Monday, February 22, 2010

Update on Ruscombe Brook projects

This blog entry comes with thanks for info from a variety of sources including Andy Reed of the Land Trust, Ivi Szaboova-Baxendale from SVP, Officers at Stroud District Council and Cainscross Parish - all the best - Philip Booth

1. The Lake at the Lawns - Over £90k bid

Background: During 2006–07, the Stroud Community Land Trust signed a lease with Gloucestershire County Council to take over management of the Lake at the Lawns site, the second site in the Stroud area that it will actively manage. This site, next to Cainscross roundabout, is all that remains of a large country house that used to exist on the site until the 1960s. The lake, small area of woodland, and more formal lawn area is only one of three sites in Cainscross parish that residents have unrestricted access to for walking, picnicking, and generally relaxing and getting closer to wildlife. This gives the site particular importance given that the parish population is over 5,500 people.

British Waterways did carry out some work as part of plans re the canal - see some of the discussion here - the photo above is before the work was undertaken to dredge and improve the site. Considerable work was done although not quite as we had hoped - nevertheless an improvement.

After taking over the lease, Stroud Valleys Project helped the Land Trust to consult with local people about the roles that the site will play in community life, and how the site should be managed. They produced a comprehensive plan which led to a bid being submitted by the Land Trust before Christmas - a major bid for the Big Lottery Changing Spaces programme.

Andy Read, of the Land Trust (and currently Mayor of Stroud) report that they have already been shortlisted from a first stage process. They expect to hear in 10 weeks time. If successful it will be an 18-month project to do most of the repair and enhancement work identified in the management plan for the site. Some of this includes work to reduce the silting: I've requested further details on this as work we will do will hopefully support silt reduction. If not successful in the bid at least they still have everything fully planned and costed and can fundraise on individual items. The total application is just over`£90k - fingers crossed!

2. The Lake at the Lawns - Habitat work

As a result of the Ibstock Cory funding, Stroud Valleys Project were able to maintain and improve biodiversity at this site. This has allowed some on-going improvements to the site. Their work days are great fun and I well remember helping clear Hamwell Leaze and build a 'snake hotel' on one day (see photo) - recent work with volunteers includes:

- built a newt and toad hibernaculum during a habitat creation session for 10 Y9 students from Marling secondary school
- winter bird survey
- organised a training session for volunteers to help with a bat survey
- removed a laurel from the lakeside. This will help improve the water quality by reducing the amount of leaf litter in the water. The laurel will be replaced by a native hedge, which is more suitable for wildlife in terms of cover, nesting opportunities and provision of food.

3. Hamwell Leaze - Plan and Habitat work

Cainscross Parish Council have commissioned a plan to be drawn up for Hamwell Leaze: many months ago I spoke with the project coordinator and am pleased to see that the plan includes a board walk at the willow end. This is different from the 15 year old plan by Water 21 but

Those visiting the site might have seen some trees marked with white paint. It seems those trees are likely to be removed - understandably those who know the site and have been working on bird and insect surveys are worried that the dead wood will be removed even though it's good habitat for insects. I have telephoned the Parish Clerk and asked that this issue is considered and understand quotes for tree cutting will be considered by the Parish Council next Monday.

There are plans of the project now on the wall at the Cainscross Parish Council building (open I think from 9.30 to 1.00 each day). I have not been able to view the final version yet,l but understand they have been approved in principle by the Parish.

As a result of the same Ibstock Cory funding noted above the Stroud Valleys Project have been able to maintain and improve biodiversity for wildlife at this site. Recent habitat work at Hamwell Leaze has includes:
- gapped up the hedge and cleared bindweed/grass around the trees
- used the grass to re-stocked the area used for slow-worm hibernation
- cleared bindweed from oak saplings
- cut back overhanging vegetation near footpaths to make walking easier
- fixed chicken wire onto the bridge across the stream to make it safe
- cleared out bird boxes
- planted native bulbs to increase the biodiversity of the site
- organised a birdwatch session to help volunteers recognise garden birds ahead of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch
- organised a training session for volunteers to help with a bat survey

4. Acre Place, Puckshole - new culvert and grill details

As reported the new culvert and grill are a great improvement over the previous arrangement (see photo and here). In the past heavy rain has led to houses being cut off by a knee deep river and cars being flooded. The new gulley took the place of the previous vertical pipe in the track: this allows flood water (and normal surface water from the track) to drain away following storms. Unfortunately, this may also occasionally act as a “pressure relief valve” if the downstream pipe is surcharged (full capacity exceeded) – just as the vertical pipe did before. For most of the time it should act as a benefit in draining the road.

The final works carried out at Acre Place included the replacement of 2No. vertical screens with a new 45 degree rake-able bar screen and new headwall (est. cost £13k). During the work, it was found that parts of the existing culvert under the track (formed by large stones with a slab stone over approx. size 0.6m x 0.4m) had collapsed, causing obstruction and a reduced capacity. A new twinwall 600mm diameter plastic pipe was therefore laid across the total width of the track so that the other works (screen, headwall) could be completed.

In addition jetting of the culvert downstream through the builder’s yard (made up of old oil cans surrounded in concrete) was also carried out after CCTV work (est. cost £1.5k).

Residents will now monitor the culvert when there is further heavy rain and RBAG will work on phase 2 of plans at the site.

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