I’m ashamed to admit that this is the first Blog of 2018 from Tiptree Heath, so it will try to catch up on all that has happened this year.

Needless to say it has been another busy year, with a lot of progress made by the many conservation volunteers who managed to achieve all the requirements for the site laid down by Natural England.

The winter work parties concentrated on tree thinning and large scrub clearance, with a focus on gorse which had become quite dense in what were open areas.

The Tuesday group took on extra tasks requiring some previously untried skills, with a last minute need to replace nearly 40 fence posts in April and May so that the Exmoors could return in mid-May. It wasn’t just the men who used their muscle power and the posts were replaced in time for the ponies’ return on May 17th.

A couple of not-so-successful events, however, were the bracken bruising which we attempted using a Ford Ranger truck which wasn’t quite up to the job, and the weed-wiping of birch saplings which was hit by a rogue rainstorm, undoing most of the effects of the treatment.

The great thing about Tiptree Heath volunteers is that most of them don’t just make one type of contribution, and some of them joined in with fundraising to achieve a total of over £1,600 with the Heath Fair, and also selling such items as mugs, pens and torch keyrings.

The Wednesday morning Health Walks regularly attract between 30 and 40 walkers who are guided by volunteer walk leaders. They’re not put off by extremes of weather either.

We’ve had some great wildlife walks this year, with lots of visitors joining in from places well beyond Tiptree. At our Bee & Butterfly walk recently the group rushed around with bug jars and came up with an amazing list of bees and grasshoppers, not many butterflies, though, since it was a cloudy day.

We were sad to hear of the death of Bernie Chapman at the end of last year. Bernie had been a loyal Health Walk leader since 2006, and his family asked if a bench could be created on the heath in his memory. The photo shows the walkers surrounding the bench with Susan, his partner and also a Health Walk leader, sitting on the bench.

Changes are afoot at Essex Wildlife Trust. We now have a new line manager of the heathland restoration project, Neil Bedford.
Neil has worked for the Trust for many years and also leads our evening Bat walk coming up on September 7th. He is keen to maintain the progress that has been made with our conservation work. We also have a new officer, Graham Foxall, who will deal with more of the heavier practical needs that our volunteers aren’t qualified to carry out. He has been to our site over the last two years to carry out deer surveys for us.

The changes will mean that Alan Brown, our previous Reserves Officer, will gradually be dealing more exclusively with sites on the other side of Colchester. Alan has been invaluable to us in many ways – tree safety checks and felling, forage harvesting, fence repairs, bridge building, and his recent work, with the help of a volunteer from south Essex, produced the wonderful bench in memory of Bernie. I’d like to record here our thanks to Alan for all that he has done for the heath over the years.

The barn owl boxes have been used by anything except barn owls, including jackdaws, pigeons, squirrels and finally their hatches are gradually being covered over by hornets building substantial nests in them! Other wildlife sightings have included buzzards, red kites, sparrowhawks and a hobby, together with the rare Heath Bee and the Heath Mining Bee, both seen at the recent walk. Butterfly numbers have been vastly improved this year with species including ringlet, speckled wood, red admiral, peacock, gatekeeper, small skipper, comma. The moths seen included the speckled yellow and cinnabar day-flying ones and the star of the Moth Evening was the Poplar hawkmoth. Muntjac are regular visitors and the odd roe deer has been seen. Lizards and grass snakes were round, loving the hot weather.

Star visitor of the year was this turkey who came along with his canine friends for a walk!

It’s now time to look forward to another winter season of conservation to help the heath on its way to an even better condition as regards the heathland part, but also to maintain its variety of habitats which encourage so much wildlife.

29 August 2018