Ecologically Bromyard Downs is one of Herefordshire's jewels
Boasting a mosaic and diversity of habitats which supports an abundance of wildlife and attracts thousands of visitors each year
In summer open grasslands are a swathe of orchids and wildflowers and home to the increasingly rare glow worm, butterflies such as the marbled white thrive in the scrubby areas. Declining bird species such as cuckoo and green woodpecker are present and wooded, heathland and wetland areas provide habitat for species such as great crested newt, slow worm and grass snake. The Downs is a draw for thousands of visitors each year but the delicate ecological balance, wildlife habitats and its beauty is at risk.
A partnership project between the Bromyard Downs Common Association and Herefordshire Nature Trust with HLF funding will conserve the future of the Downs through the development of a 10 year management plan. The management plan aims to address the balance of needs of the area - for wildlife and biodiversity, recreation and farming, and historical preservation.
The project has two phases, by May we will be 3 months in to the development phase which runs for 1 year. The focus in this phase is wide consultation and surveys to produce the management plan, and recruitment of volunteers. Project Manager, Hannah Welsh is working closely with the BDCA to prepare for the delivery phase which will build on this work; volunteers will gain more skills and become actively involved in the work delivery. Further survey work and monitoring will take place and schools will be actively engaged in the process.
Hannah has been meeting with various groups from Parish Councils, to local Schools and the WI to discuss the project and will be posting regular updates on the Bromyard website as well as in a regular column in the OtR. Watch this space!
February was a month of familiarisation with the project, the people and planning for the year ahead. We wanted to get going with some practical work on the Downs so I spent a sunny day out on the Downs with the National Trust volunteers clearing vegetation and opening up the view to the town. Other tasks this month included setting up a QGIS mapping system, compiling historical records and mapping features,
March involved further consultation with various groups, research and planning for the summer programme of surveys and events. The community spirit here is evident in the sheer number of groups, festivals and events in Bromyard, I'll be adding to the list of summer events and look forward to meeting many of you soon. Your opinions and hopes for the Downs are integral to the project so please get in touch or come along to an event to have a chat or see how you can get involved with the project.
This month was all about planning, community consultation for commoners and residents of the Downs, we had another practical volunteer day as well as staring the first surveys including reptile surveys.
Photos EBJ (Bullfinch, Sparrowhawk, Slow worm, Grass snake)
Spring – It's been a gorgeous spring on the Downs, we'll been lucky to have plenty of warm days and it's been a treat to see so many bees and butterflies out, especially the orange tip butterfly which favour the cuckoo flower found in abundance on the grassland. All sorts of interesting plants are emerging, and you can now find patches of the rare adders tongue fern up at Park Head, while on the Butts there are cowslips and cuckoo flower, bugle and buttercup adding flashes of colour, the orchids and yellow rattle quietly carpeting the ground with their distinctive leaves.
Adders tongue fern and Cowslips on the Downs
Initial findings from the reptile surveys suggest a fairly spread out distribution of both grass snakes and slow worms.
Dr David Boddington led a lovely Dawn Chorus Survey in May, helping some early rising residents of the Downs tune their ears to the varied calls of the song thrush, blackbird, yellowhammer, garden warbler, willow warbler, blackcap and linnet amongst others.
Lauren, Victoria, Janet and Dr Boddington listen out for bird song, the sunrise at Park Head
The first moth trapping of the season was carried out in the Malvern Rd area at the beginning of May, and although a little early and chilly to expect significant finding, there were 36 species recorded including the poplar hawk moth and lime hawk moth, both stunning to look at.
Poplar hawk moth
We're slowly gathering a good team of volunteers who will play a significant role in making this project work, but we need more help!! It's not only surveys and practical work you can help us with, do you have IT skills? Baking skills? Good with promotion or event organising? Or just have a bit of spare time to help hand out flyers – every little helps!
Community Consultation – At the end of April we held four community consultation meetings for commoners and residents of the Downs. These were really positive meetings with some good discussions on the present and future management of the Downs. Most people were agreed that there is a need for improved management which addresses the wildlife, recreational and traditional farming management aspects of the Downs. The main issues that came up were the amount of dogs on the Downs and the related issues as well as the increase in dogs not under control. The return of the traditional management of grazing and how this would best be achieved was considered as well as the increase in overgrown areas, and how grazing would, in the long term, deal with this in the most economical and sustainable way.
4th July Glow Worm Walk – Meet at the Royal Oak 9.30pm
5th/6th July Bromyard Gala –Look out for our stand
Bromyard Downs Bioblitz
11th July 12pm - 12th July 12pm
Join our experts in recording the wildlife on the Downs – from moth and small mammal trapping, to pond dipping and butterfly walks. You can learn to identify different species and help us record all the plants and animals we can find in 24hours!
Get in touch!
Tel. HNT: 01432 356872 Mobile: 07733 404938
Facebook: Bromyard Downs Common Association Twitter: @BromyardBDCA
Herefordshire Nature Trust, Lower House Farm, Ledbury Road, Tupsley, Hereford, HR1 1UT