Smithills Volunteer Newsletter July 2nd 2020
Following the reopening of the car parks at Walker Fold and Barrow Bridge, and with the spell of warm weather, the site has been busy with walkers. For the most part all of our visitors have been respectful and adhering to government guidance, and feedback is that people are really pleased to be able to visit such a beautiful site at a time when life is stressful for many.
There has, unfortunately, been an increase in anti-social behaviour (more fly-tipping than normal and regular visits from off-roaders). We have been clearing the fly-tipping and working with the local police on tackling off-roaders. Pleased to say we have had some success with this, though some vehicles are still being spotted. All vehicles reported to us are then reported to the police—data on time, location, and the vehicles involved is really crucial to them. So, if you see any off-road vehicles please note down where and when. If it’s safe to do so and you are able, get a photo—doesn’t matter if you can’t see the details of the numberplate.
The good weather also meant we were at a higher fire risk than normal for much of the month, and have been patrolling to check that no one was using a disposable barbecue or having a campfire in the woods (both things have unfortunately been reported).
In terms of wildlife surveys, we have had the breeding bird and moorland bird surveys carried out for this year, which is fantastic. More on wildlife monitoring later.
Jonny has been busy getting some of the steps, gates and dry stone walls repaired on the Estate, assisted by the Wardens; next up is knotweed control which is due to start next month. The flood management programme is continuing with more work due soon.
Roberta is back from furlough today (hooray!), and our new Site Manager Kelvin joins us later this month. As has been the case throughout lockdown, you’re unlikely to find us at the Hall (which remains closed) – we have been meeting on the Estate each week and working from home / out on the Estate the rest of the time. It’s been… interesting having outdoor meetings in some of the torrential downpours!
Our Wardens returned a few weeks ago, and have been out on site several times a week since then. Jonny has taken over management of the Wardens, and they have been tackling the long list of repairs and maintenance to footpaths, gates etc. required after our unexpected absence, getting extra signage out where required, and helping us to ensure the car park is stewarded at busy times. We are overjoyed to see the Wardens again—it’s not been the same without them! Thank you to Pete (below), Alex, Lawrence, Mike and Clive for their recent help on the Estate.
Seven of our volunteers have signed up to be Relief Wardens—an additional help during a time of increased littering and anti-social behaviour. These will be extra ‘eyes on the Estate’, walking specified routes and reporting back to Jonny anything we need to be aware of (good and bad!). Thank you to Anne, Bev, Tony, Louise, Dave T, Dave F and Alan B. If anyone else wants to do this just drop us a line!
Over the last few weeks the Wildlife Group have been analysing wildlife data from the Estate going back over the last ten years, looking for trends, patterns, and notable species. So far they have looked at Barrow Bridge, Twitchells, Walker Fold woods & meadow, Slack Hall, Sugar Loaf Plantation, and Dean Brook. Their findings have been both fascinating and useful—from birds of prey to fungi, they have shown how varied our habitats are, and left us with some useful questions for further research. Some facts and figures:
- Six species of birds of prey were noted at Twitchells—watch out voles…
- The beetle Agapanthia villosoviridescens was noted at Twitchells. Smithills is at themost northerly point in England for distribution of this beetle.
- Positive numbers of curlews on the Estate—a species which has been in decline in the UK
- 214 siskins were recorded in one day in 2011 at Dean Brook!
- 57 species of birds have been recorded at Twitchells, and 30 species of birds have been recorded in the Slack Hall area.
Thank you to Peter H, Bev, Sue, Tony, Denis, Sandra, Dave H for data received so far; and to Jim, Richard and Rob who are working on other locations. The final report is growing as each new section is received, illustrated with photos from the group… a selection of photos of species noted in the report are below. Cheers to Tony, Richard, Jim, David B, and Phil C for these photos.
Top row: Skylark (photo by Tony Greenwood); Chimney sweeper moth (Jim Ormerod); Common darter (Richard Cooke). Second row: Goldfinch (Richard Cooke); Green hairstreak (Jim Ormerod); Tawny owl (Richard Cooke). Third row: Curlew (Tony Greenwood); Candlesnuff fungus (Tony Greenwood); Raven (Richard Cooke). Bottom row: Common frog (Tony Greenwood); Marsh thistle (Phil Chadbond); Kestrel (David Butterfield).
The Oral History project has resumed, in a virtual format. Tony, Lois and Anne ‘met’ with our new Facilitator, Helena Sanderson, this week and made plans for beginning their interviews. The rest of the group will hopefully meet with Helena next week. It will be great to finally get going on this part of the project which has had several spanners thrown in the works thus far!
We have put a call out to the public via our Facebook page for people’s memories and stories about Smithills, and will be adding these to an archive. Your own stories and memories are very welcome—including any photos of the Estate you would like to share.
Guided Walk Leader Group
The first leaflet has been completed and printed (this is the History Walk route written by Tony). If anyone would like a PDF of it please let me know—the file size is 14MB so I will need to share it via ShareFile. Here’s some screenshots which give an idea of how the finished map & route look, and each stop in the leaflet has a photo taken by Tony. Thank you to Tony for all his work on this. Next up is the ‘Introduction to Smithills Estate’ route from Alex and Pete. Paper leaflets will be available at Walker Fold car park (we are due to have staff from the Membership team there over the summer) at, when the Hall reopens, there too. And, of course, when volunteer led guided walks can resume, attendees will receive a copy.
As always, the group have been snapping away at home and on walks. Roberta will be resuming management of the group, and although the planned exhibition in the town centre may be on hold, Roberta will be looking at other ways to share the brilliant images the group have captured. Certainly, their photos have been hugely popular on social media (along with photos from the Wildlife Group). Below you can see a few images taken by the group on the theme of WATER.
Clockwise from top left, photos by Tony Greenwood, Karen Oldfield, Alan Booth and Liz Spencer.
All public events are cancelled for July. We will continue to monitor government guidance and if we are able to run any public events for August we will of course let you know. In the meantime, we are planning to replace some of our planned guided walks with online events—one on bird species at Smithills, and one on Summer Trees—plus an online version of the Summer Adventure.
Blue Sky Learning have resumed their Forest School on the Estate, with limited class sizes.
The Cakery is due to return to Walker Fold imminently.
Forest Horizons have been made some videos on foraging—see their Facebook page @ForestHorizons
Nature Talks and Walks (Russ Hedley) is running a series of digital nature walks—see https://www.naturetalksandwalks.co.uk/
We hope you are all doing OK during this unusual time—and we are looking forward to seeing you, virtually or on the Estate, as and when that is possible.
Vicky Entwistle, Engaging Communities Manager, Smithills