RED BARN FIELD BRIEFING NOTE FOR PARISH COUNCIL, 8 SEPTEMBER 2009

1. A Red Barn Field Management Plan was drawn up by Sedlescombe Parish Council soon after the Council’s purchase of the Field in 1999 in consultation with experts such as the Rye Bay Countryside Office and the Weald Meadows Initiative.  The main aims and objectives were as follows:

  • To conserve and improve the natural habitats in the Field
  • To maintain and encourage wildlife
  • To create an environmental park for quiet recreational use
  • To provide a new educational facility for children
  • To establish an alternative pedestrian access to the new village hall
  • To provide a picnic area suitable for disabled use

The Plan was approved by Sedlescombe Parish Council in 2001 and much of the work proposed, such as the path, furniture, removal of buildings etc. was completed. 

 

2. In May 2008, a Briefing Note to the Council detailed the boundaries and the following maintenance for the boundaries was agreed by the Council in line with Buglife recommendations:

  • The hedges should not be neglected or trees will develop and gaps form.
  • Too frequent cutting should not be adopted as it leads to poor habitat conditions and the development of gaps. Annual cutting using a mechanical flail creates a uniform and species-poor hedgerow that is of little value to wildlife. Mechanical flailing also makes the option of leaving selected saplings to become hedgerow trees much more difficult. Attention should be given to creating a well-structured hedge with a variety of habitat niches for a wide range of invertebrate species.
  • Cutting every 3 years will allow hedge plants to produce flowers and berries and achieve a better structure.
  • Broad, tall hedges with a diverse range of species and heights should be the aim as they are the best for supporting most invertebrates.
  • Herb-rich hedge bottoms and wide margins should be encouraged to increase the habitat niches available.
  • Over-stocking of the land should not be allowed otherwise hedges are likely to be damaged.
  • Maintenance of the hedges to be restricted to January and February.
  • Only a proportion of the total hedgerow in any area should be cut in a single year to ensure that over-wintering insects are not completely eliminated. This could involve cutting only one side of a hedge to allow invertebrates to recolonise or managing different sections of a hedge in different years.
  • Some old and dead wood should be retained to provide very valuable habitats for a large number of invertebrate species.
  • Old birds' nests to be retained for the benefit of invertebrate species.

3. In March 2009, following a meeting of Cllr Dellow, Mr Colin Boyd (a local resident) and the Parish Clerk, a seasonal plan for the land was approved by the Parish Council with the main aims of maximising the opportunities for wildflowers to flourish in the grassland and maintaining the grassland in a way that allows annual wildflower plants to flower and set seed providing a capacity for invertebrates to breed and over-winter. In May 2009, the Parish Council approved the following.

  • Use of sheep from Mrs Cole
  • 2 grass cuts (annual cut usually undertaken by Holford Pitcher. Cllr Marland offered to cut field twice a year free of charge)
  • Bracken control by Conservation Volunteers
  • Control of some nettles by Colin Boyd
  • Control of some brambles around information board by Colin Boyd but retention of remainder
  • Control of thistles - a spot treatment by Languard agreed at meeting
  • Minor clearance of pond by Colin Boyd
  • New damp habitat in naturally wet area of field dug out by Colin Boyd
  • Herbicide treatment of path and strimming of path edges by contractors (Languard and Roger Wood - already approved)
  • Possible planting - still to be considered
  • Surveys of flora and fauna including by Colin Boyd. Mr Boyd's first report dated 06/05/09 has been included on the website and on Village noticeboards
  • Application for grant aid of £200 from Sedlescombe Societies Association by Cllr Dellow.

4. In April 2009, Mr Peter Gallagher, the owner of the Balcombe Green road, objected to the Parish Council cutting the Balcombe Green side of the hedge (east boundary of RBF). Following this objection, the Council agreed to restrict its hedge-cutting activities on the eastern boundary to the RBF side only.

 

5. In July 2009, following Council approval, the Clerk wrote to the owners of properties bordering the western boundary of RBF agreeing that the Council will not object to these owners cutting the hedge both on their own sides and on the Red Barn Field side, although they should remove all clippings from the Field. The owners' co-operation was sought in maintenance of the hedges in accordance with the policy adopted by the Council in June 2008 (advice from "Buglife").

 

5. Report as at 8 September 2009

  1. Use of sheep. Mrs Cole removed her sheep from Red Barn Field in early June 2009 following receipt of the Council's letter regarding alternative cutting arrangements.
  2. Grass cuts. Grass cutting offers from John Marland and Jonathan Vine-hall have been received. John Marland has a mulching machine which is unsuitable for maintenance of a wildflower meadow. Jonathan's offer to cut the grass and leave it in piles during the second week of September was accepted with thanks. Cllr Dellow will arrange for the grass to be raked by volunteers, possibly with the help of a trailer provided by Jonathan. Arrangements will be made for a further cut in February 2010.
  3. Bracken cutting by 9 members of Hastings Conservation Volunteers under the guidance of Dr Owen Johnson was completed on 24 July 2009. Dr Johnson was impressed by the variety of wildflowers in the field and offered to put a July day for RBF in his HCV programme for 2010.
  4. Nettles. Colin Boyd has been cutting some of the nettles.
  5. Brambles. Colin Boyd has kept the brambles next to the top gate cut back. The main bramble patches have been retained as good habitat areas.
  6. Thistles. Languard Ltd. gave one treatment of glyophosate to the north side of RBF. This was supposed to be "spot treatment" but use of the weedkiller was over-generous causing dead areas of grass. Colin Boyd cut back many of the thistles.
  7. Minor clearance of pond. Colin Boyd removed the sweet grass from the pond in the Spring and used several applications of barley-straw to control algae. He also moved pond plants from other areas into the pond. As is usual for this pond, it has been dry during the summer months.
  8. Colin Boyd dug a small, already damp, area to the east of the village hall to, hopefully, attract dragonflies etc.
  9. Herbicide treatment of path and strimming of path edges. Completed by Languard and Roger Wood.
  10. Possible planting of bulbs etc. still to be considered.
  11. Surveys of flora and fauna. Colin Boyd has maintained detailed lists species seen in RBF. These were, up to 1 September, 33 species of birds, 70 plants, 5 dragonflies, 6 bees, 19 butterflies, 5 grasshoppers and bush-crickets, 12 other, 6 mammals, 1 reptile and 2 amphibians visiting the site during the spring/summer of 2009. Of particular interest was the plant "sneezewort", described by Dr Johnson as "unusual and sparse". These were also recorded on the site in 2000.
  12. Grant Aid. Cllr Dellow applied for, and obtained, grant aid of £200 from the Societies Association for the maintenance of RBF. To date, only a small amount of money has been spent on barley-straw.

P Raymond

Clerk/RFO, Sedlescombe Parish Council

8 September 2009