Heatwave help for your gardens

Round & About

nature

With temperatures set to soar again this week, a paucity of rain and impending hose pipe bans, how do you keep your garden going? R&A gardening expert Cathie Welch has some advice

As I write this we are being warned that temperatures are going to climb to over 40 degrees! Many people are asking how we deal with this in our gardens. Once it hits there is very little we can do about extremes of hot and cold that descend on us unexpectedly.

The lawn

Lawns naturally have a dormant season in the summer and there is no need to waste precious water trying to keep it green. Once the rains arrive in the autumn it will green up again but will need some tlc so get scarifying, aerating and topdressing. I found my grasses went brown very quickly but the lawn ‘weeds’ thrived.

The flower beds

You may have lost a few of your plants in the recent hot spells even though you tried your hardest to water them. Accept there was nothing you could do and move on. Make plans to improve the soil structure by adding organic matter and don’t forget to mulch as you weed. Consider installing drip irrigation for the future.

Pots

Plants in pots do not tolerate drying out but this can be alleviated by using a good quality compost such as wool which holds onto the water for longer. Once they have dried out it’s very difficult to get them wet again so consider plunging and soaking the root ball or top dressing with wool compost before watering thoroughly.

Lawns naturally have a dormant season in the summer and there is no need to waste precious water trying to keep it green

New plants

Do not even consider planting in the summer months unless you have an irrigation system or you are sure the water is reaching all the way down to the roots. If you must plant, place an upside down water bottle or piece of pipe next the plant to fill up each day. I’ve seen bags next to newly planted trees which act as a reservoir. Trees are notorious for dying in the drought and many suffer from ‘establishment failure’. Whether planting in the spring or autumn it is that first summer that is critical. When you have watered the plant check how wet it is by scraping the surface of the soil. You would be amazed how little the water penetrates despite spending hours of your time watering!

Old plants

Unfortunately I remember only too well the summer of 1976 after which many established trees suffered from dieback as the water table dropped below the depth of their roots in the Summer.

 

Moving forward

• Improve your soil by adding organic matter.
• Prevent evaporation by mulching.
• Irrigate if you can and at the very least harvest as much rainwater as you can by placing water butts and containers under every pipe and gutter.
• Learn from the plants that thrived in the heat and the ones that died.
• Think very carefully when planting new plants. If you are choosing Mediterranean plants, plant in the spring and not the autumn as they could rot over winter.
• Get to know your soil type and research the plants that would do well in your garden.

Find out more

More advice on this and other garden topics at www.cathiesgardeningschool.co.uk

Appeal to save wildlife from fire

Liz Nicholls

nature

Surrey Wildlife Trust is urgently asking for donations to help one of our most precious heathland habitats, and about 200 red deer that help maintain it, recover from a devastating wildfire.

In July, a wildfire broke out on Pirbright Ranges, one of the largest areas of lowland heath in Surrey and home to many rare and threatened species. Patches of ground continue to burn for three weeks and over 650 hectares of pristine heathland has now been severely burnt, at great cost to wildlife.

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s herd of red deer carry out a vital role by grazing the heathland to prevent scrub including Scots pine, common gorse and silver birch from taking over the site. This allows slower-growing dwarf scrub and specialist heathland plant species to flourish, creating the foundation of the unique and threatened heathland ecosystem. Following the fire, hundreds of meters of fencing and heavy-duty sleepers that keep the deer safely on site now needs to be replaced – and the ongoing welfare of the herd will depend on regular vet checks and inspections by SWT staff. Supplementary food in the form of haylage will also be made available to the deer to ensure they have enough food to maintain good condition heading into winter.

The immediate impact of the fire also includes the potential loss of hundreds of recently fledged rare ground-nesting birds including European nightjars, Dartford warblers and woodlark which may have been too young to fly away from the fire. The damage to the site will also have prevented their parents from nesting a second time this year and will change the availability of suitable nesting sites for years to come. Reptiles such as slow worms, grass snakes and adders have been unable to escape the fire, perishing alongside the many invertebrate species, including endangered heath tiger beetles that inhabit the remaining heathland fragments in the southeast of England.

WildNet
Pirbright_before_the_fire_(SWT)

Wildfires have put Surrey on the front line of the climate and nature emergency

Rising temperatures and a lack of rainfall has led to increasingly large, uncontrollable blazes that destroy large areas of heathland. The Pirbright Ranges Fire has potentially burned deep into the ground, affecting plant species including round-leaved sundew, marsh clubmoss and bell heather over hundreds of hectares.

About 85% of heathland in the UK has been lost over the past 150 years through agriculture, development and changes in land management. Surrey Wildlife Trust manages several areas of heathland, including Chobham Common National Nature Reserve and Wisley and Ockham commons that are particularly susceptible to fire in dry conditions. Strain on resources in the years ahead are set to be severe for all who manage and protect these diverse and sensitive habitats.  Dealing with the impact of the Pirbright Ranges fire is expected to account for more than 30 additional days of SWT staff time this year alone.

Surrey Wildlife Trust’s director of reserves management, James Herd, says:

“Wildfires have put Surrey on the front line of the climate and nature emergency – and we urgently need extra support to meet the challenge.  Whilst the heathland will regenerate over time, it is likely to be eight to twelve years before it returns to full health.  The deer will perform a unique and irreplaceable role in ensuring the lowland habitats recover during this time.  All donations we receive will go directly to ensuring their welfare and the continuing safety of Surrey’s heathlands and their unique plants and animals.

“With the help of local people, we will do all we can to explore what more can be done to protect our natural heritage as weather patterns change.  It’s vitally important that people in Surrey can continue to reap the benefits of diverse and healthy ecosystems.”

Pirbright Ranges is owned by the Ministry of Defence.  For safety reasons, it is not accessible to the public.  The herd of red deer that grazes the site is owned and managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust.

David Nolan, Area Commander for Surrey Fire and Rescue Service said:

“Surrey Fire and Rescue Service is urging people to be wildfire aware. We have seen an increase in the number of wildfires we are attending recently and are asking residents to help keep Surrey safe. Please pack a picnic instead of a BBQ, and don’t have campfires or bonfires when the weather is dry! Ensure you dispose of cigarettes and litter correctly.”

Find out more

For more information about how to support the appeal please visit surreywildlifetrust.org/wildfire-appeal

Wild Watlington

Liz Nicholls

nature

Nicola Shafer tells us how her love of the natural world led her to the publication of her new book

We are lucky to have beautiful natural local habitats. From our precious chalk grasslands to our rare chalk streams, from the beech woods filled with bluebells and wild garlic, to our ancient hedgerows rich with native species, to old oak trees and meadows, to the gardens and green spaces in the town.

My love of wildlife started as a child, encouraged by my parents and grandparents and a small flowerpress. However it is only since I got involved with the Green Plan, a collaboration between Watlington Climate Action Group and other local groups interested in conservation that I realised how much I didn’t know about ecology. I joined Watlington Environment Group and started to learn the names of flowers, the types of insects, the song of our birds and the importance of our chalk stream. Last year, I acquired a macro lens with which to take better photographs of our local wildflowers, and a whole new world of beauty opened up in front of my eyes. Previously on walks I might notice the flowers in passing but now, stopping to take a closer look the variety, colour, and structure of these wildflowers astounds me. Looking closer you often see that a single flower can be home to various small insects, and a food source or a resting place for a bee or a butterfly.

Thank you to Watlington Library for displaying Eleanor’s artwork from the book in July, and to The Granary Café for hosting an exhibition last month.

Wild Watlington, The Creatures of Watlington Parish is a tour of just some of what can be found on our doorstep. Written as a story book, it is full of information that will be appreciated by young and old alike, as we find out about the habitats that make up our landscape, and the creatures that share it. The book was illustrated by young artist Eleanor Short, who is a Year 8 student at Icknield Community College. Thank you to Watlington Library for displaying Eleanor’s artwork from the book in July, and to The Granary Café for hosting an exhibition last month.

In the last year, with the aid of apps, my grandmother’s guide to wild flowers, and patient friends with more knowledge than me, I’ve been able to learn a fair proportion of the flowers I find on the local hills and verges. In times gone past, we were intimately acquainted with the plants around us – what was edible, what was not, what could be used for a medical treatment, what could be used for warding off evil spirits, and what smelt good when added to bedding. Now most of us don’t even know the names! As a society we have lost so much of this knowledge, but it is worth the effort to reclaim it. Looking closer and recognising the flowers and plants around us bring a greater understanding and connection to our natural world and with it a greater desire to protect and restore it.

Around Watlington my favourite places for wildlife spotting are:

1. The Chilterns way through Greenfield and College Woods is beautiful and I often see deer there

2. Incredible wild flowers can be seen on the chalk grass of the Aston Rowant Nature Reserves

3. The Chalk Pits at the bottom of Watlington Hill is a quiet retreat to listen to birdsong

4. The Paddock behind Watlington Library is beautifully planted with pollinator friendly plants, a great place to spot different types of bees and butterflies

5. Watlington’s historical chalk streams and spring fed ponds such as the Willow Pond and Horse Pond host amphibians, invertebrates, ducks, and occasionally a water vole.

Get your copy

The book is on sale at So Sustainable on Watlington High Street, priced at £5, and limited edition prints are available at wildwatlington.uk

Green dream

Liz Nicholls

nature

The Green Hub in Milford, which has just had its first birthday, offers a vital support space for teenagers struggling with their mental health

Just one year ago you‘d find the Green Hub Project for Teens on Facebook looking for local folk to join a DIY SOS-style weekend, to transform their tranquil garden in Milford. This month the garden celebrates its first birthday.

Over its first year Green Hub Project for Teens has transformed from an idea in its embryonic stage into a confident adolescent.

The garden is the vision of local chiropractor Tone Tellefsen Hughes. “I’ve seen so much trauma through my clinic in recent years,” she says. “But since Covid, it’s become unimaginably bad, so many young people experiencing a tough time – it’s heart-breaking. This is why we are reaching out to families with teens struggling with low to moderate social anxiety, stress and overwhelm.”

Tone’s co-chair, local business coach Vanessa Lanham-Day, has been instrumental in creating the momentum behind the project. “The garden and teen volunteering is such a simple concept – it’s all about providing time out in nature and calm.

But, for the teens to benefit from time spent in the garden, there has been a whole machine that needed to be created. We have been busy spreading the word as well as building relationships with GPs, schools and youth organisations – but the most passionate requests come from parents themselves.

Teens spend up to 12 weeks becoming garden volunteers, under the guidance of adult leaders – there are morning and afternoon sessions (all free) each Saturday for up to eight teens. The process isn’t “therapy” problems aren’t discussed, and no advice is given – but the process is undoubtedly therapeutic.

Tone adds: “Science shows that being in nature allows the brain to calm down and settle a little, like a busy snow globe when the snow falls. When you immerse yourself in an activity – especially in nature – your brain is unable to do anything else and this gives the busy teenage brain a chance to rest and make sense of what’s been going on in their world. There are long term benefits after a garden session, as well as finding a connection which has been so sorely missed since the pandemic for so many.”

Tone and Vanessa would also like to find other garden spaces to extend the programme.

Parents who want to refer a teen to the project should visit greenhub.org.uk/parent-refer

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Volunteers help maintain Betjeman Millennium Park

Round & About

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James Kent, a year 12 pupil at King Alfred’s, spends a day with the army of volunteers who help maintain the Betjeman Millennium Park in Wantage, which has just marked its 20th anniversary

Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Wantage Marketplace is a haven of wildlife, poetry, and relaxation – the Betjeman Millennium Park.

This month, the park enters its 20th year of providing for the local community but why is the park here in the first place? How was the land transformed from an empty derelict wasteland to the vibrant hub it is today? And why is it still so important?

You could be mistaken for wandering down from the parish church or along by the mill and assuming the wild plot of land on the outskirts of Wantage is just a normal park or nature reserve, but this is far from the truth…

You can feel a sense of magic and myth as you wander around the trails

Named after local poet and former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman (who lived in Wantage 1951-72) and dedicated to the start of the new millennium, the park is certainly not your ordinary piece of flat and neatly squared out urban greenery.

Being host to semi-wild woodland, engraved sculptures, a circle of ancient sarsen stones (the same as in Stonehenge) and even a performance area this is less of a park and more of a centre of life. You can feel a sense of magic and myth as you wander around the trails and get lost within the sprawling trees and running rhythms of word.

The freedom and wonder are infectious and not exclusive to humans – wildflowers pop up and enthusiastically cover the ground all around and birds call out from their leafy abodes.

In most places it is us or nature. Houses, pavements, fences keeping us tucked away from wildlife like it’s our enemy, the unkempt sprawling mass that we can’t control. However, here it is (to an extent) beautifully uncontrolled and thriving and a poignant reminder that we can all be here and coexist happily.

To many (myself included) it seems like Betjeman Park has always been there – a permanent feature of Wantage – but, as I’ve learnt, the fight for this park has been hard, the upkeep crucial but most importantly the transformation incredible. The two-acre site of land on which the park lies was once a piece of derelict wasteland that was close to being developed on with property.

Seeing the opportunity for protecting wildlife and how devastating it would be to see this land become swallowed up by more infrastructure, a local group came together to make a charitable trust. Through hard work, they saved the land and bought the plot with help from a council grant in the mid-1990s.

Chelsea Flower Show gold medalist Gabriella Pape was commissioned to design the space and came up with the idea of planting native tree species to increase biodiversity.

Local sculptor and artist Alec Peever was then chosen to engrave and install six sculptures to immortalise Sir John Betjeman’s words and poetry in stone which now make up the poetry trail. Finally, in May 2002 (after seven years of dedication) the ribbon was cut and the park opened to the jazzy sounds of The Wantage Silver Band.

It’s just so lovely to have this place in the centre of town

Today, the park is as relevant as ever in the local community and holds annual events like Art in the Park and the Betjeman Bike Ride and is used by many schools, cub groups and brownies for both education and adventure. It is also loved by locals (young and old) as a calm and relaxing sanctuary which transports you far away from the humdrum of the town.

One local resident told me it’s “just so lovely to have this place in the centre of town” and “it’s a wonderful asset” which has bloomed out of the “rough, unloved ground” she once remembers.

The Park has also been especially helpful to locals during the lockdowns as it provided many with the opportunity to get out of the house and spend some time in nature during those precious windows of exercise.

The essential role it plays in the community has also been acknowledged as it is now recognised as a Local Green Space in the draft Wantage Neighbourhood Plan, which protects it from all future development.

As a park for both people and nature to coexist happily, the upkeep is essential and many dedicated local volunteers help out at monthly work parties. I went down to see what was going on at the April work party and met some of the volunteers and trustees.

From the moment I joined them during their well earnt tea break I could really feel the deep sense of unity between them and the nature they care for. One enthusiastic volunteer, who has been involved for eight years and is one of the current trustees, told me how as a child she had quite self-sufficient parents and grew up “in the middle of nowhere” so it’s quite “a revelation to be in such a community”.

However, it’s not always a walk in the park (!) as she tells me it can be challenging to juggle her job and other responsibilities with the time needed as a trustee but there is such a great “feeling of achievement” and so much social connection.

Not only do those working inside the park’s perimeters feel the connection but I was told how often passersby stop to say how much they appreciate the work being done on the park and how much the park means to them which is “reason enough to do it” for lots of them.

One elderly lady, although unable to do any physical work, regularly pops by to bring home-made biscuits for all the hard workers- not only is the park there for the community to enjoy but also for the community to care for in all the different ways they can.

Not only is the park there for the community to enjoy but also for the community to care for

One student volunteer who got involved just about nine months ago originally to be part of his Duke Of Edinburgh award is now the park’s youngest ever trustee and has spent six months on an ambitious project identifying and mapping out all the trees in the park alongside one of the more experienced and knowledgeable volunteers.

He tells me the yew tree is his favourite in the park with its reddish and purple bark and evergreen spines and how they are very slow to grow but can live for thousands of years. What I really came away feeling like at the end of the work party was that this is no begrudging task or tedious responsibility for those involved but really a great pleasure.

As the chairman John Vandore said it is a real “privilege” to be able to ensure the survival of the magical space the original founding trustees fought so hard to gain.

To find out more about Betjeman Millenium Park or get in touch check out the Facebook page

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Star Q&A: Ray Mears

Round & About

nature

Local television star & bushcraft expert Ray Mears, 57, tells us more about his new We Are Nature book & theatre show to help us “tune in and turn on” to nature…

Q. Hello Ray. When did you first fall in love with nature? “When I was about seven or eight and I started to learn about edible plants. In those days, there was no internet, so I went to the library. I came across this plant in the woods called wood sorrel. I took ages to study it in books before I plucked up the courage to try it. It tasted of apple peel… And I’ve never looked back.”

Q: Can you tell us about your theatre show? ”This show is all about thinking and feeling the depth of our ability and turning up the volume of the senses that we normally suppress. Effectively ‘tuning in and turning on’ to nature. I will show how we can reconnect with an evolutionary heritage that stretches right back to the earliest of our ancestors. We will look at the extraordinary work that the National Wildlife Crime Unit do to protect our local wildlife. There is a good chance people coming to this show will find their lives forever changed.”

Q: We love your book We Are Nature. You regard animals as teachers, don’t you? “Yes. I try to learn from the animals I meet. So, the crocodile, for example, is the master of stillness. It stays so still that it weaves a psychological spell over any potential prey. Even if you know it’s there, you forget it’s there, and that’s the danger. We can use exactly that stillness to observe wildlife and to protect ourselves.“

Q: What’s the closest shave you’ve had with wildlife? “I’ve had many but one that comes to mind is when I saved a director from putting his hand on a venomous eyelash pit viper. We were on a reconnaissance trip for a programme I was making with Ewan McGregor and had just been dropped by helicopter in the Honduran rainforest. I was showing him how to put up his hammock for the first time and he was just about to wrap his cord around what looked like a vine…”

Q: What can you tell us about “rewilding”? ”There are some very good books written about rewilding but if we’re going to look after the planet and nurture it, we need to rewild ourselves. That means understanding ourselves and our place in nature and feeling a deeper connection. Many different cultures talk about Mother Earth.  I believe in that philosophy.”

Q: Why do you think we’ve lost touch with nature? “Our dependence on electrical goods and gadgetry has accelerated in our lifetime. We spend more time looking at a screen than we do at the natural world. The willingness to employ old-fashioned field-craft is disappearing. I think it’s something we need to bring back.”

Q: Tell us about your cookbook, Wilderness Chef.“My son said, ‘would you write some of your recipes down?’ It’s become popular. Cooking is important outdoors. If you’ve had a bad day, cooking a good meal outdoors pushes the reset button on morale and helps you feel good again.”

Q: Do you have any animals of your own? “Yes. We have a Labrador, and now we have a Labrador puppy, who is causing mayhem! Pets are wonderful. Dogs are the most amazing companions. In times of difficulty, they are a distraction, and are excellent security. They also remind us daily how intelligent other animals are.”

Ray will star in Guildford, Basingstoke, Oxford, High Wycombe & more. Visit www.raymears.com

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Local photography competition

Liz Nicholls

nature

Berkeley Invites Community to Take Part in Photo Competition Celebrating Nature:

Award-winning local housebuilder Berkeley Homes has launched a photography and drawing competition open to all residents local to the Woodhurst Park development in Warfield for a chance to win a Polaroid instant camera.

The competition aims to celebrate landscapes and nature as the season changes, encouraging families to explore local nature trails and capture what they see.

The winners of the competition will win an Instax or Polaroid instant camera, which will be handed over at a prize ceremony at the Woodhurst Park Sales and Marketing Suite, where the best pictures will be on display for the public to see. Two runners up of each of the three age categories (11 years and under, 12 to 17 years and 18 years and over) will receive a £25 Amazon voucher.

Entries will remain open until Tuesday 16th November and should be submitted to . Entries can also be submitted in person to the sales and marketing suite at Woodhurst Park, or on Instagram with the hashtag #StepIntoWHP and by tagging @berkeley_group.

Submissions will be judged by local photographer Karen Bennett and the Berkeley Homes Sales and Marketing Director.

Please note competition terms and conditions below:

  1. The competition is only open to residents of the United Kingdom.
  2. There is no entry fee or purchase necessary to enter this competition.
  3. All entrants under 18 must have permission of a responsible adult over 18.
  4. Only one entry will be accepted per person.
  5. Closing date is the 16th November 2021, after this date no further entries to the competition will be permitted.
  6. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for reasons out of our control.
  7. Berkeley Homes reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice, but any changes to the competition/offer will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.
  8. Berkeley Homes is not responsible for inaccurate prize/offer details supplied to entrants by any third party.
  9. The prize is as stated no cash or other alternatives will be offered. Prizes are subject to availability and Berkeley Homes reserves the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.
  10. Prizes are not transferable and cannot be resold.
  11. Competition winners will be selected by Berkeley Homes from all entries received.
  12. All entrants must be willing to provide full name, contact details and address and to have these details passed to the suppliers of the prizes.
  13. Any competition winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material, including on the Berkeley Homes website and social media. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
  14. Entry into the competition gives Berkeley Homes permission to use submitted entries in any future promotional materials, on their website and on social media.
  15. Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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AZUMI-Wellness: Nature Therapy Berkshire

Round & About

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We at AZUMI-Wellness are very excited to offer nature therapy experiences in Berkshire, a county blessed with extraordinarily beautiful parks, woodlands and forests. We passionately believe that going outside in nature can help us to feel calmer, more relaxed and less stressed.

At AZUMI-Wellness we pride ourselves on helping people to feel better and we believe in tailoring experiences to our clients and not our clients to the experiences.

We know that modern life is fast paced, full of uncertainties and always changing. Our minds are busy, jumping from one task to the next with little time to stop and enjoy the stillness of our surroundings.

Nature therapy encourages us to slow down, breathe and reconnect with our environment and ourselves. The practice of nature therapy focuses on reconnecting with the natural environment through a series of invitations, encouraging participants to become aware of all the amazing smells, sounds, sights, tastes and textures that surround them; leading to an enhanced experience and a deeper embodied sense of relaxation.

Nature therapy is the practice of immersing yourself in nature, particularly forests, for better mental and physical health. This evidence-based practice began in Japan in the early 1980’s and is known in Japanese as, Shinrin Yoku.

Studies have proven that people who regularly participate in nature therapy also known as forest therapy benefit from: reductions in feelings of anxiety, stress, anger, tension, fatigue and depression. Additional benefits include: lowered blood pressure and heart rate, improved quality of sleep and concentration.

At AZUMI-Wellness we are experts in guiding our clients through an authentic Nature therapy experience – our 2 hour sessions are run by certified and accredited therapists who will guide you through a sensory experience you are unlikely to forget!

Our sessions are suitable for everyone and we are very happy to adapt to your specific needs.

Each session is about 2 hours in duration, we do not walk more than ¾ of a mile, we walk slowly and carefully, mindfully moving through sensory invitations and taking every opportunity to relax and reconnect.

AZUMI-Wellness:
Website
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Visit Surrey Hills as lockdown eases

Liz Nicholls

nature

As lockdown measures ease and the weather improves, Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty remains a popular destination for both locals and visitors.

The past year has drawn more people than ever towards our green spaces in an effort to find fresh air for exercise and to reconnect with nature.

The Government’s roadmap out of lockdown sees measures eased this week, with the relaxation of the ‘Stay at Home’ rule, meaning outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed, making it easier for friends and families to meet outside. From Monday, 12th April, non-essential retail will be able to open including most outdoor attractions and settings and hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors.

These dates also coincide with the Easter break, school holidays and improved weather, all factors that will see a greater volume of visitors head to the Hills for recreation and relaxation.

Heather Kerswell, Chair of the Surrey Hills AONB Board says: “As lockdown measures slowly ease over the coming months, we expect the Surrey Hills to attract a greater volume of visitors. It is important that those who do come follow the Countryside Code and our guidance to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit. We encourage those who do come to seek out the less well-known areas of the Surrey Hills and keep away from the busy beauty spots where it will be harder to socially distance. Please remember to respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors and where possible support the local business community who very much need our custom at this time”.

We encourage residents to be tolerant and visitors to be kind as we see an increased enthusiasm for the Surrey Hills over the coming months. In-line with the newly launched Countryside Code we’ve set out our top tips for visiting this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to ensure the countryside is a safe place for all:

• We are aware that many visitors who love to walk and cycle will have greatly missed the Surrey Hills landscape, the views, and the well-known beauty spots. We advise you to avoid well-known sites such as Box Hill, Leith Hill and the Devil’s Punch Bowl which may become congested and therefore difficult to socially distance. Instead, why not visit lesser-known areas of the Surrey Hills.

• Please check before you travel that hospitality, car parks and facilities are open. Some local amenities such as loos may not have reopened yet.

Take your litter home, leaving no trace of your visit. This keeps the Surrey Hills a special place for everyone. Please don’t light fires or BBQs unless there is a sign to say they are permitted. It is easy for a fire to get out of control and destroy rare habitats.

Respect local wildlife and look after nature by being extra cautious and sticking to footpaths and bridleways so as not to disturb ground-nesting birds and other wildlife.

• Please be aware that our local farms are under great seasonal pressures during this time and we would encourage you to respect their needs by keeping dogs on leads and follow all designated footpaths and bridleways to keep yourselves and farm animals safe.

• Remember to consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors. Observe social distancing measures to help restrict the spread of the virus and ensure the countryside is a safe place for all

• We encourage you to continue supporting local during this time of transition and want to highlight all the wonderful products and services available on our doorstep in the Surrey Hills. Take a look at our list of businesses offering home deliveries, online support and services, gifts and inspiration.

• We hope that renewed enthusiasm for the Surrey Hills will translate into more people getting involved in caring for nature, wildlife, and the landscape. Remember to Respect, Protect and Enjoy – breathe deep, stride out, and give a cheery heartfelt hello to those you meet along the way!

Chris Howard, Chairman of Visit Surrey says: “Visit Surrey is delighted to welcome back our residents and visitors to the many attractions our county has to offer. It will, however, be a challenging time for the county’s most popular beauty spots and researching to find some of the Surrey Hills hidden gems may make for a more enjoyable and safer experience. Remember many places, even if they are free, will want you to book in advance. Also, toilets and other facilities will still be limited, so do plan your outings carefully.”

By being respectful of wildlife and the local community we can all benefit from an enjoyable visit to the Surrey Hills

Stephanie Fudge, National Trust General Manager for the Surrey Hills comments: “We would encourage all visitors to plan outings carefully and to check facilities are fully open. As wildlife emerges from the winter, we are seeing large numbers of ground-nesting birds across the Surrey Hills from March until early Summer. Their breeding success is critically dependent on not being disturbed and so we would ask that visitors are considerate, keep to paths and keep their dogs on leads in sensitive areas. By being respectful of wildlife and the local community we can all benefit from an enjoyable visit to the Surrey Hills.”

The Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of 46 nationally protected landscapes in the UK, having equal landscape status and protection to a national park. The Surrey Hills AONB was designated on 8 May 1958, which makes it the first AONB in southern England to be designated (the first was the Gower Peninsula near Swansea in 1956). The Surrey Hills AONB stretches across a quarter of the county of Surrey and includes the chalk slopes of the North Downs from Farnham in the west to Oxted in the east, and extends south to the deeply wooded Greensand Hills which rise in Haslemere. The Surrey Hills Board is a Joint Management Committee which is funded by Defra, the National Trust, Surrey County Council and the local authorities within the Surrey Hills area.

For further information on the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) visit www.surreyhills.org

Stay connected #SurreyHillsAONB Please follow @SurreyHillsAONB on Twitter & Facebook @SurreyHillsAONB and Instagram @surreyhillsaonb for the latest updates from the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.


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Spring has sprung so let’s celebrate!

Liz Nicholls

nature

Bees are buzzing, flowers are blooming, and the sun is shining: spring is here!

We’ve teamed up with Wiltshire creative company eatsleepdoodle who are celebrating our springtime burst of wonderful wildlife waiting to be spotted. From butterflies to badgers, wild garlic to woodpeckers, there are so many things to look out for!

Butterfly watch

What wildlife can you spot this time of year? Well, we’ve been in touch with Butterfly Conservation, and they have kindly given us a picture guide as to what butterflies and moths you can expect to see in April and May.

Some have even appeared early this year! You’ll see on Butterfly Conservation’s Instagram account, that an Orange-tip (anthocharis cardamines) was spotted in Kent at the beginning of March!

Orange-tip butterfly photograph by Tim Bates and Joanne Fegan

A common butterfly to see all across Britain, according to the Butterfly Conservation’s research, is the Common Blue (part of the Blues family and similar to the Adonis Blue!). They enjoy sunny, sheltered areas, and some of the most common places to find a Common Blue include grass and woodland clearings, road verges and coastal dunes. The male butterflies are the most colourful; bright with a beautiful light blue upper-wing; whereas the females are more muted and usually have larger areas of brown.

Another common butterfly in Britain is the Peacock. The underside of their wings is camouflaged to be hidden amongst leaves, but their upper-wing has beautiful bright colours, which help confuse and startle any predators. They can be found across the British Isles and are most often found in gardens!

Also keep an eye out for the Large White, the winner of the 2020 Big Butterfly Count, these lovely butterflies enjoy a variety of habitats, but can usually be seen in gardens and allotments.

Common Blue

Peacock

Large White

Butterfly Conservation

Butterfly Conservation is a wonderful organisation, aiming to recover threatened species of moths and butterflies, increase numbers of widespread species, promote international conservation actions, and inspire people to understand and take part in conservation.

Last year’s Big Butterfly Count saw the ‘lowest numbers recorded in 11 years’. The average number of butterflies logged by Butterfly Conservation in 2020 was down by 34% in comparison to 2019. However, last year a record number of people contributed to the count, ‘it seems that, in a very dark and challenging year, the opportunity for getting out into nature and helping as citizen scientists were very welcome to people who were able to participate in the Count this year. Butterfly Conservation is thrilled the event was enjoyed by so many people.’

More information on how to get involved with and contribute to Butterfly Conservation’s work can be found on their website here.

Other wildlife

It’s not just butterflies that Spring brings, soon we’ll see new life popping up everywhere! Badger cubs begin to emerge, mallard ducklings start their adventures and frogspawn can be spotted in ponds across the UK. The dawn chorus will get louder and more persistent as the fledglings take flight and more birds are looking to mate.

Spring birds are ready to be found in gardens and woodland across the UK. Cuckoos are calling, woodpeckers are hard at work (carving a nest hole in a tree trunk!) and blue tits can frequently be seen hopping around the garden in search of snacks.

Woodpecker – photo by Strong Fish

Blue Tit – photo by dfkt

The RSPB have a great article about common garden birds to look out for here – this can also help identify the birds you are seeing in your garden in the coming Spring months.

As well as birds and butterflies, other small wildlife venture out in the Spring, like hedgehogs! Did you know that hedgehogs roam an average of one mile each night looking for food? That’s a long way on little legs! Waking up from their hibernation, hedgehogs love gardens as they provide the perfect habitat.

How can you help wildlife?

Gardens provide them with plenty of food and potential nesting sites. Hedgehogs like to eat creepy crawlies, however, during dry periods these can become sparse. You can create a small home and supplement food for hedgehogs in your garden. A shallow dish of water will benefit them hugely and even meat-based dog or cat food can be left out for them. Springwatch suggests that logs, leaves, twigs and natural garden compost make an ideal home for these small creatures (and bumblebees too), if you keep a pile in your garden – visitors may start to appear!

Hedgehog photo by Alicja Gancarz

Another way you can encourage wildlife at home is by letting your lawn grow and trying to establish a flower-rich lawn. This is a great way to encourage bees. Something as simple as leaving a strip of long grass or planting wildflower seeds or nectar plants can help bees, and butterflies too! Recently, we’ve noticed a lot more places such as churchyards and village greens-leaving large sections of grass or lawns uncut as a safe place for bees and other small wildlife.

Don’t forget that if you see a bee struggling, you can gently pick it up (we recommend using a piece of paper!) and give them a few small drops of water with sugar or honey – this should give them a boost! Another great idea is a bee house – this is a collection of small (usually wooden) tubes that bees can use to lay their eggs in.

Plants & flowers

Spring sees a whole new world of colour from gorgeous plants and flowers! The start of Spring is when we see beautiful blossom and daffodils begin to flower, both of which create an instant atmosphere as they open up quickly in the sun.

Whilst these bold blooms begin the month of March, towards April we begin to see the bright hues of bluebells and smell the strong aroma of wild garlic (yum!). Head to any wooded area for your bluebell fix. Bluebells fill the forest floor with a cool blue tone, an added pop of colour to the regular muted tones. Did you know that over half of the world’s population of the iconic bluebells are grown in the UK? Bees love them and we have ants to thank for helping spreading their seeds!

Wild garlic is not only charming but delicious as well! Spending most of the time as a bulb underground, wild garlic then emerges with gorgeous white flowers that explode onto the green leaves during April and May with an amazing firework-like flower. It is the perfect plant for pollinating insects such as butterflies and hoverflies. You can also make your own pesto with wild garlic – scrumptious!!

What are you most looking forward to this spring? We’re excited to see some brighter days ahead and being able to take in the magical spring delights. And we’ll be making full use of our pond life tablecloth and tote bag and butterfly collection to keep track of what wildlife we can spot this year! With bird seed, butterfly references and a pesto recipe at hand, off we go into another enchanting springtime!

Win a Pond Life Tablecloth

We’ve teamed up with Wiltshire’s eatsleepdoodle to encourage you to notice the wildlife all around you and give you the chance to win a Pond Life Colour and Learn tablecloth. To enter to win, all you have to do is follow eatsleepdoodle on social media and tag eatsleepdoodle & Round & About in your wildlife pics on Instagram before Easter Monday (5th April). We can’t wait to see your creations!

Usual Round & About competition T&C’s apply.

So get outdoors and enjoy the nature around you this Spring!


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