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With many tasks completed, now it’s time for change

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

From Jim Ayling, task leader

Having been associated with the BHCCG since it started in 1989 following the great storm of 1987 it is with some sadness that I find I must resign from being the Copse task leader.

I have enjoyed being part of an enthusiastic team of volunteers who have turned out regularly, rain or shine, to maintain the Copse for all to enjoy. My only regrets are that the missing part of the footpath at the eastern end of Brandy Hole Lane has not been completed and that the WSCC has not been persuaded to reduce the 60mph speed limit alongside the parking area at the western end of the lane.

Some members of the public have complained that we are destroying the wood by cutting down the trees. It should be remembered that the Copse is a coppiced woodland and has been for 200 years, requiring the felling of the chestnuts every 10 to 15 years. We now have a rolling plan to fell the trees in four areas over 20 years.

The site is only leased and any work has to be done with the landowners’ approval. Advice from the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Chichester District Council is strictly followed and we work closely with the Chichester Natural History Society to a master plan.

A continual complaint is of the inconsiderate dog owners who do not remove the dog mess from the footpaths. The whole area is covered by the Dog Fouling Act with a maximum penalty of £1,000 which could be enforced by the Dog Warden.

To continue the work of maintaining the Local Nature Reserve for the enjoyment of visitors the group is looking for someone with some knowledge of woodland and ponds, preferable living locally, to organise and direct the team. So if you feel you could help us and at the same time enjoy the outdoors please contact the chairman or any committee member.

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.

Listen to the evening songs

October 2, 2006 2006 Autumn No Comments

One of the pleasant things to do at this time of the year is to walk in the copse on a warm sunny evening to listen to the sounds around you. The bird calls are delightful.

We have been intrigued by the disappearing ducks. A while back a dozen or so ducklings appeared overnight on Willow Pond, stayed for one or two nights, then walked to Brandy Hole Pond, only to disappear completely the next day. Where did they go to? Perhaps they knew that the pond would dry up. The water level in all our ponds is determined by the water table, which is now at the lowest we have ever seen it. We will shortly need to remove most of the fish from Brandy Hole Pond by netting.

Unfortunately we still suffer from occasional vandalism. The dog bin on the Centurion Way crossing was broken off and had to be replaced. The platform at Brandy Hole Pond was badly damaged and had to be repaired, and the nearby leaflet box post which was pulled up and thrown into the pond has been replaced with a metal post.

The three entrances at the parking area need some attention. The northerly one has collapsed and we have taken the opportunity to close it off and continue the hedge along the roadside, which is kept in such good condition by the “Crumblies”.

The Wednesday working group have been active throughout the year on pond and woodland maintenance. A dipping platform has been built at Cops Pond, following our very successful pond dipping event. Repair and maintenance of paths steps and entrances will continue, and management of the glades to encourage butterflies.

In response to demand we intend to add more discreetly placed seats for the benefit of visitors as we have done in the glade area.

The CDC has been asked to install “cycle path” signs each end of the path linking Centurion Way with the Lane.

We understand that at long last the WSCC has finally conceded to our request for a safe pedestrian access to the Copse from Summersdale and proposes to start work to complete the footpath along Brandy Hole Lane in October. Unfortunately we have not been able to persuade WSCC that a 30mph speed limit is necessary along the parking area. So care is still needed when visiting the Copse and alighting from cars.

Jim Ayling, Task Leader

A place of history and much modern interest

October 2, 2006 2006 Autumn No Comments

Many new members have joined Brandy Hole Copse Conservation Group this year. The two following articles help to set the scene for those who are not familiar with the history of the Copse and some of its most obvious inhabitants, the birds.

Brandy Hole Copse includes the woodland known as East Broyle Copse and part of the Chichester Entrenchment System. This dyke, now registered as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, is believed to have been constructed during the Iron Age.

The Copse occupies some 15 acres of oak and coppiced chestnut woodland along the south side of Brandy Hole Lane and is partly owned by the District Council, with the remainder leased from two local landowners. There are five ponds and some examples of the remaining World War II antitank defences still in position.

The names Brandy Hole Lane and Brandy Hole Pond, at the eastern end of the site, come from the brandy casks discovered in a cave when the Chichester to Midhurst branch of the London Brighton & South Coast railway line was built in 1881. This line, which passes through the Copse, was last used in 1991 for transporting gravel. It was then purchased by West Sussex County Council and opened in 1995 as a pedestrian and cycle path known as Centurion Way.

There are references on early maps to “Roman” and “Smugglers” caves radiating from the dyke. The “Roman” caves were probably natural holes in the ground caused by a subsidence when rain leaches out the sand from the gravel, leaving a vertical hole, a common feature in the area. In 1841 a cave was discovered that extended for 158 feet northwards under the gravel. In it were bottles dating from 150 years earlier. This may have been the “Smugglers” cave indicated on the 1912 map. In 1795 the Chichester diarist John Marsh records how the Company of Volunteers, to which he belonged, marched from the Council House to the Broyle where they practised with their muskets in a disused gravel pit. This may well be the gravel pit that can still be seen in the Copse.

The great storm of October 1987 swept across southern England in a swathe from the Isle of Wight to the Wash and destroyed millions of mature trees. Many of the trees in what is now Brandy Hole Copse were blown down, causing extensive damage to the banks of the dyke system. Chichester District Council removed most of the fallen trees and appealed for a group of volunteers to manage this area of woodland and maintain it for public use and recreation.

The following October at a well-attended public meeting, chaired by Helen Carlton, the Brandy Hole Copse Conservation Group was formed. I was the chairman and committee members were Helen Carlton, Jim Morris, Peter Sykes, Henrietta and Hugh Wingfield-Hayes, Tony Johnson and Len Eyles. Advice was sought from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and the West Sussex County Council.

With the help of a financial grant from Chichester District Council, and the agreement of the landowners, a small working party was set up to clear the undergrowth and begin a programme of conservation recommended by the SWT Management Plan.

The first major task was to erect a post and rail fence for 300 yards along the roadside boundary of the Copse. This was done in one day by a platoon of soldiers from the Royal Military Police Roussillon Barracks as a local community project. They also cleared the ground and laid a footpath along the base of the dyke, and excavated the wetland areas at the western end to create Willow Pond and Cops Pond, which was named in recognition of their hard work.

Donations from Summersdale Residents Association and BHCCG enabled the WSCC in 1997 to purchase the privately-owned strip of land on the south side of Brandy Hole Pond for a public right of way, thereby finally allowing free access to the Copse from Bristol Gardens.

The BHCCG volunteers managed the copse for 12 years until August 2001 when Chichester District Council designated the Copse as its first Local Nature Reserve and established a Management Board. The first meeting of the board in November 2001 was chaired by Barry Fletcher. Members represented various groups who had an interest in the Copse and an initial Management Plan was drawn up to establish a future programme of tasks. At a ceremony in the Copse on in May 2002 English Nature presented a plaque to the Chairman of the District Council to mark the establishment of the Copse as a Local Nature Reserve. With the aid of a grant from English Heritage, CDC provided three large oak lectern frames with information panels, placed at strategic points. BHCCG has installed stiles at various access points and laid paths and built flights of steps for visitors’ safety. The group has put up many bird, owl and bat boxes and arranged surveys of the bird and insect populations throughout the year, with the help and guidance of the Chichester Natural History Society.

Help over the years has come from the Royal Military Police, Bishop Luffa School sixth form volunteers and the Crumblies, a volunteer group which specialises in hedge-laying and glade clearance tasks. Members of BHCCG carry out most of the work of maintaining the ponds and the woodland with weekly sessions throughout the year.

The Copse is used by local schools for environmental studies and is a safe area for children, walkers and dog owners. Guided walks and illustrated talks are available on request and “The Story of Brandy Hole Copse” is an informative BHCCG publication.

Though there are many access points for pedestrians, sadly the area is unsuitable for wheelchair users. Cycle anchor points are situated at the main entrances but cycling in the Copse is prohibited. There is limited car parking in the lay-by at the western end (pedestrians should take care crossing the derestricted road).

Jim Ayling

Secretary’s report to AGM 2005/2006

Activities in year 2005-2006

  • BHCCG involved in C.D.C “Chichester in Bloom” scheme
  • Our “Queens Award for Volunteers” application was rejected
  • Attended two BTCV environmental training days
  • 300 more Booklets purchased for sale to the public
  • We gave 5 Guided walks and 4 slide talks to local groups
  • Organised a Pond Dipping event and hosted Moth & Bat survey evenings
  • System of Volunteer Wardens set up to monitor the Copse
  • Woodland Trust grant enabled us to purchase more tools & equipment
  • Two BHCCG Notice Boards installed in the Copse for information
  • 3 leaflet box posts installed to distribute BHCCG and Dog Control leaflets
  • Pond-dipping platform built at Cops Pond
  • 2 Rustic seats put up on top bank and refurbished access stiles.
  • Two Glades were cleared to encourage more Butterflies.
  • Hawthorn hedge planted along the boundary of Bridge abutment
  • Access path to Centurion Way from B.H.Lane resurfaced by WSCC.
  • C.D.C completed safety work on all dangerous trees throughout Copse.
  • Public liability Insurance for BHCCG renewed for 2006/7.
  • Contractor completed coppicing in the Copse for this year.
  • All mature trees tagged for identification mapping & a possible tree trail.
  • Tree Preservation Order obtained on some of the mature trees along the boundary.
  • The Wrenford Centre are producing Bird Boxes to replace those vandalised.
  • WSCC refused our request for a speed limit at the Parking area, but have agreed to our request to complete the footpath in the lane from Lavant Road.
  • Ponds look in good shape but there are no ducks on B.H.Pond this year.
  • Sunday work party was abandoned but maintenance work continues with Wednesday afternoon group every week throughout the year.

Jim Ayling 1/6/06.

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

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