Smithills Update 28th Feb 2020
Welcome to John Shannon, Darran Hamilton and Diane Berg Oliveira! Hope you enjoy your time volunteering with us.
Smithills Volunteer Awards
At the SSG meeting we had our very first volunteer awards. We had asked you all to come up with nominations for the awards, and we had loads of lovely responses. Roberta designed a Smithills mug with photos of the Estate (some of which were taken by the volunteer group) as our ‘award’ – we like these a lot and will be getting some more if anyone is interested.
Highlights were ‘Best Interior Design’ for the Wardens, in recognition of their fabulous makeover of the Wardens’ Room at the Hall (has to be seen to be believed); the Mary Berry Award for Pam for her task day baking; and Muddiest Volunteer for Doug (see below for evidence).
We celebrated 2019’s total hours – 5500 for the group!
Smithills in the news
You might have seen Tracey on North West Tonight talking about the work we have been doing on the leaky dams – part of the natural flood management project we have been working on with Liverpool University, the Environment Agency and Mersey Forest. Many of you will have seen the dams and the new stream at Newfields, all of which is part of a programme of work aiming to slow the flow of water from the moorland. Through this we hope to decrease the chance of flooding in the lower areas of the Estate, and re-wet the moorland at the top of the Estate. Here is an article from the Bolton News on this:
Our CEO, Darren Moorcroft, was on the Today programme talking about Smithills too: Listen again here:
Woodland Trust in the news
Our Emergency Tree Plan has also been in the news – after talking to the BBC about Smithills, Darren then went to the Houses of Parliament to talk about the Emergency Tree Plan and give recommendations to national and local government on how to use tree planting to reach net zero carbon emissions, and tackle decline in wildlife. The Emergency Tree Plan can be found here… https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/publications/2020/01/emergency-tree-plan/
Following on from the progress with our natural flood management work, the Wardens had a training session on how to take readings of water levels at various locations on the Estate. This information will help us to monitor the effects of the flood management works. They have also been doing some work in Walker Fold Woods, removing some of the naturally regenerating conifers there. These have been reused to help make the soggy paths more navigable!
Picture via Environment Agency – the Wardens learning how to take measurements from EA water logging equipment; path in Walker Fold Woods
The Wildlife Group’s training sessions will begin at the end of March. The programme this year includes sessions on how to survey specific habitats (including, again, the leaky dams!), with the aim of collating information on the species present. All of this feeds back into our management plan for the Estate. Sightings from the group on the Estate include short eared owls, ravens, kestrels, flowering primrose, and reports of frogspawn! You might think this is quite early, and you would be right – part of what the wildlife group are doing is to take part in Nature’s Calendar, the Woodland Trust citizen science programme charting the dates that species appear or disappear during the year. Bev is leading on this, and keeping the group informed of species to look out for on their regular walking routes (it has to be a regular route so that you can be sure that it is the first appearance!). More to come on the findings of this! Info on Nature’s Calendar can be found here: https://naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk/
Plans are continuing for the photo exhibition in the summer, with a potential venue now sorted. The weather has provided some inspiration for wintry images, which have been popular on Instagram!
Photo credits: Far left and far right – Tony Greenwood; Middle two – Bev Tabor
Guided Walks Group
All of the group will be running the walks they designed last year as part of the Greater Manchester Walking Festival this year, which takes place in May – details below
History Walk, 3 May: https://woodlandtrusttickets.cloudvenue.co.uk/smithillshistorywalk
Introduction to Smithills Estate, 10 May https://woodlandtrusttickets.cloudvenue.co.uk/itroductiontosmithillsestate
Family Friendly Walk, 17 May https://woodlandtrusttickets.cloudvenue.co.uk/familyfriendlytourofsmithillsestate
Wildlife Walk, 24 May https://woodlandtrusttickets.cloudvenue.co.uk/smithillswildlifewalk1
Border walk: If anyone would like to help Alex plan the proposed border walk (will be a full day’s walk around the border of the Estate, approx 11 miles, which will be open to all our volunteers) let me know!
Woodland Working Group
The last task day went well – the group cleared up a fire-damaged compartment, removing tree tubes and broken stakes. The start of the day did not look promising weather wise, but some sunshine did appear.
The next task day will be on 29th March.
Dunham Massey Volunteer Gathering – Claire Green is running a Northern meet up at Dunham Massey on Monday 16th March, which includes an ancient tree recording session… book here https://woodlandtrusttickets.cloudvenue.co.uk/lancsgmanchestervolunteergathering2020
Other opportunities to get involved throughout March
Our friends at Smithills Hall are holding a dinosaur themed willow weaving workshop, as part of the range of activities around the arrival of Dippy the Dinosaur in Rochdale. We will be supporting the Dippy programme in a number of ways over the summer. The Museums service have asked if anyone would be interested in helping out at the willow weaving workshops… if so please let me know. These are on 7th and 14th March, morning and afternoon, at the Hall. To do this you’ll need to be an Events Volunteer, if you’re not already then still let me know and we can look into it!
Local businesses on the Estate
Karen has been working with numerous businesses, some of whom you may see on the Estate running walks or other events. Last weekend saw a 5k and 10k from Time2Run – another successful running event on the Estate. Nature Talks and Walks (Russ Hedley’s company) are running a walk in March, details here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/spring-wildlife-wonder-tickets-96634324867?aff=ebdssbdestsearch; and Nigel Newton Photography are running a workshop in April in Walker Fold, detail here https://www.nigelnewtonphotography.co.uk/book-online?fbclid=IwAR2ofUM8Ui-7-mzjZ33oVYlCsp0cVu6yKm9lBeTNCqyiNzhAsESb11Q1IJk
There are no upcoming works to be aware of over the next few weeks but please do be aware that site conditions are pretty wet after the recent weeks of bad weather!
We have met with the local police following the numerous reports of offroaders on the Estate – the police do already patrol but will look to increase the frequency of this, and will be coming into the office to catch up with the team here more regularly too. The thing they asked us for in order to help them respond quickly, and to build a picture of frequency, was data on where and when these offences are taking place. If anyone sees off road vehicles on the Estate, let me know the location, date and time. If it is safe to do so, try to get the number plate. For bikes without plates, again if safe to do so, a photo will help the police. Please do not confront anyone or put yourself at risk. I can pass directly on to our local officer as soon as I receive your report.
Fly tipping is also on the increase on the Estate, and again we would appreciate your help here! We have a contractor who collects fly tips for us, but they collect it based on info we provide – they don’t patrol the Estate every day. So, if there’s something you spot on your travels let us know where it is and we will add it to their route for collection.
Farewell to Charlotte!
Charlotte heads off on maternity leave today – I know you will all wish her well and she promises to pop in regularly!
Vicky Entwistle- Engaging Communities Officer, Smithills