Langley Vale Wood – September update
Each month there are stories and new developments to report at Langley Vale Wood, the largest of our four First World War Centenary Woods in Surrey, and September was no exception. Planning consent was obtained for the visitor car park, walking trails and memorial sculpture and staff are busy working through the conditions to enable work to commence next year. In the meantime, volunteers at the site continue to give help with site management, their time and knowledge to monitor arable plants, birds and butterflies, and engage with local residents through the series of guided walks which are being held this year.
Simon Bateman-Brown, who is the Site Manager at Langley Vale Wood, talks us through much of last months activity in his September update below.
We’re working through a large number of conditions associated with the planning conditions for the car park, paths and memorial sculpture. We intend to submit a large number of these to the councils in early November, with more to follow later that month. The current conditions we’re focusing on need to be discharged (agreed by the councils) prior to work beginning.
The planning application for the sculptures in the Regiment of Trees area and in Jutland Wood is still being considered by Epsom and Ewell Borough Council, but we hope to have a decision later this month. The intention, all being well, is to have the Regiment of Trees sculptures installed for November and the Jutland Wood sculptures in the spring.
The invitation to tender for the pedestrian hard surface paths and the multi-user paths has now been sent out to six potential suppliers. Site meetings will be held this month with interested suppliers to show them the site and answer any questions they may have and we hope to have the returned tenders back with us by the end of November.
It’s been a brilliant year for butterflies and huge thanks go to our amazing volunteers who carry out weekly monitoring at the site during the spring and summer. This year we had a total number of 4,220 sightings (2,982 in 2018), 29 species (28 in 2018), which averaged as 183 sightings per survey (157 in 2018). When we think of how little appropriate habitat there was just a few years ago, this is really quite astonishing and goes to show how quickly a former intensively managed farm can be turned into an incredibly valuable nature reserve.
The arable plant survey report, carried out by a qualified ecologist over the spring and summer, has just been received. Although I haven’t had a chance to fully digest the report as of yet, the essence of the report shows that arable plants at the site have significantly increased yet again, not only in number, but also in spread and diversity of species. This is a huge boost to all associated with the project and shows that our management is on the right track. There are still areas for improvement and potential for trial areas to tackle the thistles that are becoming an issue, but overall the arable areas have proven to be a great success again. Our volunteer group have also been tirelessly monitoring for arable plants over the last few months and their results, along with the ecologist, are proving invaluable to feed into the management of the site.
Volunteer guided walks
There were two guided walks held in September, both of which were very well attended and received excellent feedback. Some of comments received about what the attendees enjoyed most included;
“Volunteers knowledge and explanations.”
“Seeing the trees we helped plant growing strongly.”
“Everything! Excellent guides, really interesting walk in a lovely wood/area.”
Earlier in the year we created two chalk scrapes and sowed these with kidney vetch seed; the larval food plant for the rare ‘small blue butterfly’. The kidney vetch has done very well, but we agreed that an additional scrape, close to the first, would be of great benefit. This has now been done and we’ve also fenced off all three scrapes to protect the kidney vetch from sheep grazing. Hopefully we’ll start to find small blue butterfly in our survey data from next year.
It’s been a busy month for people interested in sponsoring a grove at the site. Even though all of the groves have been planted, people are still finding the idea of sponsoring a grove at England’s First World War Centenary site a very appealing idea. Several discussions are also still going on, so hopefully we’ll be able to secure further sponsorship before the end of the year. If you know of anyone who may be interested in sponsoring a grove then please contact Jim Rice firstname.lastname@example.org
Sainsbury’s Community Orchard
Following the vandalism in the orchard last month, where all of the fruit was taken and several trees were damaged, we have now put up signs throughout the orchard which will hopefully deter any further damage being caused. Whilst it’s too late to save this season’s fruit, it may be enough to get the message across to those responsible. We are also discussing further measures that we can take to help protect the orchard.
Langley Vale Wood takeover
During the week beginning 16th September, we launched an internal takeover to raise the profile of the site. This included a slide show in reception at head office, a desktop takeover of all Citrix computers with a photo of the site, several articles posted on Jostle and a staff talk given by myself and Carol Honeybun-Kelly. Thank you to everyone involved for your help and hard work – it’s important that this special site is not forgotten
Assistant Site Manager
This position has now been advertised, with a closing date of 20th October. Interviews will be held on the 5th November, so hopefully we’ll have someone in post by December.
Also in September, we held our first meeting with volunteer leaders and myself to discuss the project and any issues that have come up. The meeting was very productive and included issues around chemical use on the site, access to the site, habitat management and forthcoming corporate events. These meetings will become a regular feature.