Saturday, 28 November 2015

Present at the birth

Last Thursday I attended a meeting held by the Woodland Trust in which they presented their vision of how they see the development of Langley Vale (Bottom) Farm. Their plans are subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment, which is to be carried out imminently. There was a cross-section of interested parties present, both from a local and national level, including the Surrey Botanical Society and the Surrey Bird Club. What was heartening was that there was clear recognition on the part of the WT that the area is nationally important for its arable flora and locally of significance for the nesting Lapwings. Initial impressions were that there is to be a plan in place to protect them. A balancing act needs to be mastered however as there is much to be done alongside 'conflicting' arenas: the creation of new woodland; the need to protect existing habitat for the rare plants and birds; the installation of car park, interpretation centre and footpaths; sympathetic management of existing horse riding requirements (the site is adjacent to Epsom racecourse) and additional traffic flow (with cars, bicycles and walkers).

As a part of collating what we can before the work begins, a few of us are getting out there and recording the existing wildlife. Although I am dabbling in the plants, this is being more than adequately covered by far more competent people than me. I have started to 'survey' the bird life (and posted about this last week) - today's visit yielded highlights of 3 Marsh Tits in Little Hurst Wood, up to 70 Skylarks (including a flock of 50+), 2 Blackcaps and 2 Bullfinches. The top photo gives you some idea of the farm's habitat. It is largely on chalk, and down the years the farmers have kept the hedges, copses and woods.

This is typical of a field edge - deep hedgerows, in places metres deep and just as likely to merge into copse. 

Little Hurst Wood - this is where I had three Marsh Tits this morning.
These are interesting times. At the moment it is all about gathering data to have a good idea about what is present. Up until now there has been minimal work carried out, mainly due to the historical privacy of the site. The botanical record, although already revealing, is not exhaustive. Bird records have been patchy. As the site is developed we are in position to monitor how species adapt, what species are gained and to record if any are lost. Hopefully the outcome will be largely positive.


Derek Faulkner said...

Well it's great that the place isn't going to be turned into a housing estate or supermarket but a shame that in creating a new wood (was that needed), that so much clutter has to come with it - car park, paths, cyclists, walkers. If only it could be left as it is. It's OK making it available to so many people but with them come the inevitable idiots and vandals.

Steve Gale said...

As long as the rare arable plants survive I'll be happy Derek.

Gibster said...

Still struggling to understand why these Memorial Woodlands are needed - or even particularly wanted. Joe Public knows next to nothing about them, the government couldn't give a hoot about creating any 'green' habitat, and only the uneducated think that a newly planted woodland is better than the disappearance of good quality arable land. This stinks. Place it over a dairy farm, THAT would be an improvement.

Steve Gale said...

Well Seth... I was primarily concerned with the arable plants, but the hedges, copses and woods on site are historical and deserve protection too. Some of it will be'consumed', but I'm relatively happy with things if the plants survive.