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spring blossom






Dave Piper - Lead Ranger of Essex and South Suffolk National Trust

            At our October meeting, thirty people met at St. Andrew's to hear a very interesting and enthusiastic presentation by Dave Piper.

            Dave explained that his area extends from Rainham Marshes in the south to near Ipswich in the north, and from the east coast to Hatfield Forest in the west.  In particular, Dave spoke of the twelve different sites for which he has responsibility.  He told us that  Danbury and Lingwood Commons extend to 214 acres altogether, 90% of which have SSSI's (Site of Special Scientific Interest).  Until relatively recent times, commoners used to cut wood to regenerate the woodland, and it is believed that two commoners still exist in the Danbury area.  As a result of the work, heather has increased and dormice are present.  In the spring and summer months, adders and nightingales are found at Gay Bowers Lane, Danbury Common and the Backwarden, which is a reserve in Danbury managed by Essex Wildlife Trust, but owned by the National Trust.

            Of particular note to us in Little Baddow, the 100 acres of Blakes Wood, famous for its bluebells in the spring, is a SSSI site and coppicing is carried out for woodland management to promote flora regeneration, with different areas of the wood being coppiced on an approximate twenty-year cycle.  Dave also spoke briefly about Hatfield Forest, where some of the trees are at least 1,000 years old, and Copt Hall Marshes, which has been owned by the National Trust since 1999 and attracts an increasing amount of birds every year, 

            We were informed that Northey Island sees about 5,000 Brent geese during migration and was the site of the Battle of Maldon, where the Vikings fought against the Anglo Saxons in 990AD, with the Vikings being victorious.  Because of the lack of light pollution at Northey Island, there is a good view of the stars. 

            Other sites Dave discussed were Borne Mill near Colchester, which is a stone building built by Thomas Lucas in 1591, and was, at various times, a major site in the area for spinning wool yarns and woven woollen cloths.  Work and maintenance of the working waterwheel and house is on-going.

            Also mentioned was the beautiful area of Dedham Vale and Flatford, and Grange Barn is linked to the Knights Templar, with parts that are 13th century.  Paycocke's House in Coggeshall was built by a wool merchant, and Rayleigh Mount, which has been owned by the National Trust since 1923, was originally a Norman timber castle of motte and bailey style built on an earth mound.  It was the only Essex castle mentioned in the Doomsday Book.

            Dave explained that the National Trust also do a lot of work with children and teenagers to educate them in the natural world, running courses and activities.

            A question and answer session followed and, on behalf of everyone present, the Chairman thanked Dave for his varied, interesting, and entertaining talk.


"The Essex Wildlife Trust in 2017 - Challenges and Opportunities"

Andrew Impey
Chief Executive of the Essex Wildlife Trust

Friday 3rd March, 2017 at 7.30p.m.

Living as we do, in a conservation area, we were pleased to welcome our guest speaker, Dr. Andrew Impey, the CEO of Essex Wildlife Trust. 

Andrew explained that he is a "local lad", having been born at Boreham, and spent his formative years exploring and playing in the woodlands that surround our village and it was this that developed his interest in the natural world.  This interest has taken him all around the world, including such diverse regions as Scandinavia, the Arctic Circle, Morocco, the Indian Ocean, North America, Sumatra and the rainforests of Africa and Brazil.

Andrew's main topics were the challenges and opportunities ahead for EWT. The Trust has 36,000 members, 11 visitor centres, which act as a gateway to get people into the natural world, and employ 185 staff throughout the county.  Andrew said that he was re-organising the way the Trust works with regards to personnel management by encouraging people at all levels to take responsibility. 

 Andrew told us that up until the 1990's there was less pressure on land, but now there is more competition for land usage, he saw part of his job was to promote and inspire the public in land conservation and to build alliances with land owners.

As part of the conservation and protection of species, EWT, through the Living Landscapes project, is replacing trees and hedges to provide corridors for animals and is planting heather to restore heath land and wild flowers to encourage butterflies and other insects.  With 75% of Essex being covered by farmland, the Trust is working with farmers in the Living Landscapes project.

Essex has the longest coastline of any county in England and the Marine Conservation Zone at Fingringhoe Wick, which was flooded to provide habitat for birds, was discussed.  There is a hide at the site which the public are encouraged to use and such use has an economic and health benefit.  The Trust also has several river wardens who assist the Environment Agency in the protection and conservation of our rivers.

A question and answer session followed and, on behalf of everyone present, the Chairman thanked Andrew for his varied, extremely interesting, and inspirational talk.

Members of the public who are interested in their environment are encouraged to contact Essex Wildlife Trust to find out how they can assist in their charitable activities and, for more information, please go to www.essexwt.org.uk.