Vale Landscape Heritage Trust

Spring newsletter
2015

North Littleton Community Orchard
Work continues to discover the history of our
North Littleton Community Orchard (NLCO)
site. Members of South Worcestershire
Archaeology Group came along to survey
some of the site using a magnetometer
which measures and maps patterns of
magnetism in the ground. There have been
many finds of pieces of Roman pottery at
this site (as reported in a previous
newsletter) so we were hoping to find some
evidence of Roman habitation. Instead of
this however, the geophysical maps
produced by the survey revealed several
circles probably from an Iron Age
settlement. So our site goes even further
back than we had thought.

Several more small pieces of Roman pottery were
collected and more information about its origin was
made available; mostly Severn Valley ware pottery
produced, as its name suggests, in the Severn
Valley. There were also some darker pieces of
Black-burnished ware which is known to have been
made in Dorset and there were also small fragments
of a more polished looking, orange pottery which
was confirmed as Samien Ware. This type of pottery
was produced in Gaul (France) and would have
been imported for the more wealthy Roman
homesteads. So our site was either on a major
transport route or there was a grand home on or near
the site. We are investigating further avenues of
research into what is proving to be a fascinating site.
Meanwhile NLCO continues to be important for farmland birds. During the winter months we put down small
amounts of grain to help the overwintering flocks. This helped good numbers of Yellowhammers, Reed
Buntings and even a few Corn Buntings to get through the winter. During the spring and summer this year a
local PhD student will be carrying out a survey of the farmland birds to help us understand more about what
we can do to further help these declining species
Vale Landscape Heritage Trust (VLHT) is a registered charity, number 1080109. We work to protect
and preserve the environment in and around the Vale of Evesham and Pershore. We work with
volunteers, funders, farmers and the government to secure the future of, so far, over 270 acres.

1

Stocken working horses
During the winter we enlisted the help of heavy
horses to work in our Stocken Orchard, to remove
the arisings from restoration pruning and also to drag
out trunks from trees which were felled. The trees
were taken out to divide the orchard into four plots to
make it more efficient to manage the apple crop and
also to improve the grassland for wildlife. We have
already found many interesting wildflowers including
five species of orchid.
Using the horses meant that they could work in the
orchard while the ground was soft without damaging
the ground like a heavy vehicle would have done. It
also provided a spectacle for visitors to the adjacent
Tiddesley Wood nature reserve. The other obvious
advantage to using horses is that they are powered by grass and hay rather than fossil fuels. We are once
again grateful to Severn Waste Services for funding this work through the Landfill Communities Fund.

Events
The events season has started and we had a very good day at this year’s
Tiddesley Wood Open Day. Along with information about VLHT to
promote our work and attract new volunteers we also had various bones,
antlers and other animal signs from our sites for visitors to try to work out
what was living in the area. Also, Walcott Organic Nursery donated two
fruit trees for us to use as prizes in a competition which proved very
popular. The winners have been informed and the trees will be delivered
soon.
The first of our evening walks took place at Lower Moor on a beautiful
May evening. There were several interesting bird species present
including Cuckoo, Little Ringed Plover, Yellow Wagtail and Common
Tern (see report for more details of birds seen at the site).
This year we had a dawn chorus walk at Stocken Orchard which was a
very nice way to start the day. On site for 4:30am, a gentle stroll sharing
the dawn with the songbirds listening to and identifying the members of
the chorus. We left the birds as they started another hectic day of
defending their territories, attracting mates, building nests, feeding their
young, feeding themselves and we headed home for breakfast.
Lower Moor
Forthcoming Evening Walks
Why not join us for one of our evening walks this
summer:
June 8th

Hipton Hill

June 30th

Hipton Hill

th

July 7

Fladbury

All walks start at 7pm. For more information visit our
website or get in touch (contact details at the end of
this newsletter).
Lower Moor – evening view

2

Bird Highlights from Lower Moor and Haines Meadows (Wick)
January to April 2015
The late winter period tends to be a time of little change or movement unless severe weather prevails further
north or on the continent. January and February this year were relatively mild so birds that had settled in the
area in late 2014 had remained.
About 100 Teal were present at the beginning of the year rising to 270 by the end of February, birds then
started to move off north and by late April only c10 remained. Wigeon numbers remained relatively low during
the period peaking at only c60 in mid February. Scarcer ducks were represented by up to 15 Shoveler and
3 Pintail. Feral Geese remained at c500 and were joined by a Barnacle Goose of unknown origin in late
February.
Snipe numbers were disappointing and peaked at no more than 14, with 3 birds still present on the late date
of 21st April. Up to 5 Water Rails frequented field ditches at the beginning of the year, with one still present
in a small reed bed alongside the Lench Ditch on 21st April.
Up to 4,500 large Gulls found the channels on Wick side to their liking, with c1,000 immature birds still present
at the end of April.
Two Kingfishers were regularly seen dashing along the river, occasionally stopping to catch small fish in the
shallows.
A pair of Grey Wagtails wintered in the area, they were last seen on 6th March when they presumably left to
find a nesting site around one of the locks along the river.
Up to eight Chiffchaffs wintered around the small reed bed near the car park. Stonechats have been scarce
for several years now so a pair feeding along one of the meadow hedgerows from the beginning of the year
till mid February was a welcome return. A second male joined them on 26th January. Flocks of up to c10,000
Starlings were seen over the meadows just before dark on several occasions.
The first sign of spring came on 19th February when a lone male Shelduck turned up, being joined by a
female several days later. Two pairs then remained in the area through till mid April, but no breeding appeared
to be attempted this year. An Oystercatcher arrived on 9th February being joined by a mate during the
following week, then remaining in the area and sitting on eggs nearby in mid April.
The first Redshank arrived on 9th March with individual singles on five other dates.
A male Curlew remained in the area from 19th March – 4th April but failed to attract a mate.
Surprisingly, the only Golden Plovers seen during the period were two birds flying high overhead north on
23rd March. Presumably they were heading directly to breeding areas well to the north.
From the beginning of April migrant wading birds were seen and included – 5 Green Sandpipers, 1
Common Sandpiper, 7 Little Ringed Plovers, 1 Ringed Plover,
2 Greenshanks, 1 Avocet all day on 19th, 3 Black Tailed Godwits on 21st and 22nd, male Ruff on 23rd,
Whimbrel over north on 24th and 5 Dunlin.
A Red Kite was causing panic amongst the loafing Gulls at Wick channels on 7th April. Two Wheatears were
seen on Wick side, a male on 9th April and a female on 23rd. The first Cuckoo arrived on 22nd April with two
by the end of the month. A pair of Mandarin Ducks were on the river near the island from 11th – 13th April.
A Little Owl was calling from a hedgerow alongside the river on Wick side on 16th April.
Wet cold weather on 16th April had brought c120 Swallows and Martins to hawk for insects low over the
meadows, this attracted a passing Hobby which managed to catch a Swallow after an impressive aerial
display lasting several minutes.
Three Roe Deer were seen regularly along the meadows at Lower Moor throughout the period, while up to
four Brown Hares were active along the meadows at Wick during the same period. Fallow Deer were also
noted on the Wick side of the river during the period.

Many of our projects are funded by Severn Waste Services through the Landfill Communities Fund.
Without SWS, VLHT could not own, or protect, anywhere near as many acres.

3

Pollinators
There has been a lot of information about Honeybees and their importance as
pollinators in the news recently (also in our last newsletter). So it has been
interesting to note some of the other insect that help to pollinate our fruit in the
area alongside the Honeybees.

Syrphus hoverfly on plum-Czar

Cherry Plum is a shrub often planted in hedgerows and also occurring as a small
tree in orchards, sometimes due to uncontrolled growth from grafted root-stocks.
This is the first fruit-bearing tree to flower and was a welcome source of nectar for
the Honeybees at Hipton Hill. The large queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees Bombus
terrestris were also found on it.
Some of the early plum varieties such as ‘Czar’ were the next to flower and they
attracted many species of solitary bees as well as various hoverflies including the
yellow and black Syrphus species.
Blackthorn or Sloe was the next in flower and again attracted hoverflies including
bee-mimic Eristalis or Droneflies.

Cardinal Beetle on apple

Damson and pear were next followed by main-crop plums and cherries. These
attracted many insects including the sun-loving Helophilus hoverflies and the
unusual Bee-fly Bombilyus major ; a small, furry bee-mimic with a very long ‘nose’
better adapted to feeding at Primrose flowers. Apple was the last to blossom in
early May, a little later than last year. At this time of year there are many more
insects around and even beetles including the colourful Cardinal Beetles were
found crawling through the blossom, spreading pollen as they went.
All of these and many, many more insects are important for the production of our
food which is the reason that VLHT do not spray fruit trees, relying instead on a
natural balance between pollinators, pests and predators. These insects also
need a variety of pollen producing plants, so wild places with a variety of
wildflowers are very important for the survival of our pollinators.
Volunteers

Helophilus hoverfly on pear

Our regular volunteer group continue to turn out in all weathers. We have been
busy tidying up at Stocken, tree planting and pruning at Hipton and erecting sheep
fencing (in gale-force winds) at Littleton Pastures amongst other things. We even
managed to fit in a walk and Christmas meal at Croome in February! Thank you
to all our volunteers for their continued support.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering, please get in touch.

Friends of VLHT
Beefly on cherry

Friends of VLHT pay a regular
amount each month or year,
which supports the important
work saving and renovating old
orchards and hay meadows
and woodlands.
For more
details, please contact Gary
Farmer at the office.

Bumblebee on cherry plum

4

Evesham Volunteer Centre
Brick Kiln Street
Evesham
Worcestershire
WR11 4AA
01386 40165
07794 835 953
valetrust@tiscali.co.uk
http://valetrust.weebly.com
www.facebook.com/valetrust