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Letter to the Editor

January 1, 2011 2010 Winter No Comments
White Admiral Butterfly

White Admiral

Walking through Brandy Hole Copse recently, I was very disappointed to find that many of the old honeysuckle stems rambling over the trees in Willow Glade had been cut through and allowed to die. Honeysuckle, preferably in shady overgrown woodland like Willow Glade, is the only food plant for the larvae of the White Admiral, which is one of the Copse’s ‘special’ butterflies. Killing and removing this honeysuckle is therefore highly likely to have serious consequences for the continued existence of White Admirals in the Copse.

This point was specifically included in the 2008–2013 Management Plan for the Copse. Section 7.4 clearly states that: ‘Any tree cutting… in this compartment must take account of the conservation requirements of White Admiral butterflies and their need for mature trees, honeysuckle and bramble. No honeysuckle must be removed without prior agreement.’ I am not aware that any such agreement has been sought.

In the same vein, it is worth reminding everybody concerned with the management of the Copse that ivy rambling over trees is an extremely useful plant ecologically because

  1. it is the larval food plant for the autumn brood of the Holly Blue butterfly;
  2. the nectar produced by ivy flowers is invaluable for Red Admirals, Peacocks, Commas and many other insects in the late autumn when there are few other nectar sources around;
  3. thick masses of ivy provide shelter for insects that hibernate including Brimstone and Peacock butterflies.

The removal of honeysuckle and ivy climbing over the trees in the Copse can only have negative effects on its butterflies. Neither plant should be removed without seeking prior approval from the Management Board.

Yours sincerely, Mike Perry, Chair, Chichester Natural History Society

Wild Flowers in Spring

Judi Darley

Bluebells

Bluebells in the Copse

Committee member Judi Darley asked ecology enthusiast Dr Mike Perry of the Chichester Natural History Society for his top 6 spring flowers to be seen in Brandy Hole Copse. Mike said “it’s a bit like selecting records for Desert Island Discs”! After some careful thought Mike came up with the following 6 wild flowers to look for in the Copse this spring:

Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) voted Britain’s most popular wild flower in a recent Plantlife poll. The Natural History Society recently made a count of about 250,000 flowering stems in the main body of the Copse. Mike is concerned that these native bluebells are protected from the Spanish Bluebell, a species often planted in gardens and now seen along Brandy Hole Lane and by the west end entrances. Mike said “it appears to hybridise freely with the native bluebell … I’d like to see the Spanish Bluebell removed from the Copse”.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) low growing, with white flowers sometimes flushed with pink. It does very well in the sweet chestnut coppiced area, where the trees have been cut down to let the light in before they grow to maturity again.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) a stunning display of shiny bright yellow flowers, found around the edges of the ponds and in the damp area between Brandy Hole Pond and Centurion Way.

Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) low growing with violet flowers, like the sweet violet but it has no scent. This plant is important because it is the food plant for the caterpillars of the uncommon Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly.

Wild Arum (Arum maculatum) also known as Cuckoo Pint and Lords and Ladies. The large fleshy leaves appear in December and January and tiny flowers appear, surrounded by a green ‘hood’, in April-May time.

Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) Bright blue flowers with a pure white ‘eye’, they are small but spectacular in large numbers. Mike said “I’ve included this one because it is one of my all time favourite flowers”.

Do you agree with Mike’s list? Do let us know which are your favourite spring flowers in the Copse!

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

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

Graham Ault

I would like to be writing in this issue about the joys of Spring in the Copse. Unfortunately our attentions have all been diverted by the news that one of the two preferred sites for major housing development includes the fields immediately to the South of the Copse.

You should all have received a separate letter from me on this issue recently encouraging you to write to protest against these proposals. I know that many of you have written and I am most grateful to you. I suspect this is the first round of a series of consultations in which this group needs to prove its strength and determination to protect the local environment.

At the same time, we are including in our response to these proposals the suggestion that the fields should be formally incorporated into the Nature Reserve for their longer-term protection. This would give us a great positive outcome from what looks at the moment to be a major threat.

I have also addressed the Chichester Natural History Society, who support our position on this, and the Summersdale Residents’ Association, who have also written in support.

I am also in discussion with the Consultants who are advising on the Western development proposal to explore the possibility of designating the fields as a nature reserve as part of the overall development plan, should this become the preferred location for development. I have also been approached by consultants proposing a North-East development.

We will discuss this further at the AGM and I can then update you on how these discussions and representations are progressing. In the meantime, members are asked to take all opportunities to express your views about the threat to our environmentally important fields which are, in practice, an integral part of the biodiversity of the Copse.

The Fields and the Copse

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

Graham Ault

Have you ever thought how small and vulnerable the Nature Reserve is? Indeed it is so small that you could question whether it is viable for nature conservation purposes.

The Copse is a small area of managed woodland. In places you can walk from one side to the other in about ten seconds! At its broadest it takes a few minutes. It contains archaeological remains which limit the activities that can take place to promote biodiversity.

Birds, insects, plants and animals do not recognise artificial human boundaries. If it suits a butterfly to fly into the fields to survive, that is what it will do. If there is water in the pond in the fields, that may be preferred by some creatures to the more enclosed ponds in the Copse. We cannot artificially say that the edge of the Copse is where nature conservation starts and finishes.

We have some plants, insects, animals that rely totally on the woodland areas but there are many also that rely mainly on the fields. Butterflies are a good example. We have some 24 recorded in the Natural History Society survey data. Only a very small number of those are essentially woodland butterflies (such as White Admiral and Speckled Wood), but the majority rely also on open glades and open fields. Those who walk in the meadows in the summer will see the huge numbers of butterflies everywhere (until the field is cut!).

One of my favourite features of the Reserve is the number of Green Woodpeckers. They sit in the trees at the edge of the Copse, they nest in trees in the Copse but they feed mainly in the fields. Take away the fields and these wonderful birds will leave. Their habitat is the combination of the fields and the woodland.

Informal management of the fields in recent years has demonstrated their potential for new plants to appear or return. Who would have thought we would have records of Common Spotted Orchids at a woodland reserve, but we now have them in both of the fields.

A Reserve that combined both the fields and the Copse would confirm what has in effect developed naturally and would provide for Chichester a Reserve that maximises biodiversity in an area that would then become viable and linked up with the characteristics of the environment to the North and West of Chichester. Surely this is something worth fighting for!

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,

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