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Ranger Reports

Daniel Ross has been the Lewes District Council Ranger for the site since 2002. He is advised by a habitat management committee and works to a five year management plan agreed by the management committee.

Dan can be contacted on 01273 484408.

Ranger Report Spring 2012

Path resurfacing
Date: 04/05/2012
Footpath repairs – we have resurfaced our disabled access path from the main entrance on Railway Lane, and round part of the reedbed area. Thanks to the South Downs National Park Authority for a grant that contributed to funding this work.

Dog mess awareness week – during the week of the 16th April, staff from Lewes District Council including Rangers, Animal Wardens, and Community Wardens erected temporary signage and patrolled the Railway Land from early morning till dusk. Staff spoke to anyone visiting the site with a dog, to raise the profile of dog mess on the site, and encourage dog owners to pick up after their dogs. Most dog walkers are very sensible and supportive, but one or two do not pick up, and cause problems for everyone else. Staff were educating the public, and drawing them to the attention of the possible fixed penalty fines that can be given to those who do not pick up.

Reptile survey – last summers reptile survey will be continuing into this summer. Last years results were very good, identifying grass snakes, slow worms and common lizards present throughout the site. Thank you to all the volunteers who are running this project.

Tree weeding – work is currently taking place to weed around all tree saplings on the site, to help reduce competition for water between the young trees and weeds. We are being particularly assertive this year in reaction to the drought.

Reedbed water levels – we are keeping water levels in the Reedbed high this year by leaving drop boards on the sluices in place, in response to the drought. This will ensure there is plenty of water for freshwater wildlife. It will however mean that our pond dipping area is out of action this year

Festival preparations – the planning for the Railway Land Festival on the 2nd June 2012 is progressing well, and we look forward to a great event.

Guided Walk: Dan Ross, the Ranger, will be leading a guided walk around the reserve for members of the public on Sunday 17th June 2012. Anyone is welcome to join him.


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Ranger Report Winter 2012

Volunteers clearing reed
Date: 04/02/2012
Most of the winter habitat works are now complete.

Storm damage within our woodland; we have recently carried out works to clear dead branches overhanging footpaths.

Hazel coppicing work began: working with the Forest Schools programme and our adults with learning difficulties from the Nature Corridors for All project. The cut Hazel is being used in craft making activities. Approximately one third of the standing Hazel will be coppiced by the end of February.

The Hawthorne and Hazel hedge and trees planted two years ago fringing Leighside Pond is doing really well, and providing a good screen from the road.

Small scale Hawthorne tree planting near to the Linklater will take place during February, provide native fruiting plants for local birdlife.

During early March, we will be carrying out some extensive pollarding and coppicing of crack willows fringing the Winterbourne stream. This is part of our regular management of the willows near to footpaths.

The Winterbourne Stream is not expected to flow in 2012. A dry winter period will also put pressure on our wetland habitats in Summer 2012.

Within the northern meadows, we have cleared overgrowth from the ditches, working with our Meadow Minders group.

Within the reedbed, we have completed willow tree removal and reed thinning from ditches, and are working with our bird group volunteers to site kingfisher posts in select locations.

In March, we will begin work to re-surface large sections of our stone footpaths, in order to improve the quality for wheel chair and push chair users. This is a special project, jointly funded by Lewes District Council and the South Downs National Park Authority.

We have commissioned some rustic green oak log benches, which will replace the three existing (now rotten) log benches along the surfaced footpath. There are made by a local carpenter specialising in green oak products from local sustainable oak.

Our Higher Level Stewardship funding has paid for a number of new bird boxes, which our bird group volunteers have been installing as part of their bird box mapping and management programme.

We have installed signage throughout the Railway Land Meadows requesting that people stick to the footpaths. We need to remind walkers that the meadows are privately owned, and that access is permissive.

Dog mess is again proving to be a significant problem at the Railway Land. LDC is deploying its Animal Wardens a few days each month to raise awareness of the problem, and our Junior Management Board will shortly be re-launching their campaign.


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Ranger Report Autumn 2011

New Interpretation Board
Date: 15/10/2011
Maintenance and Infrastructure:

New Interpretation board

We have a new interpretation board which is located at the main entrance of the site. This is a similar design to the old one (which finally wore out after over 15 years this year), and has been constructed by a Sussex carpenter, using local sustainably sourced green oak.
In addition to this board, we also have a “welcome board” located at the side entrance to the reserve, on Court Road. This board simply says “Lewes Railway Land Local Nature Reserve, and has a space for updatable A4 notices, and matches the signage at other entrances to the reserve.

Habitat Management:

Reedbed work

Over the past few weeks, work has been undertaken by volunteers from the Meadow Minders and Brighton Conservation Volunteers, to clear reed from overgrown channels in the reedbed, and remove willow saplings from the islands. All of the willow has been cleared, but there is still allot of reed to clear. Much of this work will have to be carried forward until next season, as expected seasonal water level rises may limit the scope for winter works.

Woodland glades and pond maintenance

The area around the Leighside Pond will shortly be cleared of overgrowth whilst retaining marginal vegetation such as Purple-Loosestrife and Flag Iris. This is to prevent scrub and tree saplings from establishing, and shading out the pond edge. In addition, a large amount of sedge will be removed from pond to the north of the viewing bridge. This is because sedges and other terrestrial plants are drying up the pond on the northern side, and preventing aquatic flora and fauna from establishing. This is part of a routine 5 year maintenance cycle, and will only remove approximately one third of the vegetation.


Old allotments glade creation

A few weeks ago, we cleared a large glade within the northern end of the old allotment area, near to the Black Poplar copse. This is to try to increase the amount of tussocky grass which is being swamped by willow herb and bramble. The grass is a good basking area for reptiles such as grass snakes, slow worms and lizards. We are retaining all of the bramble banks, as well as the scrub within the Black Poplar copse.

Old Sidings cuts

The grassland within the old railway sidings will shortly be cut, to reduce existing and help prevent further bramble and other scrub from dominating. Every year for the past few years, we have used a tractor and cut and collect machine to carry out these cuts. This has resulted in the retention of grassland and wildflowers.

Willow Pollarding and Coppicing

Several of the large Crack Willow trees fringing the Winterbourne Stream will need to be pollarded this winter. This is following a maintenance cycle spanning over 10 years, which requires regular re-pollarding. Some of the Willows will be coppiced, to reduce overcrowding and increase structural diversity of the trees along the stream. This will also increase light to the stream bed, and help increase aquatic flora.

Management:

Updated Management Plan

Since June 2011, parts of Lewes Railway Land has been part of a Higher Level Stewardship Agreement with Natural England. This is a 10 year agreement, which involves management of our woodland, grassland, reedbed and ponds. This agreement covers 8 LDC Nature Reserves and Open Spaces.
The site management plan for Lewes Railway Land, is out of date, and there are some updates needed. The inclusion of the Linklater Pavilion, as well as the Higher Level Stewardship programme, warrants a significant update of the plan. It is intended to work on this during the winter.

Habitat Advisory Group

This years Habitat Advisory Group has been cancelled due to lack of available time and suitable dates for contributors. Despite several suggested dates, it was not possible to convene the group this year, and the meeting has been postponed until spring 2012.

Dan Ross, Community Ranger


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Ranger Report Summer 2010

Wonderful Wildlife Festival 22nd May 2010
Date: 16/06/2010
The spring got off to a fantastic start on the Railway Land in 2010, with our Wonderful Wildlife Festival, celebrating International Biodiversity Day. 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, with events being organised all over the world by the United Nations. See this web site for more details www.unep.org/iyb. Over 2000 people attended on Saturday 22nd May, to take part in a variety of biodiversity themed workshops and activities.

On site, during the coming weeks, we will be repairing many of the site footpaths which were damaged during the hard winter. This will involve resurfacing sections of the disabled access paths, and elsewhere repair of steps.
Work has already taken place to improve access to the bridge over the old concrete spillway near the Winterbourne in the Reedbed area, and to the pond dipping platform.
As vegetation grows rapidly, we will be pruning overgrowth from footpaths, and our woodland glades, including round the hazel saplings near to Leighside Pond.
In the meadows, we are working closely with our grazier Colin Turner, to make sure the meadows and the ditches are well grazed. The margins of the ditches need to be “poached” by the cattle. This involves cattle’s hoof prints creating small pools on the ditch margin, in which water beetle larvae breed.

We very much look forward to the opening of the Linklater Pavilion in the Autumn, which will be a fantastic resource for the Railway Land.

If you would like to help look after this reserve we are looking for more volunteers for our Meadow Minders who meet at 1:30pm on the 1st Sunday of every month at the Railway Land main entrance, on Railway Lane.


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Ranger Report, August 2009

Green Flag Award Logo
Date: 21/08/2009
Ranger Report, August 2009

Over the past few months, I have been working on the application for the Green Flag Award for Lewes Railway Land. Following submission of our bid and a site visit from a panel of judges in May, I am pleased to inform you of the success of our application for 2009/10.

The Green Flag Award has been running since 1996, and is a national benchmarking scheme which aims to improve the management of parks and open spaces throughout Britain. In 2009 there were 917, which includes parks, nature reserves and open spaces. Sites are judged on their ability to meet key criteria of assessment including the quality of the site management plan, health and safety, cleanliness and maintenance, and community involvement.

Winning the award is a significant achievement for the Railway Land, and a lot of hard work has gone into making this achievable.

For more information, visit the Green Flag Award website on: www.greenflagaward.org.uk


During the summer, there has been four conservation groups of volunteers working on the Reserve as well as the Nature Corridors for All group.

One of our main tasks has been to get the footpaths into good condition. We use limestone dust from Ardingly to top dress the repaired paths, and I am pleased with the results of our labour.
The reedbed paths will be completed before the winter/.

Other summer tasks have included keeping the site free from rubbish, clearing overgrowth from the paths round the site, and other general maintenance.

As the autumn approaches there is a full season of work planned including the following:

• Ploughing and seeding margins of the ditches in the northern meadows.
• Coppicing several willows along the Winterbourne
• Scrub clearing in the old sidings
• Galde maintenance in the woodland
• Reedbed management


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Ranger Report May 09

Emerging Damselfly
Date: 15/05/2009
Community Ranger Railway Land site update, May 2009.

Work on site
During the past few weeks, we have been working hard to repair our surfaced footpaths. Some were damaged by the cold winter, but are now being re-surfaced with a fine gravel surface.
Cattle Grazing has began in the meadows for the season, and dog walkers are requested to keep their dogs under control in the meadows. Winter grass and wildflower seeding of the meadows will be monitored over the coming weeks.
The temporary fencing surrounding the restored Lieghside Pond has now been removed as the vegetation surrounding the pond has now established.
Graffiti has been a small problem on the new wooden bridge in the woods over the restored Leighside Pond, and we would urge the public to report anyone seen doing graffiti the site to call the police.
Woodland glades will be kept open and managed for butterflies and other insects.
Our Junior Management Board are deigning new information boards to help young people understand the restored Lieghside Pond. These will be located on the wooden bridge above the pond.

Wildlife sightings
May is a great time for seeing Damsel and Dragon flies, emerging from the wetland areas.
Many birds are nesting on site at the moment, and each habitat has its own species. In the reedbed areas, look out for reedwarblers, in the woodland black caps and in the old sidings, white throats.
Marsh frogs are also breading in the ponds and ditches. Listen out for the distinctive “quack” like call on a warm day (or night!).



Community Ranger, May 2009.


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Ranger Report Sept 08

Date: 05/09/2008
Ranger Report for the Railway Land

As we head into the Autumn, it is time to get to work on the Railway Land! Autumn is the busiest season for habitat management. As the wildlife on the site retreats to escape the cold and rain, I get to work with my volunteers, and we set about our annual scrub clearing, pond management, tree works and woodland glade creation. This autumn we have a number of projects taking place, which are outlined below.

The Meadows

• The ditch dredging spoil which resulted from last winters work, will be “root harrowed” (broken up), and seeded with a wildflower and grass mix.

• Several other ditches will be re-profiled and dredged removing excess silt and bramble, along a similar specification to last years work, continuing the maintenance programme.

Reedbed management

• removal of willow saplings from the islands
• sluice maintenance
• reed cutting where overgrown into water channels.
• Research into water level control

Woodland

• Leighside Pond tree maintenance
• Hazel coppice thinning
• Winterbourne crack willow pollarding on rotational programme
• Site tree inspection

Old Sidings

• Scrub clearance from banks and other areas
• Buddleia coppicing in selected locations


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Ranger Report Winter 2008

Ditch dredging works, October 2007
Date: 12/02/2008
The autumn and winter months leading up to February have seen several areas of the nature reserve, change significantly. Most notably the meadow and the Leighside Pond area. Ditch dredging along Chilly Brook and along the northern boundary of the meadows, took place in October. This involved re-profiling the ditches, creating gently sloping sides along one side of the ditch, and removing many years of silt. Several new “scrapes” (shallow pond like areas) were created throughout Chilly Brook, to help vegetation colonisation. At the same time, a fence was moved from the ditches, to allow cattle to graze the margins during the summer.
The final stage of this work will be to plough the “spoil” area in March where the dredged arisings were deposited, and seeding with wild grass seeds.
The ditches are now full of water and looking very healthy.

The JMB have also seen their Leighside Pond restoration complete within the woodlands. The pond restoration involved removing many tonnes of silt, resulting in a pond that should now hold water throughout the year.
The JMB have also designed a bridge to span a small ditch next to the pond, which will be installed late February.

Several other repairs have taken place on the site, including to fencing, steps and footpaths. Habitat management throughout the winter has concentrated on removing bramble from ditch margins, and from south and west facing banks within the old sidings areas.

Dan Ross, February 2008.


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Ranger Report August 07

Meadow Minders clearing Leighside Pond
Date: 07/09/2007
This summer on Lewes Railway Land has seen wildlife react to the unseasonably wet conditions in a variety of different ways. Sightings of butterflies for example were few and far between during the wet June and July, whilst August saw an abundance of them. Several species of birds too made a shaky start to the season, particularly during the washout of June. However, the wet conditions of the early summer, have been great news for our wetland habitats. The reedbeds, ponds, drainage ditches, all saw water levels increase, and wildlife has flourished. The reeds fringing the Heart of Reeds are over 5metres thick in places now, and watching the Martins and Swallow swoop down over the water has been a treat during warmer days.
During June, the pond dipping platform was repaired, and a broader, slightly higher level platform now sits above the water level for most of the year.
Our crack willow trees have also had a mixed time, with several large willows and poplar limbs crashing down across footpaths during the wet weather.
With the seasonal normality now restored, during the warm late summer days, the kingfisher can once more be seen darting along the Winterbourne.

The month of September will see the realisation of several projects on the site. Firstly, a small section of the Meadows on Chilly Brook, will be dredged of silt and overgrowth, to restore it to a thriving wetland habitat. Last undertaken 15 years ago, ditch dredging is an important management activity for wetland ditches, as they naturally silt up and become overgrown, eventually drying up and becoming grassed over.
Secondly the Leighside Pond within the woodland, near to Court Road, will be restored, following a project by the Junior Management Board. The pond will have many years of silt and decaying vegetation removed, so that it can once more hold water, and become home to newts, grass snakes and toads.
Both projects will be undertaken by specialist contractors, and overseen by conservation professionals.
There will also be fencing realignment project in the meadows to open up a ditch for cattle grazing, by removing barbed wire fences.
We are seeking many volunteers for these tasks, so if you are able to give up some time, please contact the Community Ranger on 01273 484408.

Dan Ross, September 2007.


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Ranger Report April 2007

Pond dipping area
Date: 04/04/2007
Spring has arrived on the Railway Land, and life is returning. The Winterbourne stream is flowing in healthy torrents, making our woodland wet again, and feeding the stew pond. This is a most welcome return to the Winterbourne, whose flow we have not seen for well over two years. The drought may be over, but it is unlikely to flow for long, with summer approaching.

Work on site throughout January, February and March has focussed on clearing and repairing. Several ditches have been cleared of overgrowth in the meadows, removing dead branches, and overhanging bramble. This has opened up the ditches and increased light to the water which will encourage aquatic plant life to bloom.

We have repaired steps near to the Heart of Reeds footbridge, cleared footpaths of dead wood from falling winter trees, and mended revetments beneath the railway underpass to the south of the site.

We are now awaiting the spring and summer growth, to once again awaken the site, providing a green canopy to our woodland, and thick grasses in the sidings.

This month will see the return of the amphibians to the ponds and ditches, so the familiar call of the marsh frog is just around the corner.

We have also installed a new interpretation board in the entrance area to the site, which explains how the Junior Management Board were involved with the design for the wildflower garden. This has been made from green oak and manufactured by Surrey Wildlife Trust. All profits from this company go straight back to wildlife conservation, so we are only too pleased to support them, especially are they produce such quality outdoor furniture.

The pond dipping platform on the site remains fenced off, as the path joining the platform to the bank has eroded slightly, creating a bit of a gap. This will be repaired as soon as the water levels drop in the spring. Although the pond dipping area does flood throughout the winter, it is only used for dipping in the summer, and therefore winter flooding is not a problem. However we are looking into the possibility of adapting the platform for year round use. A decision on this will be made shortly.

Dan Ross
April 2007


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Autumn 2006

The former sidings are after they had been cut
Date: 20/12/2006
The last 3 months on the Railway Land, has seen some dramatic work undertaken, which has temporarily transformed the way some of the site looks.
Most dramatic of all, has been the scrub clearance that has taken place within the old sidings area, which saw tractors and grass cutting machinery clear large areas of bramble scrub from the sidings. The work also used a special machine to remove cuttings once cut for off-site composting, as well as a root harrowing machine which cut through the bramble roots along the banks creating some bare earth areas suitable for colonisation by burrowing insects and wildflowers.

Earlier in the autumn, volunteers from American Express, helped to clear the old Leighside Pond of overgrowth, in preparation for pond restoration, that is planned by the Junior Management Board if their grant application to the Young Roots programme of the Heritage Lottery Fund is successful.

Following some heavy storms in November, there were several crack willows which came down over footpaths around the Winterbourne Stream and also some sycamores. These were removed by tree surgeons once the had wind died down.

The Hazel coppice area within the woods, which was planted two years ago, had a further round of planting by the Meadow Minders during November. Several Wild Service Trees, and other native shrubs were planted around the more sparsely planted areas. This included Clematis and Honey Suckle which was planted against the large red pipe u-bend, to hopefully climb up and over the pipe and help screen it. Final planting of Bluebells and Primroses will take place the following spring.

Plans to dredge and re-profile some ditches in Chilly Brook were set back by the announcement that the Environment Agency, who were planning to undertake the work, had experienced severe budget cuts. The Railway Land Wildlife Trust is now considering commissioning their own works but currently having to await suitable ground conditions.

The Reedbed continues to develop and mature nicely, with the bankside reed coverage gradually spreading, to give a stunning winter effect, with golden reed stems and heads fringing the entire length of the banks and ditches. Work took place in September to create view points through the overgrown vegetation at several locations throughout the reedbed area, giving site lines from the path right down to water level. Kingfishers have been seen regularly fishing throughout the reedbed area.

Work continues throughout the year, and many more activities are planned over the coming months, involving a variety of community groups. This spring we are planning to monitor the various projects that are taking place on site and will see how the site changes, evolves and reacts to our management.


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Dan Goes Live

Dan and Japanese knotweed
Date: 23/11/2006
This is the page for Dan to post his latest report. This is an example for test purposes:

Our control of the japanese knotweed in the Spring has been very successful and is a relief as this quick growing and invasive species would have smothered large parts of the Reserve.


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