Volunteering sessions in Stoke Park are every Thursday morning, and the first Saturday of the month.
We cover a lot of things in those sessions. It’s a big park, and there is a lot that needs doing.
Here’s a summary of some of the things we got up to over the Summer and the Autumn.
The highlight (in my humble opinion) was the scything. It’s definitely worth a try if you ever get the opportunity – if nothing else you can pretend you’re in Poldark!
Scything the grass is less destructive to wildlife than using machinery. While we can’t practically scythe all of the fields, if we become skilled enough we could mow some of the park by hand.
We spent several hot weeks working in the orchard. The orchard has 210 fruit trees, which are fenced to protect them while they are growing. Now that they are fruiting we wanted to make the trees easier to access. So we removed the top railings from each of the fences and used them to cross brace the lower sections of the fences.
840 top railings removed, and the same 840 railings then re-attached at the bottom. We were extremely grateful to have the help of other local volunteering groups on this job.
Now people can easily pick the fruit, and it’s a lot easier for us to access the trees to prune and mulch them.
Butterfly and Reptile Surveys
In August we started surveying the butterflies in Stoke Park, and in September we started a reptile survey. We’ll do this every year so we can see whether the numbers in the park are increasing or decreasing, and whether the species are changing.
The butterflies were quite shy this year, but we did spot some slow worms and grass snakes during the reptile survey.
Litter picking, laurel removal and path works
We do a lot of litter picking (sadly). We do have some interesting finds though – the best this year was a motorbike!
Heroic amounts of gravel and rocks were shovelled and transported by wheelbarrow to shore up some paths. In Winter these paths should no longer turn into muddy, difficult to use quagmires. We also put some steps into a notoriously slippery steep slope.
Again with the help of local volunteering groups we cleared some cherry laurel from Long Wood and Hermitage Wood. Cherry laurel is invasive, it outcompetes native plants, it creates such a dense canopy that nothing can grow beneath it, and it’s toxic. It also grows like mad! We filled two trailers in one session. There’s still plenty of it left.
We will continue the battle against the laurel. We’re being trained in hedge laying so that we can maintain the hedges in the park. And we have 300 trees to plant.
We also hope to revive the Dew Pond which has previously been a habitat for great crested newts.
If you’d like to help with any of this (please!) we would love to have you.
You can come once a week, once a month, once every couple of months, or just once.
It all helps.