Open Gardens Festival weekend for The Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice.

Westcombe Woodland will be taking part on Saturday 24th June and Sunday 25th June in the annual Open Gardens Festival across Greenwich and Bexley boroughs.  This will allow members of the public to once again visit our Woodland at the start of Summer to fully appreciate all the volunteers’ work.

Tickets can be brought on the day at any garden for £3 per visit or just £10 for a ticket to cover all gardens over the entire weekend.  The Woodland will be open from 2:00 pm until 5:30 pm.  In addition, our Chairman, Tim Barnes, will also be opening his garden over the weekend.  This being located at The White House, Crooms Hill, Greenwich SE10 8HH.

All proceeds generated from entrance fees will be donated to The Greenwich & Bexley Community Hospice.

Volunteer Day – Sunday 7th May 2017

Only a week after our 4th Open Day event saw us back to our usual routine of the monthly volunteer events.  Over a dozen people helped out with today’s tasks.  The weather is really starting to warm up now, so extra watering of our new planst is required.  Of course, this means that the weeds we try and keep at bay are also rapidly growing.  The “Mound” area was also weeded to.

Westcombe Woodlands Chairman Tim Barnes at work weeding

Volunteer weeding

Removed Spanish Bluebells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the more unusual weeds we were removing was Spanish bluebell.  This plant is a threat to our native species because it readily cross-breeds resulting in the fertile hybrid, which is a problem because crossbreeding dilutes the unique characteristics of our native Bluebell, changing future generations forever.

Spanish Bluebells

The Spanish bluebells are a very common garden plant and are quite invasive in the right growing conditions.  They are characterised by having little or no scent at all and are generally a much paler blue that the strong blue of our native bluebells.

 

 

 

One of the woodland’s more interesting plants we have aquired are some Elm saplings.  These have been especially grown with the hope of offering resistance to Dutch Elm disease.  As can be seen in the photo below, this small sapling is looking very healthy.  The tree can grow up to a height of around 20 feet before the beetle that spreads the fungus through the tree starts to cause the tree to weaken.  It will take many years before the planted saplings reach this size.  Finally, our recently constructed pond is going from strenth-to strength.  The pond’s margins are looking very impressive, with the grasses and plants looking very healthy.

Elm Sapling looking healthy.

Elm Sapling “Ulmus minor”

Pond with vegetation growing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer Day – Sunday 2nd April 2017

Our first volunteer session in Spring was a wonderful day.  Blue skies, warm temperatures and no wind made the outside conditions seem almost balmy for this time of year.  This meant we could really get stuck in to the tasks of planting and weeding.  Using funds from previous open days, we purchased more native plants to further enhance the existing woodland flora.

With the warmer temperatures, now is the ideal moment to new plants in before the soil starts to dry out, making it less likely plants will survive.  Having purchased new plants, we also took existing plants such as established clumps of primroses and red campions and divided these in to smaller plants.  An economical way to increase the woodland flora.  However, there’s always a requirement to keep on weeding.  The Glade area has a lot of bindweed, and this plant needs to be kept under control.

Freshly purchased native plants

Newly planted primroses among bluebells

Primroses

Primroses with three cornered leeks in the background

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer planting newly divided plants

Volunteer removing weeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although planting was a good activity, it’s also nice to look at the existing plants that are only just starting to grow.  The mature pear tree in The Glade area was in full bloom with white petals covering the immediate area.  The other photo shows apple blossom also in full flower in the orchard area of fruit trees.

The mature pear tree in full blossom

Apple blossom

Apple blossom

Spring flowering plant

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Glade area, we bought some more native hedge saplings and it was now the time to get these in to the ground so that they can take full advantage of the extra light and warmth.  The hedge in the area around the newly created pond will be a valuable wildlife habitat in the future.  The photos below show volunteers working away to create the holes in the soil for the new hedge saplings to be put in to place.

Volunteers planting a new hedge

Volunteers planting a new hedge

Volunteers planting a new hedge

Volunteers planting a new hedge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer Day – Saturday 4th March 2017

The 3rd Volunteer Morning of the year had a definite feeling that Spring isn’t far away.  The event was very well attended with both committee members and volunteers, with around 18 people onsite.  Tasks this morning were the removal of a non-native horse-chestnut tree to make way for native woodland saplings including English Oaks.  The photos below show committee member Andrew Slade with a mattock taking aim at the horse-chestnut, to remove it from the newly created woodland clearing on the way to The Glade area.

Taking aim with the mattock

Taking aim with the mattock

Roots and all removed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further work was the addition to the stag beetle dead wood habitat.  This will be mentioned in the Spring newsletter, but work was started last month on the creation of a fixed potential habitat for this greatly declining species.  Fortunately one of the species’ strongholds is in south east London; we hope this effort will add to their numbers as shown in the photo below.

Stag beetle habitat

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was very encouraging to see the primroses we planted a few years ago in flower, as well as some of the snowdrops that were planted just several weeks ago.  No doubt this time next year they will be even more established, providing a pleasant site to the footpaths with their early flowering season.  In addition the several hundred bluebells that were also planted towards the end of last year are already starting to make an appearance.  The below photo doesn’t look very significant, but the bulbs have been in the ground for just over 3 months, so clearly the habitat conditions are ideal.  Hopefully by the end of April there should be a good display of flowers.

Primroses starting to flower

Recently planted snowdrops starting to flower

Bluebells just appearing

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pond is looking well, it’s full of water and although there doesn’t appear much activity, no doubt in the next few weeks it will be a place coming in to life.  Finally, bright green leafs are already starting to open.

The pond

Leaves starting to appear

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the last 2 photos show volunteers both at work in the new clearing removing ivy, bramble and adding to the log piles for insect habitats, as well as enjoying a well deserved coffee break!

Well deserved break!

Volunteers at work

Spring 2017 Open Day

Westcombe Woodlands are proud to announce that our first open day of 2017 will take place on Sunday 30th April, from 2:00pm until 5:00, this being the early May Bank Holiday weekend.  Come along to enjoy the woodland in the afternoon.  Stout footwear is recommended.  You will have the opportunity to see the work that we have been undertaking over the last few months including seeing how the pond we built in Summer 2016 is developing.

Open Day April 2017

Volunteer Day – Saturday 7th January 2017

The first volunteer day this year took place last Saturday. Despite the rather damp, overcast weather a dozen or so people came throughout the day, some to volunteer, others just to take a look around.

At the end of last year, using volunteers from Barclays Bank, a small area was cleared, ready to allow for the beehives to be sited, just south of The Glade area.  The photo below shows our new installed and very well camouflaged shed, next to the area where the beehives will be sited.

Equipment shed for our bees

Tim Barnes clearing leaves from the flower area

The newly built pond, looking very healthy

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, there’s the usual tasks of weeding, removing leaves from the grass area, checking for any storm damage and general maintenance.  The pond that was constructed last Summer is looking very healthy and has a good water level as can be seen in the above photo.

Two extremely heavy half-trunks from one of the Robina trees were moved to the glade, where later this year, they’ll form new seats. Nigel Duncan’s video on our Facebook page shows just how heavy they were to move!

Half trunk of Robinia, ready to become a bench

Donald Albrecht and oak sapling planting

Bluebells planted late 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was planting of oak saplings, as shown by Donald Albrecht in the above photo, ready to plant a tree. Bluebells that were planted just several weeks ago are already starting to appear in places. Areas where they were planted have been marked, so that we can monitor and maintain these area.  Once again, it promises to be another exciting year!

Volunteer Day – Saturday 3rd September 2016

Yesterday’s volunteer session had another busy day of activities. As well as the normal tidying up of The Glade area, it was also necessary to check up on our pond. It’s looking more and more as though it’s been established for quite some time. Two frogs were seen in the nearby grass, while the ponds plants look healthy.

View of the pond in The Glade

View of the pond in The Glade

Purple loosestrife adjacent to the pond

Purple loosestrife adjacent to the pond

Meadowsweet plant growing near the pond

Meadowsweet plant growing near the pond

 

 

 

 

 

 

While removing weeds in The Glade area, an old carrier bag that had blown in to the woodland was lifted to reveal hundreds of wood ants with eggs which had made the most of the extra warmth, as can be seen in the photo below. Also, as the end of Summer arrives, the brambles have started to fruit in places, yielding large, tasty fruits for both fauna and volunteers!

Woodland ants with eggs

Woodland ants with eggs

Ripe bramble fruits

Ripe bramble fruits

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this year we took delivery of several elm saplings as part of a long-term trial to try and grow more disease resistant trees. Photos show one of these saplings looking healthy, but whilst creating a new dead wood pile, 3 much larger elm trees were seen. One of these was approximately 20 feet tall, and there’s a photo of its leaves below.

Elm leaves from a large, healthy tree

Elm leaves from a large, healthy tree

A healthy looking, recently planted elm sapling

A healthy looking, recently planted elm sapling

 

 

 

 

 

 

As further maintenance took place, an overhanging sycamore branch was removed to allow for better access to The Glade area, adding new wood to our dead-wood pile. In The Mound area, there was an effort to remove and tackle the bindweed that has been building up and starting to smother out the plants and trees that have over the years been planted. The photos show volunteers working on this area. As can be seen, there is a photo of a hop plant which has somehow found its way on to the slope.

Overhanging branch removed

Overhanging branch removed

A volunteer weeding The Mound

A volunteer weeding The Mound

A native hop plant growing through a hazel shrub

A native hop plant growing through a hazel shrub

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, on The Mound it appears that a possible fox hole is present, the photo shows what appears to be freshly moved soil. We will be keeping a look out of this.

View of a potential active fox hole on The Mound

View of a potential active fox hole on The Mound

Volunteer Day – Sunday 7th August 2016

Today’s latest session made the most of warm sunshine, something that has definitely been in short supply recently!

Today was in The Glade area, concentrating on weeding, pond maintenance and tidying up our dead wood pile.

Our apple and pear tree trees are producing a healthy amount of fruits, although as can be seen they’re quite small. Weeds have made the most of the warm weather with Rosebay Willowherb taking over around 20 sq yards of soil just to the side of the grassed area in the glade. 

One of the many pears now growing.

One of the many pears now growing.

More pear fruits rapidly growing.

More pear fruits rapidly growing.

Smaller both in size and numbers than pears in general.

Smaller both in size and numbers than pears in general.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using our scythe, the photos show committee member Donald Albrecht cutting the grass and weeds.  This tool allows for a precise and easy cutting of the grass with great speed in such a small, confined space.  It’s proved to be an excellent investment of our funds.

Donald Albrecht cutting The Glade's grass.

Donald Albrecht cutting The Glade’s grass.

Donald Albrecht cutting The Glade's grass.

Donald Albrecht cutting The Glade’s grass.

Donald Albrecht cutting The Glade's grass.

Donald Albrecht cutting The Glade’s grass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

With our new pond starting to become more established, it was time to clear some of the pond-weed of the water’s surface, the photo showing another committee member, Richard Sylvester taking on this project.  Pond wildlife continues to amaze all involved; several small frogs were seen, the gloves in the photos give an indication of their sizes!

Removing excess pond weed.

Removing excess pond weed.

One of several small frogs seen adjacent to the pond.

One of several small frogs seen adjacent to the pond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, the work in the woodland allows everyone who takes part to look back at our achievements and also to appreciate the habitats we are creating.  The last of this session’s photos show volunteers showing their work.  In the upper areas of the woodland, the removal of non-native trees has allowed for the creation of a log pile which will create a new habitat for insects.

Three volunteers taking a break from their activities.

Three volunteers taking a break from their activities.

Newly created habitat of logs.

Newly created habitat of logs.

This plant, knows as Lords-and Ladies is a good indicator of shady woodland

This plant, knows as Lords-and Ladies is a good indicator of shady woodland

Volunteer Day – Sunday 7th February 2016

This morning’s volunteer session saw 2 new volunteers arrive and the return of 3 others.  The main focus of the day was to take the saplings we ordered and to plant these on the footpath leading from the top of our newly installed steps, leading towards The Glade.

Two committee members infront of an overgrown fence, before work started to plant the area

Two committee members infront of an overgrown fence, before work started to plant the area

Volunteers filling in the cleared trench with newly planted saplings

Volunteers filling in the cleared trench with newly planted saplings

Committee members planting our newly created thicket

Committee members planting our newly created thicket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As can be seen above in the first photograph, our project was an overgrown strip of land, covered in ivy, rubbish and fallen branches.  With several volunteers available, the area was quickly cleared leaving good quality bare soil, which we then quickly filled in with native British saplings before their roots dried out.  The last photograph shows our newly created thicket, in an area that receives plenty of sunshine, so we hope that in the next 2 or 3 months, many of the saplings will start to put out new leaves.

The photos below show another picture of the newly planted saplings in our hedge.  The middle picture shows some of the volunteers who took part in this morning’s volunteer session and the final picture is a reminder that although it’s still cold and dark, hazel catkins in flower are a reminder that Spring and warmer, brighter days are on the way.

Freshly planted native saplings forming our newly creared hedge

Freshly planted native saplings forming our newly creared hedge

Volunteers in the area of a newly planted hedge and thicket

Volunteers in the area of a newly planted hedge and thicket

Hazel catkins bursting open

Hazel catkins bursting open

Volunteer Day – Saturday 9th January 2016

Last Saturday saw our first volunteer session of the new year. In addition to our usual plan of general weeding and making sure all is well inside the woodland, the main aim today was to plant 5 elm saplings which were supplied to us from The Conservation Foundation (www.conservationfoundation.co.uk) who have supplied us with 5 elm saplings as part of a project to see why some elms survived Dutch Elms Disease and to see if saplings which show disease resistance can be successfully grown.

The photos below show the saplings in their pots before they were planted and 2 volunteers getting ready to plant the saplings. The label shows the variety of the elm and the location from where it came from. Over the months we hope to provide updates of these saplings with their health.

Our 5 elm saplings, ready to be planted.

Our 5 elm saplings, ready to be planted.

Committee member Nigel Duncan is ready to plant an elm sapling.

Committee member Nigel Duncan is ready to plant an elm sapling.

Volunteer with freshly dug hole waiting for the new sapling to be planted.

Volunteer with freshly dug hole waiting for the new sapling to be planted.

One of 2 Ulmus minor planted in The Glade area.

One of 2 Ulmus minor planted in The Glade area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
However, in addition to the planting of the donated elms, there was still our usual activities to undertake.  One of our concerns is in The Glade area, where the large leaves from the sycamore trees rest on the grass and if not removed could block out light and weaken or kill the grass.  One of the below photos show volunteers raking these leaves off the grass area.  Another problem is the highly invasive plant called Borage (Borago officinalis) whose seeds enjoy the freshly disturbed earth.  These plants grow fast and smother the existing woodland plants and those that we’ve planted.  The photo below shows a pile of such plants takes from just several square feet.  Removing these will allow, as can be seen below, other woodland plants to thrive.

Volunteers removing leaves

Volunteers removing leaves

Borage plants removed to allow for other woodland plants to thrive

Borage plants removed to allow for other woodland plants to thrive

With invasive borage plants removed these bulbs can grow better

With invasive borage plants removed these bulbs can grow better

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
It was seen that primroses we planted in late 2014 are already in flower, a harbinger of warmer and longer days.  Finally in The Glade area we started to remove some plastic tubes which have protected our hedge plants from damage.  Now the tubes have been removed from several plants, this will allow them to fully develop.

Primroses in flower in mid-January

Primroses in flower in mid-January

Our hedge plants can fend for themselves without their protection tubes

Our hedge plants can fend for themselves without their protection tubes