application, which the graziers understand. However, we will be looking at this as a matter of urgency over the summer.
Fixed Point photography
Since 2014, we’ve been working with Epsom Camera Club to carry out fixed point photography at key areas of the site. This month we’ve re-evaluated these points and changed a few to capture those areas that have evolved as particularly special, such as Jutland Wood. However, that’s not to say that the photos captured so far have not been worthwhile – the results we have documented are dramatic!
We’ve had a meeting with an organisation who will be installing visitor monitoring equipment at key entrances to the site. This will record all user groups, including horse riders and cyclists and gather data on the number of visits we’re currently getting. As the project progresses, this data can then be used to show how changes to the site effect our visitor numbers (such as car park, paths, interpretation trails ,etc).
And finally…Morris sticks!
Although we’ve spent most of the winter concentrating on planting trees, a local group of Morris dancers have asked if they can cut some of the hazel coppice to give them a years’ worth of Morris sticks, to which we were happy to say yes. They were so happy with the quality of the timber and the helpfulness of the Woodland Trust that they’re going to suggest other local Morris dancing groups get in touch. From our perspective, this means we’re not only getting some coppice management undertaken for us, but we’re also helping out local community groups and building stronger relationships with the public in the area.
Words: Simon Bateman-Brown