Pucklechurch Parish Council Chairman’s Report – Summer 2019
Welcome to, what I hope will be, the first of many ‘Huw’s Muse‘ articles .
I want to share with you some of the interesting things that surround us in this country parish of ours.
Firstly, I’d like to highlight an area that I suspect many villagers are not aware of, which is the small parish woodlands out on the Westerleigh Road the other side of the motorway. This area is now about 30 years old and has matured into a diverse area of plants, trees and wildlife.
(see photo’s below).
Last Autumn I put up a couple of bird boxes and was delighted this spring when they were used by two blue tit families. I intend to put further boxes up for birds but also bat and bee houses. I’ll keep you posted with progress reports.
There are always some wild flowers on show and, at the moment, you can see Oxeye daisies and Common Spotted Orchids (see photo’s below).
So, if you fancy stretching your legs sometime go and have a wander but be mindful of the delicate environment.
Huw’s Muse Our Grand Old Lady No.2 August, 2018
We are very fortunate to share this parish with some magnificent trees. I would like to highlight, what I consider to be, the queen of them all. It is the Oak tree that lives on the Recreation Ground which has its photograph on the home page of Pucklechurch Parish Council web site (see also my photograph below).
This Oak (Quercus Robur) is a great specimen and someone must have had tremendous foresight to plant it here as it is a perfect setting for such a tree as this. I have carried out some measurements to determine its age, and I believe it is between 180 - 200 years old. This means that it was planted about the time that Queen Victoria ascended to the throne!
Her life has spanned many historical events: she has lived through many wars, including the Crimean War, Boer War and both World Wars to name a few. She has also lived through Sir Alexander Fleming discovering penicillin and the suffragettes achieving the vote for women. It is also reckoned that it took well over 5000 of these mighty Oaks to build Lord Nelson's Flag ship ' Victory ‘.
And yet, having done all of that, she is still a mere teenager and could well live for 1000 - 2000 years!
So, next time you’re on ' the Rec ', pay your respects to our 'Grand old lady’.
Huw’s Muse No.3 September, 2018
Our Conker Trees are in Trouble
I don't know any of you have noticed that our Horse Chestnut trees have been taking on an almost Autumnal appearance from mid-summer. This is because they have been invaded by a tiny insect called the 'Leaf miner larvae'.
This started in London about 2002 and has now spread across most of the country. The larvae are only the size of a grain of rice but their numbers wreak havoc with the trees leaf system. It is not thought that they are deadly in themselves, but they have the effect of weakening the tree, making it susceptible to secondary disease e.g. Canker. Indeed, we have already lost one in the churchyard opposite the old post office.
The future does not bode well for these giants of our landscape and they will be sorely missed if they disappear.
Huw’s Muse No.4 October, 2018
Conservation areas / New roads
There can be no doubt that our local area has seen its fair share of new road construction, and I know it has not been to everyone’s liking! But I think it’s important to appreciate the benefits to the landscape of the planting that’s being done in conjunction with the road work.
The planners insist that whatever is removed must be put back many fold. Consequently, alongside the new roads they have planted an enormous number of trees and shrubs, far more than were ever there in the first place.
These new areas are pretty well left to self-mature and self-generate into havens and corridors for wildlife. At this time of year, they really stand out with the Autumn colour!
So next time you’re driving along, have a quick glance to appreciate how beneficial these areas have become to the environment.
Huw’s Muse No.6. February 2019
Is there anything lovelier at this time of year than flowering snowdrops? Even after all the bad weather that has been thrown at them, they lift their heads and give us a great display.
Their posh name is Galanthus, which means ‘milk flower’, they are from the same family as the Daffodil (Amaryllidaceae), they can flower anytime from January to March.
Snowdrops have been with us for a long time, thought by some to have been introduced by the Romans… Lord knows what else they ever did for us (see Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, for the young people).
They have some medicinal properties, and were used as an anti-dote for poisons: these days they are being used in the fight to help Dementia patients.
If you want to see a good display, Abson Church has a snowdrop trail.
They give us a bit of hope that the Springtime is not too far away!
No.7. March 2019
WOOD: What would we do without it?
My Nan used to say that Wood warms us three times, once when we cut it, again when we move it, and finally when we burn it!
The woodlands and forests that surround us (especially us country folk) are such a vital part of the eco system, not only do they clean the air that we breathe but they also provide a home for millions of different sorts of creatures from tiny insects to the birds.
They are also a host for their fellow flora species e.g. Climbers such as Ivy, Mosses, Lichens, Epiphytes etc.
These in turn provide habitats for even more wildlife.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, when they are felled, they give us any number of different uses, from the building industry to boat construction, furniture to fencing, cricket bats, skittles etc. etc.
When the fallen trees are left in the woods, they rot down to provide further nutrition for the next generation of plants and trees, and while doing so give yet another habitat for invertebrates, insects and fungi etc.
But perhaps, as the summer approaches, we should be grateful for the fact that if dried out, it makes for a great method of cooking some lovely food on the barbeque accompanied by a bottle or two of wine!
Huw’s Muse No.8. April 2019
Woodpeckers - Why do they work so hard? I was near the woodlands at Shortwood recently and I could hear the ‘drumming’ of a Woodpecker. I mused to myself, why do they work so hard when other birds just gather some twigs and moss to make a nest? This little creature, along with its mate, will chisel away at a tree trunk for about 1 - 2 months to create a hole big enough to raise its chicks.
Sometimes the drumming sound is actually just the male trying to attract a female by hitting anything to hand e.g. Guttering or a barn roof. And sometimes it’s warning off other males.
Anyway, back to the ‘head banging’, with all that activity I find it difficult to believe that it doesn’t hurt itself. But of course evolution and nature have taken care of that, the woodpeckers brain is surrounded by a thick cerebral fluid which acts a kind of shock absorber, also its head has a kind of ‘seat belt’ structure that is also attached to the body section, meaning it can chisel away for hours and not feel a thing.
I still think it would be easier to gather a few twigs!
No.9. June 2019
Leave the grass verges alone!
There is now a huge ground swell of opinion throughout the country that would like some of our grass area’s left uncut for the benefit of our local wild flowers and wildlife.
For many years now it has been accepted that we mow ‘low and regular’ with no thought for the natural flora and fauna that would benefit from longer vegetation.
Our tendency for this thinking is borne out of an era where we tried to emulate the great gardens of the parks and stately homes that surrounded us. It goes without saying that, in the correct place, a well manicured lawn is a thing of beauty, but do all our areas have to be managed this way?
The conservation areas must obviously be carefully selected so as not to cause problems for the local population, but I’m sure you’ll agree from the photo’s that in the right place they can look lovely.
No matter what size a garden there can always be a patch that can be left for our nature neighbours? Try it, you’ll be surprised what new plants can develop and the wildlife that will use the area.
No. 10 August 2019
The Bramble – What a plant!
It’s that time of year again when the Bramble produces its tasty fruit. I have a begrudging respect for this beast of the plant world, on the many occasions when I have tried to deal with it, I have usually come second best and suffered to its defences. It has scratched and stabbed me more times than I can remember, I’m convinced it’s shoots actually reach out and hook into you and don’t let go!
It’s not only it’s defences that impress me but its ability to spread and reproduce itself, during the growing season it must grow inches by the day, it travels over ground by layering it’s shoots, underground by its root suckers, and also by spreading its seeds via the fruit that it produces. I have a theory that if humans didn’t contain it, it would take over the world!
We have been enjoying its fruits for nearly 3000 years, it’s leaves have been used for medicinal purposes, and it’s stems can be used in the making of string and rope etc. Needless to say, that wildlife loves them!
The word Bramble actually means ‘impenetrable thicket’ which is very appropriate as I would defy anyone to get through a hedge of brambles! According to folklore you should not eat the berries after ‘Old Michaelmas day’ (Oct 11th) as the devil has made them unfit to eat, there may be some truth in this as by this date they’ve usually gone mouldy.
So, in my many fights and battles with this old adversary I have to admit that it has mostly got the better of me, and I have the scars to prove it!
Twinning Prints for Sale
Earlier in the year the Parish Council commissioned an artist to produce an original limited edition lino print to be given as a civic gift in honour the 25th anniversary of our twinning with Pringy. The remaining copies of the print run, entitled ‘Pucelancyrcan –Pucklechurch’ by Melanie Wickham, are available for sale at the price of £35 each (unframed). These will be sold on a first come, first served basis to a maximum run of 50 copies. The image is a stylised representation of Pucklechurch Parish and reflects many aspects of its community history as well as its Anglo Saxon origins. Melanie has also very kindly offered to license the use of a digital copy of the image to Pucklechurch community groups to use for their own purposes at low cost (£25). To express interest in acquiring a print or to request the use of the image please email the clerk: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pucklechurch News Archive
Huw Morgan - Woodlands Report February 2019.
I thought it might be helpful for the Parish councillors to have a report on works carried out at the woodlands. This year I concentrated more on removing the weaker ‘leggy’ and diseased trees (some suffering from Ash dieback). This will reduce competition and benefit the surrounding trees and mid layer plants. I have also done some canopy raising and clearing to make access easier for bird watching, strolling etc.
The dead wood has been stacked and provides new habitat’s for mosses, algae, small creatures, invertebrate’s etc.
The area is now looking well managed and pleasant, there are some ‘copse’ areas of thicker growth for the deer etc, some open glades and semi open areas. With ongoing management and maintenance, the woods will continue to improve as a wildlife haven.