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.

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.




On Saturday 21st April, the last of the brash from the hedge laying was cleared by burning. Now you can see the entire line of the hedge in an uninterrupted view. The opportunity was also taken to put in some more primrose plants, so hopefully we will seem them in bloom in the spring of 2019.

The pictures were taken a few days prior to our work session. The view now is already very different as the buds swell and open on the hedge. It has already become a favoured line of exploration for butterflies.

SV Hedge 160418 (1) SV Hedge 160418 (2) SV Hedge 160418 (3)

The warmer weather is making our wildlife more visible, The slideshow has pictures of the Orange Tip butterfly and newts in the path-side pools

Brimstone butterflies are also very visible. The male of the species has upper wings that are all yellow and therefore very recognisable. There is a picture in the slideshow showing a deposit of Brimstone eggs, so successful pairings are happening!

Hedgerow Completed

On 24th March, another full length of hedge was completed. This has required extensive effort from many volunteers. The original tree line was typically too high and tangled, but the volunteers  made a valiant effort to thin it out and bring it down to workable size.


The pictures show the pleaching of the last standing hawthorns by Martin and Peter.

240318 Last pleach . Swift hedge 2 (2) 240318 Last pleach . Swift hedge 2 (1)

The view will improve in the coming weeks when all the surplus material has been removed and new growth in the hedge emerges.

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