Feed on

This video takes you through the entire length of the Ashlawn Cutting Reserve. You will see examples of the natural delights to be found and some of the volunteers who actively maintain and enhance the site.

Credit goes to Ken Monk, one of our dedicated volunteers, for producing this presentation.

Note:  We do not accept comments on this site.  Also, if local people wish to contribute please contact either Steve Wright or Phil Parr.  To view information about pictures, please hover over the slide.

Bird Surveying

There has been some opening up of small rides within the scrub, to provide an opportunity for bird surveying. The birds are caught in a fine net, then assessed, ringed and released. This is all done by experts, who are working alongside our conservation volunteers. Over time, this will gives us a much more precise account of what species we have (and don’t have!). We can direct some of our land management efforts into improving the prospects for birds within the reserve.

Recently, we made some clearance work in the Onley Lane glade, as a continuation of enhancing the wildflower propulation. It is these wildflowers that support the invertebrate population and diversification within the reserve, which in turns supports birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. It turned out that the clearance also provided a good site for bird surveying. The picture shows a beautiful treecreeper, taken during the survey on Saturday 12th October. These birds often go unnoticed by the public, as they spend their time “walking” the deeply fissured tree trunks in their search for food.


We are now fully into the season for maintaining the grasslands within the cutting. This involves cutting the growth down low with a brushcuuter, following by raking off the cut material. This keeps the nutrient levels as low as possible, providing the most suitable conditions for the wildflower growth next season.

The picture below gives an idea of what it entails. The far right-hand side has been both cut and raked. The greater portion to the left has been partially cut, with long lines of cut material to be raked off.

Grass cutting on the eastern side

Work parties have now resumed at the quarry and will run each Tuesday throughout the Autumn/Winter season.

Work has been initially focused on maintaining the existing grasslands that we have. This means cutting the low growth with a brushcutter and saws to reduce overhang from trees and scrub.

The quarry has the potential to support wildflowers thst are not common elsewhere within the open grassland, due to the nature of the soil. Ongoing work will focus on keeping this ground open. This will also require that we eliminate non-native invasive scrub species that have found their way in.

The pictures below give some indication of what we are doing. The grass and scrub cutting has exposed some newts in the scrub along the pathway coming up from the football field. They will be unaffected by our work.

Smooth Newt at Newbold Quarry
Brush cut and rake off to keep nutrient level low for wildflowers
Maintaining an open glade on the path ascending from the football field
Adult swans with their almost matured cygnets

With the arrival of summer weather, we are seeing a significant increase in invertebrate activity in the cutting. This is most noticeable for butterflies and dragonflies

It’s a great time to come out with children and practice your identification skills. There is an opportunity to feedback your sightings via the Big Butterfly count. The survey is open now and runs until the 11th August. Pick a time when it is sunny and warm and take the time to look over the flowering grasslands from the main path. There can also be activity with the likes of Silver-washed fritillary coming down from the tree canopy to feed on bramble flowers

Many of the flowering plants are very attractive when viewed close up. It is also a good opportunity to see the variety of invertebrates that are feeding on them

The slideshow will give you a small taste of what to see. How many different species of flower and invertebrate can you find?

November 13, 2018

It has been a bit hit and miss with regards to getting regular work parties running at the quarry site. A well attended session took place on 13-12-2018, under leadership from Brandon. It is hoped that a local work party leader can be appointed early in 2019. Then, we can look forward to running regular sessions at this site

The work on this latest session involved the removal of tall saplings from a glade that is adjacent to the playing field. The cut down material was placed into dead hedging, which provides a beneficial habitat for smaller birds and invertebrates.   The cleared ground then becomes a warm glade within the trees that is especially beneficial to butterflies.

The photographs show the end result and the team taking a well earned break.

During November and December, three of our volunteers have undertaken training leading to City and Guilds Qualifications. These will permit the recipients to carry out tasks in a more efficient and effective manner. 

Firstly, Steve Wright has attained the following:

City & Guilds NPTC Level 2 Award in Ground Based Chainsaw Operator.
This encompasses the following qualifications:

201     Carryout maintenance of chainsaw and cutting system
202     Cross-cut timber using a chainsaw
203     Fell and process trees up to 380m

We really could have used this 12 months ago, when we had a large number of trees and limbs brought down by snowfall! We do routinely need to thin and remove trees to preserve the overall mosaic of a reserve, so we will make good use of this skill in 2019 and beyond.

Secondly, Richard Beswick and Ray Hodges have both attained:

City &Guilds Level 2 Principles of Safe Handling and Application of Pesticides (PA1)
City &Guilds Level 2 Award in the Safe Application of Pesticides using Pedestrian Hand Held Equipment (PA6)

The qualification 151 earned is for operating pedestrian hand held applicators fitted with hydraulic nozzles or rotary atomisers to apply pesticides to land.

This does not mean that we embark on mass spraying of invasive plant species. It simply makes us legal to conduct control of such species safely and effectively. The spirit of the legislation is to use the lowest volume of the least harmful pesticide

On Sunday October 28th, the regular Ashlawn Volunteers were joined by a large group of volunteers representing Sewa. The official date for Sewa Day was 2 weeks earlier, but that day was a complete washout and we could not have effectively and safely conducted the work in the cutting.

I have directly copied this overview from the Sewa Day website to give the readers a flavour of Sewa:

“Sewa is a universal concept, which involves performing an act of kindness without expectation of reward. It is performed selflessly and without ulterior motive.

Sewa is a sanskrit word and is embedded in the Dharmic traditions of ancient India. It means to sacrifice your time and resources for the benefit of others without wanting anything in return.

On Sewa Day, thousands of good-hearted people across the world come together to perform Sewa and experience the joy of giving in its truest sense. By participating in this collective endeavour, we hope that the seeds of Sewa are watered so that acts of kindness and public service are performed more often. Sewa Day is a catalyst in making this happen.

Previously, participating groups have organised Sewa Day volunteering projects in old people’s homes, homeless shelters, schools in disadvantaged areas, hospitals and hospices, country parks, conservation areas and city farms – all with an aim of making a positive difference to someone else’s happiness and prosperity”.

For more information, please go to: https://sewaday.org/

Autumn and early winter is the time that we cut and rake off the grasslands within the cutting. This maintains the correct growing conditions for the native wild grasses and flowers, which in turn supports the invertebrate life within the cutting. The largest physical effort is in raking off the cut grass, to minimise the return of nutrients into the grassland. The Sewa volunteers moved a mass of cut material. This ensures that the regular Ashlawn volunteers can keep on schedule with this key work.  Many thanks go to Raj Mistry for organising this day and for the exceptional work that the Sewa Volunteers performed.

The pictures and video clips will give the reader a flavour of the day.

Rake it off………..


……..and carry it away


The most visible wildlife on the site this month are butterflies. All species of “whites” have been very numerous. We are also seeing Silver-Washed Fritillaries in greater numbers.

The movie clip shows a frenzy of whites on a mud puddle.



The Silver Washed Fritillary (shown below) gives the volunteer group some enjoyable challenges.

The adults that can be viewed now come down from the tree canopy to feed on bramble flowers. Those same brambles, if left unchecked, would crowd out the Common Dog-violet that is the food plant of the caterpillars. A lot of our work in recent weeks has been in selective bramble control where the violets are growing. It is just another confirmation of the need to maintain a mosaic of habitat within the reserve.


The Fritillaries are most frequently seen between the Ashlawn and Pytchley Road bridges.

Our efforts over the last few weeks have involved controlling of invasive plant species. We have dug out whole hawthorn bushes in some of the prime grasslands so that the grass and wild flowers can continue to flourish. This is very beneficial to the invertebrate life. Don’t worry, the hawthorn is still very strongly represented throughout the reserve! We have also been been keeping bramble in check, for the same reason

There is much to be seen in the reserve right now. You have to keep your eyes peeled for small movements low down. There are a significant number of day flying moths around right now and some examples are in the slideshow. Dragonflies and Damsel flies are also becoming prominent. There is substantial and very visible butterfly activity when the sun and breeze conditions are right. The species visible will change as the season progresses.

We are now seeing the benefits from the buckthorn that we planted a couple of months ago. They were almost immediately used by Brimstone butterflies for egg laying. There is a series of pictures in the slide show that show the progression from egg to full sized larva.




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