Manor Valley Woods Group is thinking about the climate and ecological emergencies

A draft paper presented to the Bristol Parks Forum for consideration at their meeting on Saturday 27th June 2020.

———————————

Manor Woods Valley Group is asking itself some fundamental questions about how best to respond to the climate and ecological emergencies. Reversing the climate breakdown and loss of species requires urgent, radical, ambitious, largescale and collaborative solutions. Doing a little more of what we already do will just not cut it. This paper reflects our early discussions within the Group and will be further developed in debate with Manor Woods Valley supporters and the wider community over the coming months.

Like most ‘friends groups’, locally and nationally, we are privileged: mostly middle class, white, time-rich, garden owners who are relatively economically independent. We are not representative of the wider local and city populations and we cannot assume to speak for everyone. There are local and citywide communities that do not always have the same access to private and public green spaces and feel excluded from decisions about them. Furthermore, the majority of parks and green spaces in the city are not supported by active ‘friends groups’ and many groups struggle to sustain themselves over time with new members. We are beginning to question whether the ‘parks friends group’ is a fit-for-purpose model for local communities to contribute adequately to a citywide response to the climate and ecological emergencies and related health and equality crises.

How can the ‘friends group’ model be improved on or is there a better alternative?

Covid-19 has wrought a terrible toll on human life but is also resulting in some benefits such as reduced emissions from fossil fuels, cleaner air, increased interest in nature, active travelling, greenspaces, gardening and food-growing, community volunteering, acts of kindness, etc.

How do we retain as many of these benefits to people and wildlife as possible and ‘build back better’, sustainably, collaboratively and fairly?

Bristol’s One City Plan aims to achieve carbon neutrality in less than a decade and to ‘double wildlife’ and the tree canopy in less than three decades. Green spaces have a vital role in helping to realise these aims but the precise contribution of each green space is unclear in the absence of an overall plan. Some spaces could contribute more to the protection and improvement of wildlife habitats (through ‘rewilding’), while others may lend themselves better to ground heat/solar/wind energy production, the growing of biomass fuels or the production of food. Some may be able to support more than one of these uses.

With the health, wellbeing and prosperity of future generations in mind, how can we best support and challenge city plans for the long-term use of our green spaces?

At a time of great uncertainty about the future, education will play an even more vital role in supporting future generations in their efforts to avert climate chaos and environmental breakdown and to achieve climate justice. Green spaces are a rich resource for outdoor and lifelong learning. What contribution can we make to awareness-raising and the empowerment of future decision-makers and what support do local communities need to make an impact?

Time spent in green spaces has a beneficial impact on physical and mental health. This is now even more important given the anticipated long term health issues arising from the current coronavirus pandemic.

How do we promote and support health, welfare and wellbeing services in non-medical social prescribing?

We appreciate that parks and nature reserves make up only part of the green space in Bristol. Gardens, farms, small holdings, allotments, common land, water courses, verges, public service estates (such as hospitals, schools, community centres and places of worship), and private corporate estates all have potential to contribute to nature recovery and climate calming.

How do we support collaborative work between all these green space interest groups to help achieve the climate and ecological goals of the One City Plan?

A Special Place

Sam Lester is a member of The Forest of Avon Trust’s wellbeing course in Manor Woods Valley. She wrote this poem in March 2020, just as the country went into lockdown and the course was cut short.

A Special Place

Gently close your eyes and let your mind start to wonder…

Through the maze of all those competing thoughts; be patient, breath,

And it will come

That special place.

And then you can enter the woodland

Hazy at first but there it is, just as you remember it

The path down to that magical place

The buzz of expectant insects, the smell of the ripe earth

Each branch pointing the way, swaying, welcoming

Whilst new buds smile their sticky grins as you pass

And as you veer off the main path, it’s now that familiar track,

Small, less travelled, easily missed.

You can sense it now, just ahead…

The wood smoke signalling, weaving its way through the infant leaves

Colours invading as you reach the clearing, a million vibrant greens saluting the

new shoots rising

Hands wrapped round mugs of tea, the cracking fire lighting lost spirits

The hum of our forest community. Accepting. Restoring.

Gnarly tree fallen in Manor Woods Valley

Hold these treasured moments, still. Let the birdsong remind us

Mother Nature is alive and well

The world is still turning, the woodland awake

The community embers glow strong.

The more than human world cannot and will not be locked down.

Spring is here.

 

by Sam Lester, 2020

Manor Woods Valley Butterfly Survey 2019

This report prepared has been prepared by Peter Loy-Hancocks from the Manor Woods Valley Group

1)  Introduction and Methodology

Environmental science student and Manor Woods Valley Group member, Rachael Harvey, undertook three butterfly surveys in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve during the summer of 2019. In order to facilitate comparisons between surveys within the year, and in future years, the surveyor established and followed seven transects within the site (see figure 1).

Due to increasingly dense ruderal vegetation, it was not possible to survey transect 4 effectively.

Map of 2019 Butterfly Survey in Manor Woods Valley
Figure 1: Butterfly survey transects within Manor Woods Valley

 

The numbers of each butterfly species within transects were noted on to a field recording forms. These records form the basis of this report. All records were submitted to Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre (BRERC).

Additional records were obtained through casual observations made by the surveyor and others at different times throughout the year.

2)  Results

The first survey was conducted in the late morning of 27 June, on a sunny but breezy day. A total of 99 butterflies of eight species were recorded. The counts are summarised in table 1.

Species Transect Total
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Common Blue     1 1       2
Large White     1   3     4
Marbled White     6   3     9
Meadow Brown 3 1 57 4 3 1 1 70
Red Admiral 1       1     2
Ringlet 2   2 1 3     8
Large Skipper         1   1 2
Small Tortoiseshell       2       2
  6 1 67 8 14 1 2 99

The second survey was conducted in mid-morning on 6 July, when there was 20% cloud cover. On this occasion 189 butterflies of nine species were recorded. These counts are summarised in table 2.

Species Transect Total
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Common Blue     5         5
Large White   1       3   4
Marbled White     18 3 6     27
Meadow Brown 9 4 61 1 5 7 2 89
Painted Lady         1     1
Ringlet 5 4 16 1 5 4 5 40
Large Skipper 2 1 2   4   2 11
Small/Essex Skipper     2 1 8     11
Speckled Wood             1 1
  16 10 104 6 29 14 10 189

The third survey was conducted early on the 25 July, which was a hot day with 40% cloud cover. 155 butterflies of fifteen species were recorded. These counts are summarised in table 3.

Species Transect Total
  1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
Brown Argus     5         5
Comma   1     1     2
Common Blue 1   13 3 1     18
Gatekeeper 3 1 1 6 5 3 6 25
Green-veined White 3           1 4
Large White 4 1 1     4 1 11
Marbled White     2 2       4
Meadow Brown 1   22 1 1 3 2 30
Peacock 1       1 2 1 5
Red Admiral 1         1   2
Ringlet 1   2   2 1   6
Large Skipper 1   6   1     8
Small/Essex Skipper 1   13 2       16
Small White 3 2   1   5 4 15
Speckled Wood   3       1   4
  20 8 65 15 12 20 15 155

The total number of butterflies recorded in each transect are summarised in table 4.

  Transect Total
No. Butterflies 1 2 3 4 5 6 7  
27-Jun 6 1 67 8 14 1 2 99
06-Jul 16 10 104 6 29 14 10 189
25-Jul 20 8 65 15 12 20 15 155
Total 42 19 236 29 55 35 27 443

Casual records included observations of two Brimstones made on 15 February.

Including the two Brimstones, a total of 445 butterflies of eighteen species were recorded during 2019. These were Brimstone, Brown Argus, Comma, Common Blue, Gatekeeper, Green-veined White, Large Skipper, Large White, Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Painted Lady, Peacock, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Small/Essex Skipper and Speckled Wood.

3)  Discussion

It is difficult to draw many conclusions from monitoring butterflies within Manor Woods Valley for a single year; however, what does appear to be clear is the importance of the Wildflower Meadow (transect 3), especially to Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites and Ringlets.

Download this report as a PDF file.

Lighting up the woods

Area of woods that has been coppiced

Peter Loy-Hancocks has contributed this blog post explaining the importing of coppicing and why it is needed in Manor Woods Valley.

As anyone who keeps houseplants knows, plants need light to grow and thrive – for most, the more the better! There are several different types of woodland in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve. The shade created by trees and shrubs in some of these are so dense that few plants grow beneath them. This is especially evident in Allotment Wood; the woodland along the northern, Bishopsworth Road, side of Manor Woods Valley.

Ivys and Ferns in a coppiced area
Ivy and ferns are the only plants that thrive in the dense shade

Allotment Wood is very young; developing naturally following the abandonment of war-time, ‘Dig for Victory’, extensive allotments on the site – hence its name. It has developed through phases, from well tended plots, to a massive Bramble patch, then through a stage of impenetrable, mainly Hawthorn and Blackthorn, scrub. Today the shrubs and trees are tall enough to allow access beneath them, but the leaf canopy is so dense that little light hits the woodland floor.

A few woodland plants, such as Ramsons, currants and young Hazels, are appearing beneath the trees, but all are struggling to survive. Ivy and ferns are the only plants that are thriving!

In 2017 Manor Woods Valley Group commenced coppicing small areas in Allotment Wood. Coppicing is the now largely forgotten practice of cutting back shrubs, especially Hazels, every few years, to encourage prolific new, strong and straight growth. Historically this re-growth was used to make a variety of items including baskets, hurdles or pins to hold thatch. There is little use for these items today! Now, when shrubs are cut-back, the debris is made in to ‘dead-hedges’, which often become covered in Brambles and Nettles, and form the same valuable wildlife functions as traditional living hedges.

Dead hedge in Manor Woods Valley
A ‘dead-hedge’ in Allotment Wood

Coppicing has the added benefit of creating lots of variety within the structure of woodland. Within a relatively short time of coppicing, Ramsons start to thrive and flower, followed by Nettles and Great Willowherb. As the Hazels and other shrubs re-grow, they again start to shade out the flowering plants, and its soon time to repeat the coppicing cycle. All this plant growth encourages a range of wildlife, such as basking butterflies and their feeding caterpillars, hunting dragonflies, pollinating bees and nesting birds.

Area of woods that has been coppiced
An area coppiced earlier this year – note how dark the surrounding woodland is and how quickly vegetation has grown once the light is let-in.
Coppiced area after 2 years
An area coppiced two years ago. The Hazels stools are growing strongly, Ramsons are in flower and Nettles are growing.

The areas that have been chosen for coppicing during the winter of 2019/20 are on the edge of Allotment Wood, near the cycle-path. These areas are sheltered and south facing, so encourage rapid growth of flowers and shrubs, which make ideal habitat for the likes of Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper and Brimstone butterflies, and Southern and Migrant Hawker Dragonflies.

Speckled wood butterfly
Speckled Wood butterfly
Close up of Southern Hawker Dragonfly
Southern Hawker dragonfly

 

If you would like to help Manor Woods Valley Group with the rewarding work of coppicing this winter, look out for notices posted in and around Manor Woods Valley, or on our Facebook page. Why not sign-up for our regular newsletter and receive notifications of our volunteering sessions – which are usually on the second Saturday of the month?

Butterflies in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve

Rachel Harvey has contributed this blog post about the range of beautiful butterflies you can find in Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve.

Head down to Manor Woods Valley Local Nature Reserve, behold the meadows and relax watching butterflies flutter on a sunny day.

It’s the time of year for one of my favourite butterflies the marbled white. A beautiful butterfly often seen on purple knapweed and clover or resting near the top of long grasses. Black markings with a hue of white to cream. Be quick with a camera as they are quick to take flight.

Butterfly Ringlet

The Marbled white butterfly belongs to the family of brown butterflies. The brown butterflies include Meadow brown, Ringlet and Gatekeeper who are flying in the meadow and hedgerows at Manor Woods Valley and Highridge Common.

Often difficult to tell apart in flight, look out for the darker brown of the Ringlet, almost black on fresh newly emerged butterflies. Once settled its easy to spot the rings given this butterfly its name.

Butterfly Meadow Brown

The Gatekeeper butterfly is likely to be seen near or in the meadow hedge rows whilst Meadow brown flutters along and within the meadow grasses  and rests upon the wildflowers, grasses and brambles of the hedgerow.

Butterfly Gatekeeper

You may also spot Red Admiral, Common blue, Small tortoiseshell, Large white, Small white, Green – veined white, Large Skipper, Small skipper, Comma and Painted lady a visitor from the continent in these first weeks of July.

Happy spotting, leave a reply and let us know any butterflies you spot.

With thanks to Rachel Harvey for contributing this blog post.