The Friends of Alexandra Park occasionally invite members to help with maintenance work in the park grounds. Dates are announced in our newsletter to members, and on our Home page.

This page shows reports of some of our past work days.

See TCV for work days organised by The Conservation Volunteers.

Conservation Work Party - July

The meadow, like the rest of the Park is in poor shape, though, with all this dry weather, and then the heatwave, last week, must have put huge stress on plants and wildlife - blackberries are very small this year. There was no birdsong, the grass was tinder dry but, despite that, there were lots of butterflies feeding on the remaining knapweed flowers, ragwort (which seems to have grown super tall this year) and spear thistle. There were large numbers of gatekeepers, a few meadow brown, a small copper and a speckled wood. There was also a very handsome, Jersey tiger moth (photo left by Tony Jakeman) and a six spot burnet moth.

Conservation Work Party - June

It was a lovely morning to be working in the Anthill Meadow, not particularly sunny, but warm, which meant that butterflies, particularly, were about in very good numbers. Ringlets were everywhere, as were meadow browns, there were several marbled whites, a small (or large) white, several small skippers and a purple hairstreak. There were also a few dragonflies which we couldn’t name, as well as numerous bees.

The flowering plants identified were: bramble; cat’s ear; Oxford and common ragworts; knapweed; red and white clovers; bird’s foot trefoil, including a particularly large patch of it; stitchwort; meadow vetchling; yarrow; creeping cinquefoil; water figwort; rosebay (picture left) and great willowherb; creeping buttercup; spear thistle; imperforate St John’s wort; false oat grass. The yellow rattle has flowered and dropped its seed – hopefully providing a good crop for next year.

Birds heard or seen: not many, yesterday, a chiff chaff and a black cap provided a musical backdrop to the morning, and a green woodpecker was seen taking off from the ground, presumably having raided one of the anthills.

Conservation Work Party - May

The meadow is coming to life with several flowering plants noted, insects flitting and buzzing around, with a backdrop of bird song – particularly a black cap. Of particular interest was the yellow rattle: we had seeded five patches of bared ground, last autumn, all of which had some plants (including ones in flower) but two that were thickly carpeted with yellow rattle. There were also patches of self-seeded yellow rattle from previous years plantings. In those latter areas thinning of the vigorous grasses was evident – very pleasing to see. The next step will be to consider introducing seeds of other flowering plants appropriate to the area. People in the know, have noted that the meadow doesn’t have a great variety of flowering plants.

The alder buckthorn was in flower, with tiny five-petalled flowers, and looks particularly healthy this season. A green caterpillar was seen on a leaf, possibly a brimstone’s. (picture left)

We concentrated our work on three main areas of the meadow: removing rosebay willowherb from the west part, where it would overshadow the yellow rattle when grown; clearing bramble from the path that connects the anthill meadow to the butterfly meadow; removing a sapling oak and lowering a hawthorn which were overshadowing the alder buckthorn. We continue to build up the hedge line with the leavings.

Anthill Work Party - April

Nine of us turned out on a warm and sunny April morning. We had a backdrop of spring birdsong to our work in the anthill meadow, with blackcaps, chiffchaffs and wrens being the loudest songsters. We continued with the remorseless job of bramble root removal before the new shoots take off. The yellow rattle seedlings are doing well in the west side of the meadow, although they do need water after all this dry weather. The highlight of the morning was seeing a female brimstone butterfly laying her eggs on the underside of alder buckthorn leaves (one of their host plants). She laid each elongated egg on a single leaf – so tiny that they were barely visible (pictured, an egg laid last year). This season’s butterflies will appear in around July/August.

As our contribution to Keep Britain Tidy’s annual campaign, 23 volunteers wielded their litter pickers and scoured the park for some of the hard-to-reach rubbish that accumulates over the winter. The result was around 30 bags plus a small bike. Those who had participated in similar events over the years felt that there was less litter than normal – a tribute not only to the John O’Conner team’s good work, but also to the efforts of all the volunteers who kept the park clean last summer, several of whom continued throughout the winter. Our thanks to all the litter-picking volunteers.

Conservation Work Party - March

It was such a lovely morning, especially with the sound of spring birdsong ringing around the meadow, the chiffchaff the loudest of all. We had a good morning’s work with most of us mattocking bramble roots, before the new shoots get going. Richard did some good work on the alder buckthorn, cutting out a rotten broken branch, the reward – three brimstone butterflies flitting around the meadow. Tony released an elder from the clutches of ivy, and Stephen stopped the march of bramble over cherry and blackthorn. To top it all we could see that good numbers of the yellow rattle seeds we broadcast last autumn had germinated.

Insects noted: 3 brimstone butterflies – 2 males and a female (paler); a peacock butterfly; a few bumblebees and ladybirds.

Birds noted: blue and great tits; chiffchaff; robin; magpie; jay; crow; wren; wood pigeon; green woodpecker.

Plants in flower: only two – dandelions and the blackthorn. (Jane Hutchinson)

Conservation Work Party - February 2022

Attached is a photo of a very tiny, germinated, yellow rattle seedling, which Tricia took, while we were working in the anthill meadow. Fingers-crossed it has many siblings in the next few weeks.

Thank you very much for coming to the Anthill Meadow, last Thursday. We put in a good couple of hours work mattocking out bramble roots, in the central part of the meadow; removing and lowering saplings at the east end, along by the hedge line, adding to the dead hedge; and removing ivy from a couple of oaks in the hedge line.

Although it was a fine morning conditions underfoot were pretty atrocious, with all that surface water and mud, after all the rain we’ve had. I think several of us went home with mud be-spattered faces and clothing.

It’s always been a bit of a problem finding our patches of yellow rattle, in high summer, once the grasses and flowers have grown. Tricia worked out a way of finding the patches, by the ‘what3words’ App. She found the 3 words for each patch, and recorded them, which we now have in our phones.

We heard a selection of birds, including green wood pecker, dunnock, great tits, wren, magpies, crows.

Just to let you know that as the bramble cover in the meadow reduces we will have chances to work elsewhere in the Park. People seemed to enjoy a change of site, as when we worked in The Grove, to remove holly, and in the Cricket Scrub. If you have any thoughts on this let me know. There will also be opportunities to work with TCV and the O’Conners Maintenance Team, again, later in the year.

Jane Hutchinson

Fruit Tree Pruning in the Springfield Orchard

A small group of the Friends met up with Ruben of John O'Conner (Park Maintainance Contractors) to prune the fruit trees in the Springfield Orchard in The Grove. These are the trees above the large fenced Veteran Oak and below the 3-4-5 Playgroup. The trees had not had any work recently so quite a lot of cutting was involved to encourage fruiting and to keep the trees in good condition.

Some of the things that we learnt....

To cut off any slightly damaged branches first. This is, because as soon as they get weighed down with any fruit they are liable to break off.

Next to stand back and assess which branches need to go. Those good for the chop are the ones that grow from the outside of the tree toward the centre crossing other branches. They stop air circulating and their fruit can be too each other and branches.

Later cuts are made to both remove the tops of high and elongated branches as well as branches growing too close to each other. Also we had to try a give the tree an even look. After each significant cut Ruben demonstrated that we should stand back and look all around the tree before making the next move.

One extra point was not to cut back the stone fruits (e.g. plum) as hard as the others (e.g. apple) - they don't response so well to "rough" treatment.

Thanks a lot to Ruben for his patience and clear advice.

More pictures from the afternoon here.

Special Conservation Work Party with TCV - January

Note sent out by Jane after the event nicely sums up the great success of this work party.

Thanks for turning out in great number, yesterday, on what was a glorious if chilly morning.

It was most enjoyable morning working with you all. It felt like good, spontaneous, team work, with 19 of us ‘friends’ and six TCV members.

I was just amazed at how much we got done. I never thought we’d clear all that brash and logs to the outer perimeter of the Cricket Scrub, as we did. It was hard labour to move all that stuff and some skill went into creating the dead hedges. There were several of us ‘friends’ with previous or current TCV experience, which helped hugely, and ‘teams’ developed to tackle different areas. It was great having TCV volunteers with their skills. I think we all worked well as a team under the guidance of Gerry – he knew what was needed and set us all off on our various fronts.

The so-named Cricket Scrub became canopy woodland with self-sewn trees, and, under Gerry’s guidance we are attempting to return it to a scrubby habitat, so that it remains inviting to birds, particularly migrating warblers such as the spotted flycatcher (pictured in the Mail Chimp).

The next stage will be to plant some hawthorns within the glade created, to provide the low-bush scrubby habitat needed. This will all need maintenance so no doubt we will return to the Scrub once or twice a year.

Background to this work party:

The Cricket Scrub is an area of bushes and trees between the main football pitch and the old racetrack.

Scrub is a valuable habitat in its own right. It has its own assemblage of plants, birds and insects. It should be a mix of dense shrubby material interspersed with open, sunny glades. In the park, we have been losing our scrub over the last few years, primarily as the trees grow and create woodland, so we have been losing an important component of our biodiversity. In the Cricket Scrub some of the tree cover has now been removed.

On Tuesday we moved the cut branches to the edge of the scrub so that in due course we can plant hawthorn and blackthorn to improve the scrub.

More pictures on this link.

The Grove Work Party - December 2021

Shading Holly Clearance in The Grove

Jane's comments:

I’d like to thank you all for turning out on what was a pretty miserable morning, on 7th December, although the rain held off, just!

There were 14 of us, plus three from O’Conners maintenance team, working on clearing a large patch of holly from the top of the old railway embankment, above the Railway Orchard. It was pretty hard and rough work but you all fell-to with zeal and cleared a pretty large area. Some of the holly was used to fill gaps in the dead hedge on the edge of the Spinney, but we cleared far more than we could use, so the brash left as a ‘habitat’ pile in the area we had worked.

The work was harder than I thought it would be as I hadn’t realised holly suckered in the way it obviously does. It was really messy pulling out what seemed to be small trees but were actually leggy branches that had rooted themselves. Anyway, Mark Evison was pleased with what we had achieved, including rebuilding the dead hedge. I may ask if we can do another extra session there, before the nesting season begins.

Conservation Work - November

The work in the Anthill Meadow changes as the seasons change. Our November schedule consisted of planting yellow rattle seeds, an annual plant that parasitises the roots of some grasses, reducing their vigour and so allowing more flowering plants to thrive. We scraped off the turf in six small areas, loosened the soil, broadcast the seed then tamped it down. We sowed the seed more thickly this time compared to previous years, in the hope that we’ll have an improved germination rate. I did see a robin on one of the patches and couldn’t tell whether it was after a worm or the seed! A beautiful sunny morning brought everyone out (there were 17 of us) and therefore much bramble was cleared as well.

Conservation Work - October

More grass cutting and removal this session. During our break for drinks and chat, we were watched over by a robin sitting in a hawthorn bush. We continue to make a great difference to the area by reducing the fertility of the soil and allowing more wildflowers to predominate in the area. The weather was kind as well.

Conservation Work - September

We were lucky to have a lovely warm and sunny morning for the second of our sessions cutting the grass at the western end. If you were passing last Tuesday morning, you would have seen a line of 11 of us on our hands and knees, using garden shears to take the grass almost to ground level (pictured). As usual, all the cuttings were placed on the dead hedge bordering the meadow, so that any creatures caught up in the cuttings could stay local.

Conservation work in the Butterfly Meadow - Late August

Lucky with the weather, after a poor-ish spell, we had sunshine. We continued work on the west side of the meadow with a special attention to cutting leaders (long straggly bits of bramble) to stop them rooting.

Some tree reduction work took place to reduce shade coming from the Lower Path side took place.

Conservation work in the Butterfly Meadow - Early August

After a cool-ish start, quite warm weather for bramble bashing! We made a good job of progress working on some encroaching bramble on the western side of the meadow. We heard parakeets, crows, two types of woodpecker whilst working. Large numbers of butterflies were seen, but they were restricted mainly to Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns. A Jersey Tiger moth also put in an appearance as well as the odd dragonfly.

Conservation Work Party - July

This month’s work party was mainly about cutting back bramble leaders to prevent them touching the soil and taking root to form new plants. We worked along the hedgerows surrounding the Butterfly Meadow. It is looking particularly verdant this year, after all the rain we’ve had – such a contrast to last year’s drought conditions. This means that grasses dominate the habitat but wild flowers have managed to keep their heads up, too, with willowherbs dominating. It was a bright, sunny morning, which brought out the butterflies, mainly along the sunny, northern edge: gatekeepers in large numbers, meadow browns, large skippers, green-veined and small whites, peacocks and one red admiral. Also several six-spot burnet moths and a wonderfully striped cinnabar moth caterpillar were seen.

Work in the Butterfly Meadow: 22nd June 2021

The Butterfly Meadow is blooming with vetches, stitchworts and clover, and knapweed and willowherb just beginning to open. Working there last week was a delight. A few yellow rattle flowers continue and seed heads are developing nicely. There are a variety of grasses, too. At this stage in the year we are tinkering around the edges, removing bramble leaders and self-seeded, small saplings, so as not to damage the sward. Several butterflies were seen, including a marbled white and purple hairstreak, both firsts for this summer in Herts and Middlesex. An anthill was disturbed, unfortunately, but it was interesting to see the yellow field ants busy relocating their pupae (pictured).

Conservation Work Party - 20th October 2020

The Friends are still continuing the removal of grass from the western end of the Butterfly Meadow, but also tackling bramble and sapling removal.

This session we spotted some fungi including Fragile Brittle Gill and False Chanterelle.

Conservation Work Party - 6th October

Continuing the grass removal work......

Conservation Work Party - 15th September

The Friends started on their annual cutting and removal of grass from a section of the Butterfly Meadow. This helps reduce the fertility of the area and promote the wild flowers growing in the area.

Conservation Work Parties - during lockdown

Up to 6 volunteers have been working in the Butterfly Meadow since this has been allowed. The work mainly involved bramble clearance and tree sapling removal. This picture from 1st September.

Spring Litter Pick

For our deep clean this year we concentrated on the woodland area above Alexandra Palace Way (Blandford Hall Area). As usual lots of stuff was found hidden often deep in the bramble. This didn't faze our volunteers. Tables and chairs were amoung the "treasurers" found. Picture shows part of the haul.

A big thanks to all that helped out.

Conservation Work Party - February

Mud pushed the Friends to move their Conservation Work from the Butterfly Meadow.....

We met by the Park Visitor Centre where we had some whips (saplings) to plant in the new growing hedge across the path from the centre. We replaced some perished saplings and extended the line closer to the path.

The weather? poor, damp, but this didn't put off a good number of volunteers of all ages from turning up. Other jobs included tying up shrubs next to Meson House.

Conservation Work Party - January 2020

An overcast day for our work in the Butterfly Meadow so no distractions.... In fact only one flower was seen. On the bird front things were more Spring-like with Blue Tits, Great Tits and a Wren all singing. Also seen were Crows, Blackbirds, Robins and Parakeets.

As to the work, a significant of bramble was removed further improving the habitat.

Back again next month.

Joint Tree Planting Day with TCV - January 2020

The Friends joined TCV BAT South in digging up oak saplings from below the Rose Garden and from the Butterfly Meadow and then replanting them (picture left) to help re-form the line of oaks running down into the old Deer Enclosure. This is in order preserve and re-create an old line of oaks along a field edge predating the park's existant.

In the afternoon, we planted some saplings to fill in gaps along the border of the pitch and putt area. (lower picture)

November Conservation Work Party 2019

Fifteen of us gathered to continue work in the Butterfly Meadow. A lot more of the top vegetation was removed from the area as well as a little bramble removal and some reduction of the shade in the area.

This time of the year, there was not much flowering except for the odd piece of knapweed, bristly ox-tongue and cat's ear.

A little of the fungi was still around mostly Brittle Gills.

Up in the sky, a sparrow hawk was chased off by a crow and 2 peregrine falcons were seen in the distance.

October Conservation Work Party

Ten Friends waited patiently to be let into the Butterfly Meadow - fenced off in advance of the fireworks. When a spanner was finally located, we set about our second month of cutting back the vegetation. This helps in maintaining and decreasing the fertility of the site - an important step in promoting wild flower growth and discouraging the courser grasses. A good measure of the fact that the site is not too fertile is the lack of nettles which survive in fertile soil.

We made good progress and piled up the grass at the bottom of the meadow. This time of year not many flowers left, we only saw Cat's Ear, Red Clover and Knapweed blossoms.

On the other hand the site was a fungi cornucopia. The classic fungi, fly agaric was seen in some numbers. This is a symbiotic mycorrhizal fungus on birch and conifers although there is little sign of these trees here. Another related fungus seen (similar white spots on top) was blusher.

Bracket fungi seen included turkey tail, southern bracket, Ganoderma resinaceum. Also seen were common puffballs (pictured left) - which delighted us by puffing out spores when touched.

That was not all by far - some of those photographed included sulphur knight, deceiver, fragile brittle gills, candle snuff, matt bolete, a Cortinarius and a Psathyrella. (Thanks to Andy Overall for most of the fungi ID.)

September Conservation Work Party

The Friends returned to the Butterfly to do some manual cutting and clearing of the grass and dead wild flowers in order to keep reducing the fertility of the soil. (This benefits the wild flowers.)

A dozen of us attacked the grass in very mixed weather. Mostly overcast, some rain and a little sunshine.

What did we see while working there? 5 types of butterfly - Comma, Small White, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral and a couple of Small Coppers. Also several grasshoppers and crickets including Roesel's Bush Cricket. A Common Darter dragonfly perched on one of our tools.

August Conservation Work Party

The Friends worked in "The Spinney", the area in The Grove opposite the Park Visitor Centre. We were joined by TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) who worked with us in removing saplings and small trees to allow the light in and encourage flowers in this area.

The cut down trees were "processed", the side branches were removed and the wood divided into different sizes. There is future plan for a pond.

The wood generated will be used to create a fence around the area starting at the end of August when a Corporate Group will be brought to The Grove led by TCV.

During the day a frog and a toad were seen as well as speckled wood butterflies and wasps. A nuthatch serenaded us during the morning.

July Conservation Work Party

For once the weather wasn't bright and sunny so a special thanks to the brave volunteers who came to the Butterfly Meadow to battle the brambles.

The weather did improve a bit later and there were even a few birds heard. The wild flowers are perhaps at their peak with the ragwort and knapweed attracting the butterflies.

June Conservation Work Party

Warm weather for our bramble work this month, but we had the advantage of being joined by volunteers from TCV.

With the growing wild flowers in the meadow, we tried to avoid too much disturbance to the newly growing vegetation. The work progress well as usual and we were to see that many butterflies chose to go with the name of the meadow and grace us with their prescence. We saw Green-veined White (picture), Meadow Brown, Large Skipper, Ringlet, Painted Lady (there has been quite an influence of these migrants this year), Marbled White (a first view for some) and Speckled Wood. Later in the day after the end of the session Comma, Small Heath, Small Skipper and Red Admiral were also seen.

Also seen were a few dragonflies, a female black-tailed skimmer and a male Emperor.

We are continuing to make a real difference to this area with continually increasing wild flowers and animals.

The pictures linked to were taken in the Butterfly Meadow, but all on the same day.

May Conservation Work Party

It was warm, sunny day for the eight of us to try and keep the bramble in check. There is now a crow that regularly patrols the area looking goodies and he/she was there. Other wildlife included bees, quite a lot of cardinal beetles flying around and two types of bug, the dock bug and bishop's mitre bug (lower picture). As to the wild flowers, many more were now in evidence including meadow vetchling, bird's foot trefoil, the first of the knapweed, red clover, cat's ear, creeping cinqfoil, compact rush, creeping buttercup and red campion.

The volunteers had a really good go at the bramble and Mark Evison, the Park Manager came along to offer his thanks.

It is called the Butterfly Meadow (by us) so which ones did we see? Small white, orange tip, holly blue, small copper, speckled wood and lots of brimstones.

Thanks as always to all our helpers.

April Conservation Work Party

Ten volunteers came to work in the Butterfly Meadow on a less sunny day with a few showers. Unfortunately in the recent sunny periods the brambles had grown quite a lot and great effort was undertaken to dig the new and old ones out. Other work consisted of cutting back some of the shading trees at the top of the meadow.

When a bit of sun arrived towards the end, we spotted orange tip, speckled wood and brimstone butterflies. Nursery spider and harlequin lady birds were around as well as a yet unidentified caterpillar. Bird song from chiffchaff and blackcaps as well as an overflight from a bird of prey which might have been a hobby....

Flowering plants included lesser stitchwort, red campion, dandelion and sheep's sorrel.

Good news was the germination of some of the yellow rattle sown in November.

March Conservation Work Party

Mostly sunny, but there was a chill in the air when the clouds went over. 14 volunteers turned up to help attack the brambles. Can you spot 11 of them in the picture on the left?

Only one flower out in the meadow area - dandelion, but we still managed to catch a glimpse of a peacock butterfly.

Some excitement as possible germination of Yellow Rattle was observed. Elsewhere Rosebay and Great Willowherb were poking up through the earth and large clumps of knapweed were in evidence.

Birds are beginning to make their presence felt with Great Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Parakeet, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Robin, Wren (loudest) and Chiffchaff (most persistent).

February 2019 Conservation Work Party

A baker's dozen or so of Friends turned up to attack the brambles this month amid the unseasonably warm weather.

No butterflies, but a Satellite moth was seen (pictured left), and, at the end of our work session, a 7 spot ladybird came to investigate a knapsack strap.

We cleared a lot bramble and our work was aided by TCV who continued on into the afternoon.

As always, we had Jane to thank for some needed refreshing juice and energy-giving biscuits.

January 2019 Conservation Work Party

The weather, again, was kind to the Friends with a cold, but sunny and windless morning. We welcomed two new volunteers to our group of eleven.

The work included further bramble and sapling removal. Also blackthorn on the edge of the area was further trimmed in order to promote regrowth and provide both habitat for birds and to give more opportunities for encouraging the Brown Hairstreak butterfly to come and breed in the Park.

No sign of any flowers in bloom this month, just catkins growing on the Alder tree. By next month, there should be the first signs of

Spring appearing, come along and join us. Birds, however, were in evidence with Song Thrush, Parakeets, Crows, Great Tits, Blue Tits and Robins were all heard. The highlight was a Kestrel (left) that came and perched over us.

Temporary reports while we add in the pictures....

November Conservation Work Party 2018

Sandwiched between a couple of bad days, the sun came out for us again. This month, we planted some yellow rattle seeds. This is a partial parasite on grasses reducing their vigour and allowing more wild flowers to come through.

Others carried on with bramble removal with a final job being to prune the blackthorn on the edge of the meadow to encourage further growth and give more breeding sites for nesting birds.

Birds were not much in evidence apart from a glance of a kestrel, crows overhead and a robin benefiting for the turning over of the soil.

Only one wild flower was flowering - knapweed, but we did see several different types of fungi including Bay Bolete (left) and Glistening Inkcap.

October Conservation Work Party

Each time that we work in the Butterfly Meadow, we try and keep a list of the wild life seen. This month only 5 different flowers were seen in flower, just one common blue butterfly was spotted, but the observant amongst us saw a peregrine go over chasing a pigeon. Other birds seen were 2 species of woodpecker, a wren and many corvids (birds in the crow family). The most impressive of the latter was a flight of about a hundred migrating jackdaws.

On the work front, there was more cutting back of the grass which some people enjoyed (picture) and others were rooting out the bramble on another lovely sunny day.

September Conservation Work Party

Our main focus this month was grass cutting and removing the grass to the dead hedge bordering the meadow. A traditional form of management to increase floral diversity. We used garden shears and a battery-powered hedge trimmer (which was most effective) and, with 15 of us there, we cut most of the area we needed to. Like last year, we only cut the grass at the west end of the meadow, the idea being to have a variety of habitats within the meadow boundary, hopefully increasing its attractiveness to a wider range of insects.

August Conservation Work

Sun and clouds for our return to the Butterfly Meadow. Fourteen of us were on hand to remove more brambles and tree saplings from the area.

While there, there were sightings of several different species of butterflies. Brown Argus, Common Blue, Small Copper, Speckled Wood, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and a white of some type.

Also spotted was a nice clump of Artist's Bracket fungus.

As we finished, a pair of butterfly spotters came to see our Brown Argus butterflies that they had read about - a nice reward for our work in improving this site. These butterflies hadn't been seen here before this year.

July Conservation Work

A break from the normal routine... Due to the hot dry weather, the Friends decided to concentrate on watering the newly planted saplings near the Park Information Centre.

These trees were planted by TCV and have had significant watering by John O'Conner, but in this long hot spell, it was felt that they could do with an extra dose of water.

A good turnout as usual and an efficient watering ensued...

June Conservation Work

Sunshine as usual for our attack on the Butterfly Meadow. At this time of year, we are just trying to hold our own.

The grass had grow very tall and the first swathe of wild flowers was starting to come out. We attacked the brambles and while we were working we heard Chiffchaff, Blackcap still singing. The first Meadow Brown butterflies were flitting around. Plants in flower included Red Campion, Common Mouse Ear, Common Birds Foot Trefoil and the first Common Ragworts.

The picture taken is of a final instar Forest Bug (a type of Shield Bug).

May Conservation Work

Spring is in full flood now with several butterflies coming to admire our work. Common Blues were seen for first time (earlier blue butterflies were Holly Blues). There was a pair of Brimstones mating (left) looking a little tatty this time of year. The food plant of this caterpillar is the Alder Buckthorn and it was good to see a few saplings of this tree on the edge of the meadow. We also saw both Speckled Wood and Orange Tip butterflies.

The area is transforming now with increasing patches of Red Campion (left), a brilliant patch of creeping buttercup and a large number of other wild flowers brightening up the area.

There is still bird song in evidence with Chiff Chaffs, Blackcaps and Song Thrushes proclaiming their territories. This can be expected to die off in the next few weeks.

As to the work, even with the good turnout again this month, at this time of year, we have to work hard to keep pace with the growing bramble and tree saplings. With this effort, we hard succeeding in making this little

suntrap a valuable ecological niche in Alexandra Park.

April Conservation Work in the Park

Very hot - to constrast from last month being cancelled due to the snow...

A very good turnout of 14 people to help us make a mark. Brambles were removed as were tree saplings trying to re-establish in the grassy area.

We were treated to some Brimstone butterflies passing through as well as seeing some 7 spot ladybirds and hearing some Chiffchaffs.

Dandelions were springing up all over, Wood-rush was seen, some Lesser Celandines were still flowering and Hornbeam, Field Maple and Norway Maple trees were all in flower.

The juice was especially welcome in the heat.

Reports from other Friends Work Days

Spring Litter Clear up

A good core of volunteers met up on an overcast Saturday to do our bit for the Great British Spring Clean. We were well-equipped with litter pickers and hooped waste bags. Why hooped? The bags are attached to a rigid hoop to make it easier to put the litter in the bag.

We set off from the Park Information Centre picking up litter on the way as we moved towards the South Slope especially concentrating on the bramble patches. We swept across the top of the slope and headed for the Rose Garden and the area below it.

What did we find? Nothing too shocking. A bobble from a bobble hat, plastic, glass and tin drinks containers, cigarette butts, cigarette packet plastic covers and, maybe a sign of the times, few actual cigarette packets.

About 15 bags of rubbish were removed from the grounds.

Some more pictures from the day.

February Conservation Work Party

This month we were joined by three of John O'Conner's staff to help us cut through more brambles than ever! Fabio, Ruben and Sarah gave us some good professional help wielding mattocks and forks.

Occasional hazy sunshine broke through the cloud, but the weather was definitely colder than of recent so the hot lemon and biscuits were more than usually welcome.

Quite a good section of bramble cleared and some (mostly) ash regrowth removed. At the end of the session all the dead plant matter was loaded onto a trailer to go back to the John O'Conner compost heap.

We enjoyed working alongside the park contractor's people and get a bit more of an insight into how they work.

January Conservation Work Party 2018

Sunshine, sunshine for our continued work on the Butterfly Meadow. More brambles removed. The progress is really quite impressive.

A good dozen people turned up impressive for mid Winter.

Looking around though, we have probably reached the low point on wild flower count. The only two flowering wild flowers seen were Grounsel and Common Ragwort. Looking forward to next month for more flowering activity.

December Conservation Work Party 2017

Due to overwhelming demand from members we reinstated a December work party.

A good turn out (over a dozen) to further clear brambles and remove some of the excess grass to lower the fertility and promote the wild flowers.

Not so much sunshine this time, but can't always win.....

Green grass, but by this time of year we didn't spot so many wild flowers. A few clumps of knapweed, last of the yarrow flowers and some sow-thistle.

November Conservation Work Party, 2017

No sun, but it stayed dry for us. After advice from an expert from the Wildlife Trust, we decided that a lot of our effort this month would be used in cutting and removing some of the grass from the site.

This made a change from the usual bramble attack although some were removed at the same time. Also, we reduced the height of some of the more spindly, shading trees on the southern edge. This should help light and heat levels.

A usual pause for juice and biscuits was welcome and gave us a chance to catch up on the latest Park information....

While working in the meadow several fungi were discovered including Inkcaps, Fly Agaric and vibrantly red coloured Waxcaps (left).

October Conservation Work Party

A good turnout this month in spite of the overcast conditions (or perhaps because of it!). While working in Butterfly Meadow no butterflies were seen - perhaps that is the last of them for this year. On the up side we did see a ground beetle. Also a type of Shieldbug was discovered - a Hawthorn Shieldbug pictured left.

Still some plants in flower including Knapweed, Common and Hoary Ragwort, Lesser Stitchwort and Pignut.

September Conservation Work Party

Yet more sunshine for our work in the Butterfly Meadow. The brambles have been further pushed back.

Instead of a picture of hard working volunteers, here is one the two Small Copper butterflies seen while we were enjoying the space. The only other butterflies seen this time were Speckled Woods and some type of White...

Friends Conservation Work Party - August

Warm weather greeted the Friends for their August Work Party. The Butterfly Meadow is starting to slow down its bramble encroachment so we are really making progress.

Lots of mini mattock work.....

During the time there, we saw quite a lot of Meadow Brown butterflies together with the odd Common Blue and Gatekeeper.

A highlight for me was this Violet Ground Beetle which we disturbed before replacing it.

July Conservation Work

Another sunny day for our conservation work in the Butterfly Meadow. It is a real pleasure to see the improvement. Just on this day we saw 7 different butterfly species in this small area: Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Large White, Red Admiral, Large Skipper and Common Blue.

Also seen were Common Carder, Buff-tailed and Red-tailed Bumble Bees.

Walking to one end of the Butterfly, it great to see the Parent Bugs sitting on eggs and youngsters again. (pictured)

Our continued fight against the bramble is bringing great results...

June Conservation Work Party

A hot, hot day for the volunteers in the Butterfly Meadow. We sulked a bit around the edges trying to find some shade, but this didn't stop us from removing a large amount of bramble as well as some invasive tree saplings.

There was a good count of wild flowers in flower including knapweed, birds foot trefoil and red and white clover. Also we spotted an Alder Buckthorn tree which is a great find as it is the food plant for the Brimstone butterfly.

On the subject of butterflies; Meadow Brown, Common Blue, Large Skipper and a White of some sort were seen during our work.

On the bird front Chiffchaff, Wren and Blackcap were still singing and a Kestrel hovered briefly over us.

May Conservation Work Party

It was a mixed sort of morning: hot when the sun was out and quite chilly when not.

Everything is growing apace in the Butterfly Meadow and bramble control feels somewhat daunting right now, but we only have to look back to a couple of years ago to remind ourselves how much we have achieved so far. Mark Evison, the Park Manager, dropped by and commended us on our efforts.

Flowers: red clover, mouse ear, common sorrel, sheep’s sorrel, creeping buttercup, bird’s foot trefoil, wood avens (herb bennet), knapweed, hawksbeard (possibly, beaked), creeping potentilla, dandelion.

Insects: orange tip butterfly; caterpillar of a narrow-bordered 5-spot burnet moth (pictured). (No yellow field ants this time.)

April Conservation Work Party

More sunshine for the volunteers in April. Bramble is regrowing strongly at this time of year, but we are making progress pushing it back.

During the work we saw some of the Yellow Meadow Ants which produce the anthills in the Butterfly Meadow - sorry no good picture.

Also there were some Oak Apples (a type of gall produced by a wasp) found on a Oak Tree in the area - impressive (pictured).

March Conservation Work Party

A dozen enthusiastic volunteers gathered in the Butterfly Meadow to continue our project to rid the area of brambles and allow grass and wild flowers to dominate this South facing slope.

Brambles were snipped and then dug out with mattocks. Had quite a bit of sunshine for first half of our work....

At our break for juice and home made cake (thanks Jane), a nursery web spider (pictured) decided to try out our picnic blanket.

Spring Litter Clear-Up in Alexandra Park

Thanks to an enthusiastic group of volunteers more litter was evicted from the Park after our first session last month.

The weather was sunny to aid our work.

This was all part of the National "Great British Spring Clean".

Litter Clean Up - February

“Winter is a good time to get out into the park and search out the litter which has blown into the undergrowth. A gallant band of members of the Friends did just this on February 4th, unearthing not only the usual haul of cans, bottles, plastic bags and crisp packets, but also a vacuum cleaner, children’s toys and a set of outdoor children’s furniture. However the prize for the most surprising find went to a life size inflatable doll (not inflated).

This was the first of two litter clean-ups we have planned for the park. The next coincides with “The Great British Spring Clean” weekend. We will meet at the Bedford Road entrance to the park at 10.30am on March 4th. Do join us.”

January 2017 Conservation Work Party

We continued to beat back the brambles to restore the habitat of the Butterfly Meadow. Winter is a good time to see and remove the brambles and it’s rewarding to see the difference we are making in this corner of the Park.

(Bramble picture from the Autumn.)

Friends November Work in the Butterfly Meadow 2016

Superb, scintillating sunshine for our November work in the Butterfly Meadow. We were nine enthusiastic volunteers gathered to further improve the area by cutting back another stretch of the area and removing the bramble and tree saplings.

The area is a warm, South facing slope which helped to make the Friends work more enjoyable. The great thing with working this time of year is that the brambles won't grow quickly back and we can further appreciate the restoration of the habitat.

All that is very well, but we were also very appreciative of our break the hot apple juice and excellent biscuits provided by Jane.

Bird life? A couple of robins were eager watchers on ready to benefit from our digging of the ground. Higher up in the trees, Trevor pointed out the sound of goldcrests in the area.

Conservation Work Party, September 2016

Perfect weather for pulling up brambles... Quite warm once we started working. There was further clearance of bramble around the edges of the area and some good removal of smaller brambles trying to encroach again on areas already cleared.

A nice pause in the middle to have a sip of juice with biscuits.

Pictured is one of the dozen volunteers who turned up on the day with a haul of the invaders.

Conservation Work Party, August 2016

Not quite as hot as the day before... only got up to about 27 deg C for the determined ten volunteers (count carefully in the photo and add one for skiving photographer). We tackled some of tree saplings trying re-establish and coppice stumps throwing up growth.

It was also interesting and heartening to see plenty of ragwort out to provide nectar for the insects (visitors and passers by). Butterflies seen included Small and Large White, Common Blue, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown.

Conservation Work Party, July 2016

Despite the threat of rain, a large and determined group tackled one of the remaining areas of bramble in the Butterfly Meadow. It is gratifying to see the wildflowers and waving grasses in the areas previously cleared – evidence that our efforts are worthwhile.

Beating back the brambles in the Butterfly meadow is thirsty work, so a break for (non-alcoholic) refreshment is essential. (pic)

Conservation Work Party, June 2016

As ordered in advance, sunshine for another work party morning in the Butterfly Meadow.....

The Summer Sun (yes there there has been a little) and the Summer Rains have conspired to invigorate the growth in the Butterfly Meadow. Unfortunately this has not just been the wild flowers.... ....bramble as well is fighting back against our eradication policy.

A good number of volunteers met up and cleared back some of the encroaching vegetation. During the lulls in work and the drink and biscuit break we saw plenty of wild flowers and insects.

Gordon found a Light Arches Moth. A Ground Beetle was seen by Trevor, but escaped the camera. Also seen was a female Common Damselfly, a Dock Bug, and as for butterflies; Ringlet, Large Skipper and Small Skipper (pictured).

The first of the Rosebay Willowherb is coming out and Ragwort is also starting to flower joining the Knapweed in providing sustenance for the insect population.

Conservation Work Party, May 2016

Yet again Helios blessed our efforts.... With the recent warmer weather, the brambles have started to emerge again and we were there to meet the threat.

There is, however, a lot more grass and wild flowers coming up inspiring us to continue the work. During the session, we identified some Common Mouse-Ear, Lesser Stitchwort and Red Clover among other wild flowers. Holly Blue and White butterflies flew past and a Peacock (pictured) stopped to bathe in the sun.

We enjoyed our morning session and especially our drink and snacks break in the middle! Come join us on another occasion.

Conservation Work Party, April 2016

Again sunshine for our morning on the Butterfly Meadow. We are still removing brambles and the results can now be seen with more wild flowers and grass returning to this important ecological area.

Sorrel and Field Woodrush with its interesting flowers was one of the flowers spotted in the area.

Mattocks are the tool for the job with mini ones and full sized diggers (pictured).

Litter Pick, April 2016

Great progress made again by our litter pickers this month. They finished working around the edge of the cricket pitch and amassed a lot more rubbish.

It was especially gratifying to hear from Green Flag judges visiting the park soon after that they were astonished at how little litter there was around our Park. Thanks to all that took part.

Friends Working in the Butterfly Meadow, March 2016

Back to the good weather! A beautiful sunny day for the volunteers for our April work party. One problem to bring hot or cold refreshments? Solution - both were available.

There was a lot bramble that had been cut by the Park Contractors, John O'Conner and one the main jobs was to rake it up, transport it for removal from the site.

Bramble roots were then set upon.

A few overhanging branches were also removed.

One great spot during the session was a Brimstone Butterfly that flew backwards and forwards in the meadow before settling briefly. (pic)

A bumble bee also settled on a dandelion.

Jays were spotted and a blackbird and robin observed our work, but the bird highlight was probably the pair of kestrels circling overhead.

Our next date is Wednesday, 27th April.

Spring Litter Clean-Up, March 2016

After several years of deep cleaning in brambles on the South Slope, we moved our focus to near the Alexandra Park Club.

We were not disappointed - there was plenty to occupy us. Luckily we had a turnout that at times reached 18 people.

The bramble and ditch around the pitches was well filled with and cans and wrappers and by the time that we had finished about 2 dozen bags were full.

Great enthusiasm from our volunteers and we were happy see that we had made a great impression.

Most litter lying around in the Park is cleared up quickly by Park Contractors, John O'Conner, we just concentrate on what is left.

February 2016, Work Party

After a nice sunny day last time, drizzle greeted the volunteers for our February work session. Undeterred we moved some of the logs from the felled trees down to the edge of the field before resuming the removal of the bramble.

More progress was visible with cleared area growing and the opportunities for more wild flowers to populate the area ever greater.

Hot juice and chocolate biscuits were very welcome with Park Manager, Mark Evison coming along to see the work.

The rain had by then stopped and all was right with the world.... Join us next time on March 22nd.

January 2016, Work Party

Another great turn out on another lovely sunny day to make further progress beating back the brambles. Park Manager, Mark Evison came along to inspect the work and offer encouragement. Dan Hackett (with a four-legged friend) also made an appearance. He will be giving our March Talk on Insects and he gave us some tips on what to look out for.

No cider for refreshments bearing in mind the sharp tools we were using, but hot apple juice was very welcome this time of year. We saw early the Spring coming on with a hawthorn already in leaf. The picture shows some of us at work as well showing some of the area already cleared.

December 2015, Work Party

A great turnout on a lovely sunny day for our last work party of the year. We continued our work beating back the brambles and restoring the habitat of the Butterfly Meadow.

After a good first bash, we relaxed with hot apple and biscuits to reinvigorate the work force.

Returning to the job, we were pleased to see real progress and transformation happening to this pocket of the park.

October 2015, Work Party

Pushing back the brambles further in the Butterfly Meadow with a good number of helpers. Two stages firstly the brambles are cut back and then the roots are grubbed out. All this will help preserve this habitat of South facing grassland. It is a great area for insects and on this occasion a large Ichneumon (Ophion obscuratus) was seen (pic).

September 2015, Work Party

Once again a large trailer was filled with brambles and self-seeded saplings by the hard-working group of Friends clearing the Butterfly Meadow. Despite thorns, ravenous midges and a torrential downpour, the group made good progress. The west end of the meadow is now clear of an enormous bramble patch and more grassy areas are being exposed along the northern edge.

August 2015, Work Party

The Friends’ organised another conservation work party in August.

We were happy to have a great turnout - thanks to all that came. Brambles were reduced from previous grassy areas. Also some unwanted saplings were culled. Progress is very obvious if you would like to take a look and hopefully more grass will colonise the cleared area.

We would like to think that this effort may have contributed to a recent sighting of a rare bird, the wryneck, in this area.....

July 2015, Work Party

We continued work in the Butterfly Meadow keeping control of the brambles and the emerging sapling trees. The sun blessed us and found out why this area is called the Butterfly Meadow. We saw a total of 8 different Butterflies and one colourful moth (Six Spot Burnet Moth). This reassures us that our work is well worth doing. The butterflies were mainly on the knapweed and ragwort. Also a large Emperor Moth caterpillar was seen munching on a young oak.

List of Butterflies seen:

Large Skipper

Essex Skipper

Speckled Wood

Large White

Meadow Brow


Holly Blue (pictured)


June 2015, Work Party

Colourful Burnet moths, Large White, Ringlet, Meadow brown and Small Skipper butterflies all came flew round to inspect our work.

We further cleared bramble and other vegetation in two areas of the Butterfly meadow to keep those critters happy.

The break for a drink and biscuits was especially welcome in this hot weather.

Finishing off it was a delight to see the various wild flowers blooming all around us ... Rosebay Willowherb, Oxford Ragwort, Knapweed, Creeping Buttercup, Birds-foot Trefoil and White Clover.

May 2015, Work Party

Dodging the odd shower, the Friends continued work clearing brambles in patches of the Butterfly meadow. Picture shows typical bramble plant trying to take over. It was great to see the difference to the slope at the end of the session.

April 2015, Work Party

Peacocks, Brimstones, Speckled Woods and Orange Tips were all seen admiring the work of a small band of volunteers removing bramble from the Butterfly Meadow. The sun shone and warmed the task. A break with juice and biscuits completed a worthwhile and enjoyable morning.

March 2015, Work Party

Old hands and new faces got together to clear away some brambles and tree saplings from the Butterfly Meadow. This is an important grassland area facing South with ants helping the ecosystem.

The weather was gloomy, but the Friends were in good cheer especially at "Break Time" when hot drinks and biscuits were partaken.

Quite a lot of progress was made and we plan to come back next month to continue the work.

February 2015, Work Party

On a blue sky day the Friends of Alexandra Park helped by Mark Evison, the Park Manager and Michael Conway of John O'Conner planted shrubs by the Park Information Centre. The idea was to help create a more attractive environment for both humans and wildlife.

So what did we plant? Hypericum, honeysuckle (2 differenct types), pyracantha, cornus (also 2 types), mahonia, berberis, contoneaster and hawthorn.

Some holes were easy to dig, but part of the ground seemed to be mostly brick and rubble. So after finishing the job by topping off with wood chipping, we were very happy to sit down outside in the sun and relax with a cup of tea and cake.

Annual Litter Clear-up

No rain and with the sun trying to break through, the litter-pickers gathered on a Sunday in mid February. We ventured into the deepest brambles and retrieved the cans and bottles carefully lodged there.

A dozen or so bags of rubbish were collected, but the good news was that this was less trash per bramble patch than last year. The park is getting cleaner.

Refreshments were gratefully received by volunteers at the end of the session. Thanks to all who came.

January 2015, Work Party

The Friends came back to the Butterfly Meadow to make a start on removing some ivy and brambles on the eastern edge and to remove some of the tree saplings that were sprouting up all over the area.

Half way through the session, the sun came out to encourage the workers! We then paused and were very thankful for some hot apple juice and biscuits provided by Jane and Robyn.

We returned to finish off the ivy clearance and branch out into more sapling reduction before calling it a day.

December 2014, Work Party

A good work session in December finishing clearing saplings from the path by North View Road and growth from the base of the fruit trees alongside the Redston Field. Two trailer loads were removed by John O'Conner's and the difference can really be seen.

October 2014, Work Party

On a damp Monday morning a small, enthusiastic group of volunteers met up near the Redston Field. The aim was to trim back root stock growth and clear some of the vegetation below the fruit trees (mostly Cockspur thorn and Crab Apple).

Time was made for drink and biscuits and a discussion of future sessions...

John O'Conner's (the Park Contractor) provided the means to removed the pruned material - two truck loads.

A lot of a progress had been made and a side benefit was to open up the path somewhat to make it feel a safer place.

May 2014, Work Party

A Working Party met to continue to clear some of the brambles and saplings that are threatening to take over this valuable habitat.

We counted 10 different species of trees all trying to overwhelm the area.

We removed a considerable amount and were very grateful to pause half way through our session for a cool drink.....

March 2012, Working Party

A number of Friends of Alexandra Park got together to clear the Butterfly Meadow of saplings.

See Butterflies for an explanation of the relationship between ants and butterflies, and why this work is helpful to butterflies.