Conservation Working Parties – A Statement

Since September, monthly conservation activities have taken place in the woods with permission from the Localities Team at Wokingham Borough Council (WBC).  This was under the supervision of experienced conservationists.  Our sessions were fully insured, risk assessed, and very well attended by local residents.

In January, the WBC Planning Team advised us that before we could carry out any more work, we would need to make a formal application under the blanket Tree Protection Order (TPO) (20/1973) that covers this part of the woodland.  We are currently in contact with a professional arboriculturist who has offered to assist us with this application. Unfortunately, the process is likely to be lengthy, but we are hoping to resume our monthly working parties in the autumn.

In the meantime, we are hoping to hold a session in March to remove some of the Rhododendron, which is an invasive species, and not covered under this particular TPO. This is dependent on obtaining the relevant permission from WBC.

We would like to thank everyone, who has participated in the conversation activities, for their support.  We believe that community conservation activities are truly important, both for the maintenance of our beautiful woodland environment, its biodiversity, and for the promotion of enjoyment of natural green space by local people.

Note:  The next Conservation Working Party due on 15th March 2020 is cancelled.

Draft Local Plan

You will probably have recently received a document from the council entitled “Right Homes, Right Places“. The document is seeking residents’ views on the Draft Local Plan that has recently been published. Fox Hill is explicitly mentioned in the draft plan, with the council minded to allocate it as green space.

The Friends of Fox Hill have produced some guidance notes to assist residents in responding to the Local Plan Survey and why it is so important that you respond. We hope you find these useful. The full Draft Local Plan is a huge document, so in our guidance we’ve taken the time to highlight areas relating to Fox Hill and the wider natural environment.

Please do take a few minutes to read the guidance notes and complete the survey!

The survey closes on Friday 20th March.

AGM Minutes

Apologies for the delay in publishing the minutes. They can now be downloaded, and include the presentation made by our guest speaker.

SANG Public Meeting – Thank You

Yesterday, Sunday 10th November, we had a public meeting to discuss the proposed SANG for Fox Hill. The slides from the afternoon’s presentations are available below, along with some notes on the ensuing questions and discussion.

FOFH are broadly supportive of the SANG, but have some concerns about the detail of the application which were discussed at the meeting. We will be commenting on the application as a group, but of course would encourage everyone to also comment as an individual using the portal as outlined in the presentation.

This document contains both the original presentation, and a summary of the questions and answers from the meeting. You can also download a PDF of the presentation for viewing offline.

We hope the information is of help in commenting on the planning application.

Best wishes

Jo Rogers

Fox Hill Public Footpaths Application

I am pleased to say that the application to recognise a network of Public Footpaths on Foxhill has been submitted to Wokingham Borough Council and the land owners today.

Using the evidence forms kindly completed by local residents we have compiled a network of walkable footpaths within the Fox Hill area and supplied evidence of their use for over twenty years. You will notice from the map that we have not claimed for every footpath on Fox Hill as there was not adequate documentary evidence to make a valid claim. The application is not to upgrade the footpaths into hard standing etc as we wish them to remain as they are today but properly recognised.

Map of application paths

Please note this application is totally separate to the SANG application recently entered by Pike Sang Woods Limited (application number 192419) and is considered in a different way by the Public Rights of Way team within the local Council.

We will keep you updated on the application progress and thanks again to all who submitted evidence forms to us. This page will be updated to include a link to our application online once WBC make it available.

Tony, Friends of Fox Hill

Footpaths Registration update

Earlier this year, we asked users of Fox Hill to help us in registering footpaths, by providing evidence of usage and recording where they walked. Thank you to everyone who responded – you certainly gave us a busy summer!

The Friends of Fox Hill’s footpath team has now analysed all the historical evidence submitted to us relating to journeys people have taken through Fox Hill and Round Hill in the past. We have checked that the walks mentioned still exist and have created the map shown below. Please note this map covers the entire geographical area and is not divided into areas of current ownership.

As you will see the network is quite extensive and has taken some time to validate. The team has also taken photographs and map references for the start and finish of each pathway. We have also analysed the number of times each pathway has been used in the evidence that has been provided to us, and we will shortly be making an application to Wokingham Borough Council and the land owners to have the most used officially recognised as Public Footpaths.

We will advise you when this application is submitted, plus the progress it makes.

Tony, Sue and Liz

Friends of Fox Hill

Wonderful working party!

On Sunday 22nd we held our first group session of practical conservation work in the WBC owned section of Fox Hill. It was a great success, so we invited Steph to tell us about it. Luckily she said yes!

A bit of background

Earlier in the year FOFH approached Wokingham Borough Council and asked for permission to carry out conservation activities in the WBC owned section of woodland. Our intention is not to manage the whole site on behalf of WBC, but to enhance areas so that it is more attractive to a greater variety of native wild plants and animals.

As a group of amaetuer enthusiasts we sought the help from more experienced conservation volunteers already working in similar settings locally. They responded extremely positively and we were lucky enough to gain the expertise of:

  • Steve Lloyd leads conservation work on a small site in Ruscombe amongst many other conservation activities
  • Graham Breadmore works with BBOWT, and leads groups locally.
  • Mike Pateman works with Steve and Graham on conservation activities.

All three are experienced in the safe use of hand tools, and have years of experience in managing and revitalising woodlands.

In July representatives from FOFH met with Steve and Graham in the woods, to look at where we might begin and our overall aims. In August Ricky Josie from WBC walked the site with us to ensure that the council were happy that we could make a positive impact. Ricky also added some useful organisational tips. Finally, there was one last visit with Steve and Graham earlier in the week prior to our first session to check that everything was safe, and go over the final details.

On the day

We got off to a great start, despite the rain closing in on us towards the end of the morning. Steph began by explaining our overall intention, which was to create more light in a section of the woods by removing some of the invasive species. Graham then gave a short health and safety talk and some advice about the tools we would be using. Steve demonstrated coppicing, and Mike reminded us to work a safe distance apart. Warning signs were erected for members of the public using the footpath and work began.

Most of the trees removed were holly saplings and sycamore. Sycamore is a non-native species, with a wide canopy which can block the forest floor from light. Holly is invasive and grows over and through other species. Hazel trees were coppiced, and we can now make use of the long straight growths to form hedging posts. Coppicing does not damage the tree and encourages healthy growth. Coppicing is a traditional style of woodland management, and most of the sweet chestnuts in the woodlands show signs that they were once coppiced.

After a short break the rain began to set in, but we pressed on for an hour before finishing at 1pm. The coppiced hazel and undergrowth we’d removed was stacked next to the path, ready to use next time. There was a lot of dead wood in the area where we were working, much of which was left in place. Dead wood is great for beetles so we didn’t want to disturb too much. Instead we concentrated on moving dead wood that had fallen onto living trees.

At the end of the session everyone left with a smile and we hope felt their time was well used and that what we had achieved was worthwhile. Massive thanks go to Steve, Graham and Mike for their invaluable help.

We’re looking forward to next time already! Talking of which…

Future sessions

We are grateful that Steve, Graham and Mike have agreed to continue to help us for some more sessions. Our aim is to make working parties a monthly event, meeting on the third Sunday of the month from 10am-1pm. Provisional dates for the rest of 2019 are:

  • October 20th
  • November 17th
  • December 22nd

Precise details will be confirmed closer to the time. If you are thinking of coming, please email events@friendsoffoxhill.org to let us know.

At our next session we will use the coppiced hazel to support a dead hedge, and the undergrowth removed will be used as hedge filling! Dead hedges are great homes for wildlife, offering shelter for many birds and small animals as well as a multitude of insects.

Update on Public Footpath Application

Committee members have been collating the information on historical footpath use provided to us by residents who used the official Council forms. These will be used as part of the evidence on the applications we will be making.

Part of the work entailed mapping out these paths then ensuring they are actually still there, noting their Grid references and taking photographs. Some were found to be very overgrown or cut off by fencing. We are now in the position of having detailed maps of both the Council and the Privately-owned areas from which we can establish which routes to apply for. Our understanding is that the 39 acres of Fox Hill that was sold earlier this year is proposed to be a SANG which must include public footpaths, in the mean time the committee has decided to include paths within this area in our applications. The process will include involving Wokingham Borough Council and the land owners.

Once the application is finalised we will post copies of the maps and details of the footpaths we have made applications to designate as Public Footpaths for you to see. Our thanks to everyone for the historic details we can use as evidence for this process. If you would like any further information please e-mail footpaths@friendsoffoxhill.org.

Conservation Working Party

Our first conservation party will be taking place on Sunday 22nd September from 10am-1pm. Meet at the Dorset Way entrance for Fox Hill woods.

Our initial aim is to remove some of the more invasive species and create an area with more light. A lighter area will make the woodland habitat more diverse and help the larger trees to grow healthily.

We will begin with a short introduction to using the tools safely. Initially, we will target the young holly and sycamore saplings and thin denser growth. We will also move some of the fallen trees where they are resting on and damaging healthy specimens. Another task might include coppicing some of the hazel trees. The hazel poles will be stored ready for our next session when they can be used as supports for a dead hedge. Lighter tasks will include clearing some of the overhanging branches from the pathway.

Please wear clothing with long sleeves, long trousers, sturdy shoes and bring a pair of gardening gloves. Don’t forget to bring a drink and something to eat.

If you’re thinking of attending, or would like more information please let us know by sending an email to events@friendsoffoxhill.org

Registering Footpaths Update

Picture of two footpath signs pointing in opposite directions

I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to map the routes that they have used within Fox Hill over the years, along with completing the Council Form E.

The good news is that we have enough forms completed that certainly qualify regarding the number of years required and proof of community use. The Footpaths Team will be walking the routes to ensure that they physically exist today, taking photos, and grid references for each path. Once we have reconciled the paths that we believe will be best suited for an application, we will let everyone know.