Where summer winds will whisper among the trees
The newly planted community orchard at Sustainable Woodstock, which looked great even on a very wet and windy day! © James Webb
Sustainable Woodstock in Oxfordshire received a Caring for the Cotswolds grant to enhance their site for the local community and wildlife. A permissive path was secured, allowing walkers to pass through and enjoy the site, away from the busy A44. Walkers can now connect to the Oxfordshire Way from Woodstock and either head west in to the Blenheim Estate or on to Stonesfield or east towards Wooton, and vice versa.
The site is a mosaic of woodland and meadows, complete with a community orchard. Native bluebells have been planted in the wooded areas and wildflowers in the meadows. Bird boxes and reptile refuges have been installed across the site and are already attracting a host of furry, feathered and scaly residents!
Two picnic benches were also installed so that visitors and residents can sit and enjoy the site. An added benefit, the benches were made by RAW; a charity that works with people with learning disabilities, mental health problems or those from a disadvantaged background.
Till the cows come home
The new cattle trough at Bownham Common with views of the Chalford valley in the distance, © James Webb
At the start of the 2019 grazing season, five new troughs were installed on Minchinhampton and Rodborough Common with a Caring for the Cotswolds grant. At the end of 2020 grazing season we return to see what effect they’ve had.
The new troughs encourage the cattle to visit, stay and graze in the more difficult areas of the common. They also have a much larger capacity than the older style and the cows spend much more time grazing by the big troughs, explains Adrian Bathe, of the Minchinhampton Commoners Committee. The increased grazing improves the conditions for a host of flowers, insects and birds. There are 550 cows out this year; more than in recent years and as a result, the common is looking really good.
Interestingly, fewer cattle have been hit and killed by cars this year. There could be several explanations for this; lockdown meant fewer cars on the road in the spring but the new troughs could also be playing a part, with the cows not wandering as much to find water.
Summer defined: an English wildflower meadow
The newly created wildflower meadow at Batsford Arboretum, near Moreton in Marsh. © Stuart Priest
Last year Batsford Arboretum created a new wildflower meadow with the support of a Caring for the Cotswolds grant. The arboretum has quite heavy soil and past attempts to create a wildflower meadow had limited success. The fertile soil is great for fast growing competitive grasses but the smaller, more delicate flowers and herbs don’t stand a chance. So they stripped a thin layer of the fertile soil off and added several inches of stone/rubble to reduce fertility and improve drainage. The area was then seeded with wildflowers and has responded really well. So far the species count includes ox-eye daisy, mullion (verbascum), ragged robin, yellow rattle, spotted orchid, scarlet pimpernel and buttercups.
If it matters, say it in stone
One of the new information boards set in stone on Selsley Common with views of Selsley Church, Doverow Hill, the Severn Vale and Wales. © James Webb
Two impressive new information boards can now be found on Selsley Common and are set in one tonne blocks of limestone. They are located in the areas of highest footfall; one near the main car park and the other (above) on the escarpment over looking at the spectacular views. They will allow visitors to discover more about Selsley Common and the importance of it species rich limestone grassland. It is hoped the boards will address inadvertent damage to the common; in the past some of the most valuable habitat has been set on fire and dug up for cycle-ways, possibly mistaken for waste ground.
Well done to John and all the team at Kings Stanley Parish Council for making this happen.
Back from the brink
A Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly resting on a bluebell. © Chris Tracy
This beautiful butterfly was once very widespread but has declined by 95% since the 1970s, and is now highly threatened in England and Wales. In Gloucestershire, the butterfly is restricted to the Bathurst Estate woodlands but thanks to the sterling work by the local branch members of Butterfly Conservation, its fortunes are changing. Butterfly numbers in 2020 have been very good, with some butterflies spreading into new areas. The Caring for the Cotswolds grant has supported targeted habitat management work, including the planting of 700 violets; the butterfly’s food plant. The grant also supported an interpretation board so that people can learn about this threatened butterfly when they visit the site.
It’s going to be a BBQ summer!
Steam rising from the new charcoal kiln at West Rugger’s Green. © Estelle St John-Smith
The owners of this site have begun a long journey to sensitively restore this neglected woodland. By thinning some of the introduced larch trees and bringing back practices such as coppicing, more light will reach the woodland floor. This will enable plants to flourish and new trees to regenerate, which will benefit a wide range of insects, birds and mammals. The charcoal is produced on site from the thinned wood and is available to buy from Wild Woodland Celebrations: www.wildwoodlandcelebrations.co.uk