Management Plan

     
   

Management Plan For Watchhouse Hill

2009

     

Watchhouse Hill Management Plan 2009

Contents

1.          MAP 1. 2

2.         INTRODUCTION.. 3

2.1.        Purpose of the Management Plan. 3

2.2.        The Process Used to Produce the Plan. 3

2.3.        The Life of the Plan. 3

3.         SITE DESCRIPTION.. 4

3.1.        Site Location and Ownership. 4

3.2.        Summary Description. 4

3.3.        Previous Site Use & Management. 5

3.4.        Policy Context & Legislative Framework. 5

3.5.        North Somerset Council Biodiversity Action Plans. 5

3.6.        Detailed Site Description. 6

4.         COMMUNITY USE.. 11

5.          CURRENT MANAGEMENT.. 13

6.         A VISION FOR WATCHOUSE HILL.. 14

7.          FIVE YEAR WORK PLAN.. 15

8.         Table 1. 16

9.         MONITORING REVIEW… 23

10.       MONITORING PROTOCOLS. 24

11.        SUMMARY TABLE.. 28


1.

Map 1

2.           INTRODUCTION

2.1. Purpose of the Management Plan

This plan aims to define specific objectives and priorities for the current and future management of Watchhouse Hill. It builds upon the original management plan drawn up by Landmark Environmental Consultants in 1998 and later redrafts in 2007/8. It takes into account the needs of the local community and the desires of the volunteers comprising the Friends of Watchhouse Hill.

2.2.                     The Process Used to Produce the Plan

The first management plan for Watchhouse Hill was produced by Landmark Environmental Consultants Ltd in summer 1998. However it became apparent to all interested parties that it was not achieving the desired results and that conflicts were arising between various user groups.

In the spring of 2007 the community group requested that the council developed a new plan based on guidance from the Commission for Architecture, Buildings and Environment (CABE Space), to facilitate applications for a Green Flag award.

The Friends of Watchhouse Hill Group have worked closely with North Somerset Council during the production of the original plan and this amendment providing much of the research and information that has been included.

2.3.                     The Life of the Plan

The revised management plan was adopted in 2008 and this amendment in 2009. It contains a five year work plan which is reviewed annually and the plan itself will be reviewed by the Management Committee annually to ensure that it is responsive to local needs and environmental requirements. The whole plan will be reviewed in five years time (2014).

3.     SITE DESCRIPTION

3.1. Site Location and Ownership

Watchhouse Hill is situated on the eastern edge of the village of Pill in North Somerset. It covers an area of approximately 10 hectares and is constrained to the north by the River Avon, the Saint Katherine’s Park housing development to the east and Parish football pitches to the south, with the village and railway line forming its western boundary. The central grid reference for the site is ST 528 758.

The whole of the site is owned by North Somerset Council.

3.2.                     Summary Description

The northwest half of Watchhouse Hill has an undulating topography which becomes steep in places. The main slope in this area faces northwest and provides views across to Shirehampton and along the River Avon to the Severn Estuary. To the southwest, the site levels out to a flat plateau.

The solid underlying rock is keuper marl, a calcareous clay which dates from the Triassic period. Subsequent to the deposition of the marl, the site was overlain with a drift of gravel in the Pleistocene period. The soils are a reddish fine loam which are prone to slight seasonal water logging where they overlie the clay but more free-draining where they overlie gravel.

The site has a diverse range of habitats coexisting together. Many of these habitats are old whilst others have been created more recently during the redevelopment of the hospital site.

Habitats include:

  • Semi-natural deciduous woodland and new woodland planting.
  • A traditional fruit orchard with many mature trees.
  • Extensive bramble scrub and also some scattered hawthorn in places.
  • Grassland habitat including old pasture, grass banks and mown areas.
  • A pond and scrape
  • Mature and recently planted hedgerows
  • Mature and ancient trees

In addition to the plant species associated with these habitats, an array of birds, mammals and invertebrates can be found at Watchhouse Hill.

The mature woodland running along the northern boundary, and the salt marsh and River Avon below this, is designated as a ‘wildlife Site’. This designation is given to sites in North Somerset that significantly contribute to the nature conservation value of the area.

Friends of Watchhouse Hill work closely with North Somerset Council and Easton-in-Gordano Parish Council to manage the site and organize community events.

3.3.                     Previous Site Use & Management

Previously Watchhouse Hill was a mixture of farmland and the site of the old Ham Green Hospital which originated as an isolation unit moved from a hulk moored in the river .

In the 1990s Redrow Homes (SW) Ltd submitted a planning application to develop the Ham Green Hospital site in February 1998.

Approval of the development was subject to a Section 106 Agreement, which included clauses and schedules relating to nature conservation issues in addition to mitigation measures to protect and enhance the nature conservation value of the site. It also recommended that a site management plan be produced, which was subsequently drawn-up by Landmark Environmental Consultants Ltd.

The land was formally adopted by North Somerset Council in 2005.

The original management plan set out management prescriptions for all of the habitats found at Watchhouse Hill which were then incorporated into a five year work schedule. Whilst the council has overall responsibility for the site, they have worked closely with the Friends of Watchhouse Hill Group, whose volunteers undertake some of the site management.

This management plan is therefore the outcome of a common desire between North Somerset Council and the Friends of Watchhouse Hill Group to optimize both the recreational and wildlife value of this site.

3.4.                     Policy Context & Legislative Framework

Management of open spaces, including Watchhouse Hill, meets North Somerset Council’s main aims of:

  • Enhancing health and well being.
  • Protecting and improving the environment.
  • Building safer and stronger communities

3.5.                     North Somerset Council Biodiversity Action Plans

Biodiversity audits for both North Somerset and the wider Avon area have been produced with the assistance of many individuals and organisations. From this species and habitat action plans have been produced to ensure species and habitats of local importance are protected. The measures suggested in this management plan have been informed by the targets within these actions plans to improve biodiversity not only locally but nationally. Specific measures have been incorporated in accordance with:

North Somerset Habitat Action Plans

  • Species-rich Grasslands
  • Woodlands
  • Field Boundaries & Linear Features
  • Traditional Orchards

Avon Habitat Action Plans

  • Species-rich Grasslands
  • Woodlands
  • Hedgerows

There are no action plans for the species found at Watchhouse Hill in both the Avon and North Somerset Local Biodiversity Action Plans.

3.6.                     Detailed Site Description

3.6.1.   Main Field

The main field covers an area of approximately 2.80 hectares and has an undulating topography. Prior to the development of the site this field was grazed by livestock and farmed relatively intensively with a moderate amount of fertiliser use. The field thus has an improved grassland sward, although this seems to be reverting to a poor semi-improved sward as perennial rye-grass is much less dominant now than it was during surveys in 1996.

Dominant grass species include Yorkshire fog, perennial rye-grass, cocksfoot, timothy, false oat-grass and rough meadow-grass. Wildflower species are poorly represented and limited to cut-leaved cranesbill, meadow buttercup, creeping buttercup, ribwort plantain, smooth hawksbeard, birdsfoot trefoil, white clover, hogweed, prickly sow-thistle, teasel, ground ivy, creeping thistle and dock.

Bramble scrub is encroaching from some of the field boundaries and there is a minor amount of scattered hawthorn scrub in the middle. There are a number of immature oaks in the northwest and a dense belt of nettle beside the hedgerow in the south.

The field is crossed by one public right of way; the Avon Walkway Strategic Path, which runs from Pill to Bristol, cutting through the site before dropping back down to the River Avon which it follows through the Avon Gorge to Bristol.  A number of natural desire lines have been opened-up by walkers providing other paths in this field.

In 2009 a geophysical survey indicated that this could be the site of an iron age hill fort and further shallow ground penetrating Radar Surveys studies are currently in progress.

3.6.2.  Orchard Grassland

The orchard covers an area of approximately 1.20 hectares. The grassland within the orchard is of a slightly better botanical quality than the main field, but again is not particularly diverse. The main grass species are false oat-grass, Yorkshire fog, rough meadow-grass, cocksfoot and sweet vernal. Smaller amounts of meadow foxtail, red fescue and perennial rye-grass also occur. Wildflower species include sorrel, creeping buttercup, common catsear, smooth hawksbeard, rough hawksbeard, musk mallow, ribwort plantain, cut-leaved cranesbill, hop trefoil, red clover, white clover, ground ivy, common vetch, germander speedwell, wood avens, great willowherb, nettle, prickly sow-thistle, cleavers, teasel, ragwort, hogweed, field bindweed and curled dock.

During the 1996 surveys species such as common knapweed, lady’s bedstraw and pignut were noted. There was no evidence of these in the 2007 survey and whilst this could be due to a lack of appropriate management in the intervening years, it could also simply be down to the time of year when the survey was conducted.

The majority of the orchard has been enclosed with estate fencing and has  been declared a dog free zone subject to a Dog Control Order that has been well respected.

3.6.3.  Grass Strips & Banks

The grass strips that run along either side of the tarmac footpath on the western boundary were once part of the adjacent main field and as such have a similar range of grass and wildflower species. This area has, however, been landscaped to accommodate the footpath and includes some steeper banks and flatter areas where it is assumed that topsoil has been removed.

These banks and flat areas are of a higher botanical quality than the main field due to the thinner soils and therefore lower nutrient status. Whilst the range of wildflower species is similar they occur much more frequently. Some additional species were recorded including common catsear, creeping cinqfoil, hop trefoil, yarrow, perforate St John’s wort and wild onion.

Part of grassland on top of the banks was used as a receptor site for semi-improved grassland which was translocated from the within the footprint of the housing development, unfortunately this area has now been completely lost to bramble encroachment of bramble shrub prior to the current management regime. Bramble also tends to encroach out from the boundary of the railway and further areas of scattered scrub can be found on the steep banks in the north. Nettle and creeping thistle have become established in some locations, especially on the southern flat area on top of the bank.

3.6.4.  Football Pitches

The football pitches  were created by overlaying the existing ground level with masonry debris from the old hospital site. They have little ecological interest, however, a wide uncut grass margin is left along the western edge and a narrower strip along the north. This is species poor but does provide habitat for invertebrates and small mammals. A Multi Use Games Area and Youth Shelter were erected on the edge of the football field in 2009.

3.6.5.  Landscaped Space

The landscaped space consists of a grassed area that is divided diagonally by a path which leads to a viewing mound with a seat on top. A further path leads to a small parking area. A number of trees have been planted in the space, especially beside the paths to create avenues. The grassland to the south of the path has been reseeded, whilst that to the north is a legacy from when the site was farmed. A mound has been placed over some old concrete structures from the farm using soil removed from the MUGA site and reseeded.

3.6.6.  Orchard (Area C)

The orchard contains a range of traditional apple, pear and plum varieties with the occasional English oak and silver birch. It is on the site of an old orchard and was replanted in 1949 with some replacement planting in 2006.

The trees provide nesting and feeding habitat for birds as well as nesting opportunities and foraging habitat for bats which like the sheltered conditions that the trees offer. Some of the trees have dead wood habitat which is important for invertebrates.

The majority of the orchard is now a dog free zone and an iron estate fence has been erected to deter dog walkers from entering. The fence has, however, been positioned within the confines of the orchard so that dog walkers can access its peripheries. Within the main part of the orchard there are numerous small paths with two benches in the centre.

3.6.7.  The Copse (Area D)

As a part of the Section 106 Agreement Redrow Homes (SW) Ltd planted a number of new woodlands to mitigate for the loss of habitat associated with the development and to enhance the visual amenity of the open space.

A diverse mix of tree and shrub species were used including ash, oak, silver birch, cherry, willow, field maple, lime, hazel, wild privet, holly, buckthorn, dogwood, guelder rose and scots pine

This area of new woodland planting has established very well and is now beginning to provide nesting and feeding habitat for birds, insects, butterflies and small mammals.

The area next to the Orchard (Area D2) has been incorporated into the new woodland planting. The mature trees within this mainly occur in a line suggesting that they were once either a landscape feature or a shelter belt. They are mainly beech with some oak, silver birch, horse chestnut and a copper beach, which is positioned away from the line.

3.6.8. Mature Woodland (Area G )

A significant belt of mature woodland runs along the northern boundary slopes which drop down to the River Avon. This woodland is of exceptional ecological interest due to the diverse mixture of woody and herbaceous plants which indicate that it is ancient woodland. The tree layer includes many old trees, most notably small-leaved limes. This is a very uncommon species with mature specimens being absent from almost all woodlands. Other mature tree species include oak, beech, yew, wych elm and wild service tree.

The shrub layer includes species such as hazel, spindle, dogwood and English elm. The ground flora includes characteristic ancient woodland species such as wood anemone, greater woodrush, wood melick, wood millet and autumn crocus.

The wood contains a variety of soil types, rocky outcrops and mossy banks, all of which contribute to its ecological diversity. The abundant fallen and standing dead wood within the woodland is likely to be of high value to invertebrates.

Some of the above features such as the presence of extremely mature trees and plentiful dead wood, as well as the overall structure of the woodland, suggest a long history of non-management. It is even possible that parts have never been managed due to difficulty of access.

3.6.9.  Mature Trees

There are a number of mature trees on the site, the most noteworthy and prominent of which are the pollarded oak next to the orchard, a stag headed ash in the strip of new woodland and another old ash which sits on top of the bank above the main footpath which has been vandalized and may need attention.. All of these trees contain dead wood habitat important to invertebrates. Regular checks for vandalism damage need to be maintained.

3.6.10.                     Hedgerows

The hedgerow network consists of recently planted hedges that were created as part of the development mitigation and older more established ones. The newly planted hedgerows were planted-up with a range of shrub species typical to the locality including field maple, hawthorn, blackthorn, holly, dogwood, guelder rose, hazel and honeysuckle. A component of ash, lime and oak was also included though it is not known if these tree species were intended to be managed as hedge plants or selected as standard trees when they mature. All of the newly planted hedgerows have developed a good structure.

Typical species found in the older established hedgerows include hawthorn, blackthorn, elm, ash, holly, bramble and wild plum. Elder is present in some which is particularly invasive. Whilst some of the older hedgerows are tall and bushy, the structure of others is quite poor with gaps of varying size that reduces their corridor value and little basal growth which is important to some nesting bird species.

3.6.11.                       Pond & Scrape

There is a small pond at the western end of the hedgerow that divides the football pitches from the main grass field. This pond was very heavily shaded on almost all of its sides by surrounding scrub which has now been opened up on the north and south sides. The banks have been strengthened and some drainage may be desirable in the future. Tadpoles have lately been observed indicating increasing viability. The pond holds only a relatively shallow depth of water and is prone to drying out in the summer.

A hollow within the newly planted strip of woodland that runs along the northern boundary was deepened to provide a wet winter scrape. This has been cleared of bramble but there is no evidence of water retention.

3.6.12.                      Fauna

Bats

Three species of bat are known to occur on the site: brown long-eared, serotine, and pipistrelle. A resident population of brown long-eared bats was discovered roosting in one of the hospital buildings during the ecological impact assessment survey in 1997. The roost site was subsequently demolished as part of the redevelopment plans but a new purpose built building was provided close to the northern wood as an offset measure to compensate for this loss.  Serotine and pipistrelle were also recorded foraging over the site and potentially using it for night roosting.

The main habitat features that bats require are woodland, woodland edge, tall hedgerows, mature trees, permanent grassland and areas of water. Tree holes, ivy clad trees, buildings and caves make valuable roosting sites.

Barn Owls

The current status of barn owls at Watchhouse Hill is unknown. In 1996 a pair bred and produced three young, two of which were known to have fledged. The same pair also bred in 1997, but the number of young was unknown. It is likely that there is no longer a resident pair on the site, as there have been no sightings in recent years. However, it should not be assumed that they don’t use the site as it has large areas of rough grassland, which is ideal habitat for foraging for their favoured prey item, short-tailed field vole. There is a good population of barn owls close by at Portbury that may make use of this rough grassland as they have relatively large territories. There is also potential for influx of young barn owls from this population in good breeding years.

Little owls and tawny owls have also been recorded at Watchhouse Hill, with the orchard and mature woodland respectively providing good habitat.

Badgers

There is at least one badger sett on the site and a number of pathways to foraging grounds are also evident. The exact location of these features is not given here due to the sensitive nature of this information.

Birds

In addition to owls, a number of other bird species have also been recorded at Watchhouse Hill. This includes thrush, green woodpecker, chiffchaff, blue tit, dunnock, blackbird, greenfinch and robin.

Butterflies

Butterflies recorded on site include speckled wood, marbled white, meadow brown, holly blue, small skipper, large skipper, small tortoiseshell and painted lady.

3.6.13.                      Historic Landscape Features

There are no known archaeological features on the site, however, the traditional orchard is a highly valued rural heritage and landscape feature synonymous with the West Country.

Field walks have produced an amount of pottery shards which may be a result of previous agricultural activity.

There are medieval pottery sites in the area and the clay may have been sourced from the site

Considerable amounts of spoil were deposited across the site during construction of the railway tunnel in the 19 Century which my have obscured other archaeology.

The site could benefit from a visit from the county archaeologist.

Paths are cut regularly throughout the growing season along the desire lines to prevent formation of narrow paths.

The prescribed management for this field was to cut a third of the area on a three year rotation to maximise its value as vole habitat. However this cutting regime was not popular with local users who are mainly dog walkers and failed to check invasive species such as dock and thistle. Current policy is to leave  an area at the top of the field is uncut for 2009 and then assess the outcome.

4.           COMMUNITY USE

4.1.1.    Visitor Facilities

One of the main functions of Watchhouse Hill is to provide a large open space for the local community, predominantly for informal recreational activities. Therefore, facilities are minimal to ensure they are in keeping with the function of the site.

  • The site has a number of pedestrian access points and a small car park in the south for those travelling by vehicle. Parking is also available within close proximity to the Watchhouse Road entrance in nearby residential roads.
  • Dog and litter bins are provided around the small car park and further bins have been provided along the main cycle track/ footpath and at the MUGA.. Dog bins are emptied on a weekly basis by the parish dog bin emptying contract and litter bins emptied weekly by the village orderly who also removes discarded litter along the paths. Graffiti on the MUGA, benches and other structures is dealt with by volunteers as required.
  • In the southeast corner there is a landscaped area with benches providing pleasant surroundings for relaxation. Other benches have been installed at vantage points around the site.

A number of mosaic covered sculptured stone benches have been positioned alongside the main footpath and cycle route that runs along the western boundary. They are maintained in good order by Sustrans when repairs are required.

There are two football pitches in the south for formal recreation which are now managed by the Parish Council. A storage container for corner flags, nets, etc. is due to be sited on the Southern boundary of the football field.

A Multi Use Games Area (MUGA was installed in 2008.

A youth shelter was erected adjacent to this in 2009.

Extra benches were installed at vantage points in 2008/2009.

4.1.2.   Access

There is free access over the whole site. The main entry points into the site are from Watchhouse Road and Pill in the northeast and The Green / Ham Green in the south, where there is a small car park. Wooden posts and bollards have been installed from the car park to the orchard to prevent unauthorised vehicular access which had previously been a problem. Vehicular access to half of the car park has also been restricted following complaints from neighbours about undesirable activities and the surrounding hedge is deliberately reduced to maintain visibility into the remaining car parking area.

4.1.3.   Paths

There is one public right of way on site, the Avon Walkway which is a strategic path running from Pill to Bristol, mainly beside the River Avon.

There are properly constructed hard surfaced paths running alongside the western boundary, through the landscaped area and around the orchard. In addition to this, users have opened up many desire lines, especially in the main field, which are mowed on a regular basis to facilitate usage and prevent path erosion

4.1.4.   Disabled Access

The main paths on the site are hard surfaced and therefore suitable for disabled access. A gate suitable for wheelchair access has been provided in the iron fencing surrounding the orchard. The orchard itself has an uneven surface but there are hard surfaced paths around its boundary.

4.1.5.   Informal & Formal Recreation

Watchhouse Hill is used extensively for informal recreation, with the predominant uses being dog walking, walking alone or with friends, cycling, jogging, picnics or simply enjoying the natural surroundings. Children also make much use of the site, with the wide open spaces and wooded areas providing adventurous informal play opportunities. The parish maintains other areas specifically for various age groups with appropriate equipment so it is not considered appropriate to spoil the rural environment of the site with additional equipment other than the MUGA and youth shelter which are adjacent to the football pitches.

The two football pitches bring further formal recreational opportunities for both children and adults.

The orchard is utilised for organised village picnics, Apple Days and Wassails which are well supported by local residents.

4.1.6.   Educational Use

There are currently no formal educational facilities or activities undertaken at Watchhouse Hill. However, it is currently being developed  as an educational resource for local schools, centred around its historical significance and wildlife habitat management.

4.1.7.   Community Groups

The Friends Watchhouse Hill Group is an active community group that was formed in 2007 with the support of the Parish and District Councils.  They are committed to the site and are an excellent example of a community accepting the idea of ownership for their own environment, taking some of the responsibility for its management. The group has worked to meet some of the objectives of the original management plan undertaking tasks such as orchard planting and maintenance, flora surveys, ragwort control, graffiti removal, woodland management and maintenance of the Watchhouse Road entrance.

4.1.8.   Events

There an annual village picnic apple day and wassail organised by the Friend Group. Other ad hoc activities are encouraged on the site.

5.           CURRENT MANAGEMENT

The day to day management of Watchhouse Hill rests with North Somerset Council’s Open Spaces Department. The council is responsible for grass cutting of the formal area, football pitches and cycle path margins. A local farmer is paid to cut and bail the main fields, mow the desire line footpaths and control growth of brambles adjacent to footpaths. Volunteers have laid and replanted hedges where required. Current policy is to allow older hedgerows to grow out to encourage wildlife.

A detailed work programme is used as the basis for all activity and is regularly reviewed and updated to mirror environmental requirements.

6.           A VISION FOR WATCHOUSE HILL

The overall vision for this plan is to maintain Watchhouse Hill as a highly valued wildlife and recreational resource that contributes to social and environmental well being of the community, improving the quality of life for the local people in accordance with their needs.

6.1.1.    Aims

  • To preserve and protect the varied botanical, ecological, historical and infrastructural features of Watchhouse Hill.
  • To encourage and enhance Biodiversity.
  • To meet the recreation and Access needs of the local community
  • To enhance the social and community benefits afforded by Watchhouse Hill
  • To ensure partnership working between North Somerset Council and the community via the Friends of Watchhouse Hill Group.

6.1.2.   Specific Policies

The following policies are linked to these aims

Policy 1

Seek Green Flag Award

Policy 2

North Somerset Council will ensure that the Management Plan is kept up to date and reviewed on a regular basis.

Policy 3

North Somerset Council will manage the site in partnership the local community via the Friends of Watchhouse Hill Group.

Policy 4

North Somerset Council will ensure that all dead and fallen wood in the woodland area (G) is left on site unless there are sound conservation and safety reasons for its removal.

Policy 5

North Somerset Council will support football and other games activities on site.

Policy 6

North Somerset Council will manage Watchhouse Hill to fulfil its obligation as owners of the site to ensure the safety of people and property on site whilst remembering that it is a natural place and that the level of acceptable risk must reflect this.

Policy 7

North Somerset Council will manage the grassland to ensure it is able to support the accepted ecological make-up.

Policy 9

North Somerset Council will endeavour to chemical free methods of pest and weed control whenever possible throughout Watchhouse Hill.

Policy 10

North Somerset Council will preserve and protect veteran trees.

7.           FIVE YEAR WORK PLAN

The five year work plan (Table 1) considers the needs of both wildlife and the general public and has been drawn-up in consultation with all interested parties.

The five year work plan will be subject to change from outside influences, including pressure from site users, from the results of subsequent survey or monitoring and from the availability of finance. It will therefore be reviewed annually so that it remains a work plan that best serves the needs of the local community, wildlife, the community group and North Somerset Council.

Table 2 provides a more detailed analysis of the tasks identifying the year and month of the proposed works.


8.          Table 1

Aim Location Objective Method 07 08 09 10 11
Social and community Whole site Encourage play Recognise and encourage the diversity of play opportunities that do not adversely affect the site. # # # # #
    Amenities Provide appropriate additional play facilities identified by the community # # # # #
    Community Involvement Identify annual work to be carried out by volunteers and diary work parties # # # # #
    Projects Identify larger projects to be undertaken by volunteers # # # # #
    Events Organise annual events such as Apple Day, Wassail and Village Picnic # # # # #
    Information Install and maintain interpretation boards for orchard and main access. # # # # #
    Amenities Install and maintain seating and selected vantage points # # # # #
    Utilise any educational opportunities that the site provides Encourage use of the site by local school children     # # #
Enhance biodiversity Whole site Monitoring biodiversity Obtain expert advice on monitoring and train volunteers to carry out regular surveys # # # # #
    Monitor Obtain expert advice to evaluate biodiversity changes following management activities # # # # #
Preserve and protect Whole site Infrastructure Regularly check condition of benches, fences, signs and all other installations and structures # # # # #
    Maintain Repair and maintain as necessary. # # # # #
    Record Develop and maintain a check sheet to record inspections. # # # # #
    Health and safety Obtain risk assessment report for site and update as site changes occur     # # #
    Preserve historical features of the site Obtain and archeologically survey       #  
  Individual trees Maintain canopy cover as appropriate for site location Inspect trees 4 yearly #       #
    Preserve Only remove dead wood where it poses a threat to public safety # # # # #
Aim Location Objective Method 07 08 09 10 11
Enhance biodiversity Main Field (Area A) Maximise the vole potential of the grassland to provide hunting areas for barn owls and other birds of prey Cut the main part of the field once a year in late summer to a height of at least 15cm. Remove arisings. # # # # #
    Maintain Retain a 5m wide uncut margin around the field boundary, cut a third of this area each year. Remove arisings # # # # #
Preserve and protect Main Field (Area A) Implement a programme of scrub management Remove bramble scrub growing along the north and east boundary and that on the north side of the small copse. Follow-up treatment in future years #   #   #
    Maintain Organise a yearly work party to pull and burn ragwort. # # # # #
    Maintain

 

Consider taking action against nettles and thistles if the grass cut does not control them.     #   #
    Manage trees in field Select a number of immature oaks in the northwest to grow into standards, remove others and treat stumps.   # #    
Recreation and access Main Field (Area A) Main paths Mow 2m wide strips along desire lines twice a year # # #   #
Aim Location Objective Method 07 08 09 10 11
Enhance biodiversity Grass strips and banks
(Areas B#)
Weed control Cut narrow strips alongside footpath/cycleway throughout the year within North Somerset Council’s grounds maintenance contract. # # # # #
    Monitor Monitor and cut back encroaching bramble annually # # # # #
    Maintain Organise yearly work party to pull and burn ragwort by the end of July   # # # #
    Maintain Control invasive weeds such as thistle and ragwort in July # # # # #
  Grass strips and banks
(Area B1)
Enhance the botanical value Treat area B1 as a hay meadow # # # # #
  Grass strips and banks
(Area B2)
Manage as a hay meadow Cut Area B2 annually after mid-July and again in late autumn when ground conditions allow. Remove arisings # # # # #
  Grass strips and banks
(Area B2)
Enhance the botanical value of this area Monitor nettles, thistles and docks on the top of the bank in the south and treat if the if the grass cut does not control them          
  Grass strips and banks
(Area B3)
Implement a programme of scrub management Cut the large block of bramble from the flat area on top of bank in the first year. #        
    Maintain Cut back re-growth every year until it dies out.   # # # #
  Ash Tree at top of bank Preserve Vandalism damage to base – remove as much top hamper as possible. Monitor.     # # #
  Grass strips and banks
(Area B4)
Weed control Cut grass around MUGA up to pond when paths maintained # # # # #
  Grass strips and banks
(Area B5)
Implement a programme of scrub management Monitor the bramble on the west side of the footpath to ensure it spreads no further # # # # #
Aim Location Objective Method 07 08 09 10 11
Enhance biodiversity   Orchard (Area C) Enhance # # # # #
      The majority of the trees planted in 1949 were eating apples for the hospital and it is intended that future replacements will be North Somerset cider apple varieties..          
    Enhance the botanical value of the grassland by managing as a hay meadow. Cut annually in April when ground conditions allow and again in mid August.  Remove arisings. Review after 1 year # # # # #
    Conserve the orchards value to wildlife. Monitor trees for signs of ill health and take remedial action if necessary including autumn / winter pruning # # # # #
    Preserve Retain both standing and fallen deadwood unless it poses a threat to public safety or the life of the tree # # # # #
Recreation and access Orchard (Area C) Encourage informal use Mow 2m wide strips along established paths twice a year # # # # #
      Install and maintain benches   # # # #
Aim Location Objective Method 07 08 09 10 11
Preserve and protect Copse (Area  D1) Maintain healthy development towards high canopy woodland The new woodlands are in their establishment phase,       #  
    Monitor Annual inspections and tree thinning to promote good specimens:as growth dictates.     # # #
    Maintain Rotationally coppice shrubs around the edges of all new woodland every 5 years.         #
Enhance biodiversity Copse (Between D1 and D2) Enhance the value to insects by creating edge habitats. Widen path through the centre of the main woodland block leading to a wide glade from the copper beech     # #  
  Copse (Area D2) Maintain Create a glade near copper beech   #      
      Mow rides and glade each autumn   # # # #
Aim Location Objective Method 07 08 09 10 11
Recreation and access Formal Area (E) Maintain the formal nature of the site Manage in accordance with North Somerset Council Grounds maintenance contract # # # # #
    Ensure that it is a safe environment Check condition of circular bench and repair if necessary. # # # # #
    Monitor Check perimeter posts, gates, bollards and locks # # # # #
    Maintain Cover old slurry pits with rubble and soil from MUGA excavation. Add to ground maintenance contract for regular cutting     # #  
Enhance biodiversity Formal Area (E) Enhance landscape value Plant standard trees to fill gaps in the avenue. Local residents are encouraged to plant memorial trees in the avenue. # # # # #
    Make provision for wildlife Leave a 3m wide uncut margin along the northern boundary, cut every third year removing arisings. #     #  
Aim Location Objective Method 07 08 09 10 11
Preserve and protect Veteran Oak (Area F / end of hedge D) Deter vandalism Maintain bungs and monitor regularlyPlant up and maintain scrub surrounding oak to deter access to trunkSome crown reduction has been previously undertaken on the pollarded oak and the older trees are inspected as part of the North Somerset Council risk assessment regime. # # # # #
Aim Location Objective Method 07 08 09 10 11
Recreation and access Football Pitches (Area F) Encourage formal and informal use of the pitches Maintained regularly throughout the year within North Somerset Council’s grounds maintenance contract. # # # # #
Social and community   Improve facilities Erect MUGA and Youth Shelter adjacent to SW boundary     # #  
    Reduce dog fouling Provision of signage and increased dog control visits # # # # #
Enhance biodiversity   Make provision for wildlife Leave an uncut margin along the north and west boundary. Cut in alternate years. #   #   #
  Woodland     07 08 09 10 11
Enhance biodiversity Mature Woodland (Area G) Preserve the wide diversity of native species. The woodland has a very good structure and no management is undertaken in accordance with the Monitoring Protocol. # # # # #
    Survey Survey for rare species #       #
    Monitor Monitor for the spread of invasive tree species such as sycamore and remove if necessary. #       #
    Monitor Maintain access points in the fence for emergency assess to the river bank. # # # # #
    Retain the deadwood interest of the woodland. Only remove standing and fallen deadwood where it poses a threat to public safety. Leave any removed deadwood on the forest floor # # # # #
    Maintain Maintain woodland edge outside fence by selective tree/shrub removal and mowing each autumn # # # # #
Recreation and access   Create viewpoint Create and maintain viewpoint by the river and install seating   # # # #
  Hedgerows     2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Enhance biodiversity Hedgerows Protect the wildlife and landscape value of hedgerows through active management. Regular attention needed to prevent hedges from becoming thin at the base and ultimately developing into lines of top-heavy bushes. # # # # #
Enhance biodiversity Hedge (A) Maintain Cut biannually in January or February to a height of not less than 3m.   #   #  
Enhance biodiversity Hedge (B) Enhance the corridor network through a programme of restoration Coppice and gap-up.       # #
Enhance biodiversity Hedge (C) Maintain Laid and restocked 2007. Maintain to height of 3m. Leave existing specimen trees to grow and enhance skyline.   # # # #
Enhance biodiversity Hedge (D) Preserve Not accessible by machine – leave to grow out naturally          
Enhance biodiversity Hedge (E) Maintain Open up viewpoint from the mound seat and maintain   # # # #
Enhance biodiversity Hedge (F) Maintain Cut  to reduce height and open up car park   # # # #
Enhance biodiversity Hedge (G) Maintain Cut to same height as (F)   # # # #
  Pond     2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Enhance biodiversity Pond Enhance the wildlife value of wetland habitats. Maintain pond banks and improve drainage   # # # #
  Scrape     2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Enhance biodiversity Scrape Maintain Remove bramble and weed from the scrape to preserve feature.   # # # #

9.           MONITORING REVIEW

Monitoring and review of the management plan will be undertaken in several different ways:

  • North Somerset Council’s Trees and Countryside Section will undertake day-to-day management of the site and will therefore have regular contact with the management plan.
  • The Watchhouse Hill Management Committee will meet quarterly to review the plan and other site issues.
  • The Friends of Watchhouse Hill will meet at least quarterly after each Management Committee meeting to receive a report and agree actions and activities.
  • The management plan will be reviewed on at least a five yearly cycle.


10.      MONITORING PROTOCOLS

10.1.1.                       Introduction

Protocols are based, where possible, on the established methodology and have been tailored to be feasible (and enjoyable) for implementation by volunteers.  Thus, for example, butterfly monitoring has been proposed in order to provide an overall assessment of habitat quality for invertebrates.  This has limitations but given the nature of the site it is acceptable.

It will be supplemented by information gathered on habitat structure.  It is important in any monitoring that the methods used are repeatable.  The dates of visits and observers’ names should be recorded.  If for any reason changes are made to the proposed methodology these should be clearly noted.

10.1.2.                      Grassland

Grassland monitoring should be informed by a national vegetation classification (NVC) survey.  This identifies the grassland as belonging to one of a number of NVC types.  This survey technique is fairly time-consuming and depends on accurate identification of all plants, including grasses.  The NVC type is not likely to change from year to year and therefore one NVC survey of all grassland including the orchard, should be made every five years.  This will be sufficient to identify gross changes in sward composition. It requires homogenous stands to be identified and then five to 2 metre by 2 metre quadrants in each stand to be surveyed, with the percentage frequency of each species in each quadrant recorded.  The results are then analysed to give a measure of the frequency and abundance for each species, from which NVC type can be determined.

Annual monitoring should be carried out to identify more subtle changes in a sward composition.  The proposed methodology is based on the Joint Nature Conservative Council (JNCC) rapid assessment.  This has been developed to allow condition assessments of grass and SSSIs.  It is not reasonable to apply the assessment of thresholds used for SSSIs to this site, since it is not of that standard.  The method does, however, provide a quick and easy means of gathering quantitative information.  It is a recommended that separate assessments of the main grassland and orchard areas are made in June each year.  The methodology is as follows:

  • A ‘W’ shaped walk is identified across each area (i.e. the grassland and the orchard) there should be 10 stops on each walk, so the length of the walk should be assessed and a stopping distance calculated appropriately.  Pacing out the intervals is sufficiently accurate.  Avoid any obvious atypical areas.
  • At each stop scan an area of around one metre radius centred on the observer. Record all herb species within the circle.
  • If identification to species level is not possible, then it is acceptable to group species (e.g. yellow composites or ‘docks’) so long as it is clear that this has been done.
  • Once the walk is complete, process frequency on the following scale:

Species recorded from up to 20 per cent of stops = rare

Species recorded from 21 per cent to 40% of stock =occasional

Species recorded from over 40% of stock = frequent

Record the approximate route of the walk.  It is not necessary to try and replicate it exactly in future years but it should be in more or less the same area.  The result of these surveys will allow changes in the abundances of both desirable species, (birds-foot trefoil, cuckoo flower etc) and undesirable species (creeping thistle, docks, etc.) to be assessed. This will highlight the trends and enable fine tuning of management.

10.1.3.                      Woodland

Every five years the frequency and condition of key species of tree in the wood, small leaved lime and wild service tree, should be assessed.  A route through the wood should be walked  and 10 stops should be made.  As each stop at an area of the approximately 50m2 should be surveyed.  The number of trees of the two species should be counted and notes should be made of each class and condition.

Given the nature and location of the Woodland it is possible that rare species of whitebeam (sorbus) might be present.  A dedicated whitebeam survey should be carried out in September (when the trees are in fruit and can be identified accurately) and any rare species found should be monitored appropriately.

Woodland assessment is also based on the JNCC rapid assessment methodology.  In this case it is quite likely that the established woodland will meet favourable condition criteria for an SSSI and this should be one of the aims of management.  The following methodology is recommended:

A walk through the wood should be identified and assess so that ten stops to a regular intervals can be made.  The intervals between these can be paced out.  Avoid survey sites with atypical habitat.

It is not essential to identify exactly the same points in subsequent years, but the same route should be followed an the same intervals used.  But at each stop to survey a circular area with a radius of approximately four metres centred on the other server should be assessed.

Since structure of the wood is likely to change slowly, the following features should be assessed every five years:

  • Assess the frequency of understory shrubs (saplings between two and five metres tall) in terms of percentage cover.
  • Assess canopy cover in percentage terms.
  • Assess the age classes of trees (i.e. sapling, immature, semi mature, mature, ancient, veteran)
  • Record species of trees and shrubs.
  • Record frequency of lying dead trees.

The ground of flora may change more rapidly and therefore assessment of this feature is recommended annually, in May.  As each survey by which record each species of plants and assess percentage cover.  If necessary, group species together (e.g. violets, sedges, grasses).

The condition of the wood will be judged favourable if:

The understory occupiers at least 20 per cent of the total area.

Canopy cover is at least 50 per cent.

At least three age classes are present.

At least 95 per cent of trees and shrubs on native species.

There are at least three lying dead trees per hectare.

At least 80 per cent of the ground flora is occupied by the following species:

Dog’s mercury, bluebell, wood sedge, pendulous sedge, wood anemone, ivy, sweet wood ruff, violent species, yellow archangel, herb robert, wood rushes, stinking iris, wood avens, enchanters nightshade, primrose, wood melick, ramsoms , sanicle, red campion, wood speedwell.

The overall age and diversity of ground flora species should not change significantly over time.

10.1.4.                      Trees

Parkland and orchard trees are an important feature of the site. These should be inspected annually and condition should be recorded. The number of trees with standing dead wood should be recorded as this is a valuable feature for invertebrates and fungi.

10.1.5.                      Birds

Birds are a good measure of habitat richness in areas such as the orchard, hedgerows and newly created woodland. A route around the site that takes in a representative sample of each of these habitats should be established and mapped.  This should be walked at least twice annually, between late April and early May and between mid May and mid June.  In the first 2 hours of daylight.  Birds seen and heard should be identified and counted.  If possible additional visit should be made, especially between March and June.

10.1.6.                      Birds of prey

The presence of birds of prey indicates habitat quality for a variety of other groups, such as small mammals.  The site should be visited as often as possible and the presence or absence of birds of prey should be noted.  It is important that a record is made of visits where no birds of prey are seen so the frequency of usage can be compared from year to year.

Dusk visit should be made and recorded separately, to survey for owl species.

10.1.7.                       Butterflies

Butterflies should be sufficient as an indicator of habitat quality for invertebrates on most of the site, although structural information is probably more import in the ancient woodland.  They should provide an indication of developing wildlife interest in newly created habitats.

As set walk through the site taking in the grassland, orchard, edge of scrub and hedgerows, ancient woodland and newly created woodland should be established.  This should be walked at least once a month in May, June, July and August and more frequently if possible.

The route should be divided into habitat zones and in each butterflies seen in a 4 metre wide strip either side of the path should they identified and counted.  Visits should be made between 11.00 AM and 2.00 PM in dry sunny weather with little or no wind.  If possible records of other insects would be useful: dragonflies, day-flying moths (burnets etc) and bumblebees, even if these are not identified to species level.

10.1.8.                      Pond

If amphibians are present they should be monitored (e.g. clumps of frog spawn should be counted.)  If the pond is opened up it should be visited at least once a month in June, July August and September and species of dragonfly recorded.

10.1.9.                      Badgers

Badger setts should be checked annually in January-February when undergrowth has died down.

10.1.10.                  Bats

The bat roost should be checked annually by a licensed person.


11.  SUMMARY TABLE

  Year 1 Annually Year  6, 11 etc.
NVC Survey of grassland June   June
Rapid assessment of grassland   June  
Structural assessment of woodland May    
Ground flora survey of woodland   May  
Condition of trees   May  
Breeding birds   April – June  
Birds of prey   Throughout  
Butterflies   May-August  
Amphibians   March  
Dragonflies   June – September  
Badgers   January – February  
Bats   June  
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