Thursday, 23rd FebruaryWith our usual impeccable timing, this week's schedule was to coppice the willow bed in the Park, and as it turned out, we were trying to roll out a carpet of weed-suppressant material with storm Doris raging over our heads. Having secured one end it soon unravelled and flew away every time we tried to pin it down. At last the task was achieved and we moved on to the coppicing work. If anyone would like a bundle of willow please let the northern office know on firstname.lastname@example.org. It has to be said that the lime green coloured variety is the most attractive.
Wednesday, 15th FebruaryA huge effort by our volunteers today in planting a very long hedge to mark the park's boundary on the Bramley side. Mike was very chuffed with all the hard work by our Mid Week Working Party.
We have now planted some 2500 saplings, so far, which has created over 700 metres of new hedge which is in " double rows ". Much better for nesting birds and wildlife in general.
Some of the trees and plants are :
Hazel, Field Maple, Blackthorn, Wayfarer Tree, Spindle, Yew, Black Poplar, White Poplar, Rowan, Crab Apple, Service Tree, Honeysuckle, Hornbeam, Whitebeam, Willow (Osier), Guelder Rose, Wild Garlic, Cowslips.
We were also delighted to see that our local frogs and toads are on the move getting ready to start breeding.
Thursday 2nd February 2017I blame the publicity department: no sooner have you put up a new poster then they come along and give you another one. This week we walked the bounds in the pouring rain, noticing for the first time that the ivy on the footbridge is growing nicely (so beneficial to bees and birds) and is beginning to outgrow its posts. The rabbits have eaten most, but a “Golden Heart” is growing steadily – so they obviously don’t like the flavour of that one. The water level in Cranleigh Waters was well up, and the flow quite strong. Will we get some flooding this year?
Thursday 26th January 2017After the frenetic efforts by the Northern Working Party over the weekend of 14th-15th January, when the temporary works compound was removed and the site made clear, we were grateful for the help of our Mid-Week Working Party volunteers who tidied up the site even more. It was good to get that all cleared away and a couple of the dangerous trees removed before they fell over the fence by the main road.
Our main activity this week was to plant some hedgerow plants in the gaps that have appeared in the boundary between the Park and the A281. A good number of the dog roses are making excellent growth, considering their roots must be waterlogged. The planting wasn’t a very strenuous job although it was pretty wet underfoot and now that the stinging nettles have died down, you can see much more of the wetlands area. Roll on progressing that project.
Sunday, 25th December 2016It was a busy day in Hunt Park for the regular members of the team. During the morning we set off for the Osier bed in the park with the intention of extending it to allow for a further row of willows. The photo shows 2 members of the team reinstating the plastic mesh to protect the new plants from deer, and then chicken wire - not to ward off chickens (a species we have yet to see in Hunt Park) but the pesky rabbits. Late morning it was back to the compound to continue clearance work ready for the hoarding to be removed and the site returned to its original state. We stopped for a quick refreshment break - well two actually. The first was a small amount of mulled wine, and then later on tea and shortbread biscuits.
The existing osier bed growing well.
8th December 2016The Trust owns two working platforms at Gun's Mouth Island and each year (before winter sets in and the flooding along the River Wey) the Hunt Park team need to pump out the bilges. The first platform was completed the other week, and a bit of a tidy-up around the landing stage on Gun's Mouth in readiness for a visit from Simon Jones Associates to do a tree survey. Last week's icy weather made it too dangerous for us to venture out in the workboat to pump out the other one, so we tidied up the viewing platform instead.
But this week we were on track to finish this seasonal chore and we launched the boat, donned life jackets, collected the paddles, heaved the pump into the boat and set off for the island. When we got to the platform we found it very low in the water and in danger of sinking. With his usual lightness of foot, Mike stepped onto the platform, lifted out the pump and unwound the hoses..... only to find that "someone" had left the essential handle back at the stores. It took us all morning to complete the job and it was only the thought of a nice cup of tea that kept us going.
Next weekend we welcome back our friends WRG Forestry for more tree work along the railway track in Bramley towards Tannery roving bridge and we hope that they will be able to remove the fallen tree in Cranleigh Waters in the park.
17th November 2016Although there has been a gap in this blog, the team has still been busy, but on other tasks. Today the autumn colours were fabulous as the picture of the path through the park and this oak demonstrates. We are now spending each week clearing leaves off the viewing platform and tying up the honeysuckle around the platform's supports. Then it was an inspection of the new trees planted a couple of years ago, most of them have survived we were very pleased to see.
This oak is an example of what can be seen in the park. We're now looking forward to the visit by the Waterways Recovery Group's Forestry team in a couple weeks' time.
22nd September 2016The team had a break from the perpetual strimming today. We started to plant the boundary fence along the northern edge of the park with Vitalba ("Old Man's Beard clematis to you and me). Also called "travellers' joy", was associated with the devil because it does his work for him by trailing into other plants to choke them. It is also connection with the Virgin Mary and God because of its white feathery look. Also a member of the buttercup family. So now you have it.
Thursday 15th September 2016Hurrah! a break from strimming. Today it was update notice boards, clear around the WACT signs at Tannery Lane roving bridge and also the orientation board at Gosden aqueduct. Mike also wanted to find a well in the centre of Gosden meadow that is used for measuring water depth - long since hidden this summer in the high nettles. We bashed around with sticks for a little while before it was located and the water level measured for Richard Stephens. Back along the path we retrieved an old bench that needs some refurbishment at our depot - I think it originally floated down Cranleigh waters in the floods almost two years ago and we were waiting for its owner to reclaim it.
Sunday, 11th September 2016After weeks of strimming along the banks in the Nature Park, it was time to turn our attention to making the viewing platform look good for the Heritage Weekend walk. Rob Searle guided a party of about a dozen along the riverside path from the Gunpowder store at Stonebridge later in the afternoon with a quick stop at Bridge End to see the old course of the canal. Circling above our heads was this buzzard, not normally seen quite so close.
Thursday 11th August - "Messing about in the river" -Mike took pity on the team and following a request from Bramley Link engineer, Richard Stephens, directed us off on our work boat to measure depth of water at 8 points around Gun's Mouth island. It was lovely out on the boat with only the ducks to keep us company, one was seen on our working platform enjoying the sun. Another maintenance job was immediately discovered when we stepped on the landing stage. The top section was a bit spongey and a request for re-decking was quickly made to our maintenance coordinator, Julian Cheek. After taking the required measurements with the specially adapted Shalford measuring rod created for us by the Tickners Dept team (hats off gentlemen, it works a treat) it was back to guess what .....yes, more strimming. The possible site of the future new lock in Hunt Park has been marked out by Richard Stephens and we had the job of strimming the area so that it could be seen amongst the undergrowth. The northernmost pink tipped pegs could be located easily enough, but the far end ones couldn't be seen - which reminded us of joining up either side of the channel tunnel - will we meet in the middle next week?
Thursday 4th August - another day Himalayan balsam bashing -is there no end to it? Today we were working along the boundary fence by the A281 checking on our new hedge and giving it some light by pulling away nettles and balsam. They are higher than we are so it's quite exhausting pulling it out, first off come the tops and then some are about 2 inches thick so you have to tug and tug to get the roots out. Mike has become an expert at pulling out bracken courtesy of his weeks with Surrey Wildlife Trust. (Photo shows the boundary fence with the very high balsam at the far end)
Thursday 28th July.The osier bed in Hunt Park completely over-run with Himalayan Balsam and weeds demonstrating how much everything has grown during the last month.
Thursday 21st July 2016.The Great British Himalayan Balsam bash begins in Hunt Park.
Wednesday, 13th JulyHard work today by Judy, George, Alan, David and Mike to remove a fallen tree along the banks of the Cranleigh Waters, plus another one on the verge of collapse nearby. Plenty of Himalayan balsam picking as well as some are beginning to flower and we all know what that means. Pretty as they are, we really need to get rid of the stuff.
Thursday, 14th JulyAnd another work day in Hunt Park – more strimming of balsam until we both thought that it would never end. And that’s without starting across on the other banks opposite the path. That’s still to do (sometime) but after getting the last batch done near the viewing platform. Afterwards it was only 2 cups of tea and a large dollop of caraway seed cake (needs jam!) that restored us to something like our normal selves (but don’t go down that route of asking …..) This time we kept a careful eye on our wheelbarrows because we have a wheelbarrow thief in the vicinity and Hunt Park ones with the letters “HP” painted along each side in white have a particular fascination and likely to become collectors’ items.
7th July 2016The team are now back from their holidays, so it was time to put on the protective visors, hard hats, ear muffs and get strimming. In previous years the Himalayan Balsam has been pulled up by hand at this time of year, but now there is so much of it being washed down Cranleigh Waters, that hand picking would be useless. So there is only one option – strim off the heads to avoid it seeding all over again. We worked on sections, hardly seeing the balsam for the shoulder-high stinging nettles. It was a very hot and very dusty job and after 2 hours one of the team put down her strimmer and said “no more”.
A short walk along the riverside path revealed more along the banks so a small patch was tackled before we ran out of fuel. A fallen tree is on the opposite bank which we hope the Wednesday group will be able to deal with and pull it out with a tirfor. We can’t get near the osier bed for the amount of stinging nettles and balsam – but for all of this – it was great to see so many people using the picnic tables on the viewing platform.
Sunday, 22nd MayA common Sandpiper has been seen plus Robins, Great Tits and a heron. But this week the dragonflies have appeared and there are wonderful demoiselles to be seen all along the banks in Hunt Park. Do go and see them.
7th April -the Wild garlic is beginning to flower at last, so it is time to starting picking. A large bucket was soon full and the aroma wafted down the riverside path. It has been made into wild garlic pesto which knocks you for six when you open the jar lid. This is the first product within the “Hunt Park Originals” range of foods that will be produced. It’s now out for consumer testing.
Mike has spotted a lot of droppings on the far bank, and as feared, it looks as though we have Canada geese. 2 were spotted nearby during the week, as well as a heron – remarkable unconcerned at us walking nearby on our weekly walkabout.
Monday 21st March
Sightings: Robins, Great Tits, Nuthatch, Hawfinch, Greenfinch (first sighting), Heron, Dunnocks. It was cold and windy when the sun went in, but the bird feeders were still being well used. The Nuthatches particularly enjoying the peanuts. The Dunnocks are funny little birds, they scratch around the ground and peck the earth like hens. The osier beds have produced a large amount of willow whips in a variety of colours. The lime green is very eye-catching. The woodcrafts course run by Surrey Wildlife Trust was most enjoyable and gave us plenty of ideas of how to use the willow.
Thursday 25th February
The Hunt Park team had an away day and went over to Leatherhead for a Surrey Wildlife Trust training day. This was a course on willow crafts and we can thoroughly recommend it. For once, the tutor went at her speed and not the speed of a snail. As soon one project had been explained, Julie was showing us another idea to try. As we have plenty of new willow growing in our osier bed there will be no shortage of supplies. There are a number of “artisan” objects made from willow in the Northern Office and in due course when we have a visitor centre, we will take commissions.
Thursday, 18th February
Wildly exciting morning with the first of the blue tits finding our new nesting boxes. He popped his head into the south-facing box and disappeared inside for quite a time. We assumed he was measuring for carpets. We also saw some nuthatches feeding away and a couple of robins. We had feared that squirrels were munching through our stock. Please don’t forget that we have plenty of logs available – all you need to do is phone 01483 505566 or email: email@example.com to arrange a suitable time for collection. A donation in return would be appreciated.
28th January 2016
What terrific weather for January. The sun was out and it was positively warm as we did the circuit. The Cranleigh Waters was flowing quite fast as we walked along the opposite bank. Our bird feeders aren’t doing as well as we had expected, probably due to the warm weather and still plenty of food available. But we did have 2 long tail tits arrive which we haven’t seen before.
It was a busy morning. First we had 35 replacement hedge plants to put in along our official boundary alongside the A281 main road. The others had mysteriously disappeared last year so a further supply of Hawthorn and Guelder roses had been ordered. The plants have arrived with very long roots, so Mike had some difficulty getting his spade deep enough among the existing tree roots. The aim of the hedge is to eventually mask the post and rail fence and provide good habitat. Further northwards along the hedge, the planting at the far end is beginning to grow high, but also tangled up with lots of brambles which needed to be cut off before they strangled everything.
Thursday 14th January 2016 –
a cold wet day that didn’t really inspire us to do anything much other than watch the birds eat from our bird feeders. These new feeders have been made by Mike Hobbs using offcuts from the viewing platform boards. We saw: Robin, Fieldfares, Long tail tits and a pheasant. But a visitor saw two Ruddy Shell Ducks which are most unusual and we’re wondering if they have flown in from Holland. Otherwise the morning was spent doing the usual circuit checking all is in good condition. We noticed that the white poplar is growing so much better than the black ones. They are now about 3 foot high, whereas the black poplar are barely getting their heads above the tree guards.
Wednesday, 6th January 2016
Mike was out and about today planting Rowan and Oak (the latter kindly donated by Malcolm and Susan Brenton) along the cyclepath where the Trust has recently started tree management to reduce the number of dead and dying trees. This new planting will replace the trees removed. Two new nest boxes were installed, made out of the off-cuts from the viewing platform. These are the deluxe versions. We noted that Cranleigh Waters is flowing fast and the water level is well up. This is all attracting masses of Canada geese.
Thursday, 31st December 2015
Spent most of the morning bailing out the pontoons around Gun’s Mouth Island. One was very low in the water and we feared it would disappear with the heavy rain forecasted. It is a tedious job with a hand pump, but we had recruited Julian Morgan to help us. We then cleared the landing stages of leaves and branches before walking “the patch” to see that all was well in Hunt Park. To our delight we discovered evidence of a bank vole.
Wikipedia says “The bank vole (Myodes glareolus; formerly Clethrionomys glareolus) is a small vole with red-brown fur and some grey patches, with a tail about half as long as its body. A rodent, it lives in woodland areas and is around 100 millimetres (3.9 in) in length. The bank vole is found in western Europe and northern Asia. It is native to Great Britain but not to Ireland, where it has been accidentally introduced, and has now colonised much of the south and southwest.
The bank vole lives in woodland, hedgerows and other dense vegetation such as bracken and bramble. Its underground chamber is lined with moss, feathers and vegetable fibre and contains a store of food. It can live for eighteen months to two years and is mostly herbivorous, eating buds, bark, seeds, leaves and fruits and occasionally insects and other small invertebrates. It readily climbs into scrub and low branches of trees. It breeds in shallow burrows, the female rearing about four litters of pups during the summer.
17th December 2015
A very warm day, but cloudy, as we set off to do the weekly inspection of the park. Down the zigzag path and a close look for our primroses and cowslips we planted along the banks. A few are already coming up which is good news. Further along we search for the snowdrops around the viewing platform and find that they are about an inch high. Last year they were spectacular. Then it’s on to admire the work of the WRG Forestry team and the results of the chipping machine.
Thursday, 10th December
A busy morning ahead as we have to get ready for our visiting working party from WRG Forestry who will be removing overgrown and diseased trees along the route of the former Guildford-Horsham railway (now the cycle route) and near the future rebuilt canal section on Tanglewood Farm land. We put up notices explaining the work to take place at the weekend. Rain eventually stops play but we have managed to cut up a dead tree that is a real eye sore. Let's hope Rob Nicholson can spare some time with his chain saw to remove a few of the ones that are just leaning against other trees and we need to get out of the way before they fall down taking others with them. Kevin Tayler visits to discuss the proposed boardwalk around what we hope will be the duck pond area in due course.
Thursday, 3rd December
Mike carries on lopping and it's my job to collect up the cuttings and put them on the eco-piles. This is a very skilled job you know, and after 3 weeks I'm beginning to get the hang of it. We spy a deer, long-tail tits and squirrels. Another tree has fallen into Cranleigh Waters - let's hope the Northern Working Party will be along shortly and will be able to remove it from the bank. Group of keen walkers pass by at a good speed, all with those walking poles. A good number of visitors walk along the viewing platform as well. The other week Lucy the dog attached herself to us rather than her owner. We see a visitor reading all about the canal at our noticeboard and we stop for a chat. The autumn colours are now fading but also the nettles so at last we can start to see what we've planted.
Thursday, 26th November
A lot of the lower branches are dead and we continue adding them to the eco piles to establish a habitat for our insects. In the undergrowth we come across some of the new plantings made last year and Mike puts guards around them - more for the purpose of making sure we see them rather than protection. The eco piles are now dotted around the park and we hope that we'll see some wild flowers appearing in the spring with the increase in light. We're actually quite pleased at the progress and already a number of areas are beginning to look much lighter and give a better view. We see that one of our leaflet holders has been broken off - the last of our supply will need to replace it.
Thursday, 19th November
Another good day and lots to get done. The more we look, the more broken and dead branches need to be cut back. Mike announces he doesn't like holly. Our osier bed is doing really well but we'll be pleased when all the stinging nettles die down. Spy an excellent gilder rose with startling red berries. See that the deer have again brushed up against the new spindle trees and broken off the tips. We tidy up along the path that will eventually lead to the new Tanglewood lock and see that most of the plantings have survived. Most of the trees will produce either fruit or nuts, so the aim is to have a produce stall in the future. Don't ask about the wild garlic. One week it was there and I got ready to make pesto, the next week it was past its best. Next year I must remember to pick it immediately.
Thursday, 12th November
Mike Hobbs, manager of Hunt Park decides that now is the time to tackle some of the neglected trees and lift the canopies. We make a start near the new viewing platform that now has new picnic seats. Lots of people out walking and enjoying the warm autumn weather. The oaks still have some colour and there are plenty of people out walking - and using our riverside path. One of our jobs is to clear the leaves off the viewing platform - how many weeks will we be doing this job?
Visitors to the northernmost reach of the canal at Stonebridge, Shalford, can now view the first part of WACT's programme of providing a “green corridor” reaching from Gun’s Mouth Island to the outskirts of Bramley.. These improvements flow from a bequest from the late Ed and Doris Hunt who reserved part of their estate to support a local environmental project. On land granted to WACT by Surrey County Council, volunteers of the Trust and fellow waterway-restoration groups have established a riverside footpath on the north side of the Cranleigh Waters.
This work is the first part of an important new amenity for residents and visitors which WACT has titled the Hunt Park in honour of our benefactors. Walkers and runners are already making use of the new amenity as an alternative to sharing the parallel section of the Wey-South Path that is often busy with cyclists. The new, meandering, waterside path opens up previously hidden views through the plantation and across to the sunny meadow of the Cranleigh Waters' south bank which is studded with fine mature trees. The new path has a durable walking surface and is wheelchair-accessible throughout.
The footpath will quite soon be complemented by a viewing platform sited alongside the Wey-South Path, offering an elevated viewpoint for longer views and supplementing the appreciation of the charming setting gained from the riverside footpath. Cycle stands will be provided at the viewing platform so that cyclists too may break their journeys to appreciate the landscape. A further phase of new-footpath construction will upgrade access along the south side of the Cranleigh Waters, primarily for the benefit of local schools, all the paths being located so as to complement canal channel when the canal is reinstated.
Our present work includes re-planting with native species and maintenance work including removal of dead trees and vegetation clearance. We hope that the shallow ponds that already exist will attract a variety of wildlife this coming year.