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Spending for the future

April 2, 2006 2006 Spring No Comments

From the chairman, Graham Ault

As I mentioned in the last newsletter, we were delighted to discover in September that we had been successful in obtaining a grant of £2,000 from the Woodland Trust. Since then your committee has been working hard to spend the money. That might not seem like a big problem, but in practice it had to be spent within a limited time scale and in ways that met the terms of the grant scheme.

I can now report with some satisfaction that we have spent the money on important aspects of the group’s work. We have purchased some new tools for practical conservation work in the Copse. We have been working with the Sussex Wildlife Trust to develop educational opportunities to encourage youngsters and families to come and appreciate the Copse. We have printed and distributed an important leaflet to 10,000 homes in Chichester and surrounding area which has been very successful in raising awareness of the group, has generated a significant number of new members and has resulted in donations towards our work well in excess of £600.

I would like to take this opportunity of welcoming new members to the group and I hope you will take an active interest in what we are doing. If you have any questions or points you wish to make, please contact me and do come to the AGM on May 4, full details of which are included with this newsletter.

I am delighted with the excellent work done in developing the website (www.brandyholecopse.org.uk). If you haven’t had a look at the site, please do. It is looking quite thorough and professional now and we will continue to expand it. There is a more about the website on the back page of this newsletter. Our thanks go to Tom Broughton in particular for this development.

We have also established a voluntary warden scheme. Again, details are posted on the website. The idea of this scheme is for as many people as possible to act as voluntary wardens when they visit the Copse. If you volunteer, we will give you a badge, and we ask you to report back to us any observations or issues, etc. If we can build up enough volunteers, even if some visit the Copse only occasionally, it will show that we are keeping a regular eye on things and the Copse is in good hands. If you would like to be an occasional voluntary warden, please let me know.

Our committee has grown by the inclusion of Judi Darley, who is very experienced in educational work and is acting as our Education Officer, and Tom Snow, who is working on ideas to raise public awareness and promote membership. We have increased our conservation volunteer group. We have strengthened our already substantial links with Chichester Natural History Society as I am now a member of their committee and this will ensure that the two groups work positively together in the future.

I really feel that with spring in the air and with so many new and exciting developments in the group we are really beginning to build a sound foundation for the future. However, we still rely on a smallish number of hard-working supporters, so if you would like to help in any way at all with our work, please get in touch. Just as important is that you go and visit the Copse and enjoy the spring in this lovely nature reserve.

Vandals have been active again, but not all the news is bad

April 2, 2006 2006 Spring No Comments

It is a sad reflection on the behaviour of a few young people that it gives them pleasure to destroy things that the older generation enjoy and take pleasure in creating. So many people put such a lot of effort into maintaining Brandy Hole Copse Local Nature Reserve, only to find their dedicated efforts are vandalised.

Over the years we have had a line of ten rowan trees deliberately destroyed shortly after they had been donated as a memorial. Thirty three-year-old horse chestnut trees planted along the Centurion Way were destroyed. Access stiles have been sawn up (one stile on three occasions). A line of box hedging has been stolen, a bench seat sawn in half, notice boards have been damaged on numerous occasions and the main information panel slashed, and warning notices have been pulled down and thrown in the pond.

The latest incident saw many of our recently installed bird boxes pulled down from the trees and then burned. So we are grateful to clients with learning difficulties at the Wrenford Centre in Terminus Road who are making bird and bat boxes for us as a project.

But the news is not all bad. We overcome these problems, and the reward is the enjoyment of visitors. We have been fortunate in having many sixth form volunteers from Bishop Luffa School to help us and we benefit from many other groups who come to do dedicated tasks. It was a pleasure to see the enjoyment and interest of the children at the pond dipping event.

Due to our chairman’s initiative, the 10,000 leaflets distributed around the Chichester area resulted in a substantial increase in our membership, many generous donations, offers of support on administration and help with our Wednesday work group.

WSCC may yet agree after all to go ahead with creating a footpath in Brandy Hole Lane where currently there is no protection for pedestrian visitors to the Copse from Lavant Road (this was the subject of an article in the Chichester Observer recently). Unfortunately the county council is still reluctant to introduce a 30mph speed limit in the parking area in the interest of visitor safety, giving the reason that there are no houses in that part of Brandy Hole Lane. So please take care.

Jim Ayling

Which bluebell is ‘right’ for the Copse?

What is your favourite time of year to walk through Brandy Hole Copse? For me, it would be May – when the bluebells are flowering. A walk through a bluebell wood on a warm, sunny spring day can be an almost magical experience. It certainly raises spirits to see the blue carpet and breathe the sweet rich scent of a bluebell wood.

As might be expected of such evocative flowers, bluebells have a rich folklore with many associations with fairies. Don’t listen too hard, though, for folklore suggests that hearing a bluebell ring presages illness or worse!

The native bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta was voted Britain’s favourite flower in a survey carried out by Plantlife in 2002. They are found in many damp habitats, but grow best in shady broad-leaved woodland. In 2003, as part of Plantlife’s national bluebell survey, the Chichester Natural History Society counted the bluebells in Brandy Hole Copse. There were about 250,000 flowering stems found through the Copse, largely under the sweet chestnut coppice.

Half the world’s population of non-scripta grows in the UK, placing an obligation on Britain to protect it. Yet even in an LNR such as Brandy Hole Copse it is under threat. It is illegal to collect bluebells from the wild for commercial purposes.

There is, however, a more insidious and real threat to Brandy Hole’s bluebells – competition from and hybridisation with the non-native Spanish bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica. This was introduced to Britain by the horticultural trade and now grows in many gardens. It is more vigorous than the native species and will out compete it. It also breeds freely with the native species producing a vigorous hybrid that is now common in gardens and in the wild.

How can you tell a native bluebell from a Spanish bluebell? This is easy using the criteria after the following photographs:

Native bluebell Spanish bluebell
Leaf width 7 – 15mm 20 – 35mm
Flower colour Deep violet-blue Pale blue (sometimes white or pink)
Flower shape Narrow straight-sided bells Open, cone-shaped bell
Petal tips Curve back onto the petal tube Flare outwards slightly
Pollen colour Pale cream Deep blue
Shape of flower stem Droops to one side Stiff and upright
Arrangement of flowers On one side of stem only All round the stem
Are the flowers scented? Yes strong sweet scent No scent

The CNHS survey in 2003 established that almost all the bluebells in the Copse were native ones. However, there were Spanish bluebells at the entrances to the Copse and close to Brandy Hole Lane. Since these pose a threat to the native bluebells in the Copse they will be removed.

Mike Perry

Dutch Elm disease

April 2, 2006 2006 Spring No Comments

Dutch elm DiseaseRemember the ravages of Dutch elm disease? This piece of elm bark recently picked up in the Copse shows the tunnelling tracks of the beetles which transfer the fatal fungus from tree to tree.

Join the BHCCG committee

April 2, 2006 2006 Spring No Comments

There is about to be a vacancy for the post of honorary secretary of the conservation group, as Jim Ayling, who was our first chairman and has been secretary for the past seven years, is resigning. This is an important role and would suit someone who is ready to undertake administrative activities, including letter writing, agenda and minute writing and other related tasks. No previous experience is necessary, although basic skill in using email would be helpful. All you need is an interest in helping the group.

We would also like to hear from anyone who might wish to join the committee as an ordinary member, to contribute to our discussions on maintaining and conserving the Copse. Committee meetings are currently held every two months. Anyone who is interested should contact Jim Ayling or myself.

Dates for your diaries

April 2, 2006 2006 Spring No Comments

April 27 – guided walk for Summersdale Residents’ Association, 7pm.

May 4 – Annual General Meeting, at St Michael’s Church Hall, 7.30pm.

July 12 – Lecture about the Copse, at St Wilfrid’s Church Hall, Sherborne Road (part of the Chichester Festivities), 7.30 pm.

July 15 – Guided walks in the Copse (part of Chichester Festivities), 2pm and 4pm.

Other forthcoming events (dates to be announced shortly) include a Butterfly Walk, with Butterfly Conservation and Chichester Natural History Society, and a Bat Walk, with the Natural History Society/ Bat Society.

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