GET INVOLVED

We have a schedule of events for the year ahead. Join us on one of our practical days which offer the chance to learn new skills and get your hands dirty doing conservation tasks. Come and learn more about species in the park on our wildlife walks or become part of the Friends Committee which meets to discuss the functioning of the group.

FoSNCP hold a practical workday on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month to undertake conservation projects within the park.

At present we’re meeting at the council compound – the locked gates right by the tramline, on the vehicle access road at 10 AM. We usually finish around midday and enjoy a hot drink & biscuits.

Training and tools are provided. Please wear clothes suitable for outdoor activity and the weather, bring your own gloves if you have them.

We recommend sturdy footwear. Activities are subject to change at short notice.

If you would like to register to join us, please contact us by email – friendsofsncp@gmail.com. We can then let you know if we can offer you a space on a Saturday morning.

WORKDAYS 2024

For previous years – see the archive!

January 13th 2024

For our first workday of 2024 we welcomed back our full complement of regular volunteers as well as a couple of new volunteers.  Our main task involved making our way to a small woodland area which lies between the bottom of the mound and the car park. In the spring, we have a wonderful show of primroses around this woodland. To expose the primroses to the light, we cut back the overgrown brambles and vegetation. We carried the arisings up a bank behind the woodland to make a habitat bank at the top. By compacting the arisings, it provides a safe, warm environment for invertebrates. 
A few volunteers made the longer walk to the lake to do some tidying up where illegal fishing has taken place. They cleared unwanted ‘bridges’ across the stream and mended holes in the dead hedges to help prevent access to this sensitive breeding area around the lake.

January 27th 2024

Our second workday of 2024 saw us welcome another three new volunteers. Sixteen volunteers in total tackled two tasks. The smaller group of 6 went over to the Harrington Road brook area to do some more path restoration. This is the area where The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) repaired the path last summer using roadstone purchased by the Friends from a Thames Water grant. Due to time constraints, they were unable to complete every damaged section so the Friends volunteers are completing those areas when they can. It’s a hard job because the volunteers have to transport the roadstone in wheelbarrows from where it is stored. It is worth it though as we can see how, even after so much recent rain, the restored path is so much easier to navigate.

The second task for our workday was to remove a fallen elder tree that was partially blocking one of the paths and also to cut back back some vegetation – mostly brambles and tree branches, from alongside the path. There were two reasons why the vegetation needed cutting back. One was to allow access for a tractor that will need access to mow the meadows later in the year and also to allow clear ‘sight-lines’ for people walking along the path. We used saws & loppers to cut the tree into manageable pieces which were stacked well back from the path and the more untidy brambles were formed into a pile on the other side of the path. Both of these will create suitable homes for insects during the winter months and maybe encourage some fungi too.  We noticed how the trunk of the elder had beautiful rings as these became exposed when the trunk was cut up.

February 10th 2024

Today was our first whole day workday to teach the traditional craft of hedge laying to our volunteers. Hedgerows are an important source of food and refuge for our wildlife and the correct management of them is vital to maintain a good habitat. In an area with such a high footfall as SNCP, they also provide safe corridors for the wildlife to move around the nature reserve. 
We invited Rob, who works for The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) and is project officer in the Russia Dock Woodland, to guide our 18 strong group of volunteers. Last year, TCV volunteers were also tutored in hedge laying along the seasonal path so we headed to the same area to continue this hedge. We used loppers to take off the lower side branches from the stems of the blackthorn to let in light and help re-growth. Then Rob showed us how to use billhooks to slice through the stem (‘pleacher’) and bend it at a 45 degree angle. Once all the stems had been laid, we inserted hazel stakes at intervals to provide support and then wove hazel binders in and out of the stakes along the top. The hazel stakes and binders have been sourced from King’s Wood following coppicing by TCV. We’ll look forward to seeing the blossom on our living hedge in the spring.

March 9th 2024

With another good turnout and two new volunteers, we headed to the seasonal path. The last workday report detailed our full day of hedge laying on one side of the path. The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) had continued hedge laying on the other side of the path on their workdays in SNCP. Three FoSNCP volunteers did a bit more work on this section of hedge laying. The other volunteers processed blackthorn that had been previously cut back behind the newly laid hedge. The processed blackthorn was then used to make hibernacula or habitat piles and a dead hedge.

March 16th 2024

We returned to the seasonal path for this unscheduled workday due to our AGM taking place on our normal workday. For previous tasks, the Friends and TCV have been hedge laying using both blackthorn and hawthorn growing along this path. It was a delight to see the blossom on both the laid hedge and the young blackthorn behind last year’s laid section. Last summer, we made a wonderful discovery at a TCV workday when the eggs of the Brown Hairstreak butterfly were found on some of the young blackthorn growth. This discovery is very important for conservation as the Brown Hairstreak are in decline in the UK due to a loss of habitat in part through excessive hedge cutting. We want to ensure we create the right habitat to encourage these butterflies to lay their eggs in SNCP.  By cutting the blackthorn back in sections on a 3-5 year rotation, it will provide both mature bushes for the adults and young shoots for them to lay their eggs.
One section of mature blackthorn between the laid hedge and the meadow has been cut back and volunteers have been building a dead hedge and hibernacula or habitat piles with the arisings. Cutting back this section of blackthorn also has the advantage of letting in light to the laid hedge to encourage growth which in turn encourages wildlife including butterflies.

April 13th 2024

Our main task today was to work in the environment garden behind the visitor centre. Sadly, since the arson attack on the visitor centre 4 years ago, the once thriving environment garden is now a sad and neglected version of its former self. Originally designed as a microcosm of the nature reserve with miniature meadows, woodland and ponds, it was a source of fun and education for school groups who also used the classroom in the visitor centre as part of their learning experience.
Sadly, the visitor centre is no closer to being re-built but on a positive note, we have a full-time warden again. Ian has great plans to bring the environment garden back to life and has already made a start with volunteers on a TCV workday. We continued that work by digging over one of the areas which will be planted up with wildflower seeds in a month. A couple of volunteers cleared the area of brambles from around the bird feeders also in the environment garden. A third smaller group returned to the seasonal path to finish off the dead hedge from previous workdays.

May 11th 2024

A mixture of rain and sunshine over the last few weeks has seen a rapid growth of vegetation in SNCP.  The beauty of our nature reserve is how it changes so quickly from season to season with an expanse of white cow parsley currently dominating the landscape. Keeping the paths open for visitors is a job for the Council’s contractor’s tractor. One of our volunteer jobs is to make sure its route is not impeded by overhanging branches. Our warden, Ian, had already mapped out the route for us along some of the narrower  paths running away from the car park.  Using shears and loppers, we cut back around 2m of any densely wooded areas from the path. The overhanging branches required a variety of saws including pole saws for those higher and harder to reach ones. As we were finishing our morning’s work, we heard the tractor behind us making it perfect timing for our efforts.