Annual Report – Sept 2020

Salt Way Annual Report Number 2

Forward

The previous report was written in June 2019.  This year has been carried forward with funding used to purchase tools, stakes and binders, trees and shrubs etc.  We have had one donation of trees and shrubs from the Woodland Trust and have another set for delivery this November. We now have 3 scythes two Austrian and one donated Turkish Scythe. These have been used to cut nettles and Wayside vegetation and used it the last two summers to keep down the verges some 1m each side of the path – they have also been used to cut grass on the two meadow areas.  This year our activities have been curtailed due to the C19 epidemic – no activity from March to August.  

If any one wishes to have a copy of the management plan then just let me know.  We also have the necessary insurance funded by OCC – thank you for this.

One of our footpaths officers has taken on the co-ordinating role Beth Rutterford and has helped us a number of times over the last 12 months – thank you for this.  

We have had a change in treasurer as Bob spent some 6 months in New Zealand as he wishes to get a visa to stay out there with his family for extended periods.  David Balcombe kindly volunteered to take this on – thank you David.

Activity – over the last 12 months

The trees we planted at the White Post Road end of the Way have all survived apart from 3 Scots Pine which we will replace this year.  Some have put on some remarkable growth (2m high) and a section of hedge was laid and this will be extended again this year.

We have continued to sever ivy on trees and shrubs adjacent to footpaths and the Way – this makes the trees weighty and more prone to being blown over.  We do not want to cut all ivy down as this is a valuable habitat and late source of nectar

Having written to Persimmon’s director we have finally started a dialogue about Bill Sands Wood and Bob has contacted the Woodland Trust to see if they are interested in taking this area on.  We are trying to contact a local firewood person to see if he would take down the damaged Horse chestnut if he can have the timber. We now have a plan of their ownership and it is clear the fence line does not align with their ownership and encroaches on the Way.  It appears over the years that good sections of the way have been lost due to a lack of monitoring of development boundaries. This is complicated by the strange legal position in that a person can own the land but Highways have a right to the surface, effectively denying them any rights to the land constituting the Way!

We laid a length of blackthorn to create a hedge by the Waller Drive balancing pool and cut out about a third of the blackthorn to open up views of the pool and will do another third this year.  BTC offered to chip the cut material, but this was left very late and has only recently been done. We have scythed the adjacent grass – our first start in managing this as a hay meadow, but it is clear we need to improve our scything skills.  Cutting grass is quite a different job to cutting nettles!

We cut down a section of elder and planted up the ground by them at the back of the schools.  This area contained a lot of nettles and we have lost quite a few of the trees and shrubs planted (7 just under 25%).  It is clear going forward that we need to cut all the nettles down, not just those around the trees as they are very efficient competitors for light, nutrients and moisture.  They were cut at least 3 times last year, a monthly cut would be better, leaving a bout of nettles  and row of elder trunks alongside the path as a deterrent to vandalism, motorcycles etc.

A good number of wild flowers have been planted out too, celandine, cowslips, Hedgerow Garlic, forget me knots and snow drops – these are in relatively small numbers.

Cutting of the verges adjacent to the path was curtailed following the outbreak of C19 and we have cut it all at least twice; and a good portion more than this.  The far western end has been more of a problem with nettles for cyclists and walkers.  Rubbish tipped here has still to be removed.

We have also made safe a good number of collapsed trees across the way saving the County Council the cost of undertaking this work.

We needed a licence to do work around the Waller Drive pool from English Nature.  I made contact with the Cherwell Ecologist and obtained her endorsement.  EN did make contact after making an application and they decided we did not need a licence but asked us to record any Great Crested Newt sightings, with fish in the pond we doubt whether they are surviving.  No paper work was received from EN so this was all a bit unsatisfactory.

Bishop Love day had agreed to grow some wildflowers on for plug planting out next spring and to collect some acorns from the large oak on the eastern end of the Way.  The oak produced no acorns last year and the teacher was not able to get the children out, or meet me so this came to nothing.  The oak has not produced many acorns this year either when most trees and shrubs have produced a profusion of fruit this year – oaks do not produce large quantities of seed every year contrary to popular belief.  See below for current position

No litter pick took place this spring due to C19 and combined with reduced verge management littering appears to have increased.

BBOWT ran a very good Zoom tutorial on butterfly recognition and as predicted they do seem to have had a good year.

I attended the scythe training day at Cogges Farm which was very good.

Planning Matters

I have not had any further contact with the planning authorities.  However it would be good if someone had time to take this on board.  The aim being to get the associated footpaths and green fringes to harmonise with the Way and be features rather than just utilitarian.

Funding

Thank you to our sponsors, we are seeking funding from Banbury Town Council again and will seek another Woodland Trust grant of trees and shrubs. County Highways paid for the third party insurance cover they insist we have albeit retrospectively.  A funding application for the Toe (Landfill Trust) was not successful which was very disappointing as it involved a lot of work making a submission.

Individual developers have not been very forthcoming with regard to support either financial or jointly doing work. Seemingly s106 agreement funds are all tied up.

We started the year in May 2019 with £1361 and ended up with £619 after purchase of tools, trees, stakes and binders etc.  After a refund from the CC for insurance this rose to £951.

We are one of the official groups on the Cherwell lottery, but you need to select the group to ensure it benefits from it.  I thought this would be a good means of advertising our group, but this has not been the case.  Subscribe and support the group if you or your friends are so inclined.

Going Forward

We need to raise our profile to get new members and to source funds and share the work load. We were to have used the planting of two native fruit bearing cherries as a promotional event, but it was difficult to get councillors along to do the planting and then C19 arrived and in the end I planted them.  This delayed planting longer than I would have liked so they did not have long to establish before coming out into leaf, but they both appear to have survived unscathed.

Approaches to be made to the other schools along the Way were not initiated due to C19, but I will write to Head Teachers this autumn.  I had approached Bishop Loveday this time last year, but it did not go anywhere, so wasn’t planning to contact them again with C19.  However they came back to me and I have now dropped off seed trays, pots, seeds, acorns, beech mast etc and instructions.  They have also offered to do a litter pick. 

Hedges on properties backing onto the way from the North are an issue and we will be leafleting households in Sycamore Drive and Beaconsfield Road and the Closes.  I have proposed that we get a battery powered trimmer and see if the householders, many of whom may be elderly will allow us to put the trimmings in their bins.  Trimmings left where they are cut make it very difficult to scythe the verges.  Some of the verges are disappearing due to expanded hedge growth.  On the south side the lack of hedge trimming by the farmers following control of the land changing to the developers is seeing a potential scrubbing up of this side of the way.

What to do with cut material – Gem Tool hire rent one out a Timber wolf TW13-75G which is a garden sized one, petrol driven, for £75/day plus delivery at £8 each way.  We could try one and see how we got on?  Cut material is a problem, but we can leave some and see how long it takes to rot down.  We would have to check with the insurers too and do a risk assessment.

David is looking into notice boards, making bird boxes for installation in the spring and a replacement bridge off Grange Road.

We need to contact Seven Trent about the land off Waller drive to see if the ditches could drain into it and whether we could do some planting here too.

General comments on the Way

Some 18 months ago work was promised on the western end which has a very poor surface, requires some input on drainage of the slope and hollow at the bottom.  Nothing has been done.

This year following the heavy rain a substantial section was flooded just below the Waller Drive pool too.  Beth said she was aware of this.  The problem is you cannot get to the ditches without doing some work on the shrubs etc in front of it.  So I suggest co-ordinated action would be required to remedy the situation.

The Way to the south of Sycamore Drive needs a decision making as to management of the hedges bordering the existing housing and the growth of shrubs in the verge on the southern side of the Way.  Hopefully the questionnaire will provide some answers.

Nothing has done about removal of the topped material at the western end of the way despite CC and DC being aware of it.

Summary

The Facebook page posting issues have been resolved.  We now have a very good website too thanks to Ben – many thanks. 

We have done a lot of work but it has not shown up as well as expected due to the C19 epidemic.  We did some catch up after the restrictions were lifted, working for 4/5 weekends on the trot – we had good turn outs probably as with C19 every one was desperate to get out!  We have shown ourselves to be a group who can achieve a great deal with very little and take great pleasure from doing this work.  As a group we tend to work separately so social distancing has not generally been a problem.

We planted some 100 trees and shrubs this year which gives a total of some 200 over the last two years.  We have had a good survival rate, but maintenance will be an annual task for at least the first 5 years.

Using scythes rather than strimmers has made us much more approachable as individuals and we have had a lot of regular praise for, and interest in the work we are doing.  I now have some business cards for the group, so let me know if you would like some.

Our numbers are slowly increasing.

On a negative front one lady from Waller Drive gave me an earful when cutting ivy off a thorn in imminent danger of collapsing across the Way.  She and her partner have removed their possessions from the way together with a bridge over the ditch and she was much more amenable the last time we saw her and appreciative of the planting we were carrying out.  There are some large pavement sized slabs here if anyone wants some – not sure how many but at least 4.

Thames Water will be approached as the land at the eastern end of Waller Drive is not BTC as originally thought and this includes a large inlet pipe which seems to have little function. Some of the land could be planted up some managed as a flower meadow and a walkway linked to the Way established.  The ditch along Waller Drive does not have a proper outlet, not does the ditch on the south side.  We could construct a simple bridge and possibly a weir arrangement so that the over flow can be discharged onto the grass.  Anyone want to take this on board?

 Big thank you to all of you who have managed to put in some time this year, any input is worthwhile judging from the volume of praise we receive when out working on the Way.

David, Chairperson

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