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 Summary of 2020 on the Lingfield Nature Reserves

This year has been an exciting year for the Lingfield Nature Reserves and we want to reflect on all that has happened and look forward to 2021. Not only was it a landmark year, 25 years after the reserves were created, but a great deal has been achieved.

This really started in 2019 with Councillor Jeremy Pursehouse of TDC adopting the reserves as one of his charities and the Co-op accepting us as a local cause. We also received a generous donation from Mike Potts who owns S4B Group, a local storage company. Our success in fundraising has meant that we have been able to undertake a number of projects more of which below.

Our efforts and the flourishing wildlife have also been noticed and we have had visits to see what we are doing from our local MP Claire Coutinho, BBC Surrey and the Caterham and District Independent. The Lingfield Library donated plants from their new wildflower garden.

Perhaps our most exciting happening was our recent hedge planting where over 40 people attended and got digging. It was heartening to see babies, toddlers, children, teenagers and recent graduates among a variety of new faces alongside our dependable and loyal regulars. Five newcomers have been added to our volunteer circulation list including a young man with a degree in biomedical sciences and a lady undertaking a qualification in conservation. It all bodes well for the future.

We also now have a twitter account: @AreaWildlife and a Facebook group, Lingfield Nature Reserve, where we will try to keep anyone interested updated with news on wildlife sightings on the reserves.

Two projects which began in 2019 but progressed well this year are the pond in the Butterfly Garden and the meadow experiment in the Quiet Garden. The pond was made possible with the help of Councillor Lesley Steeds who found some funding for us. It has been planted with a variety of native pond and wetland plants and is all set for next Spring when we will hopefully spot some amphibians using it. We have already seen a grass snakes, egg laying dragonflies and great diving beetles. The little wildflower meadow next door had the top soil removed and was seeded and planted in 2019. This year has been one of seed germination and establishment. So far it has exceeded expectations and over 50 species of wildflower have been counted in its modest 50 square metres. Next year we will hopefully be treated to a host insects and butterflies as it flowers for the first time.

Another, less well known, initiative is our tree and wildflower nursery in the allotment. The Parish Council has kindly allowed us to use half a plot. The Leahy Family have volunteered to look after it and their teenage daughter Mia has produced a wonderful design which includes a pond, compost heap, tree nursery, wild flower section, bug hotel and cottage garden among other things. In a couple of years we hope to be planting out home grown wildflowers in the reserve and maybe offering them to anyone who is interested in wildflower gardening. It is early days but watch this space.

Sadly one of our stalwarts and long time committee member Richard Lowe passed away last year. In his memory, a dutch elm disease resistant hybrid elm was sourced by Richard Stephens. His widow, Julia, and their family planted the tree on the Eastern edge of Coldharbour Copse (it is doing very well). We also planted another four different types of resistant elm donated by the Surrey branch of Butterfly Conservation. We know we have white letter hairstreak butterflies on the reserve and now they have more food plants (they feed on elms) and can spread across the reserve.

A project which is easy to miss but should be more noticeable in Spring is our work in Coldharbour Copse. Roger Ohlson and his son Danny carried out some coppicing and pollarding to let more light into this wood last Winter. The idea is to increase the woodland flora (it was a paddock full of just grass once). After Roger and Danny had finished their work, we sowed those areas with the seed of woodland wildflowers. This appears to be working well and red campion, wild foxglove, nettle leaved bellflower and wood sage have appeared. Hopefully many more species will germinate and they should provide a colourful show in the Spring along with the bluebells we have been seeding into the copse for many years now.

Our decision to fence all our ponds was a difficult one. It is a shame to reduce the openness of these habitats but, hopefully, the house martens will continue to visit to collect mud for their nests and the odd, early morning, little egret will hunt in the shallows again. Efforts to talk to people and putting up signs did not reduce the dog traffic which had stopped the ponds from clearing and prevented us from establishing egg laying plants for amphibians. We know frogs, toads and newts visit the ponds. Now the daily disturbance has reduced, the ponds should become clearer and the activities of the wildlife be more visible. We plan to carry out torch surveys after dark in the New Year to monitor the numbers of great crested newts and other amphibians in these ponds and are considering having supervised open mornings in the Spring so anyone interested can explore.

 

Our biggest project, of course is the new hedge, ditch and bank in Bloomers Field where 500 mostly blackthorn and hawthorn trees were planted. We hope it will become an exciting new wildlife habitat. Building on our successes with the now wildflower-rich ditches around the reserve (have you spotted the spreading orchids?), the bare soil has been seeded and planted with the aim of creating a nectar corridor across the field. Many of you will be familiar with the beauty of blackthorn and hawthorn hedges when they flower. They are also magnets for insects of all kinds and should help our declining solitary bee populations and provide an egg laying opportunity for brown hairstreak butterflies. We hope the base of the hedge will act as a beetle bank and also encourage insects like crickets and grasshoppers while the damp areas of the ditch will attract amphibians and be colonised by moisture loving plants like meadowsweet and water mint. To see what impact the hedge has as it establishes, we plan to record the butterflies seen along it as we can then compare any butterfly counts with our 20 years of records for other stretches of Bloomers Field. That should tell us how well it is working in attracting these wonderful insects.

 

 

Which brings us to the wildlife. How is it doing?

The group of animals we know the most about is butterflies. We have been monitoring them now since 2002. The good news is that despite Lockdown curtailing our surveys and against a background of nationwide declines, most butterfly species on the reserve did well and some showed continued increases in 2020. Small copper, brown argus, ringlet, brown hairstreak and clouded yellow seem to have had their best year ever. Dingy skipper, common blue, small/essex skipper and meadow brown

are all showing sustained higher numbers which correlates with our programme of digging ditches and seeding wildflowers which started about 10 years ago. Especially exciting, the small heath, which is a species of conservation concern, has colonised over the last couple of years. As butterflies are good indicators of the health of the environment we can assume other insects are doing equally well. This is all good news.

We have had other interesting sightings and reports: kingfishers, yellowhammers, hobbies, wasp spiders and many more. It is not unusual to see buzzard, red kite, sparrowhawk and kestrel in the space of twenty minutes on the reserve if you keep your eyes open. It is wonderful we have so much on our doorstep.

I would like to finish here on the subject of an obscure moth, the grass rivulet. This moth has been found on the reserve for the first time recently. Its significance is that it feeds on yellow rattle a plant which did not exist on the reserves twenty years ago before we introduced it. Yellow rattle is a wonderful nectar source and parasitises coarse grasses suppressing them and allowing wild flowers to compete. It is now ubiquitous across the reserve. So grass rivulet being present on the reserve is a direct result of our management which is a lovely illustration of how we are returning biodiversity to the reserves.

We would also like to mention here that we are considering offering free guided walks around the reserves starting sometime in the New Year. The idea is to identify any birds, wildflowers, butterflies or other wildlife that are seen during the walk and to explain what we are doing and have achieved with regard to increasing biodiversity. It would be on a week day morning when the reserves are quieter and involve a deliberately small group of around a half dozen. Booking would be on a first come first serve basis and aim to make the experience as inclusive for all levels of knowledge and interest as possible. All that would be required is a passion for nature. We would love to hear what you think so please feedback to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you think it is a good idea and might be interested.

We have a lot to celebrate and are making great strides in making our reserves as wildlife rich as we can. You are all aware that there have been catastrophic declines in wildlife in this country since the middle of the last century and they show no signs of reversing. We hope with your support the reserves can become a showcase for what can be achieved for wildlife with community managed public land. Maybe it will also give thought to others who own or manage land to start changing and do more for our struggling wildlife.

And what of the future on the reserves? Perhaps one of the starkest statistics is the loss of wild flower rich meadows in the UK. It is estimated that 97% has been lost since the War through agricultural improvement. Meanwhile 50% of our ponds have been filled in and most that survive are in poor condition. That is an almost unimaginable loss of flowers, insects, fungi, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, birds and all the other life forms those flower rich and wetland habitats supported. We plan to continue trying to make our reserves as florally rich as possible to try to bring as much of that back as we are able to.

J.Madden Dec 2020

 

 

2019 Thank you Jeremy Pursehouse

 

THE LINGFIELD NATURE RESERVES ARE 25 YEARS OLD….WHAT’S NEXT!

 

The planning and planting of our wonderful reserves began in 1994, 25 years ago this year. Then the fields were horse pastures surrounded by barb wire fences with little obvious biodiversity.

So much has been achieved since then. Nearly everything you see today has been planted or constructed since. We have a safe all-weather route to school from Saxby’s Lane from Vicarage Road. There is a bridge, an orchard, a butterfly garden, ponds, a wetland complex of ditches and scrapes, flower rich meadows, scrub, hedges and woodlands plus benches, seats and arbours.

 

Recently we have been presented with a new but very nice challenge. Councillor Jeremy Pursehouse, newly elected chairman of Tandridge District Council, has chosen our reserves to be one of two causes for his fundraising efforts for 2019-2020. That means we need to decide on and plan some new projects for the reserves so we can use any money we raise or are given as a result of Jeremy’s support. It seems we have a potential opportunity to do even more to improve the reserves for wildlife. 

 

Jeremy’s other chosen cause is Blanchman's Farm, a Local Nature Reserve in the heart of Warlingham. We have already met with members of the Blanchman Farm management committee and it is clear that, as a minimum, we can share our different experiences in managing a nature reserve near the centre of a village and, hopefully, help each other to make our reserves the best they can be as an asset for our respective communities.

 

Whilst writing we would like to acknowledge the huge contribution made to the management of the reserves by our current treasurer, Sally Cole, who will be shortly moving to Devon with John, her husband, to live nearer their family. Sally has done so much for the reserves from being a stalwart at our Sunday morning work parties to doing a thousand and one management jobs. She is a real doer and go to person and has done everything from liaising with our mowing contractors to leading numerous pond dipping sessions with all sorts of local children’s and school groups. We are very grateful to Sally for her tireless work for the reserves. We will miss her very much and send our best wishes to her and John in their new life in the West Country after 40 years in Lingfield.

 

 

2018 Photography Project
 
During 2018, the Lingfield Nature Reserves ran a Photography Project. Visitors to the Reserves were encouraged to submit photographs taken during their visit, covering everything from long distance landscapes to macro-photography of the tiniest bug, leaf or flower. Each month, 6 photographs were short-listed and these went forward to a exhibition at the end of the year where the public could vote for 12 winning monthly entries for publication in a 2019 calendar, with all proceeds going towards maintenence of the Reserves. Whilst the Photography Project has finished and the calendars are no longer for sale, below is a link to the amazing and beautiful photos submitted during the year.

 

All Photography Project Entries