This work party seemed to come around so quickly. With the success of our last we were itching to get stuck in again. With lots of interest since our last outing we were very happy with the turnout. Phil joined us after coming across our work on Facebook and is quite the expert when it comes to worms! And we were super excited to welcome back Wendy, Highgate Common and original STP volunteer.
We were also joined by Perry and Ant from Dudley Council, which is always appreciated, and meant more work on the opposite side and further down the path from our patch, making it ready to look brilliant in the summer.
As always (so far, touch wood) the weather was kind to us, despite snow being present in so many other areas of the UK. It was however, a little cloudy, so no Scarlet Tiger caterpillars present. They had most likely retreated to the undergrowth with the frosty start to the day.
After clearing so much unwanted scrub last time, we began the rather arduous task of digging up the grass to reveal the soil underneath. This will allow us to sow wildflower seeds and give them a chance to grow, as they would otherwise succumb to the dominant grasses. We worked mainly on the area a little way from the gate, before the Rosebay Willowherb, as this wasn’t seeded last year and we want to see whether last year’s area flowers for a second time, without our help.
It was tough work and difficult to remove all roots manually. We hope we’ve done enough to weaken the grass and get the flowers to grow through, but only time will tell if we have to use funding to hire a turf cutter or rotavator to remove roots further.
Perry and Ant flailed the bracken and bramble back about a metre on the opposite side of the path and created a scalloped verge further down, to allow for more patches of wildlife-friendly wildflowers. They plan to prepare the ground and sow cornflower seed mixes for bursts of colour amongst the hedgerow.
Wendy came prepared with black bags and litter-picker, collecting so much rubbish along the short distance to Westwood Avenue. While we know we’ll never stop people littering or leaving dog poo completely, we have noticed a big difference by the patch. It seems that if an area is clearly loved by somebody, it looks less like a rubbish bin to passers by. Our hope is that what we’re doing is giving people a bit of pride in their local area, making them want to care for it, rather than ignore it. If we can see the value in it, they must too! Fingers crossed, our continued work will reduce litter and the ever unpleasant dog poo.
We’ve been inspired to take part in the ‘Clean for the Queen’ initiative and hope to be out with our bags and bins in the next couple of weeks to raise awareness for tidyness and STP. While we’ll have missed out on the official ‘Clean for the Queen’ weekend, we’re hoping it will have ignited a fire and need to clean in local residents!
Along the way we saw lots of wildlife. Millipedes and beetles, caterpillars and Treecreepers. On her travels Wendy reported lots of fresh flowers blooming, including Celandine, Periwinkle and Snowdrops. There were Starlings aplenty, sparrows and greenfinches.
Patrick brought along some wildflowers for planting which should look lovely once in bloom. They included Oxeye Daisy, Devil’s-bit Scabious, Lady’s Bedstraw and Betony.
While we strongly believe in the work we’re doing, we do have people who are, quite understandably, confused by some of it. It can, on occasions, look dramatic and a little less than pretty for a time. But we do have to strip things back to basics before making them beautiful.
One such example of a misunderstanding was this morning, when one of our group was approached by a member of the public who complained about our removal of Russian Vine by Clent View Road. Steve explained that everything we’re doing is for the benefit of nature and local wildlife, that the Russian Vine is an invasive species and was choking native species of plants, trees and flowers. The reason there is now nothing in that patch is because the Russian Vine had already killed it – it’s the only thing we removed.
We believe this was the right thing to do, as we’ll be able to encourage native species to grow back here, such as hawthorn and blackthorn, which is much more beneficial to wildlife (and fans of sloe gin!). However, we totally understand that this is not our area – it belongs to everybody – so we really appreciate people taking the time to talk to us and ask about what we’re doing. We take on board everything people suggest and encourage them to take part so that they can have a say and opinions do not go unnoticed. This is for wildlife and the local community, not us as individuals.
We hope that member of the public loves what reappears there and while criticism is never a nice thing, it shows just how passionate people are about the area and that, we admire. So please, if you see people working on something that doesn’t seem right, stop and ask them why. Ask if you can get involved or make suggestions. Chances are they’ll welcome your support and enthusiasm with open arms and ears!
Thankfully, there are also a lot of people who do love what we’re doing. Several people stopped today to talk to us and we were humbled by how many said ‘thank you’. One such lady was Barbara, a local resident and cyclist. She stopped and chatted with STP members for some time and even, very kindly, gave us a donation. I can honestly say, Barbara, it is our pleasure and thank you too.
Thanks for another fab day team STP. If you’d like to get involved, our work parties will now be held on the first Friday of every month. Next up, Friday 1st April (I fool you not!). Find the event on Facebook HERE.
Thanks for reading and please do get in touch to find out more or why we’re doing what we’re doing.