Gareth Matthes worked as a retained fire-fighter for four years, but due to work commitments and moving office hung-up his boots in August 2013. This year we are donating to the Fire-Fighters Charity supporting fire-fighters everyday putting their lives at risk, as well as Haslemere First Responder, who try to provide medical assistance in the Community minutes before Ambulances arrive, and look after Public Access Defibrillators in our area. In April Gareth will attempt the Three-peaks challenge (trekking the highest peaks in Scotland, Britain and Wales within 24 hours!), with Haslemere On-call Crew, to raise money for these two charities.
GPM Ecology attended the second Ecological Management Committee Meeting at a solar farm project in the New Forest, where an Estate is diversifying, having installed Photovoltaic Collectors into two fields (former arable and horse pasture). Evidence was presented that wetland invertebrates did not appear to be attracted to and impacted by Solar Panels. Grazing was discussed with livestock to be introduced in 2015. Photos show the establishment of vegetation around PV Collectors and brent geese feeding near Fawley Power Station - the coastal marshes and plain around the area being an internationally important site for over-wintering brent geese and wildfowl.
In 2013 contractors re-discovered a native Crayfish population on a National Trust site in Surrey. In October 2014 the National Trust commissioned a survey of their property and the catchment upstream. Following several visits to the site and adjacent properties we found that White-claw Crayfish were still surviving along a 3km stretch of water-way. However, this remnant population is under serious threat with Signal populations close by and an active angling society presenting a potential biosecurity issue. A dam on site provides some protection to signal spread and it is hoped that a biosecurity workshop with interest groups will help.
This summer we had two contrasting reptile schemes. An aggregate rail transfer site (2ha) in Surrey, had been proposed for reptile relocation to Kent. However, an assessment of the landscape found that reptiles could be relocated to railway embankments opposite the application site, with agreement of the land-owners. A maximum single catch of 38 slow-worms was recorded during the 70 site visits, with a total of over 1,000 reptiles relocated. In contrast a small housing site (0.01ha) supporting a very high slow-worm density had a maximum count of 40 animals during five survey visits, with translocation postponed until next spring.
Late summer saw a survey pick-up three protected species, in the foothills of the Sussex Downs, next to a holiday cottage with a view across semi-improved wildflower-rich pasture, hedges and ancient woodland, supporting slow-worms, dormice and bat roosts in close-proximity to the property. The survey picked-up evidence of Dormice (see the gnawed Hazel-nuts in the photo) from within the hedge-line on the site boundary, linked to Ancient Woodland. Slow-worm were observed in the grounds, during the late-summer survey and a Long-eared Bat maternity roost, with evidence of Serotine and Pipistrelle Bats had been recorded and mitigated within an adjacent property.
In July we had two CfSH Schemes where we were required to consider enhancement schemes that would provide something practical for a small garden plot. The sites were in areas of reasonable tree cover and therefore we proposed the creation of woodland nature areas. A scheme in Fleet, Hampshire was specifically designed as a wildlife den for children, entered through a living arbour and planted-up with edible native species, while the other in Sutton, London was devised to screen a neighbouring garden with native species, using climbers, shrubs and part-buried logs to encourage stag-beetles, which we had found on site.
On 24th June 2014 Gareth organised a slightly different task for ARC Trust Weald Tuesday team, arranging for a combined birch thinning / chestnut coppicing and dormice nest-box monitoring session, with two nest-boxes performing (see photo below) and four Dormice seen. Earlier in the month GPM Ecology assisted ARC Ecological Services Ltd with Sand Lizard and Natterjack surveys. A good numbers of Natterjacks were seen and heard in one of the Woolmer T.A. ponds and Sand Lizards observed on another site (see photo below). Although not the optimal months the Sand Lizard surveys continued through to August / September period.
During spring 2014 another dangerous Bridleway damaged by off-road users had to be temporarily closed, with Great Crested Newts (GCN) breeding in the vicinity. Four or five ruts, over 1m deep had been created by off-roaders along a popular bridleway. A survey of the ruts during spring provided evidence of GCN breeding with eggs present within one of the ruts. A follow-up survey at the end of August found that GCN larvae were still developing in the ruts. This issue provides Councils with a conflict between keeping Byways open and safe under Right of Way Legislation, without contravening Wildlife Legislation...!
On 30th April Surrey Amphibian and Reptile Group organised an amphibian training day for Lower Mole Countryside Management Project. Gareth provided a 1.5 hour presentation to members of The Project in the afternoon promoting SARG and NARRS monitoring schemes, with Kevin Morgan and Danial Winchester of SARG conducting some evening site surveys and hands-on training. The aim of the training day was to get members of The Project trained to conduct amphibian surveys, with the main objective for them to start monitoring Stones Road Pond SSSI (two ponds as photographed below), solely designated for its Great Crested Newt (GCN) population.
We had eight sites during spring, requiring Great Crested Newt (GCN) surveys, of which six supported GCN. Of particular interest was Winston Churchill's old swimming pool, at Chartwell. In 2001 we provided recommendations to National Trust, which included hedgerow planting close to the old swimming pool pond. We then surveyed the old swimming-pool in 2012 and then again in 2014 with a high-count of nearly 100 GCN. The pond supports an exceptional population, as well as an adder population associated with surrounding grass and scrub. The swimming pool was painted by Winston Churchill, therefore has both landscape and conservation value.
From 2012 to 2014 GPM Ecology managed the mitigation, creation and maintenance of great crested newt (GCN) ponds impacted by a £14 million re-development project at East Surrey Hospital. In January the ponds were designated by SWT, as part of an existing Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI), for their GCN population and educational resource. During February landscape works around the ponds commenced, though hampered by wet weather. The three ponds were formally named and monitoring of the Ponds took place in spring, with 17 GCN in Little Pond, 11 GCN in Brickfield Pond and 2 GCN in Wycherley Pond.
During August and September 2013 Surrey County Council repaired a dangerous Bridleway, damaged by off-road users, with 1m deep flooded ruts that had become colonized by Fairy Shrimps and Great Crested Newts (GCN). The Council re-instated a new bridleway and carried-out enhancement to the old route, the only known Surrey site for Fairy Shrimps, by clearing vegetation and scraping the ruts. A brief visit on 23rd January 2014 confirmed eight fairy shrimps (and a GCN) along the 300m length of track-way. On 28th January it was agreed to be designated a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) for Fairy Shrimps.