IN MEMORY OF AVRIL CRITCHLEY
Sadly, Avril passed away on 25 August. She was one of the founder members of FOGW and a real stalwart of the group. We will all really miss her.
I’ve often thought about writing poetry but thought everything had to rhyme.
How wrong I am, now I’ll try.
How long should it be - it doesn’t matter.
Just put down what you feel.....
Another blazing sun from an azure sky in July.
Into the wood, not been for a few days.
Along the path, narrowed now by encroaching brambles - next year’s blackberries.
Nettles - Rosebay Willow-herb - 2’ taller than me.
Everything has grown taller this year:-
Grasses rustle as we pass.
Into the shade, cool, still, silent.
I stand and drink in the atmosphere.
Not a breath of wind, the silence broken only by a distant Woodpigeon.
Listen - a Robin in the undergrowth tries out a song, shades of Autumn to come.
Two runners and their dog, panting from keeping up with them. A “good morning” welcome as they go by.
Another labrador carrying a huge branch, three times as big as itself runs behind its owner.
Silence again - we are alone.
Over the stile into the field. No it’s too hot and sunny.
Turn back into the shade. Dappled sun lights up patches in the river. The waterfall is only moving on a small part.
No rain for how long? The river is drying up.
Back to the Scout hut. Mums and toddlers are arriving.
Home down the baking streets to a welcome cuppa.
by Avril Critchley
Chris Brewster writes here about the excellent Flora Walk on May 10th 2015:
A good sized group of us set off from the Scout Hut with FOGW member Rebekah, who is an ecologist working in the Peak Park. Luckily the weather was warm and sunny. Rebekah pointed out the varied species of flora around our feet and explained about the three categories that they belong to.
'Competitors' like the Sycamore tree fight for space with other plants while 'Opportunists' like the Dandelion nip in and take hold wherever they can. I liked the idea of the laid back 'Stress Tolerators' which just get on with it and don't worry - the lovely Wood Anemones amongst them.
Rebekah was full of interesting facts, from the Pendulous Sedge being an awful weed; Ladies' Smock's other name being the Cuckoo Flower (because it comes into flower when the Cuckoo arrives) and the Yellow Archangel being an indicator of the wood's ancient status. In addition that the seeds of Wood Anemone disperse no further than 13cms from the parent plant which means that the plant colonises new sites very slowly.
Soon we were all staring at a small insignificant plant which made Rebekah's day. One of a collection of sedges on the Derbyshire side of the stream that is indicative of high quality wet grassland habitats. Where had the hours gone? What a thoroughly enjoyable morning, and I hope we can revisit next year with such an accomplished and knowledgeable leader.
And here Paul Hancock writes about taking part in a wet but brilliant morning Surveying the Life in Totley Brook on June 13th 2015:
I’d been geared up for months for the Friend of Gillfield Wood’s Bio-Blitz, and with many experts on all types of plants and animals aiding us, it was going to be superb. Then came the rain!
Still, we had known about the forecast for a good few days, and it would be one of those forecasts that were correct almost to the hour. At 9am we actually had a band of 5 merry investigators parked at the far end of Totley Hall Lane despite the rain. That was because we were after freshwater invertebrates such as Caddis fly and Mayfly larvae.
Stuart Crofts lead the expedition with stout table (plastic but strong) and large dishes for examining samples from Totley Brook. We set up store close to the Totley Hall Lane entrance to the wood. Across the morning Stuart took 3 good sized samples; one over rapids, one in a quieter stretch and one from a stream which arises in Little Wood and deposits its contents into Totley Brook.
The time spent was well worth it. Stuart not only helped us identify the invertebrates but responded with many interesting anecdotes about the animals we were finding. I now appreciate that mayflies are an ancient group of insects that undergo a final larval moult producing two ‘skins’ when the adult emerges. This, subimago, moults once more to become the final adult (imago). Two of them obliged us by actually emerging in our sorting tray.
We also found stonefly and caddis fly larvae, various larvae of crane flies or daddy-long-legs, black flies, and plumed gnats (also called buzzers or non-biting midges). A fish in our first sort was a 6cm bullhead, while in a second sort we had a very young fry (about 2-3mm). Also of tiny size was a black water cricket only 2mm long scuttling on the water surface.
Stuart had on a previous occasion discovered 7 of the 8 caddis larvae that indicate that Totley Brook is very clean. We were delighted when he found the remaining larva completing the set.
The rain? Well it simply did not bother us and the time flew by which can certainly be attributed to the enthusiasm instilled in us by our expert, Stuart Crofts.
The group organised and ran three very successful outdoor events this autumn. All three were well attended and luck was on our side as we had good weather for each event.
The first event was a Bat Walk on Wednesday September 9th. It was a warm still evening, the ideal conditions for bats, so we were all very hopeful. We met our leader Derek Whiteley, of Sorby Natural History Society, at the bottom of Totley Hall Lane at 8.30pm and immediately the bat detectors, handed out by Derek, were crackling away as two small Pipistrelle Bats flew along the hedgerow that we were standing against. What a start.
Derek is, without doubt, a great naturalist and was only too keen to share his knowledge about the lives of bats. So those people attending took the opportunity to fire questions at him regarding calls, feeding, roosting, preferred habitat and the mating behaviour of these fascinating creatures. And whilst Derek answered the questions, the bats continued to fly near to us calling.
Derek then demonstrated how the hand held detectors (the size of a 3cm thick mobile phone) can be adjusted to pick up the numerous calls that are emitted at different pitches by bats and he explained how the pitch can help one identify the species of bat. He pointed out the “dry clicks” and “wet smacks” and even mentioned a “chip chop” sound which, needless to say, one or two thought he had said “chip shop”! Giggles all round at that.
We then moved slowly along the footpath dissecting Totley Hall Fields. And as we headed towards Gillfield Wood more Pipistrelle Bats were seen in the fading light as they worked the trees and hedgerows alongside the path. One bat actually zipped between us all as we stood and listened to our detectors; it was flying just below head height as it hunted for food on this warm evening. It was now clear to us that the bats were making different sounds as they echo-located prey items and as they came into close contact with other bats.
The highlight for most of us was, however, standing by the brook inside the wood and “picking up”, with the detectors, the call of a Whiskered Bat and then seeing this special bat in bright torch-light as it flew twisting and turning through the trees. It then flashed by us into the dark as it followed the curves in the brook. A great end to a very exciting and rewarding evening; certainly enjoyed by all.
Our second event was on Saturday September 26th when a group of sixteen people met again at the bottom of Totley Hall Lane at 10:30am. This time it was for a Fungi Walk. As Paul Hancock writes:
We were a good balance of male and female individuals and one young man who made our average number of years more respectable. Our expert for the day was Steve Clements who has had a lifetime of interest in Fungi of all types, not just simple mushrooms and toadstools but ‘crusts’ and ‘slime moulds’, etc. We searched around a few fields before heading into Gillfield Wood. This resulted in some mushrooms being discovered around an old oak and a more unusual Powdery Mildew on stinging nettles close to a hedgerow.
On reaching the wood we took a right turn away from the main trail through Gillfield Wood, venturing along the northern edge of the wood until we reached the farthest point of the section we know as Pheasant Wood. Along this route we saw a wide variety of fungi including milkcaps, ‘parasols’ and ‘bonnets’, bracket fungi, puff balls and ‘crusts’. The variety of shapes, sizes, colours made this a very interesting morning. All fungi have an association with other plants or animals and sometimes with each other. It was surprising to come across a black, almost rubbery, encrustation on a log which gave the impression of fire damage. On further examination we saw orange ‘dust’ scattered across part of this fungi. Steve informed us that these were the fruiting bodies (seen with a hand lens) of another microscopic fungi which parasitizes the black fungus.
All in all, a very interesting morning in which we came across over 40 different species with several new records to add to our database of approximately 300 different species of fungi. Many thanks to Steve Clements for his time, interest and enthusiasm. We learnt a little bit more about these easily missed organisms.
Our third get-together was the annual and ever popular Small Mammal Trapping event. A joint meeting with Sorby Natural History Society, this took place on Sunday October 4th and started at 8.30am. A number of traps had been set in the wood the previous evening and as usual there was a keenness amongst those attending to get on and find out exactly what the traps had caught overnight…if anything at all!
The traps we use are metal Longworth traps specially designed for catching small mammals alive. Each trap was well prepared with an appropriate amount of food and bedding so any small mammal caught had a comfortable warm night and could be released unharmed the following morning after close inspection and identification.
And so it was, four of the traps proved to be occupied and with great excitement each of these traps was carefully opened into individual plastic bags for all to observe the contents. With eyes popping out on stalks (that is the eyes of the attendees not the mammals) two Bank Voles and two Wood Mice were seen to drop or more accurately, be manoeuvred, into the four bags. It was great to have caught both species so everyone could clearly see the identification features and the differences in the sizes of their eyes and ears, their shape and the texture and colour of their coat. Our excellent leader, Val Clinging, shared her wealth of knowledge throughout the morning and advised us that all four were young animals, born during the summer, and it was reassuring to note what good condition each one was in.
All four were released back into the woodland habitat where they had been caught. One lady, as she knelt down close to the floor, was fortunate enough to hold a Bank Vole in her cupped hands before release. It was however noticed with much amusement that she did tighten the cuffs on her jacket so the creature did not turn around quickly and run up the inside of her sleeve which they have been known to do.
The morning ended with us standing in a field on the south side of the wood listening to a Red Deer stag bellowing out its loud roar from the dense cover of a nearby wooded hillside. A magical moment only bettered the night before when some were lucky enough to see the proud stag in all its glory, with a full set of antlers, walk out into the field bellowing away with a number of hinds in attendance. In addition, two young stags were seen to be keeping well out of its way further down the field. Just one of the many fabulous experiences you can have in and around Gillfield Wood.
We have certainly had a perfect autumn, the colours have been particularly wonderful this year; now for winter, and whatever that may bring. Please do remember, you do not have to be a member to join us on any of our events, you will be made very welcome, and absolutely no experience is necessary.
In the meantime, best wishes to all for Christmas and the New Year. We hope you have a lovely time and we do hope we will see you at one or more of our events in 2016.
SUNDAY, 27 SEPTEMBER 2015. SIG MEETING TO LOOK FOR CRANEFLIES
Leader—John Kramer, National Cranefly Recording Scheme
Sorby NHS Co-hosts, Derek Whiteley and Derek Bateson
Last year John ran a very successful Cranefly Workshop for Sorby at Wardlow and has since recorded 38 new species of cranefly at the western end of Gillfield Wood for the Bioblitz. He is now returning to look for autumnal species, starting at the 1st Totley Scout Hut at the eastern end of the Wood. Meet at 10.15am at the adjacent small car park Grid Ref, SK31577967. This is accessed from a small lane off Aldam Road, which is second right off Mickley Lane, on the south side of Baslow Road, opposite a small block of shops (dual carriageway here).
As the Wood has been largely under-recorded up to two years ago, we shall also be looking for other invertebrates, and anything else of interest at this time of the year. Please bring your usual field kit, strong footwear, lunch and drinks for the day. Any interested Friends of Gillfield Wood members would be most welcome to come along and learn about this interesting group of flies from a leading expert.
If the weather is rainy or inclement, the meeting is likely to be cancelled, as there is nothing worse than a wet collecting net! A decision is likely to be taken the previous evening, in order to save John a wasted journey.
Contact Derek Bateson, 0114 2361965 or email@example.com for any queries regarding location etc.
REPORT OF THE LIVE TRAPPING MEETING TO GILLFIELD WOOD, SUNDAY 4 OCTOBER 2015
This was a joint meeting between Sorby NHS and the Friends of Gillfield Wood and despite the early start was very well attended by 19 people in addition to the two leaders. 15 Longworth traps had been set the previous evening and 4 of these were successful. Two Wood mice and 2 Bank voles were caught which meant that everyone was able to compare and contrast the field features of the two species. All four were young animals born during the summer and all were in good condition. After examination they were all released unharmed. During the meeting we could hear the roaring of a Red deer stag and after the trapping some of the group moved up the valley to try to see it. Unfortunately it was in woodland and could not be seen but those who helped with the trapping the previous evening did get very good views of it and a large herd of females in a field plus two young stags keeping carefully out of the way on the edge of the woodland. On the way back to the cars Badger latrines and Rabbit droppings were also recorded.
Conservation Work in Our Local Wood
There is nothing better than standing with a hot cup of tea or coffee, warming your hands and your insides, as you chat with like-minded volunteers whilst admiring the work you have together completed over the previous couple of hours. Our good friend, Chris Roberts, the Council Ranger provides the refreshments with biscuits included. He oversees the work being carried out and brings along the necessary tools and equipment for us all to use.
Gillfield Wood was regarded by Sheffield Council as one of their low priority woods, but since the Friends of Gillfield Wood group formed, they have shown a keen interest in the wood and have worked closely with the group. With the Council’s Rangers, the group has carried out some form of conservation work most months over the last three years in an effort to maintain and improve the habitat.
This year has seen the group tidying up the area at the west end of the wood, next to the bus terminus on Baslow Road. Quite recently five trees were illegally cut down and the timber removed, probably for log burning. So we have gone in and made brash piles from the left behind branches; there were loads of them and it was a real mess. We do not want a pristine wood but at least we have created these piles at the woodland edge to provide ideal habitat and cover for small mammals and invertebrates. And at the same time it will allow the ground flora, in the cleared area, the opportunity of growing more freely amongst the variety of trees still standing.
We have also spent some time cutting back some overhanging branches on the rides in that area so they did not become a problem for people using the footpaths. Keeping the rides more open does allow the light to pour in as we are very keen to attract butterflies, hoverflies and other insects to the edges for all to enjoy.
In the autumn of last year we managed to clear some of the bramble from the picnic area at the west end of the wood and scarify the grass in front of the two bench tables. Huge piles of dead grass were cleared from here and we are now leaving this site alone for six months at least, to see what wild flowers naturally emerge during this spring and summer. We have repaired the dry stone wall bordering this area, and we have planted eight saplings, Rowan Trees, to hopefully attract birds to the berries that should eventually appear. It will all certainly add to the pleasure of sitting up there quietly overlooking the fields to Totley Moss and Blacka Moor.
The group had also recently arranged for four wooden waymarker posts to be made. Each of these has now been erected by the group, at the side of the main footpath in the wood, to try to make it clearer as to where the footpaths are that run off to the south side of the wood and out into Derbyshire. It was not uncommon for visitors to miss these paths as they walked through the wood and then get a little worried they were “lost”. We have received good feedback regarding these posts that are in keeping with the natural environment.
We would also like to think that removing old fence posts and barbed wire from near footpaths and regularly clearing litter has made the wood safer and cleaner. And we do report to the Council any potentially dangerous trees or trees that have fallen down and are a hazard to the public. We regard Gillfield Wood as extending all the way to the Scout Hut and Mickley Lane so branches that have fallen across the main path in that eastern area plus a lot of litter dropped in that area have recently been cleared away.
You will appreciate, by now, that the work the group undertakes is varied and there is always light work as well as work of the more strenuous kind. We are a mixed group, ladies and gents, of different ages and abilities. Andy Brewster is the group’s leader for these events and co-ordinates the work with the Council. We normally meet once a month on a Sunday at 10am and have packed away by 1pm but volunteers come and go as they please. If you are unable to attend on a Sunday then you may wish to consider a weekday session because we are intending to carry out some conservation work on a monthly basis during the week.
So if you are interested in helping do contact Andy on firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the group’s website www.friendsofgillfieldwood.com for more details. We do hope you will join us, the more the merrier!