Getting wild in 2017

Here’s some of what I got up to last year.

I started Wild Influence in 2015 as a way to bring together environmental consultancy, habitat management and education, all with a focus on the wellbeing of wildlife and people. In 2016 I worked in all of these areas in one way or another, and in 2017 I can’t wait to build on what I’ve done so far.

The woodland at Deepdale

By the end of 2015 I had produced a phase 1 habitat survey of the woodland at Deepdale Farm, a farm with backpackers and campsite in a stunning location on the North Norfolk coast. Jason and the team at Deepdale have ambitious plans to develop and improve their already impressive backpackers hostel and campsite in an environmentally sensitive way, and the farm and woodland is integral to this. The woodland is a beautiful place, and we’re hoping to get to work thinning some plantation stock, creating glades and scallops for wildlife and doing lots more to bring the woodland into use as a part of the Deepdale offering.

Layering hazel in Ten Acre Wood

At the beginning of last year I worked at Ten Acre Wood in Hillingdon, clearing brambles from a glade and cutting overstood hazel coppice. Ten Acre Wood is an oak plantation with hazel understorey, but some of the hazel had not been cut for many years. Working for London Wildlife Trust alongside volunteers, trainees and corporate workgroups, we cut and harvested the hazel for path edging, built habitat piles with the brash and got the chainsaws out for some of the meatier bits of work. I also tried clearing bramble and bracken from a glade to encourage natural oak regeneration (see below). On this and several other occasions during the year I worked with London Wildlife Trust’s Wild Talent trainees, who have been a lot of fun.

Throughout the year I’ve been doing occasional work for London Wildlife Trust in reserve management and supporting corporate workgroups, and I’ve joined the steering committee for Crane Park Island, my local reserve. I still volunteer as often as I can for London Wildlife Trust on Crane Park Island and other reserves in West London.

Duke’s Hollow in Chiswick

Last summer I was out surveying again, this time producing an Extended Phase 1 habitat survey of Duke’s Meadows in Chiswick for Hounslow Council through London Wildlife Trust (again!). The council have plans to redevelop much of this beautiful but slightly neglected green space, opening up views of the Thames and improving leisure facilities. Concentrating on the small Local Nature Reserve at Duke’s Hollow I pulled together a report with recommendations on future management of the reserve and ways to minimise environmental impact from any redevelopment in the area, for example by leaving some trees on the river bank to provide shade, interest and shelter for wildlife.

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Moving into the autumn I continued working for London Wildlife Trust on the Crane Valley Project, the aim of which is to restore and improve key areas of the Crane Valley including Yeading Brook. Much of the River Crane and Yeading Brook has been canalised – widened and straightened – and vegetation has been left to grow rampant with blackthorn and other vegetation outcompeting marginal plants and blocking access to the river. Through the Crane Valley Project we have worked with some amazing volunteers to clear and burn vegetation, open up views and paths along sections of the river, clean up decades of accumulated rubbish and build structures in the river channel to recreate meanders and habitat diversity, such as brash berms and flow deflectors.

I’m really proud of the work we’ve done on the Crane Valley Project, which has made a huge difference to some neglected sections of the river. Brash berms have had an almost immediate effect where they have been installed, causing water to flow at different speeds, scouring the river bed of sediment, and creating new and interesting habitats. The river bank in several areas has been opened up for the first time in many years, and we hope to see more marginal vegetation, flowers and other flora which will benefit wildlife and be enjoyed by people.

In the woods at Deepdale Farm

In November I returned to Deepdale! Jason and I ran a conservation weekend with a small but plucky group of volunteers, moving small trees from the woodland to supplement the hedges in their campsite, and enjoying a bonfire and a couple of warm, sociable evenings in the backpackers hostel. Some of the work we did was in preparation for Deepdale’s next conservation weekend this February. We’re returning to the farm, with a much bigger group of volunteers this time, to plant lots of new hedgerows on Deepdale’s campsite. These hedges include a fantastic mix of native species which will look great, provide privacy and shelter for campers and be beneficial to wildlife when they get established. And of course, I’m looking forward to another bonfire.

2017 is already looking awesome. I can’t wait to get back to Deepdale, get back to work on the Crane Valley Project, return to Duke’s Hollow for some reserve management work, and that’s just the next couple of months.

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