Residents Association Report No. 93

Frenchay Residents Association

Dear Friends and Neighbours,

Special Report on Biodiversity in Frenchay

You will be aware from many of our previous reports that biodiversity is a very important theme to our purpose, Neil Falango and Tony Joiner on the Frenchay Residents Association (FRA) committee have been very active in putting these plans together with a lot of assistance from Robert and Sarah Beetham who are our ‘go to’ experts in the field, literally!

So for our August report I am delighted to concentrate just on the summary that has been prepared by Robert and Sarah to explain everything we have been trying to achieve and how we are considering future biodiversity projects.

This summary epitomises what can be achieved with everyone working together, we are the envy of many communities in having such a cohesive approach that involves all stakeholders. We are very grateful to Robert, Sarah and everyone who is helping us on these projects and please bear in mind that we can offer DofE community service accreditation for students that wish to help us with the assistance of a parent.

To bring this into context we have provided a location aerial-photo-map with this article, and as it is in black and white, we will also publish this to our FRA Facebook page as the magazines are delivered at the end of July. We hope that this is helpful to you.

Biodiversity in Frenchay

A number of you will have have noticed that several grassy areas around Frenchay have been left to grow in the interests of increasing the biodiversity of our surroundings and thus enhancing the habitat for humans and wildlife alike.

The aerial-photo map below shows the locations of the 9 areas referred to in the text of this report

Aerial photo of Frenchay

To get your bearings, Site 7, the furthest left on the picture above, is the area of the new Village Green immediately to the South of Lime Tree Avenue. Site 1 is adjacent to Beckspool Road

These have been developed in agreement with our local parish councillors and feed into a Local Nature Action Plan at a Parish, and at a South Gloucestershire level. It is not just a no-mow May initiative that many of you will be aware of but a more in-depth process to increase biodiversity.

The principles of managing such areas are well laid out by many of the organisations involved in wildlife enhancement across the country including Plantlife, the Woodland Trust, the National Trust, Butterfly Conservation and many more. In brief, the process involves leaving the area uncut between mid-April and the end of August, then cutting (or grazing) and collecting the cut vegetation. The area then maybe enhanced with appropriate seeds or plants. The choice of the areas we areattempt ing to enhance and how they are managed has been made in accordance with observed current use, observation of whether a latent habitat is likely to be present or not; and being close enough to link up with similarly managed ground, thus fulfilling the criterion of connectivity. Management is being carried out through discussions with our contractors, Frome Valley Landscapes or South Glos Council and by a few volunteers as appropriate. More volunteers would be very welcome.

This article will deal with each of the areas that have been chosen and what we have learnt and discovered along the way.

Area 1; The grass strip lying south of Beckspool Pond

Inspection of this area indicated that it was an area of improved grass land with little in the way of any outstanding natural species. Moreover, it had probably been cut over many years and the cuttings not removed, thus enriching the soil and inhibiting the growth of any native species that may have originally been in the soil. It was also the repository, for a short time, of the dredgings from Beckspool pond. In this situation and it being a small area, it was possible to remove the existing grass by scraping off the surface. An annual wild flower mix to provide immediate colour, together with a perennial mix appropriate to our soil type were then sown to provide the basis for a long term wild flower area. This year this is being realised with many flowers appearing for the first time.

To our surprise, a lovely pyramidal orchid appeared last year and has done so 5 again this year. A number of these orchids can be seen on roadside verges nearby.

Area 2; The Haha along the edge of the common next to Tuckett Field

This was identified as an area that might yield new species or allow existing ones to proliferate. This has been true up to a point but is a difficult area to manage. Rampant species such as Alkanet and Cleavers tend to outdo other plants as do grasses which are difficult to control because cutting is not straightforward. More thought is required for this area and probably more management by volunteers as outlined by FRA in our July Frenchay Community News magazine.

Area 3; Tuckett Field

A plan to enhance this area to the status of a true wild flower meadow with open access (with a similar management plan in place for the adjoining National Trust Frenchay Moor) has been out for consultation and received a large degree of support, in fact 97 % of respondents were in favour and this is now being considered by the Parish Council.

Area 4; The area under and near the trees on the common between Frenchay Hill and Beckspool Road

Inspection revealed that this was unlikely to yield anything unexpected. A lot of spring flowers-snowdrops, Bluebells, Cowslips and Primroses were planted and the area left to grow. However, management this year didn’t go quite to plan and the area may have been cut at an inappropriate time for these species, thus reducing the number of flowers that we expected. The area did yield about 17 species of wild flower in 2021, this year 24.

Area 5; Frenchay Hill embankment- above the telephone box

This steep area off Frenchay hill has been left to grow long, we expected to see a good show of native flower, which did not materialise. The likely explanation is that the area had been previously sprayed with weedkiller in order to remove brambles. We intend to have the area cut this autumn and introduce Yellow rattle, also known as the “meadow maker”, which suppresses grass growth and allows existing and new wild flowers to establish.

In future the grasses will be a lot shorter and will save the cost of it being strimmed every two weeks and hopefully it will develop into a productive and attractive flower area.

We will need some assistance this September to collect the grass cuttings.

Area 6; The area around the Holme Oak on the common just opposite the Unitarian Chapel

This area was chosen as there was evidence of an existing flora that had obviously been present in the ground despite regular cutting for many years. It was left to grow last year, in the autumn was cut and after a little while to allow seeds to fall, cuttings removed. After this some appropriate species were sown or planted. This year there are thriving colonies of Knapweed (purple flowers), Red Clover, Birdsfoot Trefoil (all existing previously) and new colonies of Betony and Yellow rattle. Last year, we identified 14 species, this year 21

Area 7; A scrape in the new Village Green area where the grass has been allowed to grow

This area was identified in an Environmental Management Plan drawn up by consultants for Redrow as part of their Section 106 commitments. It involved a scrape of the ground followed by seeding. We do not believe that the seed mix used was correct. This year we have let it grow so that any wild flowers could be seen. There needs to be further discussion of this area once The Voluntary Village Green is taken into ownership by the Parish Council.

Area 8; Grassy areas either side of the road leading from CLIC Cottage

This area was extensively planted with aconites, snowdrops crocuses and fritillaries over last winter courtesy of a supply from local donations, and hard work by a number of volunteers on three successive cold winter mornings. This area will complement the long established area of similar spring bulbs immediately to the right of the CLIC Cottage entrance.

The long-term plan will be to replant the woodland margin with spring bulbs, but hopefully on warmer days!

Area 9; This area is still to be established

There is an area of the common opposite the village green approximately 20 by 30 metres that is notable for its poor thin soil and good amount of existing Birdsfoot Trefoil, Red clover and Knapweed, despite many years of mowing. This is one further area we would propose to leave uncut in the future to complement the other areas already discussed. We do not believe that leaving this area uncut would interfere with any existing use of the common.

The future

Establishing new or enhancing existing wild flower and grass areas is a long term and labour intensive process. We recognise that in the interim some areas may appear untidy to some eyes. We need a bigger team of volunteers to help with future management such as removal of cut grass. We need to further cooperation with our contractors who are very much on board with our aims.

This is an exciting and significant project involving a lot of hard work and volunteer time. This has included helping students to obtain DofE accreditation for Community Service work, so please bear this in mind if you as a family wish to consider helping us.

Any comments on what has been written here would be very welcome. Anyone wishing to be on the list for assisting us in our endeavours would also be very welcome, please get in touch with FRA through or message us through the FRA Facebook page.

Thank you all for your engagement and continuing support.

Adrian Collins (Chair - FRA)