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Gobions Annual Report 1999

by Michael Jonas

Gobions trees
Report Contents

The HLF bid
Millennium planting
New paths for old
Leach field pond
Hedgerows
Water quality
Butterflies and birds

We have delayed producing this report of last year’s activities to bring you the news that on May 5, 2000, Gobions Wood received Heritage Lottery Fund help.

The Gobions Woodland Trust will receive a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of 22,200 to formulate a restoration and management plan for Gobions Wood. The plan will look at the future of the wood and how access to the wood can be improved.

The Grade II registered garden was designed by Charles Bridgeman in the 1720s or 1730s. Bridgeman also worked at Hampton Court, Blenheim and Stowe, as well as some of the Royal Parks in London. Because his landscapes were generally overlaid in the mid to late 19th century it has widely been supposed that none of his designs remain intact, but Gobions Wood is thought to be one of the most intact of his landscapes. Part of the site is managed as a Nature Conservation area for the benefit of wildlife and the Trust monitors and records plant and butterfly populations. Records of bat movement and the wood’s fungi population are also recorded.

The wood is open to the public at all times. Public access will be looked at as part of the management plan, especially improved disabled access and the provision for attracting youth organisations and school groups.

Eilish McGuinness, HLF’s Regional Manager for East of England, said: "This is a great opportunity to look at the condition of the area and forge a new future for Gobions Wood. The new plan will give a sound basis for the restoration and maintenance of the wood, which will make visits there much more enjoyable."

That was the press release from the Heritage Lottery Fund which announced that we have been successful in obtaining funding for the first phase of our plans for the wood. 22,200 represents about 75% of the cost of this first project (to prepare the restoration and management plan) and it is the responsibility of the Trust to find the balance. Therefore any extra donations will be especially welcome this year.

We do hope that you will continue to give us your encouragement and financial support, which will be needed even more in future if partial restoration of the Bridgeman garden is to follow.

The background to the HLF bid

My last report talked about our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for funds to carry out research and refurbishment of the 18th century Bridgeman garden. The application process proved to be more complicated than we had anticipated and more lengthy than we had hoped. It is thanks to Iain Aitken’s dedicated guidance that we overcame these hurdles.

Last summer, we met representatives of three recommended landscape management consultants and, following our examination of their written submissions, the Trustees unanimously agreed their intention to appoint Landscape Design Associates of Peterborough. The decision hinged on their experience in dealing with Lottery applications and their proposed sympathetic approach to dealing with perceived conflicts between historical and environmental priorities.

The next stage was to make a separate, prior application to the HLF for the cost of the professional fees in preparing and overseeing the implementation of a detailed restoration and management plan. This application required detailed information about a completely different set of criteria. This application was submitted to the HLF last November.

We have in fact already begun our research work. The survey of households and users has already been of value as part of our application documentation and last spring we appointed Sarah Lambert of LDA to carry out an ecological survey of our lands. This survey work needed to be spread over the summer months, so that the annual range of plants could be recorded. We decided to fund this piece of work well in advance as the results will be pivotal in the management plan and in any case, even if our bid was unsuccessful, it would still be of great value: and this has proved to be the case.

The ecological survey divides the land into 12 woodland compartments, 8 grassland compartments, 6 of hedges and tracks, and 6 more of ponds and wet areas. For each compartment, the fauna and flora is then discussed in detail and provisional management recommendations made. Appended is a copy of the section of the survey report summarising the recommended Management Aims and Objectives from an ecological point of view.

I am pleased to report that our management to date seems to have been pretty much on the right lines.

Millennium planting

One of the ecological survey recommendations refers to the need for control of sycamore and regular readers will know that we have been addressing this problem for some years. When the Bradmore Green Women’s Institute asked if they could plant some trees to mark the millennium, we decided to take the opportunity to further this programme. A group of large sycamore at the western edge of Deep Bottom was felled into a great tangle of trunks and branches. This happened rather later in the year than we had planned, so we had a great deal of clearing work to do to be ready for the agreed planting date of Sunday 28 November, when the W.I. Ladies (and some husbands, friends and children) were due to arrive to help plant their trees.

In all it took some six Sunday mornings and one final emergency Saturday to clear the planting area. Most of the small branches had to be burnt, but the remainder was cut and stacked in piles to provide a habitat for small mammals and insects. The main trunks were towed away with our dumper truck to line paths and provide a fungi habitat. On the first planting day we made a good start and planted and staked 20 alder and 20 willow down in the flood plain of Deep Bottom, where they can enjoy the intermittent seasonal soakings. On higher ground, each side of the path, we planted a further 10 field maple and 10 oaks. All the trees we planted were mature standards, up to three metres high: they are all environmentally important species, as they provide bird food from either their seed or from the large number of insects they host. They are already making a good showing this spring. Talking of food, the W.I. delivered (for the hungry workforce) a splendid lunch of hot sausage rolls, sandwiches and home-made mushroom and vegetable soups. Delicious! Their donation of 60 purchased a plaque to record the tree planting.

New paths for old

In the winter of 1998/99, the combination of wet weather and continuous use churned up some of the paths, in particular Oak Tree path, from the eastern end of Gobions pond down to the centre of the wood. Its repair would have been too time-consuming for our volunteers, so we had to call in some full-time, paid help. An award of 3,266 from the Hertfordshire Environmental Landfill Partnership (H.E.L.P.), who are able to recycle some of the money landfill operators would otherwise pay straight to the Chancellor to local community projects, made this possible. Ken Crawley, our ‘friend with the digger’ (and now with a new son this February - welcome Scott) was on hand to clear away the mud and lay and roll in two grades of crushed brick and concrete. In addition to Oak Tree path, a long section of path was laid along the north side of the lower Leach Field.

Just to keep our hands in, the volunteers reinforced a section of path on the south side of the wood, near the main bridge. This area being inaccessible to machinery, the material had to be loaded into our dumper and driven from Bluebridge Road round to the Mymms Drive entrance and into the wood, where it was offloaded into barrows. This was a lengthy, but worthwhile and necessary, labour which lasted some six Sunday mornings. We have now taken to using crushed concrete for pathing work, as it recycles the material which would otherwise go to landfill sites and because it compacts well into a natural looking path.

Leach Field pond

In 1997, with grant aid from Rural Action, we had a pond dug in the north west corner of the upper Leach Field, that is, behind numbers 28 and 30 Bluebridge Avenue. We installed a feeder pipe from a nearby ditch, but as it flowed only infrequently, the clay base was not kept wet for sufficiently long to silt up and so become impervious. Once again H.E.L.P. came to our financial aid, to the tune of 2,500, to buy a plastic liner and other materials. The grant was swelled by a generous gift of 350 from BG Transco and the fact that Monarflex Geomembranes Ltd of St Albans gave us a most generous discount on the purchase price of the underlay and liner. (People are so kind to us.)

The pond liner, some 20 by 30 metres, arrived folded to 4 metres width and then rolled into a bundle weighing half a ton! It filled the bucket of the dumper truck and it took six of us pulling, pushing and levering to manoeuvre the bundle into its final position, so that it would fully cover the pond excavation when opened out. We were somewhat concerned by the weight at this point, but in practice it rolled out to its 20 metre width and then seven of us gripped the open edge and walked backwards in line, unfolding the 25 metre length of the liner.

Over the following three weekends, we trimmed the liner to the approximate pond shape and, as the water level rose, we were able to hand dig round the perimeter to finally adjust the level of the liner and to make shallow marginal planting areas. We also fixed down a metre-wide border, a sort of “duvet” of woven coir mesh with soil filling. This will provide a planting medium at the water margin and make a safe walking surface for frogs and newts, and the birds and small mammals that will come to drink. Mindful of other “small people” and dogs, we have erected a low fence below the rim of the pond, as a safety measure. We have used some of the off-cuts to make other small, shallow wet areas, which will, in due course, silt up and provide patches of bog habitat. We must now wait and see how the various habitats are colonised.

Hedgerows

Another important habitat is our traditional English hedgerow, either laid or trimmed to keep them dense. New hedges that we planted in past years in Leach Fields and down Oak Tree Path, in particular, are now maturing well. Some of these hedges have been laid and now need to be kept trimmed where we wish to maintain views over them. We are again grateful to Transco, who gave us another generous grant to buy a hedge trimmer, another vital tool in our regular maintenance work.

We have had two visits from the Herts & Middx Wildlife Trust’s bat group, to inspect and record the bat population in the chalk well. In January and February, they recorded at least 13 Daubenton bats in residence. Daubenton bats feed by skimming over the surface of ponds and snapping up insects attracted to the water, so we may see some at work over our new pond in Leach Field. We shall supply some bat boxes locally to encourage them.

Water quality

We know from our analyses that the water in our streams and ponds is of high quality. However, as the feeder streams collect the run-off from roads beyond our boundaries, we sometimes see signs of oil pollution on the water surface. We plan to alleviate this problem, albeit a visual problem more than a poisonous one, by building a reed filter bed at the extreme east end of the wood.

The plan is to create a small flood plain with a log weir and plant it with reeds: these form a natural filter bed, cleaning the water as it passes between the stems. We have obtained a grant of 250 from Hertfordshire County Council, under their Local Agenda 21 scheme, for this work, which has been one of our spring projects.

Butterflies and birds

Thanks to our faithful recorders, we have another valuable butterfly record for 1999. Their report is appended.

For details fo the butterlies seen click here and to see images of the butterflies seen click here.

We are also indebted to Rupert Pyrah, who has sent us his records of bird sightings for the last four years within a 2 mile radius of Brookmans Park.

Click here to read Rupert's report.

Finally, our thanks to all our Friends for their generous financial support and the many compliments on our work that we have received. Our faithful volunteers continue to turn up on Sunday mornings and I am delighted to report that we have had some new helpers recently - Stuart Kato, Jay Wheeler and Joe Brown. We are always delighted to see new faces on Sundays, so, if you ever feel the urge to join us occasionally for a few hours and a pint or two afterwards, just call me on 01707-656531. It’s really very rewarding and we usually find something to have a good laugh about, whatever the task. Hope to see you!

Michael Jonas

Patron: The Marchioness of Salisbury
Trustees: Iain Aitken, Jerry Golland, Michael Jonas and Bernard Spatz


Other sections of the Gobions Woodland Trust Friends' Report 1999
Annual Report 1999
Butterfly Survey 1999
Butterfly Survey Details 1999
Ecological Survey
Bird Survey 1999
Annual Report 1998
Butterflies of Gobions Woodland
Butterflies 1-5
Butterflies 6-10
Butterflies   11-15
Butterflies   16-19
Butterflies not sighted during 1999 survey Butterflies seen in 1998


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