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The year in the copse, following the 2006 AGM on May 4

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

May: Donated hedging planted along bridge abutment (wire fence removed). Volunteer from Workability joined Wednesday work group. Both BHCCG site notice boards remade waterproof . Site walk for Havant Wildlife Trust. Leaflet box post which had been thrown into Brandy Hole Pond replaced with a more substantial metal post.

June: Tagging of all mature trees in the Copse in progress. Location map of all mature trees prepared for survey work . Site walk with Emma Livett, CDC Environment Officer. Request for leasing triangular field to BHCCG via CDC . “You are here” label added to information boards, which unfortunately were deteriorating. Beetle trapping event by Chichester Natural History Society.

July: Site visit by Chichester in Bloom judges. BHCCG talk at St. Wilfrid’s Hall for Chichester Festivities. Guided walk with Society for Chichester Festivities. Vandalised stile E12 repaired. Small seat installed in glade area. Pond dipping platform installed at Cops Pond. Ten ducklings disappeared from Brandy Hole Pond after two days.

August: Butterfly Conservation Society visit to LNR. Moth and bat evening event, Chichester Natural History Societ . CDC replaced damaged Centurion Way dog waste bin. Damaged Brandy Hole Pond platform repaired. Water level in ponds lowest ever. Damaged glade seat remade more substantially. Rotary Club talk.

September: Entrance E7closed off (to be replaced by a hedge). Entrance E8 repaired. Strimming along Brandy Hole Pond bank by CDC. Volunteers joined from Breakdown Support Employment Services and Workability Agency

November: Vandalised traffic sign at access E3 replaced. Pedestrian entrance E10 rebuilt as a stile. Damaged litter bin replaced by CDC at Brandy Hole Pond. Repairs to E1 access stile. Invasive weed and debris removed from ponds.

December: Installation of seven bird boxes produced by the Wrenford Centre. Damaged info panel at Willow Pond replaced by spare panel. Buckthorn alder whips planted with Chichester Natural History Society. Need for roadside hedging replacements assessed with Crumblies. CDC urged to replace stolen Brandy Hole Lane road sign.

January 2007: Work on providing additional footpath on eastern part on Brandy Hole Lane cancelled indefinitely by WSCC. E7 access permanently closed with banked soil and hedging planted.

February: Ducks’ nesting area at Brandy Hole Pond protected. Dangerous hides removed. Brandy Hole hedging replaced as required by Crumblies. Stakes cut for Chichester Tree Wardens project. Patches of invasive brambles strimmed. Woodcrete nesting boxes secured to numbered trees.

View to Willow Pond

This view southwards through the Copse to Willow Pond was created by the Crumblies when they opened up one of several glades – which are providing valuable new habitat for insects and plants.

From the chairman

October 2, 2006 2006 Autumn No Comments

I am writing these thoughts as the summer is coming to a close and autumn is slowly emerging. It has been such a hot summer, although August was less so, but the impact of the heat and lack of rainfall in June and July are very obvious all around us and no less so in the Copse. I suppose this is a mini-vision of what the future may well hold for us, and shows us some of the many challenges for a small group like ours, not to mention the world! I gather from the experts that nineteen of the twenty hottest summers have occurred since 1980!

The obvious signs of the summer heat in the Copse are the water levels in the ponds, which reflect the ground water levels in the area. Brandy Hole Pond has been as low as I have seen it and bordering on dry. Even the rainfall in August has made little or no impact on it. I hope when you read this, things will have improved, but such low water levels have many impacts on the environmental balance in and around the ponds. Willow pond seems to have survived surprisingly well, although the levels are very low. Cops pond has all but disappeared. It may be some time before we know the impact of all this on the nature reserve.

A hot summer has certainly brought us some happy events this year. For the fourth year in a row there have been sightings of White Admiral butterflies in the Copse, especially around Willow and Cops Ponds. The difference this year is that the butterflies were much easier to find and they stayed around for several weeks. I saw two of them regularly in that area on a daily basis and I think there is a good chance they may have bred in the area, possibly for the first time. It was also a good summer for other butterflies, including the beautiful Silver-Washed Fritillaries, and we had good sightings of Purple Hairstreak, a very elusive butterfly. It was also a good year for Commas, Painted Ladies and many of the regular inhabitants.

Another high point was the discovery and positive identification of Common Spotted Orchids in the triangular field south of the woodland area. I managed to see these a few days before the whole field was cut, which was fortunate timing. These types of discoveries are helpful to us all in establishing the importance of the Nature Reserve and promoting our ambition to expand it by acquisition of the triangular field. I hope Members of the Group will report all interesting sightings of any sort to any committee member so these can be recorded.

We have had some great successes this year in raising awareness of the Copse in the local community and developing our educational role. The great morning’s pond dipping back in April was a huge success and it was a delight to see so many smiling young faces totally absorbed in whatever was lurking in the mud. It was also great to be able to survey our pond life at the same time and know that we have a very healthy population of frogs, toads, newts and other creatures in what are, after all, man-made ponds.

Many of you will be aware of our activities this year as part of the Chichester Festivities in July. The talk on the Wednesday evening was a great success and we were delighted to welcome some 50 visitor, many of whom were not familiar with the Copse. Similar numbers came to the guided walks on the Saturday when we had wonderful weather and lots of good natural history sightings. My thanks to Mike Perry of the Chichester Natural History Society for his personal contribution to these events. I am sure we will do something similar next year.

The same thanks apply to the Bat Walk we held in August, when a surprising number of people turned up with torches to be not only educated but thoroughly entertained by Peter Etheridge. Again the weather was good and we saw or heard plenty of bats. It was particularly pleasing to see so many children present.

The Committee has been considering the best way to spend the money that was donated at the end of last year in response to our leaflet campaign. You may have seen the new pond-dipping platform on Cops Pond which is one such development. We have also purchased more educational equipment including a microscope. We plan to buy some hard-wearing, bird-friendly ‘woodcrete’ nesting boxes to put up in time for next spring. These are quite expensive but more resistant to attack from larger birds, squirrels and humans.

Unfortunately, another down side of the hot summer was the increase in vandalism and inappropriate behaviour in the Copse. We had the usual cycling problems, although these have not been too bad based on my own experience. Of more concern was a spate of vandalism at the Brandy Hole Pond and in the Lane. The pond-dipping platform was ripped out (again) and the leaflet box removed, broken and thrown into the pond. I know there were several other incidents in the Lane, including fires and criminal damage.

In the Copse itself the weather has resulted in some overnight camping, drinking groups and the lighting of fires. I personally confronted one group of youngsters who had lit a fire and had no idea of the potential fire risk they were creating at a time of such dry conditions. I persuaded them to put the fire out, which they did. I returned later to find that it had been relit.

I have spoken to the District Council about the ever increasing fire risk and incidences of fires being lit, and they have helpfully consulted with the Police and the Fire and Rescue Service. Our response to fires in the Copse should now be to call 999. We will continue to work with the Police and the District Council to try to address these concerns, and I suspect we will have to increase the notices in the Copse to tell people what is and is not appropriate behaviour in a nature reserve.

I don’t want to finish on a negative note. There are so many good things about the Copse as a nature reserve and the value it has for our local community that we must continue to work to keep it safe and to educate everyone on its significance to Chichester. Your hard-working Committee will carry on with that work as well as continuing to maintain the reserve on a regular basis. Your support in that work is so important, and so I will close by hoping that you will all renew your membership (please use the standing order form as it is easier for all of us) and continue to enjoy Chichester City’s only designated nature reserve.

Graham Ault,

Chairman’s Report to AGM, 2005/2006

Introduction

When I took up the role of Chairman in April last year, I believed I was facing a substantial challenge. I was right!!! Although the Conservation group was in many ways well-established and had been active and successful for some 18 years, there was a concern about the limited number of active members and the fact that some of those members who had contributed so much to establish the Copse as we know it today were reaching a stage of their lives where they were no longer able to make the same level of contribution. There had been discussions at two successive AGM’s about the possibility of winding down the group altogether due to a lack of volunteers..

My personal challenge as a new Chairman with, I must admit, very little experience within the Group, was to try to raise public awareness about the activities of the group, increase membership, especially active membership, and raise awareness in the local community of the value of Brandy Hole Copse, its environment and its wildlife. I hoped we could give the group a momentum that it was lacking to ensure it had a real future. That challenge would take some considerable time.

I wanted to strengthen the group through the involvement, not just of people wanting to do practical conservation work, which is so important in itself, but also people who could do administration, public relations, membership and related activities.

A year later I feel that the Group is substantially stronger, has a higher public profile, a stronger committee, an increase in membership and a positive future. This report summarises what has been a very successful year for us all.

Publicity

We have built some important links with the Chichester Observer. The aim is to have regular publicity of our activities so the local community are aware of what we are doing on their behalf. In May we had an item published about our urgent need for more volunteers and support. This produced a limited response but was still helpful publicity. In September we had a further item published about our success in obtaining a Woodland Trust grant (see below), and in April we had further publicity about the success of our first educational event (pond dipping).

We are doing further work on widening our scope for publicity through specific community groups, through giving illustrated talks about the Copse and the Group, guided walks in the Copse, and through involvement in future events including the Chichester Festivities in July, and Chichester in Bloom.

Woodland Trust Grant

This was perhaps the highlight of our year in that we succeeded in getting a grant of £2000 from the Woodland Trust. This followed a lengthy application process. We received the grant in September and then had the happy problem of having to spend the money by the end of December 2005. The Committee was fully challenged by this but rose to the occasion. The bulk of the money was spent on educational links, buying in consultancy support from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, raising public awareness and purchasing some new tools and equipment. (See accounts for further details).

A publicity leaflet was designed, printed and distributed with the local free paper in the Chichester and surrounding area. Many of you will have seen this leaflet and responded to it. The theme of the leaflet was to make people aware that the group was struggling for survival and was doing something very important in maintaining a wonderful local amenity for the people of Chichester. The response to the leaflet was excellent, producing a substantial boost in our membership and generating donations in excess of £600, which we will be using on a key project for the Copse in due course. The leaflet also brought us tremendous publicity value.

Educational Developments were the other key focus for the grant money. We have purchased help from the Sussex Wildlife Trust and we will use this material along with the valuable contributions of our own committee members and others (my thanks to Kate Sabin and Judi Darley) to develop discovery trails, tree trails, and a range of events focused on families and children. The first of these was a highly successful pond-dipping event on 1st April. We may eventually develop an education pack to use with local schools, but this will be a further significant challenge. Involving children in appreciating the Copse is a major focus for the Group. It is our future.

The web-site

Another huge step forward for the Group has been the establishment of www.brandyholecopse.org.uk. If you have not looked at it yet, please do. A web-site is fundamental to maintaining public contact and increasing awareness locally and nationally of what we are doing. Following discussion with the District Council, who could only offer us assistance on the longer-term, we decided to move ahead with setting up our own site. My thanks to Tom Broughton for designing, creating and developing the site. We will continue to develop this site, but I am delighted with the progress made on this so far.

LNR Management Board

Many Members may be unaware of the importance (or even existence!) of the Management Board for the Copse. The Board has overall responsibility for the Copse, its management and conservation as a local amenity. It includes representatives of the District Council, City Council, County Council, Natural History Society and other interested groups. It is an important and influential group because it includes both District and City Councillors. The Conservation group continues to have two seats on the Board, occupied by Jim Ayling and myself. Although the Board can sometimes be a frustrating experience, it is a valuable part of the management of the Copse and our views are certainly taken seriously by the Board. One of its major developments this year has been the production of a new project plan defining the activities that should be taking place in the Copse in 2006 to deliver the overall Management Plan (2002-2007). The Board will need to work on a new management plan from 2007.

Other important links

We have continued to develop our links with other interested bodies locally, many of which make a major contribution to our work. The Chichester Natural History Society continues to carry out significant survey work in the Copse and produce a detailed report of the species identified (no, it’s not all in Latin!). I have also recently joined the committee of CNHS, which will further strengthen the valuable links between the two organisations. I am grateful to Chairman Mike Perry and his committee for their continued support.

We have also maintained and developed links with local residents’ associations and we are beginning to build links with local youth organisations including guides and scouts.

Copse Maintenance

In a year of so many other developments, it would be easy to overlook the continuing basic role of the Group, which is to maintain and conserve the Copse. This work has continued regularly throughout the year, especially the ‘Wednesday afternoon’ group, led so ably by Jim Ayling, which has increased its numbers as a result of the awareness raising activities described above. They have continued with coppicing work, maintenance of paths, steps, gates, ponds etc. and removal of litter. This is all highly important and essential work that carries on and maintains the Copse in an excellent state. Jim is also our ‘storekeeper’ and guardian of all the tools and equipment in his garden shed, as well as our local pond and tree warden.. My thanks to Jim and to all who contribute to this, including the help we receive from ’The Crumblies’ on a regular basis.

Warden Scheme

It is important that we all keep an eye on the Copse, which remains vulnerable to vandalism and inappropriate use. We have started to establish a system of Voluntary Wardens who are accredited by the Group and who visit the Copse from time to time and keep their eyes open, reporting back to the committee where there are any problems. This also makes members of the public aware that someone is looking after the area. We have a few such wardens at present, and we are keen to hear from other members of the Group who might like to take up this occasional role which can be combined with their normal visits to the Copse. Details are on the website or available from me.

The future

I believe that the future of the Group is more positive now than it has been for some time. However, there is still much to do and we need the support and help of everyone to continue with our successes of this year. We face a minor crisis in needing a new Secretary of the Committee and new committee members to help us move forward. Please let me know if you are interested. We are fortunate in having some excellent supporters and committee members at present but we cannot expect people to give vast amounts of their own time to BHCCG. The more active supporters we have, the more we can spread the activities around.

We also face a major challenge in relation to possible housing development on White House Farm on the South side of the Copse. This would have a devastating impact on the wildlife of the Copse, which is substantially dependent on the interaction between the woods and the meadows. If this proposal becomes a reality we will need to be strong and active as a group in opposing it.

Thanks

This is always the most dangerous part of any report. Many people have made contributions to the Group this year, and I will apologise now in case I have forgotten anyone. I have mentioned a number of key individuals in the report already. In addition I would like to that Melvyn Holford for his sterling work as our Treasurer. Also:

  • John Herniman, who has withdrawn from the committee for understandable personal reasons, after many years of being a valued member of the Group.
  • Liz Sagues, for her work on the excellent Newsletter
  • All the committee members, whose efforts make the Group what it is.
  • And finally, but certainly not least, Jim Ayling who has decided to step down as Secretary of the Group after many years of tremendous contribution to BHCCG. It is difficult to summarise Jim’s huge contribution over the years. Fortunately he has agreed to remain on the Committee so we will retain the benefit of his knowledge, experience and enthusiasm.

Oh, yes, and all of you who support the Group, enjoy and value the Copse. Thank you.

Graham Ault
Chairman

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