What or who is FWAG? Well it is the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group and is the UK's leading independent and dedicated provider of environmental and conservation advice to farmers.
Photos: Chantal Brown from FWAG and below various photos from the walk
Well on Tuesday the Ruscombe Brook Action Group were fortunate enough to have Chantal Brown from FWAG join us on a walk along the brook. Local farmer Julia Currie had kindly organised the evening which was a chance to see what could be done to improve biodiversity along the brook. See also my previous blog on invasive species here - although the photos have since been removed - follow the links to the Plantlife website instead.
We also looked at various 'problem sites' along the brook. This photo left is of the fencing put in to reduce cattle poaching - see previous blog on this here - the problem has not been solved and it maybe that a water trough is the answer. The second photo left here is of clay exposed by the water rushing down the brook - there is a pipe which sends water at high pressure out - it has worn the bank away - is it the run-off from the Wheelers Walk estate? Previously RBAG members have put in gabions to prevent further erosion - it looks as if this cheap measure is working at least partly but further work is needed. This again is the subject of our next RBAG meeting along with possibilities of further attenuation of water up the valley.
We discovered an ash tree (left) that had come down that night - great shame - we tried to identify who was the landowner and we will look to alert them of the problem.We also saw further damage to the base of the pipe bridge (see photo) that was replaced some years ago - it is being worn away - not dangerous but not great!
Many issues were discussed. One was about the Himalayan Balsam threat to the valley - infact I've had it reported that someone is growing it in their garden despite being challenged - don't know where but we really do need to try and get it removed - it is a serious threat - see our press release here that we have just sent out.
This year is the UN's Biodiversity year - see my previous blog on that here - much is at risk but we can do lots to improve the situation. Infact our valley is pretty rich with largely organic methods by the farmers - however we can do more - Chantal pointed out that the brook is very dark and overshadowed much of the way - we could significantly improve water quality and the habitat for creatures like bats by opening it up a bit - bats are also at risk - see my blog here - they welcome some open water and coppicing some of the bank edges will improve light to the brook. Indeed bats seem to love the two ponds at Ruscombe Farm (see photo) - and live in the caves at the head of the valley - also going to Woodchester Mansion.
Anyway it looks like we are set to discuss at our next RBAG meeting how we can open the brook more with a work party later in the year - anyone interested in joining us??
We also wondered about whether a sewer pipe was leaking in the fields - see this photo - it has been reported to the Watercourse Warden but no reply yet. It needs checking.
Hamwell Leaze Boardwalk opens
Further along the brook the Broadwalk at Hamwell Leaze had just opened - see my movie here with a write up and photos about the opening. The press have also covered the story and if you look very carefully you can see I got into the photos of both SNJ and Stroud Life.
Anyway big thanks to Chantal and FWAG for all the advice - we now need to consider and see what is possible.