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.

Monday, December 24, 2007

More on magpies

Spotted this week - an enterprising magpie checking out the rookery for anything of interest.

I don't think he'll get away with that when the rooks start the new nesting season...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Magpies everywhere

Is it just me, or has everyone been seeing magpies all over the place this week?

Any ideas why?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Looking ahead - future work mornings

Wapley Bushes Conservation Group holds regular work mornings on Sundays, meeting at the Shire Way gate at 10.00 am and finishing by 1.00 pm. It's not as strenuous as it sounds - please come along, do a little practical work and learn about the Nature Reserve.

Our provisional plans for the next work mornings are:
Jan 27 - Coppicing and general conservation
Mar 2 - Planting to fill gaps in picnic area hedge, general litter pick
May 18 - Survey of early woodland flowers, birds etc

Please wear wellies or stout footwear and appropriate clothing. If you want to find out more please contact Paul Hulbert on 01454 315851 or Isabel Ryan on 01454 313055.

Report from Work Morning Sunday 4 November

Another busy work morning, mainly planting oak trees along the edge of the Common near the picnic area. We have ideas of establishing an avenue of trees in years to come. Digging was hard going in places - when the track and drainage ditch were created, it looks as if the stones were mainly piled up where we were trying to dig!

The oak trees were all of local stock. A local resident grew them from acorns gathered at Wapley, and brought them on in pots.

We also did a bit more to the stream through the wood, sawing away some branches that were partly blocking the stream bed.

Dave and Ann finish planting an oak

Mary and Malcolm deciding where to put the next one
This small frog showed an interest in our progress

Photos by Isabel Ryan

Report from Work Morning Sunday 2 September

We spent this work morning clearing the stream through the middle of the wood, trimming back branches from footpaths etc. The stream only runs during periods of heavy rain, but then the water from the top ditches has to drain somewhere. It flows down through the wood and then dives underground, crossing the common towards the kissing gate (you can see a depression in the ground where the stream runs underground).

Paul clearing a section of the stream bed
A "team photo" for the day
- Paul, Isabel, Mary, Dave, Tim and Malcolm.

Photos by Isabel Ryan

Friday, November 02, 2007

Comments welcome - "in moderation"!

Recently several comments have been left on this blog that are adverts for pharmaceuticals or have links to undesirable websites.

I've now switched "Comment Moderation" on, so when you submit a comment I have to check it before it will become visible. This will allow me to screen out unwanted comments but let through all the genuine ones.

I've also switch on "Word Verification" - when you submit a comment, you will be asked to read a some twisted-looking letters and type them it. The theory is that a spam robot won't be able to do this, but a person can.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Future Work Mornings - dates for your diaries

Wapley Bushes Conservation Group holds regular work mornings on Sundays, meeting at the Shire Way gate at 10.00 am and finishing by 1.00 pm. It's not as strenuous as it sounds - please come along, do a little practical work and learn about the Nature Reserve.

Our plans for the next work mornings are:
Sep 2 - clearing the stream, trimming back branches from footpaths etc
Nov 4 - Planting trees, native plants in the Western Wood, and honeysuckle in the hedge
Jan 27 - Coppicing and general conservation, more planting

Please wear wellies or stout footwear and appropriate clothing. If you want to find out more please contact Paul Hulbert on 01454 315851 or Isabel Ryan on 01454 313055.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Warning - squirrel working overhead!

I frequently see squirrels at Wapley, and I find their antics quite amusing. Some time ago I saw a young squirrel trying to learn to leap gracefully from tree to tree. It missed its target branch and fell through the tree clutching at branch after branch, and missing each time. Finally it caught hold of a branch about two feet from the ground, and hung there panting and looking very foolish. I refer to it as the "Idiot Squirrel".

I'm often accompanied by a squirrel when I'm walking the paths in the wood - it runs through the branches parallel to the path, about twenty feet in, watching me and keeping pace with my progress. If it's the same one it's learnt to do the Tarzan bit properly now.

While walking in Wapley Wood this week I heard the familiar scampering of a squirrel crossing the path a few feet above my head. Suddenly the fruit shown fell out of the branches and landed inches in front of me. There were tooth marks on the underside of the fruit where it had been bitten off.

Tim Fairhead says that from the toothed shape of the rounded leaf and the shape of the nut cluster it looks like the squirrel was trying to have some immature hazel nuts for lunch - they don't look to be completely ripe with a hard shell as they should be later on in the year.

So - walk the woods at your own risk, or you may get "nutted"!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Report from Work Morning Sunday 8 July

Dave and Isabel delve in the hedge, with Malcolm looking on while Tim directs operations in the background (Mary and Paul not shown)

Isabel clears the way to a tree affected by Dutch Elm Disease

Malcom and Isabel sawing down an infected elm

We tackled several main jobs today. First we removed fifteen or twenty elms affected by Dutch Elm Disease. They're easy to identify at the moment because they have no leaves, or the leaves are discoloured - you can see in the pictures above that the elms are virtually bare.

Next we removed a few strategic branches to open up the Top Pond to sunlight. It's pleasing to see that some of the aquatic plants we put in last year are now starting to spread.

Our final task was removing low-hanging branches from the paths. A good morning's work - a big thank you to everyone who took part.

Our next work morning will be on Sunday 2 September.

A very special place / Cutting dates

A recent survey has confirmed just how special the Lower Meadow is. Its wide range of species puts it in the national top grade of grassland - in fact it's SSSI standard (Site of Special Scientific Interest). However it won't be officially declared as an SSSI because that's only done if a site is at risk, which Wapley certainly isn't. One species that was recorded officially for the first time is the Bee Orchid (though we've seen it occasionally in previous years)

Several people have asked why the Lower Meadow has been cut earlier than usual. The answer is that we're trying to stop the spread of meadowsweet and other invasive plants, and the new cutting date is based on advice from experts. It's a compromise - some of the species we want to keep have only partly set seed, but we want to avoid them being strangled by meadowsweet and the like. Every third year we plan to have a second cut in September. The Upper Meadow will be cut later this month.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Work morning this Sunday - 8 July

A light work morning this time - a general tidy-up and a walk round to plan future care of the woodland and meadows. Wellies or similar would be advisable.

Meet at 10.00 am at the Shire Way gate - please ring Paul Hulbert on 01454 315851 or 07771 562505 if you would like more details.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Meadow flowers and insects

As usual at this time of year there is a wide variety of flowers at Wapley, particularly in the Lower Meadow. Make the most of them now, because the meadow will have to be cut in mid-July.

An insect lands on this ox-eye daisy

Selfheal (similar to bugle) appears throughout the meadow

Another insect comes in to land on this cornflower-like black knapweed - look carefully just to the right of the flower. You can only see its body - the wings are a blur.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Rabbit and robin

I couldn't resist this little scene I snapped at Wapley this evening. I'm not sure who was more startled, the rabbit or the robin.

Monsters in the woods - well, monster fungi

It's going to be a good year for fungi, I think. These monster bracket fungi appeared recently and seem to be lasting.

You can see that they're quite thick and fleshy. To give you an idea of the scale, the larger one is about 40cm x 30 cm - larger than a dinner plate.

The skin underneath appears fairly smooth - there are no gills.

When you look more closely you find that the under surface consists of small pores from which the spores are released.

In contrast the upper surface has a sort of spotted, "furry" pattern.

If you want to see these fungi for yourself, they're in the fringe of the main wood, off the upper part of the lower path, some way down from where the upper and lower paths join.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Report from work morning 13 May

On the work morning we were exploring the meadows with flora expert Rupert Higgins, who is carrying out a detailed survey for us.

The Lower Meadow is of course the better of the two. It's of Site of Special Scientific Interest standard, but places are only designated as SSSIs nowadays if they are under threat, which Wapley certainly isn't.
The plants in the different areas vary according to soil and drainage. Here you can see St Mary's Church in Yate in the distance.

Thanks to Rupert for a very interesting morning. Our next work morning will be on Sunday July 8th, when we will doing some general tidying up and gathering information for future management plans and projects.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Wildflower walk and survey Sunday 13 May

Please come and help our wildflower survey on Sunday 13 May, or just visit and enjoy the splendid display of flowers in the meadows and the woods.

We're meeting at the Shire Way gate at 10.00 am.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Spring has sprung

Well, I think that spring has well and truly sprung. A week ago I spotted the first couple of blubells at Wapley - the real English ones, not the Spanish ones that you usually see in gardens.

And the rooks were doing what all birds do at this time of year...

Monday, March 26, 2007


Just a few photos of buzzards over Wapley this morning - quite a spectacular sight!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Walking to Health walk

A "team photo" in the Upper Meadow.

Last week we had a great walk with the Walking to Health group. On a lovely sunny morning Tim and I took nearly 40 people on a tour of the Nature Reserve. We told them about the territorial rivalry between the rooks in the wood and the buzzards that nest down the lane.

While we were walking across the Common, someone spotted one buzzard, then a second one. A scouting rook flew across, but the buzzards took no notice. Then a dozen or so rooks took off and started to mob the buzzards.

Although there was no physical contact, at one point a buzzard had four rooks within two feet of it. The buzzard looked extremely worried.

Eventually the buzzards decided that discretion was the better part of valour and flew back to their side of the boundary.

It was amazing that this happened just on cue, and someone remarked that TV cameramen could wait for weeks to film something like that.

Click here for the map and details of our walk, and the things you can look for at this time of year

We'll keep you posted about future walks at Wapley, but you can find out more about Walking to Health by clicking here, and their programme of walks by clicking here.

Tim explains the species in the Western Wood

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Workday report 11/03/07 - Coppicing

A lot of the ash trees in the Centenary Wood have self-seeded. Soome of the "seedlings" are twelve or more feet high! Instead of trying to get rid of the extra trees, we've coppiced them, cutting them off four inches or so above the ground. That way they will shoot again from the bottom and provide an understory of growth, while reducing the competition for the larger trees.

Malcolm hard at work with a bowsaw

Dave using his croppers

"And this is only half of what we cut!"

Dave and Paul taking a well-earned break

We stacked the cut wood in large piles, to act as habitat and gradually rot down. This was the way people used to gather firewood from common land - coppicing is a renewable resource, "cut and come again".

Meanwhile Tim, Mary and Val were hard at work litter-picking.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Next work morning - Sunday March 11

A choice of activities... Join us for a SPRING CLEAN (no, we haven't got any skunks - not that we know of, anyway) - meet 10 am at the Shire Way gate.

The more energetic amongst us will also be COPPICING self-seeded ash in the Centenary Wood.

Ring Paul on 01454 315851 or 07771 562505 if you would like any more details.

Chips with everything - part 2

The cut wood has now all been chipped or stacked somewhere where it will provide habitat for various creatures.

I wondered how many years' growth had been cut back, so I counted the rings on the largest cut bough - I made it about 15 years growth, though of course most of what was cut was a lot younger than this.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Snow at Wapley

A few photos of Wapley in today's snow. I had to go to work, but I sent my photographic team - Margaret and Richard.

Fun in the snow - by Margaret

Wapley Church in snow - by Margaret

Logs in the wood - by Margaret

The Ride in Snow - by Richard

Trees gone blue - by Richard

Snowy view over Yate - by Richard

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Chips with everything - but not yet

There are lots of "arisings" laying around at the moment ("arisings" is the tree management jargon for the bits that are cut off)

The ground is too wet at the moment to get the chipper around without damaging the grass and leaving deep track marks.

Sorry, but the offcuts will be dealt with as soon as possible.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

How fast do trees grow?

If you want an idea how fast trees grow, take a look at the two newer plantations. Most of the trees in the Western Wood - the old allotments - were planted in 1992, so that's 15 years ago. Some of them are now 30 feet high. They've been so successful that we're going to be thinning them out shortly.

Photo: The Western Wood, looking towards the old miners' cottages at Wapley Rank.

The Centenary Wood, on the edge of the Top Meadow, was planted in 1995, so that's 12 years. It didn't have the benefit of being former allotments. Even so, many of the trees are 15 or 20 feet high.

Centenary Wood
Photo: the Centenary Wood (lighter colours) with the main woodland behind.

Report on work morning 14 January - LOTS done!

Pond panorama Nov 2006
We started off by putting in 60 marginal plants in the top pond. A sight for sore eyes - Malcolm and myself in waders sloshing around in the water, with me towing a floating box behind me with plants in. Everyone else was planting along the bank - 60 plants in all - and digging a channel to divert the incoming water under the little bridge and stop it flooding the path - it's rather a morass up there.

Then we turned our attention to tree planting at the picnic area. We planted 60 trees and hedging plants. We put in mainly hawthorn to fill the gaps in the hedge, then we put trees in the long grass, including hazel, dogwood, spindle, crab apple, holly, field maple and wayfaring tree. They're fairly small at the moment, but they will grow into substantial trees.

A big thank you to everyone who came along on the work morning! Our next one will be on Sunday March 11, meeting at 10.00 am at the Shire Way gate, when we shall be doing a spring clean and clearing some bramble. Please come along and join us!