The Groundsman

March 2016

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Visit www.iog.org for more information and digital editions IOG BEST PRACTICE 23 the Groundsman March 2016 "The intention of the St George's Park's biodiversity plan is to embrace the site's history and to develop it by providing a haven for wildlife with walks and jogging trails, to complement its use as a training centre," says estates assistant Stuart Thompson. "The Park was once a royal hunting ground, the oldest living tree on- site is an oak which is around 600-700 years old, and there remains evidence of the old estate in terms of a memorial garden, plus lakes and weirs. "Our biodiversity plan is used as the base," he continues, "but as the site develops, the plan has been added to and other areas have also been developed for staff, clients and visitors to enjoy. Examples of this are management plans for woodlands, scrub land and grassland areas. These are based on annual work schedules; some tasks remain the same, year on year; others are rolling projects where seasonal time and habitats permit only so much work at any one time." Benefi ting nature and the community St George's Park works closely with BSG Ecology, which developed the original biodiversity action plan, and with Wardell Armstrong, the company responsible for the site's landscaping strategy and design. With representatives from these organisations – and including St George's Park's Alan Ferguson, Peter West (property and development manager) and Stuart Thompson, as well as representatives from Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and the National Forest – regular group meetings are held to discuss the work undertaken and future projects. Stuart is charged with ensuring that the actions are carried out. All new developments are subjected to feasibility studies, which are assessed by the group. One example of this concerned the construction of a new pitch, located on what was a known migration route for the Great Crested Newt, an endangered species. "In order for the project to go ahead we had to fence the area then install pitfall traps that were monitored daily for any newts and other amphibians; any that were caught were relocated to a suitable safe area nearby," says Stuart. "We also constructed hibernaculas using recycled materials from the site, to provide an over-wintering habitat for the newts. In addition, we now also maintain a 'relaxed' cutting regime on the surrounding grassland, giving the newts as much chance as possible to move through/around the area." To compensate for new pitch build, Stuart outlines how a programme of wildfl ower planting has seen species such as Oxeye daisy, Knapweed, bird's- foot trefoil and cowslip transferred to new areas. "In our Byrkley gorse area, there is also a wide variety of ground fl ora such as bluebells, wood sorrel, greater stitchwort and snowdrops and, following a clearance of some rhododendrons, this area has now been made accessible as a stunning bluebell woodland walk." In addition to maintaining a variety of habitats, fl ora and fauna, the team also regularly monitors the wildlife – including bats, and 37 bird boxes for blue tits, great tits and nuthatches. Stuart concludes: "I'm sure any grounds team could take something from this project, whether by simply installing bird boxes or sowing a wildfl ower mix on an unused or uncared for strip of land. Any change in the interest of wildlife, no matter how small, can only be of benefi t to nature and to the community as a whole. I would be very happy to advise or discuss conservation and biodiversity with anyone in the industry." l A modern take on the old estate By: Colin Hoskins A programme of wildfl ower planting at St George's Park Life does not always give us blue skies. Perennial is YOUR trade charity. We are here to help. Whether you're currently working, looking for work or have retired and are experiencing difficulties caused by life-changing issues such as accidents, ill health, insufficient income or benefit problems, our national network of highly trained Caseworkers and Debt Advisers are here to help you. General Help Line: 0800 093 8543 www.perennial.org.uk Debt Advice Line: 0800 093 8546 info@perennial.org.uk Enquiry Number: 0800 093 8510 @PerennialGRBS A registered charity. Debt Advice Service is regulated by the FCA. / YGAGRNDMAN

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