Wapley Bushes Local Nature Reserve, near Yate and Chipping Sodbury, South Gloucestershire.

The Nature Reserve is run by the Wapley Bushes Conservation Group, a small group of volunteers.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Fungus month?

November and December are strange months. We see the last of the berries - for example rowan (mountain ash), but otherwise the colours are muted.

Look at fallen wood, however, and you find some very strangely shaped bracket fungi. Some are shaped like ears:

and others look like some kind of frilly jellyfish.

When we regrettably have to cut trees down we always try to leave the logs as a habitat for wildlife, both fungi and insects.

Have you seen the improvements to the paths in the Western Wood? If you walk the area regularly you will remember that the surfaces on the steepest parts were washed away by heavy rain.

We've improved the drainage, put in some shallow steps to break the flow of the water, and changed the camber of the path so that water flows towards the ditch. The work has been financed by a Landfill Tax grant from the South Gloucestershire Environmental Body.

Friday, November 17, 2006

New homes in forest

On the 12th November work morning, members of the Conservation Group installed a range of bird and bat boxes in the Woods. These are not the usual square wooden boxes – they are a modern rounded design made in a concrete based material.

We have a range of birds living in the wood, but we would like to increase the range of species. We also know that we have bats in the wood, and we would like to increase the population, hence these very desirable residences.

As regards the unusual design of the boxes, they are intended to last much longer than the wooden types. They are designed to look like holes in a tree, and they may attract some species that don’t like the angular look of the wooden boxes.

But do the boxes look too artificial? No, they blended in much better than I had expected. Mind you, I hear that the local squirrels are starting a protest group against over-development!

The new bird and bat boxes were provided free of charge by South Gloucestershire Council.

Isabel Ryan's photo shows members of the Conservation Group preparing to install the new boxes - the black ones are the bat boxes (the yellow is just the labels - we took them off).

We also planted some trees in the picnic area - horse chestnuts and hazel trees, kindly donated by a local resident.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Reminder - Wapley work morning Sunday 12 Nov

Just to remind you that we will be putting more bird and bat boxes up in the wood, and now we'll be doing some tree planting as well. Meet us at 10.00 am, by the Shire Way gate - everyone is welcome. We look forward to seeing you there!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

What a hoot!

Last weekend I went to a talk by Ian (Owl Prowl) Mcguire - this time on birds of prey. He showed his fantastic photgraphs and gave a very knowledgeable and entertaining talk. If you see one of his talks advertised, they are well worth going to.

By the way, thanks to Lou of Yate for her kind comment about the Owl Prowl - I passed a copy to Ian at his talk.

Once again, don't forget
Ian's website on www.wildowl.net for lots of interesting photos, and also the Hawk and Owl Trust site on www.hawkandowl.org.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Oaks and Acorns

I suppose that the oak and the acorn are two of the quintessential (today’s long word has been specially sponsored by the Conservation Group)… two of the quintessential symbols of an English woodland. Even though the oak is found in many countries of the world.

I was crossing the bridge between the two meadows, and across the bridge from the burnt-out tree I noticed acorns on the ground. Here is an acorn still on the tree. Notice how “woody” it looks, almost like a piece of manufactured furniture. Almost an advert for its parent tree.

Oak trees tend to remind me of the story of Robin Hood - the new BBC TV series, and the HTV series Robin of Sherwood that was filmed in the Bristol area, down by the river Frome.

According to the Royal Forestry Society, “Acorns in cups are a well known feature of an oak tree. The Anglo-Saxon name for oak was aik, so the seed was known as aik-com,” in other words OAK-CORN. Of course it’s a nut rather than a seed.

The photo shows an English or "pedunculate" oak, meaning that the acorns are on stalks. Acorns of the other common species, the sessile oak, don’t have stalks. Sessile means “sitting on”, so the acorn-cup sits directly on the shoot.

You would think that a heavy thing like an acorn wouldn’t travel far, but apparently they are often carried by birds for 250 metres, and sometimes even up to a kilometre.

Oaks used to be an important indirect food source for people. Mediaeval pigs (well, they called them swine back then) used to graze on the acorns, among other things. This practice was called “pannage”.

They’ve recently had problems in the New Forest because acorns are poisonous to ponies, so they’ve been asking commoners (people with grazing rights) to turn out their pigs to eat the acorns. Apparently an oak tree normally starts producing acorns after about 50 years and one mature tree will shed 50,000.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Wapley workday Sunday 12 Nov

This time we will be putting more bird and bat boxes up in the wood. Meet 10.00 am at the Shire Way gate - everyone welcome. We look forward to seeing you there!

What's wet, dark and scary?

More than 60 people – including many children – braved a rainy night to join expert Ian McGuire on an Owl Prowl through Wapley Woods. Despite the weather the crowd enjoyed their walk in the damp, spooky darkness, pausing as Ian described various species of owl.

Tape recordings of owls were played, but unfortunately no owls answered back. Ian said that owls generally didn’t like flying in wet weather – “It’s hard to fly and hold an umbrella at the same time!”

Nevertheless the group still met a real live owl because Ian had brought Jaz, a male tawny owl. The children in particular were fascinated to see an owl at close quarters.

Check out Ian's website on www.wildowl.net for lots of interesting photos.

The Hawk and Owl Trust site on www.hawkandowl.org is also fascinating.

Did YOU come on the Owl Prowl? Please leave a comment to tell us what you thought about it.

New Nature Reserve leaflet available

The new guide is now available, and should be in all the following places by this weekend:
Yate and Chipping Sodbury Libraries
Dodington Parish Council
Yate Town Council
Yate One-Stop Shop (South Glos)

They will also be available at the Tourist Information centre when it reopens after the winter.

The picture shows Paul Hulbert, Tim Fairhead and Isabel Ryan at the launch of the leaflet.

If you have any problems getting hold of a leaflet, please contact Paul on 01454 315851.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

New Nature Reserve Guide leaflet!

A new full-colour guide leaflet for the Wapley Bushes Local Nature Reserve has just been printed. We'll be distributing it shortly - watch this space for where you can get it - but if you would like a sneak preview, click here.

It's a PDF leaflet of a bit over a megabyte, so be prepared for a wait of a few seconds before Adobe Acrobat Reader opens, even on a broadband link. Unless you're VERY patient, don't try it on a dial-up link - it would just take too long, and you'll have to wait for the paper copy.

What do you think of the new leaflet? Any feedback would be appreciated!

Thanks to South Gloucestershire Council for their generous Environment Grant to pay for the new leaflet.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Daddy Long Legs

Have you noticed that large number of daddy long legs (crane flies) that are around at the moment? The other day I was walking across the Lower Meadow, and with every pace crane flies were rising out of the grass. Are you like me, you catch them carefully in the house and release them outside? But they have a Dark Side – their larvae are leatherjackets, root-eating creatures that gardeners hate.
Cranefly or Daddy Long Legs
Their larva, the leatherjacket

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Come and join us from 7.30 pm until 9.00 pm – Should be a hoot!

Suitable for all ages - come and explore the Woods at dusk, please bring the children too. Meet at railway bridge entrance, next to gate and Nature Reserve sign on Shire Way, opposite Cherington. We look froward to seeing you there.

Report from workday 3rd September

We had a good session on Sunday. First we scraped out the bed of the stream (well, drainage channel) in the middle of the wood. You may know the top end, where it passes under the sleeper bridge halfway up the top path.

If we don't keep this stream bed clear the species in the centre of the wood will change as it gets gradually damper and damper. We also have to keep a suitable habitat for a kind of sedge that is locally rare, but grows on the banks of the channel. If you look at the photo you can see the grass-like sedge on either side of the bridge.

The stream bed wasn't wet, despite the recent rain - there are deep cracks in the ground, and any rain just vanishes into the cracks. The water flows underground above a layer of impervious rock across the common and comes out at the bend in the road near the kissing gate, which it why that corner tends to flood in the winter.

We also went round all the main paths cutting back excess vegetation, especially at face level. I know it's been a good growing season, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing!

Our next workday will be on Sunday 12 November (10am for about 3 hours) - come and help us put up some bird and bat boxes.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fruit and magpies

On my walk today, I noticed the late summer fruits are starting to appear. There are blackberries, of course, and also now sloes. The hedge at the bottom of the sloping meadow – the field edge nearest to the railway line – is always good for fruit. Keep an eye on it as we move into autumn.

I was walking about midday, and few birds and animals were in evidence. Apart that is from wood pigeons, with the distinctive papery crackle as they flap their wings. I heard a squirrel scampering in the trees above me, but I couldn’t see it.

I also saw some magpies. If you see one magpie, look for another – they’re very sociable birds. It’s supposed to be unlucky to see only one. Do you know the saying:
“One for sorrow, two for joy;
Three for a girl, four for a boy;
Five for silver, six for gold;
Seven for a secret, never to be told;
Eight for a wish, nine for a kiss;
Ten for a bird that's best to miss.”

On the way back I saw several magpies together, pecking away near a tree. One magpie suddenly caught sight of a butterfly and decided to try to catch it. The butterfly promptly dodged round the tree, with the magpie in hot pursuit. This game of hide-and-seek went on for a few seconds, like something out of a Tom and Jerry cartoon, but finally the magpie won. He’d worked hard for his lunch…

Reminder: WAPLEY WORKDAY Sun 3 September

A morning of general woodland maintenance and ditch clearing work (not as unpleasant as it sounds!) Please bring gloves and wellies or walking shoes. Meet 10.00 am at railway bridge entrance, next to Nature Reserve sign on Shire Way, Yate, opposite Cherington. All welcome.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

An evening walk

I went for a walk yesterday evening. The meadows have now been cut, so the wild flowers are no longer visible. Even so there's still a lot to see.

At dusk I stood near the kissing gate and watched a rabbit grazing. Then as I looked from the top pond into the adjoining farmer's field, a fox strolled past only 30 yards away.

The pond has now dried up, but water has remained there for much longer this year - exactly what we wanted to achieve with the work we had done.

And in a hedgerow, I saw a flash of red - the fiery red berries of lords and ladies, a common British arum.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Lots of butterflies

Meadow Brown
Lots of butterflies in the lower meadow in the last days before the grass is cut. Here's a meadow brown, sunning itself on a leaf. You only have to walk through the long grass to set the butterflies flying.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Looking back and planning ahead

We had a meeting on site last week to discuss the management of the meadows. The timing of the grass cut is important in keeping the diversity of the plants and grasses. In particularly we were talking about meadowsweet, an invasive grass. At the moment we have meadowsweet in patches on about a tenth of the lower meadow, but we have to be careful that it doesn’t spread further.

I do a photo-shoot around the reserve every month, and in recent years I’ve tried to take some several “comparison” shots from the same locations each month. Looking back at photos from this July and the previous July, I found that there’s been very little change in the main patch of meadowsweet over the year. The meadowsweet is the white patch in the meadow on the photos.

We decided to keep an eye on the distribution of the meadowsweet, and possibly to try a selective second cut in September on one of the meadowsweet patches.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Report - Wapley Wander guided walk

Last Sunday a group of parish councillors and wildlife enthusiasts explored the countryside around Wapley, on a guided walk led by Paul Hulbert. The first part of the walk covered the Wapley Bushes Local Nature Reserve, and we looked at the recent successful work to deepen the top pond and encourage wildlife (The photo shows the walkers checking out the work at the pond - normally it would be completely dry at this time of year)

We then carried on to Wapley church, hearing about its history and the connection with Sir John Codrington, the standard bearer to Henry V at the Battle of Agincourt. We walked beyond the church on some of the footpaths across farmland - we noticed how one local farmer has constructed an excellent pond for wildlife, with lots of marginal plants that attract birds and other wildlife. We hope our top pond becomes as good in due course!

This is a marvellous walking area. We like to encourage people to get out and about in the countryside. If you're interested, lots of walk leaflets are available from the Tourist Information Centre in Chipping Sodbury.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Getting drier

The dry weather is finally having an effect. The top pond has shrunk appreciably, but this time last year it was bone dry. The work we had done last winter to deepen the pond has obviously helped.

I saw a buzzard above the Upper Meadow. The buzzards nest on a farm down the lane, but they rarely stray over the Nature Reserve because that’s the rooks’ territory. This buzzard looked round a little nervously, saw a single rook heading out from the wood, and fled immediately. Although it was three times the size of the rook, the buzzard knew that a squadron of rooks would be on call to chase it away.

The meadows are full of flowers – particularly the lower meadow - with lots of insects visiting them. Butterflies are flitting frantically from bloom to bloom, but bees take their time and allow you to photograph them. Take a look at the meadows before the grass is first mown.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What's nearby? A bit of history

St Peter’s is just up the hill from the Nature Reserve. This beautiful little church was mainly built in the 13th century, including its tower in the Perpendicular style. The south porch is a bit newer - only 15th century.

St Peter's claim to fame is that it contains the tomb of local hero Sir John Codrington, who died in 1475. He was the standard-bearer to King Henry V at the battle of Agincourt in 1415.

However, he's not actually under the tomb. Like many elaborate tombs in other churches, this is a "show tomb". There are suggestions that there once was a gravestone in the chancel floor, but Sir John isn't there either. When the tower started to tilt dangerously, the Victorians dug out the floor and flooded it with concrete.

So where IS Sir John? Our best guess is that his remains are somewhere in the grassed hillock in the graveyard, which is where the Victorians dumped the spoil. So we've started to call the hillock "Sir John’s Tump". Even if he's not there, it's a good story.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Drought? What drought? (Here anyway)

We've heard a lot recently about a predicted drought in the South East. Here in the West the recent rain has left the ground really sodden - some of the woodland paths are rather muddy, and the pond is full. It's good for the ferns (see picture), though the last of the bluebells are just going over.

The meadows are full of flowers, and vegetation is growing fast everywhere - perhaps because the weather has also been mild. When the sun shines, a few butterflies are also coming out to enjoy the blooms (see picture).

The treetops are full of quarreling rooks. I sometimes wonder how they find so much to argue about. It's good to see them performing acrobatics above the Upper Meadow.

Summer here we come...

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Workday 7 May 2006

A good workday today - lovely sunny weather. We've put eight dormouse nesting boxes in the wood. They're dark coloured rectangular tubes fastened to horizontal branches. This is part of the Dormouse Survey - we'll be checking the boxes later on to see what species are nesting in them.

Click this link for more on dormice.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tree surgery

We've had to have some fairly serious tree surgery done recently - some of the tress were rotting and almost hollow at the base. Still, it gives a chance for all sorts of creatures to feed on the rotting wood. And as you can see, people are encouraging the bird life by leaving seeds on the freshly-cut tree stumps. By the way, we always plant far more trees than we have to cut down. Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 24, 2006

Pond project

One of our recent projects was improving the pond in the top meadow.

This seasonal pond has had little of nature interest until now. To increase the ecodiversity of the area we brought in a specialist contractor to deepen the pond and plant along the margin.

Our thanks to South Gloucestershire Council who financed most of this work through their Environment Grant scheme.