This blog is written by employees of Nottinghamshire County Council, the views in this blog are personal and may not be shared by the County Council.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The sinister side to snow.....

Yes snow is fluffy, lovely and white, but it has a mean side. As we found out over the weekend and up to now. All the team did brilliant work clearing and gritting all the car park and pathways for the public and making the paths safe by clearing away trees which had fallen over due to the weight of snow on their branches. Below are some images showing the true extent of the clear up. 

The task today was to start clearing all the brash and logs. The log splitter accompanied us out and we managed to split about three trailer loads of logs, ready to be seasoned for firewood next year. 
Although we can not grit every pathway around the park the ones to and from facilities and restaurants take priority as well as steep paths around the main buildings. The car park was completely cleared by the Ranger Team and the Car Parkers, much to the appreciation of the public who have filled it the last four days. Lots of snowmen have been built and paths are starting to thaw out due to visitor numbers.

Wishing you a Happy New Year from all at Rufford........
............what will 2015 bring I wonder........

Sunday, 28 December 2014

It's Snow Joke!

Well the snow has come and it’s all hands on deck!

 We have had quite a few trees down and the staff have worked tirelessly over the last 2 days to clear the car parks, courtyards and paths so the park can stay open. It’s still a bit slippery in places and there is a small army of Snowmen starting to take over the lawn but as with most things there is a plus side, it’s produced some fantastic scenery for budding photographers. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Going Wild in the Wild

Wild Sherwood in the Wildwood Theatre. Wednesday 10th December was the day Wild Sherwood were set the task of clearing part of the Wildwood Theatre. Currently an area not utilised to it's full potential and in need of some TLC.

Above is a before photo showing the scale of the task with nettles, weeds and Elder being physically pulled out so there was no chance of regrowth. They tackled the task brilliantly and by the end of the day they had cleared the centre and started taking out some of the small trees and overhanging branches.

The images speak for themselves!! Tomorrow will see them carrying on with some small tree work to thin out the path leading up to the centre.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Building bridges with North Notts College

Creating a good working relationship with a group willing to undertake some pretty immense tasks is imperative. At Rufford we have a few groups who come in and one of particular note is North Notts College. We have tailored certain practical tasks to match their syllabus. Previously they have ticked off clearing a waterway by digging silt out so there is better waterflow into the Wetland Conservation Area. So when their syllabus stated they needed to fix something that was broken a 20+ year old bridge seemed a perfect match. After running through what needed doing and pushing an 'artists' impression of the new bridge in their faces (see below) we began work.

First job was to remove vegetation and hazards around the bridge to create a good work area, this including going in the water pulling vegetation out, coppicing willow and slashing nettles.


After vegetation clearance

After bridge removal

After the work area was made safe two older sleepers were put in as a temporary bridge to cross over to the island with tools. Then the hard work began, bank re-profiling, post hole digging, sawing all wood to length and much more. The pictures don't do the final bridge justice, it looks great and we are very thankful to groups such as North Notts College for their very hard work. Final bridge below.





Saturday, 6 December 2014

Winter Wonderland

An early morning stroll gave me the chance to photograph the harsh frost, above are a few examples.
Alongside all the frost photos were some other interesting sightings with a Swan doing some morning stretches and an elusive Water Rail, not being elusive, feeding by the brook.


An update to the fantastic work North Notts College are doing on the bridge is shown below. After a short session in which they observed some bird ringing in action (getting up close to Lesser Redpolls and Marsh Tits) they carried on with the bridge. They put in a monumental shift digging out holes for the posts and laying the sleepers. Next week they just need to dig a few more holes and then put the railings on and all their hard work will be finished on that task. (See below)

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Fun...gi walk around Rufford

This warm damp weather is perfect for fungi, but what most people do not realise is that they are here all year round. Just like plants they bloom at different times of the year.
We use fungi that grow on or around trees to identify the health of that particular tree. As some mushrooms actually work in harmony with the tree, some are indicators that the tree is rotting; or other types of fungi are aggressive essentially attacking the tree and making them weak.
These indicators allow us to identify trees that are dangerous to the public, desiring complete removal of the tree. Others need close monitoring and maybe a little bit of work to keep them healthy.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Colourful Rufford

Winter is soon approaching so all the vivid autumn leaves will be disappearing from our view. So it was an ideal opportunity for some of the team to head out and capture them before this happened. Below is a red to green colour palette of tree's leaves and their bark. From deep Dogwood red to vibrant Maple yellow.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

A bridge too far.......

North Notts College once again proved how well they work as a team and how good their work ethic is. Confronted with the tasked of safely dismantling a bridge did not phase them in the slightest.In fact they had completed the task before lunchtime!! Here is the evidence.

Not only did they complete dismantling the bridge but after lunch they started coppicing an area of Hazel so that the Hazel stools can regrow and form new Hazel Coppice. Most of the Hazel taken down will be used for staking and binding a dead hedge nearby. The gaps in the photo show where Hazel was before coppicing.

They are now tasked with replacing the bridge and making it a real feature of that area. Watch this space!!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Ringing wet? Nope, just a bit foggy

The Wetland Conservation Area is home to a whole host of wildlife and especially attracts lots of our feathered friends. Bird sightings are monitored by the team as well as other wildlife.
In conjunction with a local Bird Ringing group (see more about bird ringing on the BTO website) some mist nets were erected and birds were safely handled by professionals where wings are measured, they are sexed, weight is taken and they are aged.
Within minutes of the mist nets going up around ten species were identified, these included; Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Robin, Blue Tit, Goldcrest and Coal Tit.
Below are a couple of photos showing the process.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

From spooky to sparkly

Another summer season over and straight into Christmas.
The Ranger team are currently transforming the courtyard from spooky spider city to a very Victorian inspired Christmas ready for Father Christmas landing at the Mill grotto on the 15th Nov.
 Just wanted to say thank you to all who participated in the Halloween trail this year, we had a bumper week selling 3708 trails which is 1500 more than last year’s total. The team have worked really hard on making it different each year and have now taken on the Christmas trail too so watch this space.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Feeding time!

A morning stroll down the Wetland Conservation Area proved to be quite productive this morning. After seeing two juvenile Kingfishers playing down there yesterday I took my camera down this time.......and typically they were nowhere to be seen, but needless to say nature did not disappoint.
The feeders have been restocked recently for some supplementary feeding and they drew in the regulars and a couple of non-regulars. Below are Coal tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and the rarer Marsh Tit.

Also feeding away was a noisy Nuthatch who does not like sharing very much. In the third frame along it shows a pair of Marsh Tits.

And finally below are a few other photos taken as well, they include a Cormorant flying over, some teasel (which we have left for birds like Goldfinches as they love the seed) and a couple of Autumn leaf photos.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Leanne's Meadow

Rufford Abbey’s Meadow is a Lowland Acid Grassland which is an uncommon grassland type in the British lowlands and is of regionally high importance for nature conservation (Notts LBAP).  The grasslands western boundary was the site of a bowling green and pavilion, whilst the eastern side was amenity grassland and has a long history of being managed for recreation whether it formal or informal depending on the period in history.
Lowland Dry Acid Grassland is traditionally grazed by livestock in order to control the more vigorous coarser flora and produce a tall, fine sward suitable for invertebrates and wild flowers. However, this is an unsuitable management option at Rufford due to the amount of visitors that use the site, so we do the next best thing. The grassland is cut in late September/early October and the horizons removed to reduce the intake of nutrients from the rotting cut sward, it is then chain harrowed every 2 years in February to break up the grass thatch and promote a finer sward growth. Any dead matter that is left lying on the ground can have adverse effects on this habitat as it changes the PH in the soil that can be detrimental to the species that call the meadow home. A good example of this is the leaching of the limestone path that runs at the side of the meadow, if you look at it closely you can see the colour change from green to brown.
The meadow is home to a wide variety of species such as;

Bitter Vetch (Lathyrus montanus)Occasional
Common mouse-ear (Cerastium holosteoides) (C.fontanum)Rare
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) Occasional
Devils Bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) Frequent

Devils Bit Scabious

Pignut (Conopodium majus) Frequent
Smooth Meadow Grass (Poa pratensis) - Frequent
Wood Betony (Stachys betonica) Occasional
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium - Occasional
Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) - Rare
Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra)Frequent
Common Bent (Agrostis capillaries) - Dominant
Heath Bedstraw (Galium saxatile) - Occasional
Sheep’s Fescue (Festuca ovina) - Abundant
Sweet Vernal Grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) - Frequent
Tormentil (Potentilla erecta) - Occasional
White (Dutch) Clover (Trifolium repens) - Abundant
Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) - Dominant

Yellow Stagshorn ((Calocera viscosa)
Devil’s Fingers (Clathrus archeri)
The site has been managed according to its vegetation Classification since 2009 (pre this it had 1 annual cut a year) and we have seen a significant improvement in its floral composition and diversity over the past 5 years and continue to work to improve and enhance its condition.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Mowing the meadow

Here are a few time-lapse photos of the meadow being mown. 

Soon to follow will be a descriptive post about what grows in the meadow and why we cut it when we do.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Trails, bird feeders and minibeast hunting!

Last week we had a school group in to do some environmental activities.
There were 3 groups, so we had them doing different activities throughout the day.
Their arrival was staggered so the early groups went out looking for different colours, shapes and textures of leaves. They did brilliantly and glued them to tree outlines to make a leaf tree.
After all groups were present one went off to hunt for minibeasts, the second went off to do a tree leaf trail and the third group made a pine cone bird feeder smothered in lard and seed.
Fun was had by all and loads of stuff was found whilst minibeast hunting, this included;
grasshoppers, ladybirds, caterpillars, spiders, flies, parasitic wasps, beetles and loads of leafhoppers.
Below is a picture of a huge beetle found by one of the children.

The pine cone feeders and tree leaf trail were also very popular and the children found all of the leaves on the sheet, these included oak, silver birch and mulberry.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Wild Sherwood 27.8.2014

Wild Sherwood continued working on the area which will hopefully be some sort of butterfly bank next year (if the rabbits don't dig holes all over it!!). This area has been planned similar to one on the Butterfly Conservation website, as it gets a lot of sun in the day time. It will also house big flat rocks, ideal for basking reptiles.

Also down the Wetland Conservation Area were quite a few pairs of the Common Darter Dragonfly. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Wild Sherwood 20.8.14

Wild Sherwood once again put in a big shift at Rufford. After doing a fantastic job of clearing the nettles along the path side a tree decided to fall right on where they had cleared the week before. So the first job of the day was to clear back the tree so the path was accessible. Pics below show before and after.

On top of this they cleared an are beside the hide for a potential butterfly bank and behind the hide where a bird feeding station is. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Devil's Bit Scabious


The meadow has shed most of it's wildflowers now but a late arrival creates a lovely purple carpet, it is then cut later in the year. Butterflies are still plentiful in the meadow too.

Painted Lady at Rufford

Although no photo was taken a confirmed sighting of a Painted Lady butterfly was logged at Rufford today. It was seen by myself on a recently planted Buddleia bush near the Orangery. Along with the painted Lady were two Red Admirals and yesterday a Stoat was seen by a member of the public in the same area, although the local Robins were not too happy about this as they escorted it off their territory.

A Swallow has also just fledged it's third brood of fledglings, so that's 12 extra swallows heading for Africa now.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Pond Dipping

Another successful Ranger lead event happened this August.
A mass of creatures were once again found in the Wetland Conservation Area. 
Below is a photo including lots of waterboatmen, leeches, flatworms, dragonfly nymphs, damselfly nymphs, ramshorn snails, pond snails, whirligig beetles and a fish........to name a few.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Wild about Rufford

The picture below shows how much can be achieved when a few volunteers and their supervisors get to work. Wild Sherwood come to Rufford on a Wednesday and are based down the Wetland Conservation Area. Without their hard work the area would be less bio-diverse and events such as pond dipping wouldn't be able to take place.

Over the next fortnight an area for a potential Butterfly bank will be being cleared and some small trees under power lines too.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Cygnet update and more.............

Quite surprisingly the swan which had seven cygnets still has seven!! The male has also turned back up on the scene after seemingly vanishing for a while. Below are some photos of their size change, they are nearly as big as their parents now.

Also down the other end of the park the hot weather bought out a Common Lizard, photographed here basking in the sunshine.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The four sides to a Peacock

The Peacock Butterfly is abundant at Rufford at the moment, as showed in these photos.
The top left showing a very tired looking one and the top right showing the masses.

And if that wasn't enough here are a couple more butterfly photos. Small Copper and Comma.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Mussel and bustle of Wild Sherwood.

Wild Sherwood didn't disappoint.
There task was simple, take revenge on nettles and Himalayan Balsam, and they did.
Below are some before and after photos.

Also whilst they were down there they saw numerous butterflies and a strange trail in the silt......what could it be?? It is a Freshwater Mussel, moving slowly through the silt.

They will be back next week for more of the same. Our park depends on groups like these to help with it's overall maintenance. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Going batty at Rufford.

During a top secret meeting one evening at Rufford a bat survey was carried out to identify population and number of species. Twenty three individuals were counted on one particular camera. With at least two species present. The smaller Pipistrelle (Common or Soprano) and the slightly bigger Brown Long Eared bat. Below are some very grainy stills from the video.

Click on image to expand.

Guess who's back, back again.....

Wild Sherwood are coming back on Wednesday for a new era of practical tasks being undertaken at Rufford and other areas. They have a new team dynamic and lots of willing volunteers to help them. They will focus their work down the Wetland. Here are a couple of photos of what there going to be dealing with. Bottom right is a pic of the naughty invasive Himalayan Balsam. 

Other jobs scheduled in for Wild Sherwood will be;
  • Coppicing
  • Path maintenance
  • Endless nettle clearance
Here are some wildlife photos taken down the Wetland Conservation area today. Where most of the creatures were enjoying some Teasel.