Langley Vale Wood update – August
This summer the planning application for the car park, paths and memorial was approved by local councils. The team is busy working through the fifty conditions that are required to be met before work can commence. With so much going on at the site, it is fortunate we also have a large team of passionate volunteers with their eyes and ears to the ground, supporting wildlife monitoring, guided walks and general maintenance on site. Simon Bateman-Brown updates us on the highs and unfortunately the lows experienced at the wood this August.
We’re currently working through the urgent conditions attached to the planning application, which was approved this summer by Mole Valley, Epsom and Ewell and Reigate and Banstead Councils for the car park, paths and memorial area. There are around 50 conditions that need to be met in order to comply with the planning consent, but some are obviously more urgent than others. We’re currently working with partners, contractors and consultants to deliver; an agreed design for the horse crossing on Headley road, badger surveys, archaeological trial trench evaluations, historical landscape assessment, landscape plan for the car park, site management plan to include Nutshambles bank, locations and elevation drawings of smaller items of infrastructure (waymarkers, grove posts, interpretation boards etc), evaluation of electric fast charge parking points, drainage assessments and the Highways S278 agreement to create access to the car park, along with others.
We are currently still on course for delivery of most items of infrastructure for summer 2020, but these do depend on the discharge of the conditions and, in some cases, obtaining funding.
Second planning application
We have now submitted a second planning application, this time just to Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, for the Regiment of Trees sculptures and the Jutland Wood porthole markers, sculpture and benches. There is currently some uncertainty as to whether or not this application will need to go to committee, but we hope to have some clarity on this within a few weeks.
The invitation to tender for the hard surface paths and multi-user paths has now been checked internally and is currently being reviewed to amend some of the more finer details. We are hoping to have this tender ready to be sent to potential suppliers within the next two weeks, with a winning tender agreed toward the end of November.
This year is continuing to prove to be an outstanding year for arable plants, with another four arable plants found for the first time on site in August. The plants are Corncockle, Corn marigold, Corn Chamomile and Field Woundwort. None of these plants have previous records for the site and, although there is some possibility that two of these may have come in with via artificial means, they are fantastic finds for the site. All were found and identified by our volunteers.
These new plants are in addition to a flourishing array of rare arable plants which have been gradually increasing since 2014. These include Red hemp-nettle and Night flowering-catchfly, which have both done particularly well this year. Final reports from all of the 2019 surveys will come out in October.
Open space management
Last month I reported that the majority of the open space on site was beset by thistles, which have started to take over many of these areas. We have now carried out a high cut on all of the worst effected fields, which has cut the thistles without causing serious damage to the rare arable plants below. Discussions are still on-going with the Open Space Advisory Group (OSAG) as to how best to tackle the issue and Plantlife have given some advice too, which essentially includes trialling several different ideas. The next OSAG meeting is in October, when these ideas will be discussed.
Volunteer guided walks
We’ve had some excellent feedback for our volunteer led guided walks, the last of which took place in July. Comments received for what people enjoyed about the walks include;
“Seeing what has already been achieved and learning about future plans.” “Being with knowledgeable like-minded people.” “Excellent guides.” ”Finding out about the history of where we live.”
We’ve now installed visitor counting equipment at four entrances to the site, which should capture most of our current visitors (pre-car park). The counters are discreet and do not include any video or photo capturing equipment – they are purely measuring the motion of visitors (including horse riders and cyclists) who are coming to Langley Vale Wood. The data will be downloaded every month and enable us to build a picture of how the site is being accessed, which will feed into future management.
New horse path
As agreed with the Jockey Club a few months ago, we have now created a short horse path that connects with an existing bridlepath, to allow horses to avoid the tarmac entrance to Langley Bottom Farm when it’s icy. The fencing for the path is now complete and the path is available to be used.
Damage to woodland
Unfortunately some further bad news came in the form of some neighbouring work to erect fencing around part of our boundary. The contractors, who were not working for the Woodland Trust, cut down several trees within our woodland to create space for the new fence and also drove their vehicles across an arable plant margin, compacting the soil and destroying all the vegetation in that area. We are currently taking this issue up with our neighbour.
A little bit of publicity
This month we gave a tour for local journalists to see the site and discuss our recent planning successes. Both ‘Surrey Life’ and ‘What’s on in Epsom’ came along for a look around and both are putting articles together, which will be published shortly.
We’re very sorry to report that there has been some recent damage caused to the fruit and the trees in the Sainsbury’s community orchard. Unfortunately, over 100 apples and all of the pears have been taken from the trees and, in some cases, the process of removing the fruit has torn branches and damaged the trees themselves. The trees are still very young and in a nursery stage, so the fruit is not ready to be picked. In addition, there are many different varieties of fruit which will ripen at different times of the year. We are putting up posters and signs to try to educate our visitors that the fruit must be left alone, but I’m afraid the damage for this year is already done. It may mean that next years’ harvest will be relatively low and our plans to host cider press days may be delayed. I would like to take this opportunity to again thank the volunteers who have spent many hours managing these trees since they were planted in February 2017 – we’re determined that the actions of a few individuals will not detract from the huge success that the orchard has proved to be.
Luckily our volunteers have not lost hope and Tish Johnson shares a little taster of things to come as well as a bit of history on the importance of food preservation during the war, in her article below.
Simon Bateman-Brown, Site Manager at Langley Vale Wood
Apple of the Day 14th Aug 2019, written by Tish Johnson
Arthur Turner  Introduced by Charles Turner of Slough
It was a fine morning after what seems like biblical rain recently! We were out in the Sainsbury’s community orchard at Langley Vale First World War Memorial Wood. It’s one of our bi-monthly work parties. But joy of joy’s we were intending to sample some of our fruit that we’ve worked so hard for. Alas, some of the fruit had mysteriously disappeared! But that’s what happens in an orchard with a footpath through and lots of luscious fruit hanging there! Another biblical story springs to mind now but Adam and Eve are nowhere to be seen! So, moving down the row and we have 2 cookers to taste. These are relatively early apples and our notes say mid August cookers that don’t store. First up Grenadier  An English cultivar of domesticated apple mainly used for cooking. It originated in the mid-19th century in Buckinghamshire. It was first recorded in 1862 in Maidstone, Kent, exhibited by Charles Turner of Slough, Berkshire, and then commercially introduced by Bunyard Nursery. What should have been a reasonable size crop is reduced to one per tree, only enough for two members of the group to take and try. Next up Arthur Turner and we have a mixture of ripe fruit and windfalls. I have a mixed bag and after shooing away a few resident wasps I head home with my goodies to cook and taste.
At home I peel and chop my haul. The apples feel light in the hand compared to a Bramley, the colour lighter with a hint of pale pink.
The flesh was very pale and went brown very quickly despite being in acidulated water. I taste it raw and it has a good sharp taste. Not unpleasant and I can imagine a good sharp juice.
I cooked it in a pan with a splash of water and a couple of teaspoons of sugar and it cooks down quickly to a smooth puree.
The flavour was mild and very pleasing, only a slight hint of acid tang. The texture soft and fluffy and it would suit a lighter baked dessert or an apple sauce for savoury dishes where you wouldn’t need to add sugar.
I’m pleased with the result.
Did you know that during the First World war it was advised that rationing be started, food waste was frowned upon. A government initiative was set up, farmers were excused active service. The loss of agricultural workers lead to the Land Army being set up where women started to work the fields where previously the men had worked. A County War Agricultural Committee was established in November 1915, in response to the urging of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries. In Surrey, Lord Onslow of the Clandon Park estate (now NT) was in charge, large amounts of seed potatoes and preserving sugar was distributed. Pamphlets distributed and people encouraged to harvest and save. For further information on this fascinating subject, head to the Surrey History Centre.
We’ll be back in the orchard in a couple of weeks to check our crop and see what’s ripe as we approach the end of the month. In the meantime, I will wait to see what Grenadier taste notes come back and we plan ahead for future years and apple events as this is a long term project and this is only the start.
Tish Johnson, Lead Volunteer at Langley Vale Wood