Wildlife Conservation Group in the

Forest of Dean


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Birch question?

The Past Year

Yellow Stagshorn Fungi at Wigpool

Research into Kings Pool

A Tribute to Harley

Moth Recording Evening

Butterfly Surveying

Wild Plant Charity

Butterfly Conservation Winter 2013/2014

The Camping and Caravanning Club

Dean Natural Alliance




Birch question? - December 2014


This question and answer was put on the Gloucester Wildlife Trust Forest of Dean Facebook page - We hope this clarifies our reasons for removing the birch!


Question :- Why are birch trees invasive - I thought they were native to the UK?


Answer :- Birch are only invasive in terms of the habitat (heath) and are completely native as you say but plants/species don't have to be non-native to be invasive. In fact most non-natives are not invasive which is why they rarely get mentioned and we happily keep them on reserves. Birch is a fine and valuable tree but it's also a pioneer species that specialises in the window of opportunuty of new ground. Ordinarily grazing and a lack of seed source would maintain the heath but we are in the early stages of restoration. Bracken is also invasive by nature but totally native. Nothing against our birch trees, it's just that the heath is a scarcer habitat we want to hold on to.






We were asked to contribute an article to the Gloucester Wildlife Volunteer Newsletter so here is the report by one of our members :-


The Dean Green Team has gone from strength to strength over the past year. It is not uncommon for twenty or more stalwarts to arrive on a Tuesday morning ready and willing to tackle whatever task is scheduled for that day. This does mean that the organisers now have to ensure that the task is sufficiently large for everyone to have enough to do for the day, and that parking is adequate. We have generally been quite lucky with the weather too it can be wet, cold and windy at times, but team members come suitably protected and are not put off by a bit of bad weather!


Most of the team naturally consists of retired people, and about 75% are men. Several dogs come along too and seem to enjoy themselves. Our oldest dog has just retired from DGT, being too lame, blind and deaf to be safe any more.


This year personal protective equipment has been provided, and smart, bump caps with "Dean Green Team" embroidered on them have been issued. Most members also have steel-capped footwear. Several members have gained first aid qualifications. Accidents have been minor, few and far between, but it is reassuring to know that there is always someone present who can deal with it.


We used to spend most of our Tuesdays volunteering at Forestry Commission sites but now our tasks are more 50/50 Forestry Commission and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. GWT has recently taken over many FC sites to manage for wildlife. There are a number of heathland restoration projects such as Edge Hills Bog and Tidenham Chase, at opposite ends of the Forest of Dean. In the absence of grazing animals these places want to become forest so they are constant effort sites weeding out the seedling birch, which will keep us busy for years! At one site we removed deer fencing, rolling up the wire netting for removal, as the coppice had grown and was nearly ready to recoppice. Another site had just been coppiced, and we used the brash to build deer fencing around the stools so that they could regenerate. At a number of sites we widen overgrown rides and cut scallops into the woodland to encourage flowering plants and butterflies as well as other invertebrates and snakes. There are several ponds we visit which have become very overgrown, and our task is to clear them and open them up to improve them for aquatic life.


Probably our most difficult site is Stenders quarry where we have been clearing the tangled growth. This is now being successfully held in check by a flock of sheep which seem not to object to the near-vertical terrain!


Tuesdays are not always all hard work. We do butterfly surveys or plant surveys at the proper times of year. Among our members there are many who have good knowledge of wildlife which they share, and we often see things of interest. Because many of our tasks involve cutting out weed trees, it is an unusual Tuesday when we do not have at least one big bonfire going, and sometimes three or four. There is always friendly competition between the bonfire builders, and even on the wettest of days our experts can get a good blaze going!


The growing number of volunteers who come regularly is a testament to the enjoyment people get, not only from feeling that they are doing something worthwhile, but from being part of a friendly group where jovial banter is part and parcel of the experience.


Yellow Stagshorn Fungi at Wigpool GWT Reserve October 2014


This Yellow Stagshorn (Calocera viscosa) was found on Wigpool Common by one of our team members. He described it as looking like a little volcano erupting from the stump!

Bright orange or orange-yellow, up to 10cm tall, greasy and viscid, with antler-like branches often forked near the tips - hence the common name Yellow Stagshorn or Jelly Antler Fungus is sometimes given to this species. It is commonly known as Yellow Stagshorn, although the colour is more often pale orange. Calocera viscosa always grows on wood, although sometimes the substrate is not immediately evident if it has become buried beneath leaf litter or moss on the forest floor. Although not known to cause poisoning, the Yellow Stagshorn fungus is generally regarded as inedible because of its gelatinous texture, lack of flavour and insubstantial proportions




Research into Kings Pool 30 September 2014


This is a summary of what one of our team members discovered about the King's Pool -

In his article in the New Regard Cyril says "The King's Pool SO59331287 south of Edge End is referred to in 1282 and in the 1608 map.  As the site is flat, lying over clay, it is assumed the pool was purposefully dug manually before 1282 in order to collect and retain rainwater to sustain deer, boars etc and to refresh the horses of the King's authorised huntsmen.  To the south of the pool now lies Perch Lodge ('Perch' or 'Persh' at the time was usually recorded as 'The King's Perch' - probably where his authorised huntsmen met or gathered together for the hunt).  The ancient path 'Bicknoresti' running between Coleford and English Bicknor passes the pool on the east side."

There was a little map with the article, which shows that the ancient path Bicknoresti is in fact that track right beside the pool, so both the pool and track date to before 1282.

These are the conclusions reached:

1. Bicknoresti is older than the pool - you wouldn't dig a pool then put the road beside it!

2. The suffix 'esti' is from the same root as the old French 'estree', meaning a road, and often a Roman road, as that, being better made, was more noteworthy than a local track.  Bicknoresti therefore probably means Bicknor Road.

3. Looking at the OS map it is not clear what route a road from Coleford to English Bicknor might take; the track is not shown on the OS map and there is no obvious line.  On the map published with the article, Bicknoresti is shown straight as a die - a Roman characteristic.  If Bicknoresti is Roman, it is in a straight line directly linking Coleford to Lower Lydbrook (a known Roman settlement) then to a ferry or ford over the river where a definite Roman track goes directly up the hill to Courtfield (another known Roman settlement).  The Bicknor part of the road name could be mediaeval when they were using part of an older road to reach English Bicknor which I suppose might then be more important to them than Lower Lydbrook.

4. A history of Lydbrook says "Traces of a Roman Road also exist from Worrall Hill to Edge End. These Roman trackways show evidence of following the course of previous prehistoric paths."

So there we are - a pool dating from some unknown time before 1282, and a road which is certainly Roman, if not pre-Roman.  Who'd have thought it?!




A Tribute to Harley 9 September 2014


Harley is a dog who has been with us for many years and his owner brought him out to Tidenham Chase for his last outing on this day. Old Harley is now quite deaf and blind and his legs are getting wobbly. He will be 16 on Nov 2nd, and was born in 1998. He started coming out with us in early 2003 when he was aged just over 4. He was known to be a bit of a scavenger for food at lunchtimes and there were quite a few remarks like 'who ate my salami?' and 'where's my sandwich gone' and 'doesn't anyone feed this dog'! He had a habit of thrusting his head through our legs when we made the mistake of standing around nattering! But, as with all the dogs who join us, he was well loved. We hope he carries on in his retirement peacefully.



Moth Recording Evening 4 July 2014


Organised by Atropos and Butterfly Conservation, Moth Night is the annual celebration of moth recording throughout Britain so a few intrepid souls went out into the deep dark forest in Marians Enclosure with our moth expert, Michael Bradley, who is the moth recorder for our district. At first, he was not optimistic of finding many moths as the rain was pouring down and moths are disinclined to fly in rainy weather but, as the evening progressed and the rain abated, there were many species found. Michael laid a white sheet on the ground and used a Robinson moth trap as seen below:-

Among the moths we found were the following:-

This is a photo of 'Blomer's Rivulet', a rare moth (Status Notable B) which is confined mainly to the west of the Dean and the Wye Valley in West Glos.

It is an Elm feeder.



It was a very interesting evening and was quite creepy to be out in the forest as the dark night set in!




Butterfly Surveying


Apart from the Dean Green Team doing some butterfly surveying this summer, Nick Williams is also doing a lot of research into the butterfly population of our forest so these are some of the notes he recently sent regarding his findings :-


Tuesday 3 June

Moseley Green/Brandricks Green area Butterfly survey 3rd June 2014-06-10
Sun sporadic, around 16 degrees and breezy (2-3).

From barrier opposite Mallards Pike car park, south to top of marsh violet ditch under powerline, north along ditch to road, west to Little Moseley and the ‘tumps’ and railway line

Small Heath-20
Small Skipper- 1
Green –veined White- 1
Also Brown Silver-lines and Burnet Companion
Marsh Violets both planted and naturally occurring all along ditch, no feeding damage seen.

Open area west of road from Chapel and Railway line-

 1 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (99% certain) along railway line. Small Heaths, Burnet Companion and also Common Lizard in ‘fungi ‘area.

Brandricks Green-

 4 Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary bracken edge all along northern and eastern edges of site.

Also along edge to NE of site.
Also Small Heaths, Small Copper, Burnet Companions, 2 Grizzled Skippers .

New open area off Mallards Pike car park- 1 Green –veined White.



Sunday 1st June; Cinderford Linear Park 10am 18'C a Burnet Companion near the glade. First Small Pearl seen close to the stump of the big Larch I felled a couple of years ago at 10.15am, very fresh and clearly not the same one I saw with the Green Team last Tuesday. This one stopped to nectar on Herb Robert. Two Small Tortoiseshells, one very faded and tatty, nectared on Bluebell. On the Triangle today 1 each of the following; Common Blue, Green-veined White, Small Heath, Small Tortoiseshell, Grizzled Skipper and Mother Shipton moth. Oaks North, one faded Burnet Companion. Oaks East loads of Brown Silver-line moths coming up from the Bracken. Adder's Tongue Fern still doing well about 12 meters south of a distinctive dead small Hawthorn between the two power lines. Oaks West triangular glade a Small Tort on bluebell and a GVW on Stitchwort. Flying along the ditch west of the cycle track, 2 fresh Frits, then another seen near the CLP sign by the scrapyard. Brandricks Green and little Moseley ditch and field no Frits, just GVWs and Small Heaths. Twelve Small Heaths in 21 minutes across the field. Barracks West RSPB reserve definitely two fresh frits, possibly a third, as the first one was seen close to the cycle track some way away. Adders Tongue Fern found here too, not far from the pond.


Friday 30 May; visited the Milkwall area first, as it was dull and cloudy and not very warm to look at how the habitat for special butterflies is doing. There is definitely a job for the Green Team with a brushcutter to knock back the bramble which is taking over some of the areas that were cleared so effectively a couple or three years ago. The stream course below the Titanic is especially overgrown, and I found it quite hard to find many of the Marsh Violets which we planted with such hope about twelve months ago. The plants I did find had mostly not grown much larger, nor had they spread as we had hoped. However a few Marsh Violet leaves did show the typical caterpillar feeding damage, although it is hard to believe that this is Small Pearls if we haven't seen any there for a couple of years. Despite the dull conditions, I thought it was worth having a look in the Dark Hill Ironworks for roosting butterflies, and was rewarded by finding 9 Common Blues and 4 Small Heaths, all well separated, on plantain and flowering grass stems, as well as a single basking Dingy Skipper. Thence to Moseley and a good look round in the hope of finding roosting butterflies again. Eventually 2 Grizzled skippers on the field, one on a rush flowerin one of the deep hollows, the other basking on Mouse-ear Hawkweed on the bigger bank near the pond. Brandricks Green 2 Common blues head down on grass stems and a Burnet Companion. Cinderford Linear Park triangle was much more flooded than last Tuesday, but I found nothing flying or roosting there.


26 May - Wednesday last week I roamed around quite a bit, starting near Brierley and driving slowly west to the masts for a quick walk around, then back to walk a loop along Serridge Green and back through Delves Inclosure No 2. About 6 Green-veined Whites along Serridge Green, and 7 on the way back through Delves, then a fresh Red Admiral by the car. I found the key I have to FC gates doesn't do the Greathough valley barrier either, so I went for another quick once round Great Berry Quarry, where it was 19'C at midday, seeing only 5 very fresh Cinnabar moths and a single Burnet Companion. Then into Northern united, where I saw my only Wood White of the day by the barrier to the fishing pool, then on up and over towards Crabtree Hill. This time there were only 3 more GVWs just north of Drybrook Road station where last time I met a photographer (with a lens the length of his forearm) who had just photographed a Wood White there. I stayed there for about twenty minutes in all, seeing only a Muntjac ambling unconcernedly across the main track about 25 metres from me. Another short walk at Crabtree Hill itself at about 2pm yielded nothing, and from there to the junction E-W towards Woorgreen another 3 GVWs. I then made the mistake of trying to go eastwards in the direction of the Dilke Hospital, finding the tracks blocked by fallen Pines and 4 surprised Fallow Deer. At Brandricks Green at 2.40, 2 Grizzled Skippers well separated, 1 GVW and 1 Small Tortoiseshell. At Little Moseley field 3 Small Heaths in all, a GVW nectaring on Cuckoo Flower and a Mother Shipton moth. On Sunday it was a little cool and with very little direct sunshine, so I spent a lot of time looking at habitat, for signs of larval feeding on violet leaves etc. When it did warm up after about 3pm, I found a total of 5 Small Heaths in the Little Moseley field and a Burnet Companion by the track from the Rising Sun. There were about a dozen ewes present on the field margins plus lambs which was good to see.

Wild Plant Charity


The Wild Plant Charity, Plantlife is seeking local volunteers in the Reddings area of the Forest of Dean (The Reddings woodland block is just past Staunton on the right.) to assist them in recording the natural regeneration of trial soil stripping blocks in this part of the forest.

We are wanting to learn more about how and which plants colonise bare open ground .

The work will require monthly visits to the 8 blocks for the next six months over the summer and early Autumn. Initial training guidance is available .

If you are interested and would like to learn more about this woodland flora project please contact : Paul Rutter email or 01452 812005 for further information or Kate Wollen 07786 526280 email

You do not have to an expert in plant identificatication- so long as you can tell nettles from bluebells and work can be shared so no one person has to do all the visits unless you wish.



Butterfly Conservation Winter 2013/2014

Photos and text by Nick Williams April 2014


The first of the four days work undertaken was with the Dean Green Team at the Bearse, a wooded valley west of the main block of the Dean south of Coleford.

The task was clearing scrub from the steep banks alongside a main trackway to open it up. As on subsequent days, two contractors had started working with chainsaws before the Green Team arrived, so that the job was clearing up and carrying cut material to the fires which eventually took off on a very wet day. Because of the foul weather, the task ended early, but I arranged to meet the contractor at the location for the next contract day to walk over the ground with him and decide priorities, sequence of work, location of brash piles etc.

The second day's work was in Cinderford Linear Park, where I had agreed a programme of works with Alastair Chapman from the Forest of Dean District Council, the landowner. These were to remove an exensive group of small Pines from the former railway marshalling yard of Bilson Green which is a key location for Dingy and Grizzled Skippers.

Further down the valley, a small glade which I had seen male Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries patrolling in June 2013 was opened up, mainly by cutting back small Pines on the edge of a small plantation west of the old railway boundary (thus on FC land), and a few large Hawthorns on the bank between the glade and the old railway line up the valley, now a well-used path and cycle track. Nearby, on both sides of the cycle track, a few more Hawthorns were removed and a couple of patches of Bracken with negligible understorey were brushcut and raked to encourage germination.

To the East of the cycle track, a few small Hawthorns were removed to the base and selected limbs cut off larger ones to create more bare ground and encourage germination in the area where the Small Pearls are believed to be breeding. The brash was carried carefully to the foot of the slopes here, piled tightly and compacted after further cutting up by chainsaw.

On the Bracken plateau north of the large Oaks here, patches were raked into the dense Bracken, with the litter piled into rows. The same process was carried out on a more extensive scale to the East of the Oaks, where the Ecological Surveyor had seen Small Pearls flying in June, but where there were very few violets to be found.

The third contract day was at Clearwell Meend, an area of grassland on south-facing slopes on Limestone with typical scrub-invasion problems with the much reduced grazing pressure now widespread in the Dean. Again the two contractors had made a headstart with brushcutters, but the 'fire-men' soon had a couple of good fires going on a beautiful Spring morning. The areas which had been most heavily taken over by Bramble, Dog Rose etc were soon cleared and the grassier slopes further downhill likewise. The Green Team returned to the Meend a month later and considerably extended the cleared area.

The photo above shows some of the Dean Green Team getting to grips with the clearance task at Clearwell

The fourth and last contract day coincided with the second task at Clearwell Meend, and necessitated a short detour on my way down to the Dean to pick up Marsh and Dog Violet plants in pots from the home of John Coates in Cheltenham, where he has been growing on plant material for the Linking the Pearls project for the last couple of winters. On arrival at Clearwell Meend, I was introduced to two new volunteers, Sue Coombs and Peter Craven, who then accompanied me to Little Moseley to start planting and seed-sowing. We were joined there by Julia Ribbons, who has been involved in other planting days and transect recording in the Linear Park.

Peter Craven planting a Marsh Violet at Little Moseley

At the south end of the ditch there, a large new scrape has been made immediately to the West of the ditch which contains the largest concentration of Marsh Violets in the Dean, and which is regarded as the crucial breeding habitat for Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries.

The contents of about half of the pots with Marsh or Dog Violets in were planted here, and then a small proportion of the wildflower seed bought in to boost the nectar and foodplant sources was scattered in the same new scrape. The species concerned were Bird's-foot Trefoil, Self Heal, Rough Hawkbit, Ragged Robin and Dog Violet. Care was taken to only sow the violets close to either substantial Rush tussocks or Bracken fronds, and the Ragged Robin only in the wettest parts of the scrape.

After the volunteers had left, I continued sowing seed into four more new scrapes in an area felled a few years ago to the West of the chapel (by the road junction to the East of the Barracks). Both of these areas at Little Moseley, although of importance or potential importance for Small Pearls are actually a few hundred meters off the route of the Linking the Pearls project.

Scrape to west of the chapel, Moseley Green

A few days later I returned to the Dean and planted the remainder of the batch of Marsh and Dog Violets and all the remaining seed into a dozen more scrapes to the West of Mallards Pike car park and the first of another dozen scrapes at Middleridge further North.



Public forest is being transferred into private ownership!


A new organisation, Dean Natural Alliance, has been created to campaign to keep Cinderford Northern Quarter in public ownership.

Internationally important wildlife, public Forest and right of access is under threat from the controversial development at Cinderford Northern Quarter: Many acres of publicly owned Statutory Forest are about to be sold and developed by Forest of Dean District Council and the Homes and Communities Agency, unless we prevent it.

~ Why should this be stopped?

We believe it will destroy exceptional wildlife habitat and species, some of national and even European importance.

The wildlife value of the Northern Quarter is so great that if the development goes ahead it will set a national precedent which will be used to support development in other sensitive wildlife areas throughout the Forest and the whole country.

Proposed mitigation measures are not capable of replacing such a complex, diverse and important ecosystem.

The development requires sale/exchange of Forestry Commission land and Statutory Forest which HOOF campaigned to keep in public ownership only two years ago.

Loss of public access from land currently used for recreation and wildlife.

Loss of part of Cinderford Linear Park.

Diversion of investment and resources away from within Cinderford and vacant employment sites.


~What happens next?

The development is being challenged in the Courts. The developers will soon submit more planning appplications for the site. We need as many people as possible to object to the development.

Don't lose your Forest!


~ How you can help


Tell your friends and neighbours. Show them this message.


Contact Dean Natural Alliance at



The Camping and Caravanning Club

Ali Ray, a reporter from the Camping and Caravanning Club had a day out with us in November 2013 and has written the following account of us which is in their February edition of their magazine.



"I THINK it's safe to describe Club members as a mixed bunch. We spent the decades, hail from all walks of life and have an equally varied approach to camping. But one thing unites us all our love of the great British outdoors. From majestic lakes to bleak moorlands, soaring eagles to delicate butterflies it gives us enormous pleasure. But it often seems a little ironic to me that all this natural beauty doesn't always come that naturally. Many of our favourite landscapes, walking routes, waterways, and some wildlife only continue to exist as a result of conservation projects. Thousands of volunteers meet every week across the country to help maintain the things we love and enjoy about our beautiful country cutting, mowing, digging, planting, clearing and raking. Organisations such as The National Trust and Forestry Commission run volunteer projects from one-day beach clearing to regular meet- ups and even volunteering holidays, many of which are close to Club Sites. Combining a camping trip with taking part in a local conservation group is a perfect opportunity for a bit of feel good fun. It's a chance to meet a bunch of new and like-minded people, learn about an area's wildlife, and is an enjoyable way to exercise and do your bit to maintain this green and pleasant land.

I joined one of these groups to find out what the volunteering involved. On a gloriously sunny November day I met up with the Dean Green Team (, in the Forest of Dean, close to Bracelands Camping in the Forest site. The 'team' is a group of volunteers that meets every Tuesday to carry out conservation work. Anyone is welcome and it's open to all ages and abilities. It's an independent group, but the work is led by the Forestry Commission and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Each organisation puts together a list of the 'conservation jobs' required, and the group works through them over the autumn and winter months so as not to disturb nesting birds and animals in the spring.

The work mainly involves clearing weeds, trees and shrubs, maintaining ponds and planting or building wildlife environments. The group publishes a long list of upcoming locations and work on its website, which is updated every week with photos and diary entries by one of the volunteers.

I knew I'd arrived at the right place as the small car park at Tidenham Chase Common was packed with wellie-wearers carrying flasks and gardening tools accompanied by a bunch of happy dogs. I was welcomed by Kate Wollen, Ecologist at the Forestry Commission, who has been working with the volunteers since the group founded in 2002. The heathland is home to numerous highly specialised plants providing an ideal habitat for rare reptiles and birds such as the nightjar, yellowhammers and warblers, and also rare moths like the Heath Rustic or Scarlet Tiger. Being close to Offa's Dyke it's a hugely popular spot for walkers and wildlife enthusiasts. As she demonstrated how to use the long-handled clippers, Kate explained: "The wildlife in this area would not be so rich and varied if it were not for the help of these volunteers." The day's aim was to cut the birch, gorse and bramble in order to maintain the habitat for the birds and butterflies. I was handed the long clippers, given a health and safety briefing being aware of tripping hazards and not getting too close to the bonfires then I set to work. My comrades were already in full swing sawing, cutting, pulling and dragging large pieces of bramble across to the bonfires.

The team was a varied and welcoming bunch. Many, but not all, were retired and each had a different story about what brought them along. Kathy Reynolds, a retired IT professional, explained that she spent many years riding her horse in the area and wanted to give something back. Matt Lapharn, a 27-year Countryside Management student, had been volunteering for a year. He said: "I originally started coming to see if I liked this kind of work before I started my course. I loved it, and learned so much by just being out here, seeing the real conservation issues of the area." There were a couple of new volunteers too, including recent retiree Peter Craven, who was looking to 'do his bit' for nature.

Kate took us both over to a large pond in need of being cleared of a particularly virulent weed called parrot feather a non-native invasive plant that takes over ponds blocking out light and out-competing the native vegetation. She said: "We've been very lucky to find great crested newt (a protected species) still living in the pond and to have attracted a myriad of damsel and dragonflies so it's vital we conserve those populations by doing what we can to clear the pond of this wood." Donning waders far too big for my feet, I waded in alongside Peter and we got to work identifying and pulling out the parrot feather under Kate's guidance. Just as we finished, a beautiful dragonfly joined us I like to think he'd come to say thanks.

As we all sat down for our tea break, scoffing biscuits, drinking tea and swapping stories, I realised how much this reminded me of certain aspects of camping a great way to make friends, a shared love of being outdoors and a spirit of solidarity. Of course volunteering doesn't have to be all about wildlife conservation, there are other ways to make a difference by giving your time. If mountain biking is your thing you could get involved in building or repairing courses, archaeology surveys need volunteers and the Canal and River Trust has a network of Towpath Task Forces that keep the towpaths in tip top condition by clearing, painting and planting. Whatever you choose to do, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy it and it'll make you feel good about your contribution.

I certainly did.


For details about our Camping in the Forest sites in the Forest of Dean visit or call 08451308224 or 02476423008.

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