Newground Exposing the Myth!

Most members are familiar by now with the clubs unavoidable link with wildlife conservation through our land management schemes with DEFRA, ongoing at least until 2016. The grassland at our site has been free from any fertilisers or pesticides since 1988, when there was last a crop at the site. Consequently, mainly because of this, all kinds of wildlife, - birds, mammals, plants and insects are in abundance at the site, and the spread of plant species especially, continues to expand the insect population which in turn attracts more birds, and so on.

We are encouraged in our efforts to consider wildlife, by the enthusiasm shown by Ian Johnson, a dedicated wildlife specialist and conservationist working for DEFRA.

He is responsible for the management plan we vary each year, in respect of the topping of the naturally regenerated grassland, which takes place usually in mid August. Several of us, including myself and Bill Hockey, have developed a real interest in the amount of wildlife there is at Newground, and look forward each summer to Ian's visit, which never disappoints in terms of new "finds". Also it cannot be overlooked, that our compliance with Ian's recommendations, our agreements with DEFRA, and all the relevant form filling each year, ensures a healthy financial reward currently in excess of £3000. - annually. The bulk of this payment is set to last at least until 2012.

While all the wildlife are enjoying what's on offer at Newground, all this is taking place alongside the flying of model aircraft, with the intrusion of man, albeit for a very limited time, in terms of attendance time when set against the total daylight hours throughout the year.

Ian has already written about our site and concluded, in consideration of species present, that the flying of model aircraft has little or no effect on the presence of wildlife at Newground. Indeed the water last year attracted swans, whose numbers swelled to 25, were not put off by us and the aircraft, and only left when the water subsided.

Where is all this leading? - You might ask. Well, Roger Bellingham, our friend at Aylesbury MFC, and now working full time for the BMFA as Flying Site Liaison Officer, would like to use Newground for a study to be carried out by English Nature to concern the effects of Model Flying on wildlife. Already, Roger has used our club on many occasions over the years to assist other clubs to overcome the often-vociferous opposition towards the continuance of their activities. He believes that a proper survey would benefit model flying generally, and would be the first of its kind in the world.

Mr D J Humphrey
239 Great Hivings
18 September 2001

Dear Dave


Thank you for meeting me at the New Ground site last month to discuss the management of the site; I apologise for the delay in writing to you.

For this year we agreed that the margin alongside the internal (trackside) hedge would be cut, but the other 5m margins adjoining hedges would be left uncut. In following years the pattern of cutting would alternate, so each hedge margin is cut every other year, but without cutting all the margins in the same year.

Five metre margins around copses and areas of scrub will be left uncut until the current management plan is reviewed in 2004.

During my visit we introduced native provenance seed of yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) to a small patch on the margins of the flooded area. Elsewhere the flora of the site is developing well, with many of the species I had suggested as suitable for reintroduction already being present (and in some cases being widely scattered across the site). Therefore, we agreed to let the flora of the site develop naturally. To encourage colonisation by flowering species such as field scabious and knapweed, the annually cut area beyond the copse at the Tring end of the site will have cuttings baled and removed. The bales can continue to be placed on the margin where they were put last year.

In some parts, primarily the flooded area, there has been an increase in the number of weeds, particularly docks and thistles. Having discussed this with colleagues, I do not recommend any control measures at this stage. However, I should like to visit the site next spring to assess whether a significant weed problem is developing.

I am glad that you have managed to have the canal-side fenced. I was impressed with the quality of the fence itself, and with the care which had been taken in cutting back the hedge.

As we discussed, I feel that the interest of the site is developing very well. The railway trackside is likely to be the main source of flower seed for the site. Most of the botanical interest of the site is on parts close to the railway, particularly the rabbit-grazed area. A plant species list is attached. A range of insects were recorded during my visit, including good numbers of Roesel's bush cricket, still a relatively rare insect, although it has been increasing in recent years. Unfortunately a possible sighting of the very rare bumblebee, Bombus humilis, could not be confirmed.

Thank you again for sparing the time to meet me and for your continuing interest in the wildlife of the site. If you have any queries or concerns about managing the site, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Ian Johnson

Ecologist, RDS East