Chairman’s Update, Bob Daniels:
We are delighted to welcome new members to the committee – it is always good to have fresh ideas.
The annual Bird Walk was again a great success (see below). Dr Andy Swan has kindly agreed to lead another Fungal Foray on 22 October and don’t forget that the Annual Photo Competition remains open for entries.
It was recently a great pleasure to visit the beaver enclosure with members of the current and immediate past committee. The beaver’s dam building to establish new ponds and to extend existing ones continues and has retained huge quantities of water in the valley, despite the drought. A working example of the impact that beavers could have in water management at the national scale.
As part of the UK Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, Dee Durham (NT Ranger), Kate (my wife) and I carried out the monitoring of butterflies in two transects, one in the beaver valley and the other in the adjacent valley. We counted a total of 12 species (including marbled whites, peacocks, meadow browns, ringlets and Essex skipper) and a total of 640 butterflies. Further monitoring will be carried out during the course of the season.
A range of research projects continue to be active on the Valewood site. The latest is being carried out by Jack Hooker, a postgraduate student from the University of West of England, Bristol. He is putting static bat detectors on the site and Valewood is one of a number of beaver sites in his programme.
We were delighted at the level of attendance at the “live” AGM and talk by Dr Stewart Clarke. It was fascinating to hear how the National Trust is pioneering a number of approaches which work with nature to slow, store and filter water including reintroducing beavers, restoring rivers to their pre-disturbance state and simply putting more clean water in the landscape.
Regular users of the Black Down and Marley car parks will have noticed that they have been badly affected by the impact of the increased numbers of visitors during the pandemic. We have agreed to fund the repairs and in a new departure we have asked NT staff to erect posters giving details of our support in the hope that some members of the public will be inspired to follow the links to become members. We also intend to do this at the sites of all future Supporter-funded initiatives. We also provided funds for the clearance of the ditches in Longmoor Wood which should help keep the paths less muddy over winter.
The Hindhead Car Park improvements are working well. Sadly, the efforts to establish trees around the area have been hampered by the drought but we hope that at least some will survive. The others will be replaced. The fence around the Devil’s Punch Bowl is now in place. We have agreed to provide funds to replace the current ponies that are now, sadly, coming to the end of their life expectancy
There was an opportunity to comment on national proposals to change the status of BOATs (Bye-ways Open to All Traffic), a couple of which run through Hindhead Common. We commented as there has recently been an increase in the inappropriate use these routes.
We were delighted that we were able to participate in the discussion on the location of the Jubilee Beacon… and even more delighted that the organisers selected an alternative to Gibbet Hill!
We are looking forward to the Punch Bowl Challenges (25 September) and especially the Quiz Night (15 October) which returns after a long, COVID enforced, gap. We hope to see as many of you as possible at both events. Please do help us to spread the word for these important generators of cash to ensure we can continue to fund a wide range of projects.
Black Down Lead Ranger Report by Dave Elliott
Ash Dieback: This is taking much of the team’s time and effort, with unprecedented numbers of trees affected. The Felling Licence has been granted to fell soft wood non-native trees at Valewood. The felling of diseased or dead trees is very dangerous work by specialist teams.
Marley Heights Repair of Memorial: This is an ongoing project and we are working with the family involved.
Beaver Project: The female Beaver continues to thrive and works continuously on the site. A decision will be made as to whether another male is introduced to the site or alternatively a new pair are introduced. The rewilding project and grazing programme are both going well.
Hindhead Lead Ranger Report by Matt Cusack
Ponies and Cattle: It was reported that the ponies and cattle on Hindhead are an ageing population, losing 3 ponies recently and expecting more to die of old age. It was suggested that a programme of replacement of livestock over a number of years would be best. Cushing disease is a major problem especially amongst the ponies. The supporters group have offered to pay for more livestock.
Devil’s Punch Bowl: The work on the BOAT continues and contractors are working on Byway 503 around Gibbet Hill. With the hot weather there is a very real fire risk, so signage concerning restriction and safe behaviour is being introduced and new signage is being costed. Sadly there has been another theft from the car park ticket machine and a break in at the café. The tree planting has gone ahead and watering is now a regular necessity. Ragwort is being regularly pulled up by the volunteers and the bracken is being sprayed.
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