Chairman’s Message taken from the 2018 AGM

Below are the notes that Chairman Tim Barnes used in the October 2018 AGM message to members of the woodland.

“This has been a year of consolidation, and there have been no startling new developments. That is as it should be. The woodlands do not need constant new initiatives but needs to progress the task of maintaining and improving the woods.

This we have done, and I want to mention a few of the actions.  The tree nursery has been set up with the support of children from Halstow School.  I will say more about these links when I come to the Greenwich Growth Fund application which the Friends Of Westcombe Woodlands is about to lodge.

Events

We had our annual Bluebell Open Day on the 29th April when despite bad weather some 60 or 70 people visited the woodlands, including a number of residents from Seren Park, the development next to the woods.  On 17th June there was the annual Summer picnic and 5 days later the “Bat Walk”.  The Summer party and the bat evening are now regular features in the calendar.  On the 7th October there was our Autumn Open Day, which is part of the Greenwich Perfoms Festival whose aim is to seek to bring back some of the excitement and variety of events which characterised the old Greenwich Festival.

Communications

We are up-dating our web-site with the help of Chris Bates and we have established a Twitter feed and a Facebook account. One of our twice year newsletters are published, in the spring and another will be published by the end of the year.  We have decided to print 1,000 Christmas cards this year with the name of The Friends of Westcombe Woodlands on them, and we hope that you will buy cards which will spread the name of the Woodlands and the Friends.

Financial

Our principal items of expenditure are the costs of insurance and the cost of tree work, the need for which is assessed by experts on an annual basis.  Our accounts were submitted to the Charity Commission in time and I will leave to committee member Miriam Hier to speak further to the audience in her treasurer’s report.

Work in the Woodlands

We now have a wooden bee keeper’s hut alongside the 3 hives. This was largely the work of Andrew Slade, who is the official keeper of the Westcombe bees.  We have now built a back path from the glade down to the top of the step, and planted bulbs, primarily native bluebells in patches along the path. The Oak grove is also coming into its own.  The oak saplings have become established and have again been underplanted with bulbs. The oak grove is on the left as you walk towards the glade from the top of the steps.

The volunteer days continue to be held on a monthly basis and involved the normal tasks such as removing thousands of self-seeding sycamores, cutting back brambles and keeping the vegetation around the pond under control so that events such as pond dipping can take place on the open days.

The Lasseter Place end of the woodlands has been primarily cared for by some of our most supportive friends, Clive Corlett and his wife.  We are having our December volunteer day at Lasseter Place to carry out some Autumn maintenance.  It is still lour hope at some point in the future to have some kind of seat or hide at the look-out point at the end of the Lasseter Place path where it looks out over the steep slope of the woods.

Schools involvement

The Committee of the Friends has been keen for some time to enter into some arrangement with a local school or schools which would give children exposure to the woodlands and the opportunity of learning about nature in a beautiful environment.  As I have said, we had a visit from children of Halstow School in the Spring and another visit in the autumn.  We are fortunate in having on our committee Rich Sylvester and Ruth Crackell, both of who have experience of this kind of activity.  They have agreed to lead a project which they have put together with the support of the Friends’ Committee.

This will be the subject of an application to the Greenwich Growth Fund which provided grants of not less than £5000 to local initiatives which have the support of the 3 ward councillors and fulfil some of the criteria which underpin the scheme.  Our proposal should have the effect of improving air quality along the heavily polluted Trafalgar Road in that it is our hope to plant the saplings which will have been grown from seed in the nursery.  The children will attend the woodlands several times a year and will be educated in the planting and cultivation of trees from seed.  We have the support of the 3 ward councillors and the Peter Harris Trust, of which I am a trustee, and which supports local charities and has also agreed to contribute

Committee and volunteers

The Friends could not exist without the support of its committee members and the volunteers and I want to take this opportunity of thanking them for all that they do.  I think that those who come on out monthly volunteer morning enjoy the experience.  It is a happy combination of working in a beautiful space, exchanging gossip as we do so and enjoying elevenses, still provided by Frank Smith, although sadly he is no longer on our committee.  I am delighted that all members of the committee are prepared to continue in office subject to the proper formalities in the coming year.

Ambitions for the coming year.

I would like to see a significant increase in membership of the friends.  You who are here tonight will hopefully be ambassadors spreading the word that to be a member of the friends does not break the bank and gives you the opportunity of being involved with a unique space which is steadily getting better while not forfeiting its essentially wild atmosphere.

Autumn Open Day – Sunday 7th October 2018

Open Day – Sunday 7th October 2018

Our early Autumn Open Day once again continued to attract many people, our list of attendees showed that around 200 people visited on the space of 3 hours, some before we officially opened at 2pm!  Those of you who remember how cold the mid-Spring Open Day was were no doubt relieved that the previous day’s heavy rain didn’t continue, and a warm and dry day allowed for many visitors who hadn’t been to the woodland before to fully explore the place.

 

People in The Glade

View from the Glade

Children’s Craft Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the first time this year we had children’s story telling, with committee member Rich Sylvester held a captive audience of children and adults underneath the canopy for 30 minutes.  In addition, Richard also helped out with the children in recording on small pieces of paper typical woodland items that were found and kept as a souvenir of the day.

Richard Doing Storytelling

Children’s Activities

Autumn Woodland Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our existing activities involved pond-dipping and with Nigel Duncan showing with the mircoscopes what fauna is in our pond.  The contents of the pond water were transferred to dishes and microscopes enabled children and adults to examine what they had found.

Nigel and his Pond Water Analysis

Nigel and Pond Analysis

Pond Dipping

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continuing the success of our first, and modest, harvest of honey from our 3 bee-hives, Jeremy and Andrew (our two apiarists) were available to show curious people the hives and to inform people of the bees’ lives.

Also continuing our very well established tradition of our refreshment stall, this time it was manned by committee members Chris Bates and Ruth Cracknell, where home-made cakes were sold.  By the end of the day over £60 was collected, a very generous amount which helps to buy woodland equipment and plants.

Chris and the Refreshment Stall

Refreshments for Sale

Homemade Apple Pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, for the first time, the committee have produced special Westcombe Woodlands Christmas cards.  Around 150 were sold and will be available at the future Annual General meeting, as well as the next 2 volunteer days.  Featuring a wonderful crisp, snowy morning in the woodland from a photograph taken earlier this year, these really are an excellent way to contribute, with all profits going towards woodland’s funds.

 

 

 

 

First Harvest of Honey!

As many of you know, the woodland is home to 3 bee hives, and over the last 2 years of careful guidance from committee member Andrew Slade, at a recent meeting he brought along a small jar of honey which has been harvested from the hives.  Nearly all of the honey produced has been left for the bees to keep them going for the rest of the year.

Jar of our honey

Volunteer Day – Saturday 1st September 2018

Saturday morning’s volunteer session was very well attended, allowing lots of jobs to be tackled in anticipation of next month’s Autumn Open Day. As can be seen, it was a wonderful, sunny morning in the woodland.

The pond’s water level after the recent rain has risen, but committee member Miriam Hier can be seen clearing some of the vegetation that’s starting to cover the surface area. There’ll always be bramble and weed clearing, and volunteer Paula was playing an active role with the aid of the thick, leather gauntlets to pull up the weeds without getting hurt.

Miriam Hier clearing the pond

Paula bramble clearing

Paula clearing brambles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chairman Tim Barnes can be seen in the new woodland clearing attacking tree stumps and clearing out Robinia saplings.  It’s been decided that a small area near The Mound will make a good place for a new nursery bed, which will allow us to grow our own plants, therefore saving money, but also establishing another area of interest for the woodland. Donald Albrecht, Rich Richard Sylvester and Andrew Slade can be seen measuring up the suitable new plot.

Tim Barnes clearing Robinia saplings

Tim Barnes clearing Robinia saplings

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, also near The Glade we planted several weeks ago some new tree saplings. With the long hot Summer, we’ve had to keep a lookout to make sure they have been properly cared for. The below photo shows a Bird Cherry looking very healthy.

 

Volunteer Day – Sunday 5th August 2018

This morning’s volunteer session, not too surprising with Summer holidays in full swing, was very quiet on numbers, although we did welcome 2 new people who live in Seren Park Gardens for the first time.

The Glade’s grass was due for its annual cut. Andrew Slade and Kate Campbell did an excellent job in cutting the grass and removing weeds. The grass cuttings will form part of our newly proposed composting facility.

Andrew Slade with Scythe

Scythed Glade

Cut Grass

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately the pear and apple trees have lost nearly all fruit. Looking at what’s remaining on the trees, it looks like the local birds have been eating the crop.

Bird-eaten apples

One of the few remaining apples not eaten by birds!

Committee member Kate Campbell (Shade)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently planted trees by a local school on The Mound area were given a good watering. The long and hot dry period has also taken its toll on our pond, which we topped up with the remaining water from the water barrel at the entrance. Plans are in place for another water barrel near the bee hives.

School Planted Maple

Planted Oak Sapling

View of the pond – water required

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterfly on a bramble leaf

Brambles in fruit

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usual projects of weeding were undertaken, including removal of ivy next to the path that leads to The Glade.  This year’s blackberries are in fruit (and taste delicious) but perhaps because of the very dry weather, they’re quite small.  Also in The Glade area, lots of the above butterflies were seen, does anyone know their name?

Volunteer Day – Saturday 7th July 2018

Last Saturday’s volunteer session was a thin on volunteer numbers at the start of the morning (World Cup Football with England winning, as well as Wimbledon), but more people arrived at the morning went on.

The last 2 or 3 weeks has seen really warm, sunny days, with the grass in The Glade area now in full seed. In the August volunteer session, it’s expected that the scythe will be used. There’s a nice photo of volunteer Frank Smith with his socks covered in seeds after weeding in The Glade area!

Seeds and Socks!

Glade View

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always at this time of the year, the bindweed and brambles are quickly growing, with 2 volunteers weeding The Mound, as well as the wild flower area in The Glade.

For the first time we also topped up our pond with water from the rain butt next to the shed. The water level didn’t look low, but surrounding vegetation is encroaching and will have to be dealt with next month. Additional watering of the tree saplings was also done.

The Spring flowers – red campion, bluebells and foxgloves have now seeded, which will hopefully allow for “free” plants in the local areas. Several clumps of red campion were also divided and planted along the footpath going towards The Glade, and in new “Mini Glade” at the top of The Mound.

Flower Bed

Bluebell Seeds

Fox Glove

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, no volunteer session is complete without a coffee break, the temperatures in the shade was almost 30 degrees, in the sun the chocolate biscuits melted!

27 degrees in the shade

Coffee Break

Coffee Break

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s also a small video showing the entrance of the 3 hives, there was plenty of bee activity taking place.  Finally, there was a butterfly in the area while we were having our coffee break, which appears to be a “Comma” butterfly; can anyone vouch for this?

Bee Video

Butterfly, perhaps a “Comma”.

Open Day – Sunday 29th April 2018

Open Day – Sunday 29th April 2018

A week to the day after the hottest London Marathon Sunday on record, we held the Open Day in the Woodlands on one of the coldest days imaginable. No rain but a bitter wind and low temperatures.

So we were delighted and surprised by the number of people, and in particular families with young children, who visited the Woodlands.  Between 60 and 70 attended and a good time was had by all. Cakes and snacks were available from a stall in the glade under a tarpaulin which (erected without Rich’s assistance) it had taken other members of the committee a considerable time to erect in the morning. Luckily the wind was not that strong, or we might have lost it.

Kate setting up stall

The craft table

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was pond dipping with large amounts of mud, weed and the occasional tadpole being fished out by children and parents using our large nets.  The contents were transferred to dishes and microscopes enabled children to examine what they had found.

Pond water analysis

Pond water analysis

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition, there was a stall where children were encouraged to colour cut outs of trees and make necklaces from things found in the woods.  Large numbers of worms were excavated and there were areas for children to dig (using the children’s tools acquired by the Friends last year) prior to being planted with a wild flower mix. Finally, there were the bees.  Posters set out the story of the Westcombe Bees and their hives, and Jeremy and Andrew (our two apiarists) were on hand to field the questions.

It would be over-stating things to say that there was a carpet of bluebells but clumps have now become established as have clumps of primroses. A pictorial quiz to find and identify flowers and leaves was prepared by Don and enthusiastically taken up by children with some 12 completed surveys.

Blue bell carpet

Clumps of Bluebells

 

 

 

 

 

 

What was particularly encouraging was the number of visitors who had not been to the Woodlands before and said that they would become Friends or volunteers.

Picnic in The Glade

Bugle

Honesty

Volunteer Day – Sunday 8th April 2018

Our 4th Woodland Volunteer morning this year got off to a bit of a soggy start, but somehow the wet weather brought out around 16 volunteers, most of whom stayed all the time. Although it feels still cool, and with the recent poor Easter Bank Holiday weekends weather in everybody’s minds, it was nice to see that trees were slowly starting to come in to leaf.

Hawthorn sapling coming in to leaf

View of The Glade’s fruit trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing that hasn’t slowed down are the young sycamore seedlings, which are growing very well. The photo shows committee member Ruth Cracknell hard at work removing seedlings from our new “mini glade” area.  Other activities as well as weeding were the creation of more bird boxes. Volunteer Hazel can be seen sawing planks of wood to create the new bird boxes.  Other committee members include Donald Albrecht weeding one of the recently planted hedge areas.

Ruth Cracknell weeding sycamore saplings

Volunteer Hazel creating bird boxes

Don Albrecht weeding

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other projects started were the starting of installing steps to allow safer access to the beehives, as well as planting of more woodland plants at the main entrance with some small wood-garlic plants.

The longer days will hopefully allow more of our bluebells to flower in time for our Spring Open Day in 3 weeks’ time. Primroses were in full flower, and another woodland staple, Lords and Ladies, were all growing well.

Lords and Ladies

Primroses in flower

Young bluebells

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the bees this morning were not active at all, and with cold and wet weather, who can blame them!

Volunteer Day – Sunday 4th March

We had our third 2018 volunteer day today – the first opportunity after the snow. Main activities were working on the new trench at the bottom of the mound, to develop a more varied habitat in that part of the wood, planting some native yews and building and putting up some new nesting boxes. Here are some photos of that, just to prove that it is not only a bunch of old folk doing this. Also a little video to show that our bees have woken up.
Thanks to all the volunteers for their hard work and, as always, to Frank for tea, coffee and biscuits.

Bird Box Installation

Bird Box Installation

Volunteer Day – Sunday 4th February 2018

Our second volunteer session of the year was very well attended with committee members, regular volunteers and new volunteers. This morning’s event started earlier than usual as the group undertook, under the leadership of local expert naturalist Joe Beale, an early morning bird survey. Full results will soon be available on the website, but the list included gold finches, robins and a sparrow hawk made their names to the list.

Regular tasks resumed later, including the general tidying up of the entrance area with further removal of fallen wood to be added to the existing dead-wood piles and removal of Ivy around the young hazel saplings that were planted last year in the entrance area. It’s a quiet time of the year in terms of planting, which allows the group to concentrate on more practical tasks. 

Clearing rubbish

Roofing felt being sized-up

Roofing felt being cut in to correct sizes

Roofing felt being put in to place

 

 

 

 

 

Roofing felt being put in to place

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This included clearing the area at the entrance and covering with felt our outside store unit. Not all items need to be stored inside, some items can be happily left outside, this extra storage space will be a welcome addition.

The other project started today was to did a small trench or ditch at the bottom of the mound. This will allow for water to build up, creating another water feature for the woodland. It’s hoped that when the lining is added next month, rain water will keep this new feature topped-up and therefore providing another small, local wet area for water-liking fauna.

New water feature being dug

New water feature being dug

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although we are only half way through winter, there were plenty of signs of Spring’s arrival including primroses and snowdrops in flower. Bluebells are looking much bigger than last month, and the good quality woodlandplant Lords and Ladies was seen in very good numbers. Hazel catkins we’re still plentiful, but all the trees were still without leaves, although next month’s volunteer event will start to have the first leaves of Spring on display.

A primrose starting to flower

A single foxglove in the “mini- glade” area

Young bluebells in the “mini glade” area

 

 

 

 

 

Young bluebells in the “mini glade” area

Snowdrops starting to be in full flower

Lords-and-ladies starting to strongly grow