The Howl of Alesworth on the Green
What do you get if you stir together lots of enthusiastic lantern-makers at Halesworth Library plus the Oxblood Mollies plus a very dim-witted Fire-chicken plus an illuminated six-foot Owl – 20 feet up in the air? You get the third annual WinterLight! mini-Festival on Halesworth Millennium Green. One hundred and twenty people enjoyed the Mollies dancing, the lanterns and the newly-discovered ancient Tale of the Howl of Alesworth (? think about it).
If you missed WinterLight! you’ll be able to see the Owl in the Library window in the next week or so, and if you didn’t miss WinterLight! you’ll have a chance to see her much closer up than you did on the Green, where she was high in the air. And just wait until after dark ….
The whole of the Green is open to public access, you can walk anywhere without needing official footpaths. However there are a couple, and one of them runs between White Bridge and the Holton Road. The approaches to White Bridge and the slope between the Southwold Railway bridge and the Folly are steep and difficult to negotiate for many people. We are enormously grateful to the East Area Rights of Way team, part of Suffolk County Council, who have helpfully taken on doing the necessary work to make those areas of the footpath safer and better for everyone.
Ducks on Folly Meadow? The whole area is wonderfully wet and has been attracting water birds in the last weeks who look as if they’re settling in – the wetness makes you understand why there’s a reed bed, just a small one, close by. The Green does get muddy at this time of year so if you’re going to stray from the Track it’s as well to wear wellies or good boots. Don’t let the wetness stop you from exploring all the far corners of the Green.
Come along to a monthly work-party: the second Sunday of every month (next one Sunday 11th March) starting at 10.00 meeting at the containers just inside the industrial estate entrance. Gloves and tools all provided, bring a hot drink and something to nibble.
Winterlight! half-term on the Green
The third WinterLight! Festival run by the Green, the Library and the Oxblood Mollies starts on half-term Wednesday 14th with a workshop in the Library 2.30 to 4pm creating lanterns. Then, on half-term Saturday 17th the Mollies will lead dancing outside the Library from 4.30 until, at dusk around 5pm, they will begin the procession down to the Green. Stewards will lead the way through the Town and along the Track – this year the final Magical Event will be in Chestnut Meadow so the whole walk will be on hard surface. You do need to wear warm clothes and sturdy shoes, and bring a lantern or light (and a hot drink). The Festival will finish around 6pm and you can walk back to Town along the Track.
There’s been quite a lot of water lying about in recent weeks and the water meadows on the Green are doing their job of helping to prevent flood waters getting anywhere near the Town. Wellies or walking boots are a good idea these days, but being on the Green in rain and wind is lovely fun.
At the far end of Arthur’s Wood – beyond the Orchard and going towards Quay Street railway bridge – two very tall poplars are past their best and in the sort of wind we’ve been having recently are shedding enormous branches in a potentially dangerous way. You’ll see work going on to pollard them (cutting them quite high up) to make them safe but also to leave many metres of what will become standing dead wood, very attractive to all kinds of insects and birds.
Works will soon begin on the approaches to White Bridge to make them more buggy-friendly (less steep). Also, the slope beyond the old Southwold Railway bridge will be smoothed so that buggies will be better able to get into the Folly itself.
Come along to a work-party: the second Sunday of every month (next one Sunday 11th February) starting at 10.00 meeting at the sheds at the industrial estate entrance. Gloves and tools all provided, bring a hot drink and something to nibble.
Winterlight! on Millennium Green
Yes, we intend to run the third WinterLight! Festival with the Library on the Green in the New Year. Put Saturday 17th February in your diary and look out for posters around the town giving details. There will be a lantern-making workshop at the Library over lunchtime and then music and dancing by Ox Blood Molly who will lead a procession onto the Green. Remember the ghost of Fred Lambert the wherryman last year? Who knows what this year will bring …
In the next weeks you might find works being done in the Folly to make the path from the old railway bridge into the Folly easier for buggies to get along, and works at White Bridge to make the ramp onto the bridge less steep. The Green is a place for everyone and it is important that people who are less physically able or active can get access to as much of it as possible, not just the parts served by the wonderful Track.
The work-party volunteers have once again done a terrific year’s work. Without them paths around the Green would become increasingly difficult to walk, the wild flowers in Folly Meadow would be overwhelmed by coarser growth, the fruit trees in the Community Orchard would become derelict and unproductive, the lovely sight of the New Reach waterway would be obscured by tall growth …. it’s astonishing what can be achieved by a few hours on a morning work-party by a group of dedicated people, and there’s work for however much or little you feel able to do. Come along to a work-party: the second Sunday of every month (next one Sunday 14th January) starting at 10.00 meeting at the tool containers at the industrial estate entrance. Gloves and tools all provided, bring a hot drink and something to nibble.
December Community News
In 1999 the idea of a Green for Halesworth was a twinkle in the eye of some very long-sighted local people, who were themselves building on the wonderful work around the New Reach done by Buzzy Took and friends in the early 1990s. All these inspired and hard-working people have given us the astonishing open space that we enjoy today. And one of them, having been the Green’s Secretary for all those 18 years, is stepping down from that role. Judith Woolnough will still volunteer for the Green and support the work, but it’s someone else’s turn now to do all that admin and co-ordinating work behind the scenes that keeps things going. All of us who enjoy the Green owe Judith an enormous vote of thanks. And Catherine, a good friend to the Green, helped us to celebrate Judith’s work by making and decorating the most astonishing cake: complete with cow, owl, kingfisher and a dog … which was enjoyed at the last Trustees’ meeting.
And, as if to celebrate with us, kingfishers can still be seen flashing along the waterways in these autumn days. The end of mowing and raking frees the Green’s volunteers to turn to other tasks, and you will soon see discreet replacement fencing going up around the entrance to the Green and alongside the New Reach to prevent people tripping off the concrete apron onto the path.
November Community News
A new mower for the Green
No the mower isn’t a super-cow, it’s a new sit-upon mower to keep the edges of the Track and other main paths walkable in Arthur’s Wood, Folly Meadow, Chestnut Meadow and Two Acres. We’ve been hugely grateful for the mower kindly donated by Pete and Sue Lock which has done the job for years, but the time has come for a replacement. We have just had news from the Big Lottery that they can grant us £2,749 towards the new mower. Along with money from our own funds – much of this donated by individuals, groups and businesses in Halesworth – this grant will enable us to buy a new and sturdy mower which will cope with the rough ground of the Green. Our mowing is both for people access and for wildflowers and small mammals, and having a powered mower gives our hard-working volunteers with hand-tools a rest from raking and stacking, and leaves them free to get into places the mower can’t reach.
Now the clocks have gone back it’s darker even earlier but there is still lots of wildlife to be seen on the Green and lovely autumn scenes. Kingfishers are flashing along the New Reach, bats are about at dusk. It’s a good season for joining a work-party! the next one is Sunday 12thA new mower for the November – work-parties are a couple of hours on the morning of the second Sunday of every month.
Meet at the Tool Sheds (containers) at 10.00am at the industrial estate entrance in Lester’s Piece (the smaller cow meadow) and bring refreshment with you. All tools and gloves are provided.
October Community News
Ukeleles on the Green
All the people who work on or for the Green in any capacity are volunteers. It isn’t all practical work, but everything is focussed on getting the practical work done to improve access for people and to maintain and enhance habitats for wildlife. Mowing, raking, mending fences, keeping footpaths clear, holding the weeds back from the surface of the Track, keeping ditches running, picking up litter, organising events, carrying the can for the decisions that are made and the money that is spent, strimming – not too much! looking after the tools, keeping an eye on work practices, planting and pruning trees, consulting agencies and liaising with councils about access, wildlife and management issues …. There’s not a lot of time for socialising so once a year we get together to spend some work-free time. This year our bring-and-share BBQ was serenaded wonderfully by the Uke3A (University of the Third Age Ukelele Group). Third Age they may be, for the BBQ they were First Class with a beautifully judged range of songs and music.
Even as the mists and darkness start creeping in there is a lot of wildlife about, especially at early morning and evening. You might get to hear the Little Owl just after dusk and, although the dawn chorus has mostly packed up, the very early morning in autumn is a magical time to be on the Green. If you’re there and capture something wonderful on your phone or camera, do send it in to us and we’ll gladly put it on the website.
September Community News
Mowing for wildflowers on the Green
Mow and rake, mow and rake … it’s the song of the summer on the Millennium Green. Cutting the long grass just once at this time of year, and raking off the cut grass, means that the more fragile wildflowers have a chance to see the light and get through the dense grass. The cows do the job best, in Blyth Meadow and in Lester’s Piece, but in Folly Meadow the less efficient – human – volunteers have to do our best to imitate them. The result is orchids, fritillaries, ragged robin, a multitude of tiny mammals, grass-snakes and slow-worms every spring. And the joy of the Green is that you can get close enough to see them, because there’s nowhere you can’t walk.
So it’s well worth the effort of mowing and raking. You are enormously welcome to join us. Coming to one Sunday morning work-party doesn’t commit you for ever, and these summer mornings are a delight. We start at 10am, bring a drink and something to nibble at half-time. We’re out there on the second Sunday of every month, and the list of dates is on the notice board by the first cattle grid.
Meanwhile our Orchard volunteers have been brushing-up their pruning skills. We’ve just had the second of two very useful courses run by Crown Nurseries (Woodbridge, Ufford). This session was for soft fruit, cherries and plums. The 3 plum trees – over near the wasps’ nest in the far corner – are not doing well, but all the other trees are flourishing. Fruit is patchy this year, because of late frost and then odd weather. Any fruit is for you to take, and don’t forget the hazel-nuts on the little copse at the front of the Orchard. There will be some more apples in September, keep an eye out for when they ripen.
August Community News
Millennium Green cows on the move
Our cowman has been enormously helpful by keeping the gates between Blyth Meadow and Lester’s Piece shut, so that you don’t meet cows wandering under the railway bridge between the two meadows. However, the increasingly dry weather means the pond in Blyth Meadow – the one next to the Track, where the seat is – dries up earlier and earlier. There is no other source of water in that meadow, but in Lester’s Piece there is a ditch which is permanently wet. Blyth and Lester’s are separated by the railway bridge. This means that, once the grass in Lester’s is all grazed, we have to leave the gates open so that the cows can eat in Blyth and drink in Lester’s. We hope to solve this by establishing a permanent water source in Blyth, probably a cow-activated pump into a trough. The gates between the two meadows will then be kept shut all the time. Meanwhile, the cows will move out of the way if you just walk gently onwards.
The dry weather has allowed us to sort out the overflow in the Blyth Meadow pond. You might have seen one volunteer working very hard mixing cement and several others helpfully cheering him on. The cowman has topped thistles in both meadows so that, as well as keeping thistle infestation at bay (there are lots elsewhere on the Green) there are lovely areas of both short and long grass that meet different wildlife needs. And the wildlife seems to like it: recently there have been sightings of Emperor, Four-spotted chaser, and Common Darter dragonflies, half a dozen Willow Emerald damselflies (on the hawthorns right next to the towpath), and the sound of a male Reed Bunting along the New Reach. Slow worms and grass snakes are about – don’t worry you won’t tread on them, they are much more wary of you than you are of them – and there has also been a wonderful visitation of Migrant Hawker dragonflies in the Folly.
July Community News
Millennium Green says Thank You Gwen
The Green was glad to take part in Halesworth in Bloom’s celebrations of the town’s very own top scientist, Joseph Dalton Hooker born 200 years ago and recognised as having made a crucial contribution to the development of natural science. At the same time, we ran a 5-day exhibition about the Green in the Library setting out events of the last year and inviting people to comment and suggest how the Green might contribute to the enjoyment of local people over the coming year.
On the Green itself, the cows are doing their sturdy job of keeping the grass in Blyth Meadow and Lester’s Piece short for wildflowers and small mammals, which in turn help to support barn and little owls. The human hay-cutters are rolling up our sleeves for the mowing-and-raking season which will start soon in Folly Meadow.
Chestnut Meadow, in accordance with preferences expressed by local people, is being left for the time being to contribute to the scrub rotation on the Green with just paths mown around and through here and there. Meanwhile the newly-cleared once-fenced area is becoming a favourite site for picnics and water-gazing. Strimming the New Reach banks is in suspension while the water voles need the cover.
At the end of this month, be sure to look in the Folly for migrant hawker dragonflies. They have been recorded there at this time of year by our World Land Trust lunch-time strollers and data-collectors Dan & Scott for a couple of years now. While you’re in the Folly look out for the new fingerpost which will appear very soon at the engine shed.
Our signage has been so welcomed that we’re installing just two more, the other at the farthest end of the Green where the Track meets the back road from Wenhaston at the level crossing. That post bears a “Thank You” to our good neighbour Gwen Woolnough, without whose ready and welcoming co-operation that distant and crucial link between the Green’s Track and all points south of Halesworth could not have been achieved.
June Community News
Halesworth Millennium Green thanks local businesses
Local businesses MRA on the Blyth Industrial Estate, Ridgeons at Broadway Drive, Adnams in Southwold as well as the Big Lottery have all helped the Green move into a new era.
For 17 years, ever since the Green was set up, Richard & Judith Woolnough have kindly given over their garage space to a growing collection of tools and equipment. But thanks to the Big Lottery and local businesses we now have two fine tool storage containers on the Green itself. This will make organising work-parties simpler and more efficient, and gives the Woolnoughs their own storage space back. MRA installed the containers one spring morning speedily and with no damage to the surrounding trees. Ridgeons provided wood to fit out the insides, and Adnams topped up the Big Lottery grant with a critically useful contribution. Green volunteers have kitted out the containers ready for use. We are enormously lucky that such ready financial and practical support has always been offered for all the Green’s needs.
There has been a certain amount of interest in the new containers from local youth as is only natural. We are constantly aware that there is very, very little damage done to anything on the Green and we believe that this must surely reflect the extent to which local people, including young people, understand that the Green is theirs. Halesworth Millennium Green is not a nature reserve which people are permitted to come into, it is a public open space every inch of which can be walked, sat, run, played – and in many places, cycled – on or visually enjoyed for its landscape and wildlife value. The volunteers who manage the Green strive for the human and the wild life to be in balance and we are always grateful for feedback from users as to whether we are achieving that, or might achieve it differently.
And the wildlife does flourish: recently there was a small copper butterfly along Arthur’s Wood track and a whitethroat was not only heard but seen in Arthur’s Wood. A large red damselfly coasts along the New Reach, and Folly Meadow’s flowers are blooming.
May Community News
Four-legged helpers and seedlings support Green and Library
Saturday 27th May – that’s the day to make sure you get to the Library to stock up on first-hand seedlings and second-hand tools and books for the new planting season. And bring along any tools, books and seedlings you’d like to be rid of. If you can deliver them to the Library beforehand that would be even better. All money taken will go to support the Green and the Library.
This month will see the cows returning to the Green. They are hugely welcome because the volunteers could not possibly cut the biggest meadows – Blyth and Lester’s Piece – so if they were not grazed that would mean that the open areas of the Green would become overwhelmed first with coarse grass, bramble and shrubs and eventually with trees.
There are large amounts of rough grass, scrub and treed ground in other parts of the Green and it would be a great shame to lose the lovely long views of Blyth and Lester’s and the wide spaces to roam there that we now enjoy. We are lucky that the cows, and our grazier, can live with a very high level of people passing through and it helps enormously that Green users keep their dogs under close control. This is particularly important in the first weeks when the young cattle are unused to close contact with people and dogs and can be very curious. So we’re happy to say hello once more to our four-legged helpers.
April Community News
Changes in Chestnut on the Green
Big changes in Chestnut Meadow, just after the first cattle grid. In the near future this meadow will not be grazed by cows which means there is no need for the fence between the meadow and the New Reach. That has gone, and a strip of vegetation mown to allow clearer views and access to the waterside. The noticeboard has hopped from the waterside to sit alongside the Track, where many more people will be able to see it. We have heard the requests for better access around the meadow so have mown a good path right round, and we’ll keep this clear during the growing season. The rest of the rough growth will be left to support the established wildlife, which again is something many users have requested.
More rough growth and scrub – excellent for birds and small mammals – can be seen in “Scrub Triangle”. That’s just opposite Folly Meadow and will soon have its own nameplate. We once tried establishing a picnic site here, also an experimental arable weed area, but neither of these were successful. So this area will be allowed to do what it does best – grow scrub. Follow the windy path in, the Triangle is more interesting than it looks from the gateway.
After the huge success of WinterLight! the Green and the Library are working together once again to run our joint Plant Sale. Do look out for this outside the Library on Saturday 27th May, just the right time to be picking up seedlings and other gardening goodies.
Our good neighbour Henry Cliff on the far side of the New Reach has done a short-back-and-sides job in strimming his banks so that it is very easy to see the water voles, in and out of their holes just above the waterline and nibbling vegetation. They are so relaxed you can sometimes see them almost at your feet on the near bank of the New Reach. And further down, near White Bridge, they are even more active. In the meadows the first slow worms have been seen, and we’re hoping for a grass snake any day now.
March Community News
Ghost? on the Green
The last wherry to use the New Reach as a commercial waterway was Fred Lambert’s Star, in the early 1900s. More than 100 years later at the WinterLight! Festival in February in 2017 we saluted his memory and raised a 30 foot mast on the willow wherry to celebrate the days when these HGVs of water transport would have sailed between the meadows and right into Halesworth.
More than 70 people, including many children who had made lanterns at the Library’s afternoon workshop, made a lantern-lit evening procession led by the Oxblood Mollies from the Library to the Green. White Bridge twinkled as never before, a bright blue star was hoisted on the mast, and finally the ghost of the Green made his appearance biking down to his wherry – as many wherrymen did, morning and evening, to begin and finish their day’s work.
In daylight hours, the warmer weather is making the birds much more active, one song thrush even singing his heart out to a work-party of volunteers during their tea-break. A Norfolk Hawker larva has been found on water soldier in Folly Meadow dyke, so later in the summer remember to look out for a dragonfly with a yellow triangle on its abdomen and very large green eyes. At the moment these striking dragonflies are found only in Norfolk and Northeast Suffolk, so finding them on the Green is very encouraging.
This year we won’t be running Walks & Talks on the Green, but there will be other things happening. Following the WinterLight! Festival remember to look out soon for posters about a fair around Easter-time … meanwhile you might have noticed that in Chestnut Meadow the fence between the meadow and the New Reach has been taken out. Back in the autumn at our Annual Open Day we asked for ideas about the future of Chestnut Meadow and taking everything into account this meadow will not be grazed in future. That means the kissing-gates are not needed – one less gate to negotiate along the Track, and no gate at the end of the towpath. The fence keeping the cows away from the Reach is not needed either. Removing that fence has made the area nearest the New Reach less closed in and gives an extended view of the water. In the next weeks we will be improving access around and across Chestnut Meadow. Most of the rough growth will remain to support the established wildlife.
February Community News
Orchard haircuts and winter lights on the Green
You might have noticed one apple tree in the middle of the Orchard looking strangely shorn of branches. The Green’s Orchard Group is gearing up: we’ve enjoyed an enormously helpful training session from Crown Nurseries and are set to tackle pruning the rest of the apples and pears in the next few weeks. The plums and cherries will wait till summer for their haircuts. And there is now a small extension where there is a newly planted medlar and a quince. Can’t tell one tree from the other? Help is on the way, each tree will soon have a permanent wooden label with its name and type of fruit shown.
Much of this is only possible because of the donations of local people, by means of standing orders, to our maintenance fund. We still haven’t quite reached our annual target of £1500 coming in from standing orders for basic maintenance but we’re nearly there. If you’re able to spare even a few pounds a month, regularly, that means we can plan, without having to apply for grants for every single thing. For the Orchard we’re using the fund to equip ourselves with good quality secateurs and loppers, essential for keeping fruit trees producing well. The Standing Order form is on our website, address below.
You might have seen the recent press coverage, and there are also posters around the Green and in the Town (Library, Bookshop, Remnants, the car park) with the details of the WinterLight! Festival on Sunday 12th February. Lantern-making at lunch-time, Molly dancing early evening and then a lantern-lit procession to the Green for more unusual and surprising light moments. And no need to struggle in the dark up to the Orchard, this year the fun will happen around the Willow Wherry in Folly Meadow.
The weather changes from oddly mild to fiercely cold, so much so that for a little while the edge of the New Reach was frozen hard – but not quite enough for skating!
January Community News
Winterlight on the Green
Remember the Winter Glowworm lanterns on the Green in February last year? If you do you’ll be glad to know they’ll be back this year, and if you don’t you can join in this year.
It will all happen on Sunday 12th February. First step: lunchtime workshop at the Library to make simple lanterns with materials and paints provided by the Library. Second step: meet in the Town Park at dusk with lights and lanterns. Third step: a lantern-lit short walk to a magical place on the Green, led by the Oxblood Molly musicians and with some weird and wonderful special lights. Fourth step: a WinterLight ceremony – with luck there might even be hot chocolate around the fire. Why not at the Orchard this year? because it’s hard for mobility scooters and push-chairs to get over the uneven and possibly wet ground up there, and it’s a little tucked away. This year the event will be just off the Track over White Bridge. Watch out for posters in the Library and on the Green for details.
We have tried to make the walk up to the Orchard easier. By digging out Louise’s Pond we have been able to build up the section of path nearby to be flatter and drier. Willow-and-hazel hurdles (made with Green materials at a work-party) along one side of the Pond will protect that part of the bank for growth and wildlife access. If you would like to help in the volunteer management work of the Green, come to our monthly work-parties on second Sundays (next one Sunday 8th January). Tools, gloves and a hot drink provided. We start at 10am, usually meeting at White Bridge.
Work parties also provide opportunities to see and hear wildlife. At the December work party a kingfisher was seen repeatedly – flying along the dipping platform dyke, perched on a branch over the pond. A buzzard circled above and a great spotted woodpecker hammered away on a tree in Folly Meadow.
December Community News
Autumn around the Green
Throughout November you might have seen Green volunteers toiling alongside the towpath of the New Reach. We’re pushing back a margin of overgrowth on the hedge side that we can keep strimmed, and we’re reinstating the hedge which has become swamped by ivy and very derelict. The rows of tiny trees you can see in the hedge line are not as new as they look – we planted them 5 years ago! Their survival is a tribute to their courage, but their small size shows how desperately the clearance around and above was needed. Now, hopefully, they can flourish.
Earlier in the year we strimmed the banks to keep views down to the water clear and walkers have been delighted to see water voles eating, playing, home-building on the opposite bank, totally calmly. We have no intention of creating a lawn alongside the Reach, and the wildflowers will come again and do better.
The season of floods is beginning and we’ll do our best to lay vegetation over the swampier parts of the paths through Folly Meadow to keep them walkable. Parts of the Track, particularly in Chestnut Meadow, will be under water occasionally and at those times walkers and cyclists would be wise to turn back if you can’t see the edges of the Track, as the grass alongside will be pretty soggy and might turn you over.
November Community News
Plans for easier access on the Green
An outdoor event in October? always a risk and the rain did come down for a while. Nevertheless, many people enjoyed the displays and games of the Green’s Drop-In Annual Open Morning. There was lots of interest in, and feedback on, our suggestions for what might be done with Chestnut Meadow. This Meadow is hard to graze because of having no water supply and is too big for Green volunteers to cut and rake on top of the cutting and raking done in Folly Meadow (the Green’s richest wildflower meadow) during the summer. Scrub is a fine habitat but there is no shortage of it on the Green, and Chestnut Meadow has become harder for visitors to enjoy. Watch out: thanks to ideas from you, that is due to change.
The wildlife highlight of the Drop-In morning was the attendance of not one or even two, but three water voles along the New Reach. They plopped in and out of the water all morning, and seemed very happy to sit calmly on floating leaves on the far side of the Reach (the side we haven’t strimmed) munching away, knowing that they are safe. And they are now easily seen from the towpath, thanks to the clearance of vegetation along that side.
The Orchard has been thoroughly scrumped, we’re delighted that no fruit has been left to rot on the ground. There are still a few nuts, don’t fail to look through the hazel copse at the front of the Orchard.
October Community News
Drop-in-have-your-say Day on the Green
The mowing and raking of the summer done, it’s time for thinking and planning – so help us please.
On Sunday 23rd October between 10 and 1pm we will have pitched our gazebo at the Entrance to the Green (just beyond the skateboard and basketball pitches). Come and talk to us about what you enjoy and what you’d like to see changed. For example, any ideas for Chestnut Meadow? (the meadow just beyond White Bridge). This has not been grazed or cut for a few years, what might we do with it now? And what about that patch on the right-hand-side as you walk up from the New Reach towards the railway bridges and Holton Road?
There will be displays of the year’s wildlife sightings and main events. Did you come to the Glow-worm Festival? You might feature in the photos and if not you might be inspired to join the Festival next year. A quiz, a treasure hunt, a chance to carry out water-quality testing, some light refreshments. And no speeches except the ones you make! Come anytime between 10am and 1pm.
What’s gone from toe-hold to triumph in a few short years? The willow emerald damselfly: this lovely miraculous flying machine had only a small toe-hold in a southern corner of Suffolk until very recently. But two summers ago they were first recorded on the Green, and during a sunny September day this year 25 plus were spotted perched on the twigs (into which they lay their eggs) that overhang the New Reach and the ditches in Folly Meadow. One was even seen on an oak tree in the Folly. It’s always good, and cheering, when a wildlife success story can be reported.
September Community News
Testing the water on the Green
Question: what’s wet and any shade of pink or purple? Answer: water in the simplest kit for testing water quality you ever came across. The Green received our kits and instructions by post from the Freshwater Habitats Trust who are running a project to collect data on the state of the nation’s freshwater bodies – rivers, streams, ditches and ponds (phone 01865 595 505 or see http://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/clean-water/). They say “Clean Water for Wildlife is a citizen science survey that aims to raise awareness of the true extent of nutrient pollution, and identify clean water habitats in England and Wales, with the ultimate aim of helping to protect biodiversity.” They are asking anyone with access to bodies of water, from the smallest garden pond to the largest lakes, to carry out this simple and vivid test and to feed the results back to them. Contact them to get your kit, phone number and website address above. So if you saw some of the Green’s volunteers scrambling up and down the banks of the River Blyth, the Town River and the New Reach with scoops for water and clip-boards for results, that’s what they were up to.
Meanwhile on land, people-powered mowing and raking is finished for this year although the cow-powered mowing will carry on for many weeks yet. In the air, Migrant Hawkers are floating from the Green up into the town; one appeared in the World Land Trust carpark and the records kept by Dan & Scott (who work there) tell us that their arrival is very punctual when compared with other years. A Ruddy Darter dragonfly has been demonstrating its name by darting over Louise’s Pond in Folly Meadow, and the first Willow Emerald damselfly of the year was seen hanging from a hawthorn twig along the New Reach towpath. Fruit in the orchard is coming along but do test one plum, pear or apple before you take an armful – they are all different kinds and ripen at different times. The fruit is there for scrumping, please help yourself.
August Community News
Damsels & Dragons – on the Green?
Mythical monsters and distressed ladies? No, all very much smaller – but possibly even more wonderful! Show me a dragon to compare with Norfolk Hawker dragonflies when engaged in lots of aerial combat (around the lily pads at White Bridge and at the dipping platform); or an Emperor ovipositing (laying eggs) along the New Reach; and Chasers both Four-spotted (at the dipping platform) and Broad-bodied (at Louise’s Pond).
And the damsels? Stunning Banded Demoiselle damselflies can be seen cruising along the New Reach, and if you’re lucky you might see clouds of Azure and Common Blue – as many as 50 males and females were seen in one day by our World Land Trust lunch-break recorders Dan & Scott. Not to be outdone the shy water vole has been spotted by our mowers and rakers, in the dyke at the dipping platform. If you see a shape a little like a house brick and mostly underwater but with slick wet fur, that’ll be the vole.
This is the season of mowing and raking. Doing a single cut at this time of year and removing the cut material creates a habitat for particular flower species that would otherwise be swamped by coarser growth. Surprisingly, it’s a different habitat from that created by grazing cows, so it’s well worth having both grazed areas (like Blyth Meadow and Lester’s Piece) and cut areas (like Folly Meadow). The secret is in how cows eat; they wind the grass around their tongues and pull, whereas cutting makes a clean slice. Easy for cows, for humans it’s a lot of work – even if not using our tongues – but rewarding. Do join us on the second Sunday of most months, equipment and refreshments are all provided. We meet at White Bridge (the first cattle grid from town) at 10am.
July Community News
Walks and Works on the Green
Don’t miss the next Walk & Talk: on Sunday 31st July at 10am we’ll be taking a close look at the New Reach that brought commercial wherries right into the town, and the River Blyth with the meadows that surround them. You can pick up a New Reach Trail leaflet at the Library and around the town but this gently guided walk will give you much more. And there’s always the chance of water voles and other water life. Meet at the Green’s entrance board (near the basketball court in the Town Park).
Meanwhile, you might catch the Reed Bunting – a first for the Green – in Two Acres. This is the meadow furthest from the Town (just beyond Six Arches) with a flourishing small wood planted in 2005. If you stray a little from the path mown around the outside you might find the Black Poplars within the wood. Back in Folly Meadow a few precious orchids are popping their heads up, and an Emperor Dragonfly was seen skimming along the New Reach.
The rush of growth caused by the warmer weather means the Green’s work-party volunteers have been focussing on keeping paths cut back just enough for comfortable walking. We have also had a blitz on the weeds growing up through the cattle grids because if the cows can’t see the spaces between the bars they think the ground is solid and will walk across. Soon it will be time to start cutting and raking the grass in Folly Meadow again. We do this by hand and with small mowers so that little and slow creatures have a chance to move along in front of the equipment and find safety elsewhere. Having carefully managed the meadow for (among other things) mice, slow worms and toads we don’t want then to slice their heads off with large and fast-moving agricultural equipment. So if you would like to join a centuries-old tradition and lend your energy to the annual hard job of raking and stacking, you would be especially welcome in the summer months coming up. Work-parties are the second Sunday of every month, equipment and refreshments all provided, meeting at White Bridge (the first cattle grid from town).
June Community News
Walks and Talks on the Green
Thanks to the Uke3A Band (University of the Third Age) for their invaluable musical support for our Sing to the Trees event and for their generous donation to our funds. The Band goes from strength to strength and adds zest to any event.
It’s Walk & Talk time again on the Green. There are three planned for the summer, each exploring a particular area of the Green in some depth. The first is on Tuesday 7th June at 7pm exploring the Folly with its history of rail transport, its stunning tall woodland, open grassland and special butterfly. On Tuesday 28th June also at 7pm we’ll be having a close look at Folly & Angel Meadows. Folly Meadow is particularly rich in wildflowers not always easy to spot, and Angel Meadow’s new woodland is slowly raising its head above the surrounding vegetation. The third Walk & Talk will be on Sunday 31st July at 10am, taking a close look at the waterways and water meadows. All Walks & Talks meet at the Green’s entrance board (near the basketball pitch in the Town Park).
May has seen more and more wildlife crowding onto the Green: swallows swooping over the meadows, treecreepers ‘creeping’ up willow tree trunks, a turtle dove, the sound of the cuckoo. A whitethroat has been seen by the reed bed, pike and water vole spotted in the New Reach and – for a gloriously long few minutes for a lucky group of Green volunteers – a grass snake swimming, head held high, towards and under White Bridge. Insects on the wing have been holly blue & orange tip, brimstone butterflies and large red damselflies. Keep your eyes peeled for the spotted flycatcher which was seen at this time of year for the last two years running. And don’t miss the cuckoo flower, yellow rattle and adder’s-tongue fern which have sprung into life in Folly Meadow.
May Community News
Mapping the Green
At last, the entrance board is up! Thanks to that and the meadow nameplates, you really will be able to find an event which is “in the Orchard” or “on Two Acres”. The board is at the entrance from the Town, after the basketball court, so that as you come into the Green from that direction you can have a browse over the map to see if there are any places you haven’t visited recently, or even some parts that you didn’t know were Millennium Green. The entrance board combines the work and cheerful support of a lot of local and regional businesses: Mustard Creative (at The Cut) designed the panel, OTW (Aylsham) printed it up, Crispin Chalker (Big Wood at Thorington) delivered the green oak, CW Ellis (Holton Airfield) cut and joined the oak to make the board – with especially deep legs to take the wildlife carvings done by Mary Anstee-Parry (Walsham le Willows). Along with the fingerposts and meadow signs by Harrier Signs (Norwich) and the footpath improvements by Mark Woolnough (Wenhaston), this “Access for All” project funded by Big Lottery represents a terrific local effort to enhance a much-loved local place. Don’t forget to give the lizard and mice a stroke as you go by the board.
Spring put in its first tentative appearance on the Green in April with the sight of newly emerged (from hibernation) Peacock, Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. Not to be outdone the Green’s resident birds, along with some summer arrivals, have been launching into song – listen out for Song Thrush, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and many others as they all get down to the business of breeding, nest building and raising young. A flock of Siskins were reported on Blyth Meadow and a Sparrowhawk was spotted darting along the New Reach. The first Slow-worms have also been seen after waking up from their winter hibernation. We have moved the basking tins for the reptiles, to collect data in other areas.
April Community News
Des Res for owls and kestrels on the Green
Why do birds need to be provided with boxes, surely they can DIY their own Desirable Residences?! Some (like barn owls) are struggling because their traditional nesting sites, such as old barns, have vanished or been developed and other favoured locations, such as old hollow trees, have been lost through farming practice, disease or increasingly frequent winter storms .
Kestrels, like all our wildlife, face pressures from modern day human activity but they also compete with other birds like barn owls and jackdaws for suitable nest-sites. For these birds special boxes, made by people who have studied the needs of the particular species, make a real difference to their safety and to their chances of successfully raising young. So as you go about the Green peer up into the branches and see if you can spot the two new barn owl boxes bought from the Suffolk Community Barn Owl Project as well as an RSPB kestrel box, kindly donated by Charles and Jayne Watkin. Work-party volunteers decided we would be unwise to teeter up ladders at the heights needed by these birds so the boxes have been erected in the last few weeks by Tree Surgeon Paul Jackson who generously donated his time. Another owl box, donated by Linda and Doug Gray, will be erected later. The Green is hugely lucky to be surrounded by a community who so willingly and creatively support it.
You might have noticed a work party replacing the boards of the sluice under White Bridge (the first finger-post from the town). This is not a new structure, it has been in place since the early 1990s, and the Environment Agency has been concerned about its increasingly rotten condition. The Agency supplied new boards which Green volunteers installed into a sturdy metal frame made by Easitron of Linstead.
March has also been a month of tree work: checking the condition of the little saplings in Angel Wood (Angel Meadow is the first one after the Town Park) and pruning the Orchard trees. The fruit trees have been newly labelled, all are East of England varieties and some are very unusual.
March Community News
Hand-made glowworms brighten the Green
The real, wild, secretive glowworm beetle only lights her light in the summer months to attract a male to mate with and to warn off predators. But February saw dozens and dozens of “glowworms” on the Green. Handmade by the Time Out group and Children’s Club sessions at the Library, these glowworm lanterns lit the way for more than 60 people to walk with musicians from Oxblood Molly through the Town Park, along the Track and up Folly Meadow into the Community Orchard.
The trail was lit with night-light glowworms and the procession was welcomed to the Orchard by a blazing brazier fire. Tree celebration rituals were carried out, cake and apple juice placed in the branches of the fruit trees, and a cheerful chant shouted to the dark skies to promote a really good harvest in the coming year. So don’t forget, in a few months’ time, to come to the Orchard to scrump for apples, pears, plums, and cherries – if the birds don’t get there first – and hazel nuts. If you’re not sure where the Orchard is, our leaflet in the Library (and around the town) has a map.
Look out for news of more spring and summer Millennium Green events on the notice board at White Bridge (the first fingerpost from the town), in the Library window (near the small door at the bottom of the stairs), and here in Community News.
Natural events are slowly hotting up on the Green: listen out for the welcome spring songs of the humble great-tit, robin and song thrush. In the next month owl and kestrel boxes will be going up to join the bird boxes already being well used about the Green. And looking down at your feet, you should still be able to find in The Folly some Green Snowdrops – it’s not the flowers that are green, the name is because this species has larger and darker green leaves than regular snowdrops.
February East Anglian Daily Times Halesworth Supplement
A new year for the Millennium Green
In each issue Sal Jenkinson, chair of Trustees at Halesworth Millennium Green, brings you an update on the open space.
“This is Louise’s Pond in Folly meadow to remember with love the short but profound contribution made to the Green by Louise Solomon. The steep sides will be sloped off to make access into the water easy for wildlife and a path will be kept mown to make access to the pond easy for people. Louise’s Pond creates yet another distinctive habitat for creatures on the Green.
“If this looks like your idea of fun, do come along to work parties. All the work that happens on and for Halesworth Millennium Green is done by volunteers. We meet on the second Sunday of every month from 10am for a couple of hours, with tools, gloves, hot drinks and tasty nibbles all provided. Other work is done between times and if you don’t feel able or willing to do physical conservation work you could take a turn at running a stall at a community event or help with the website.
“But you don’t have to work at it at all, just come and explore. We have just celebrated the first ever Winter Glow Worms Festival held on Valentine’s Day. Now keep your eyes peeled for details of Sing to the Trees on Friday April 22 and then for Walks& Talks after that during the summer – the Millennium Green events’ season has begun again.
“Thanks to the Big Lottery you’ll be able to find your way around more easily than before. We are just coming to the end of an Access for All project which has provided nameplates at the entrances and exits of all the different areas on the Green – woodland and new grazing meadows, old quarry workings, the route of the Southwold to Halesworth railway. There are also three new fingerposts at key junctions, a welcome entrance notice board, path surfacing to key routes to enable buggy access and new leaflets with an up-to-date map.
February 15th East Anglian Daily Times
Ritual aimed at fruitful harvest by Polly Grice
The people of Halesworth gathered to bless the town’s fruit trees in the hope of a good harvest later in the year.
Organised by Halesworth Library and the Millennium Green volunteers dozens gathered at dusk last night to take part in the ancient tradition at the community orchard.
And while the ceremony itself may be historic, it is the first time the event has been held in the town.
Nicky Rowbottom, one of the co-ordinators, said. “We wanted to encourage people to get out into the community orchard and see the Millennium Green at different times of the day and different times of the year.
“It’s not just a place for summer and it’s not just a place for daylight.
“It’s really lovely to have so many people, we never dreamed that so many people would turn up.”
Earlier in the day children made lanterns in a special craft session at the town’s library. Then all were invited to the green for a candlelit procession to the orchard led by Oxblood Molly dancers.
Once in the orchard each person took a small piece of fruit cake to put in the trees’ branches and poured apple juice on their roots while reciting a short poem.
Librarian Meraylah Allwood led the blessing, known as wassailing, and said, “For a couple of years we’ve thought it would be nice to have a winter festival of lights on the Millennium Green and this year we just thought we’d go for it. What’s great is we’ve got really little children here and the oldest person is about 85.”
February Community News
Strange diggings and stranger lights on the Green
What’s that digging which has appeared on Folly Meadow, near the Community Orchard? It’s Louise’s Pond, to remember with love the short but profound contribution made to the Green by Louise Solomon. The sides will be sloped off for easy access by wildlife, and we will keep a path mowed for easy access by people. Louise’s Pond creates yet another distinctive habitat for creatures on the Green – different from the dykes and ditches, different from the running waterways.
Still not sure which is Folly Meadow? There is now a nameplate at the entrances and exits of every meadow, at each end of Bird’s Folly, also at Rail’s End and at Arthur’s Wood.
On Sunday 14th February the Green is proud to be hosting, with the Library, the very first Halesworth Winter Glow Worms event. February celebrates not only Valentine’s Day but also the Chinese New Year, and many ancient winter ceremonies such as candlemas (the blessing of candles, once the only source of light) and orchard-wassailing (making music among the trees in the hope of promoting a good harvest). The Library and the Green have conspired to roll these events into a single day of lantern-making, procession and orchard-wassailing.
You can join the Children’s Sunday Club at the Library between 12 and 2.30pm to make (safe) lanterns that will later in the day be used in the Procession. The Procession starts at 5pm (just after sunset) in the Town Park at the bridge by the play park. It will wind its glowing way along the Track to White Bridge, over the New Reach and up through Folly Meadow to the lantern-lit Orchard. Musicians of the Old Glory Molly Dancers will greet the Procession. Wear warm clothes and waterproof footwear, bring a small bite to eat or drink. If you can’t get to the making session come to the Procession anyway, bring your own lantern: a torch with coloured paper round it works beautifully.
You’ll see that the hazels around the Community Orchard have been coppiced (cut to the ground) to let in more light and air to the fruit trees, and the cut wands can be used for hedging jobs around the Green. The little fences around the new coppice stools are to keep the rabbits and muntjac off while the shoots regrow. Hazel trees can last for hundreds of years when managed in this way, producing enormous amounts of wood for all kinds of purposes and becoming very high-class wildlife hotels as they get bigger and older.
January Community News
Not so bleak mid-winter for the Green
Green volunteers were glad to take part again in the Lions’ Fayre, and in spite of the rain lots of people enjoyed our games and helped us to raise over £150. Guessing the weight of the chocolate cowpat – with fly – was hotly contested and won by Caroline who came within 3oz. of the proper weight. The hampers for guessing the distances between the new signposts went to Sally and Reg, and Tricia got the name of the cow (Cowslip, of course!). Even more than fund-raising, the Fayre gives us the opportunity to talk to lots of local people about the Green, especially the far corners that not everyone knows.
Even the endless, dreary rain hasn’t defeated our work-party volunteers. We have restored the Lily Seat and steps at White Bridge, and the clearance has been completed of the Southwold-Halesworth railway line from the top of the old bridge to meet the current railway line. Louise’s Pond, in Folly Meadow, is taking shape and newly planted alders in the far corner of Angel Meadow have been staked and mulched. All our nest boxes have been cleaned out ready for spring next year, this year’s occupation rate set records: four of the tit boxes had been used and one of the open fronted boxes contained a probable robin’s nest. While checking the boxes we saw redwings, a new record for the bird list, and the local U3A bird group spotted 22 species during their visit in early December.
Every single thing that happens on and for the Green is done by volunteers. We meet on the second Sunday of every month from 10am for a couple of hours, with tools, gloves, hot drinks and tasty nibbles all provided. Other work is done between times, and if you don’t feel able or willing to do practical conservation work there are lots of other jobs you could help with. But you don’t have to work at it – just come and enjoy it.