Langley Vale Wood – July update
Our First World War Centenary Wood has pockets of ancient woodland, diverse and fascinating wildlife and flora, and stunning views over the rolling hills of the North Downs. In the coming years, our ambitious woodland creation scheme will transform the existing arable land into both a natural haven and a living memorial to those who sacrificed so much in the Great War.
Langley Vale Wood Site Manager, Simon Bateman-Brown, shares developments and exciting news, including a new arable plant found on site, in our July update.
We now have planning consent from the third and final local authority, Epsom and Ewell. This means we have permission for the car park, the memorial area and all multi-user and pedestrian paths. This is a massive accomplishment and something that has been a battle for several years.
We now have around 50 conditions from the three authorities that the project team are working through, most of which need to be completed and agreed with the relevant local authority before work can start on the ground. The more urgent conditions are already being addressed.
The current timeline we’re working toward is to have the car park open during summer 2020, but there are a number of variables involved that could influence this.
The tender for the multi-user and pedestrian paths is almost ready for internal review, which will then be sent out in the next month or so. This is required to get an accurate cost of these works for our funders as the works need to be fully funded before they can proceed.
A second application, for the Regiment of Trees sculptures and Jutland Wood Sculptures, is currently being worked up and will be submitted as soon as it is ready. This application will only go to one council, Epsom and Ewell, so will hopefully be an easier process to navigate.
A third application, for the visitor centre and natural play area, is being discussed and worked on currently. These elements were part of the original application, but were withdrawn from the Epsom and Ewell application at the last moment as they required more detail. Subsequent meetings with planning officers from Epsom and Ewell have confirmed that a more detailed application will be welcomed.
The smaller items of infrastructure, such as waymakers and grove posts, now form planning conditions for each of the local authorities. We’re currently finalising the specifications and maps for these before they can be submitted to the relevant councils to be discharged.
Our volunteers have been out regularly this spring and summer monitoring butterflies at the site. On one siting, they spotted 730 butterflies in one day!
Our year to date list is now 27 species: Small Skipper, Essex Skipper, Large Skipper, Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Green Hairstreak, Purple Hairstreak, Small Copper, Brown Argus, Common Blue, Chalk Hill Blue, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma, Silver-washed Fritillary, Speckled Wood, Marbled White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Heath.
Considering that the site was an intensively managed arable farm just a few years ago, the large numbers of butterflies found on site is hugely encouraging and shows that our work to transform a heavily worked farm into a nature reserve is working well.
In addition to the butterflies, our volunteers have also been surveying for arable plants. The numbers this year have been amazing, with vast numbers of night flowering catchfly and an increase in red hemp nettle too. Earlier this month, our group identified a new arable plant to the site – Weasel Snout, which is very rare in Surrey. The full survey results for the whole year will be available in October
Unfortunately the management of the arable fields has led to a large number of thistles, mainly sow thistle and creeping thistle, starting to dominate amongst the habitat. Although the mix of yellow and purple flowers are very pretty, they are starting to cause problems for the arable plants we’re trying to preserve, so additional management is required. After consulting with several experts, organisations and the Open Space Advisory Group, we’ve decided to carry out a high cut immediately to try and stop them seeding. We’re looking at what follow-up management may be required, which could include spraying or changing the rotation of the ploughing to try and stop them coming back in such numbers.
Volunteer guided walk
Our volunteer guided walks this year have been extremely successful, and the one in July was no exception. 18 guests joined our volunteers for a relaxed walk around the site. They were particularly eager to take lots of photos of the wildlife and views across the wildflower meadows. All had a great time and gave excellent feedback.
A new type of event was held in July, with the potential to raise further funds for the project and included a guided walk around the site, willow weaving, apple pressing and lunch catered for by a wild alchemist, serving food such as Douglas Fir iced tea, spiced hogweed-roasted cauliflower wrap and juniper beetroot sauerkraut. The event was a great success and the guests loved the site, giving lovely feedback throughout the day (despite getting completely soaked at one point!)
Major donor visits
July has been another good year for major donor walks, with several events being held. The largest was for Moto in the Community, who sponsored a grove which was planted in the 2017/18 season and asked to come back and see what it looked like now. Around 20 members of staff enjoyed a guided walk around the site, ending at their grove and were absolutely thrilled with how the trees had grown, now surrounded by wildflowers. Moto in the Community have been a supporting partner of ours for the past three years.
Tree safety and ash dieback
A full tree safety and ash dieback survey has been undertaken through July, looking at trees that pose a potential hazard within tree safety zones (alongside paths, close to houses or roads for example). Over 100 individual trees will require work to make them safe and one whole path will need to have ash removed because so many of them are in a very bad state of decline. The work will likely take place in the next couple of months and signage will be displayed around the site and specifically in the areas where the tree removal will be most notable.
First World War Interpretation boards
During November 2018, we created a remembrance trail around the site to mark the centenary of the First World War. As part of this, 12 interpretation boards were created to depict life during this time and the training camps constructed around Langley Vale Wood. Subsequently, the boards were installed temporarily along the cherry avenue, but we’re pleased to say that the boards have been updated with a more durable material, meaning that they will be a permanent feature of the cherry avenue.
New Horse path
As part of our discussion with the Jockey Club earlier in the year, we agreed to move some of our livestock fencing to effectively create a new path for horses to use in the winter – avoiding a tarmac track that gets particularly icy. This work will be complete by the end of this week.
Fly-tipping and vandalism
Unfortunately we have had some anti-social issues this month. A fly-tip was left close to where our car park will be located and has now been deposited in a skip on site by our contractors. The access was via a track owned by a third party, but we’re working with them to provide better security for our site. At the other end of the site, by the motorway, individuals have been creating bike tracks within Great Hurst Wood. They have been accessing the site through the fence, which they have cut back to create an opening, and made tracks and jumps in this part of the wood. The Police have been notified and our contractors will be installing a more robust fence to help deter any further damage.
Thank you for your interest and support to our wonderful site. Keep your eyes on Whittle for future updates.
Simon Bateman-Brown, Site Manager at Langley Vale Wood