Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Another year - and no decision

Well, it's been nearly two and a half years since plans were put in and still no decision - perhaps the council are hoping we're going to forget about it and no cause any more fuss....hmmm.

It's been a cold winter so far, and the field has been providing food for hundreds of viisting birds. There was a flock of redwings here last week - migrants from Greenland, along with the usual types of gulls and crows.

The hedge has been alive with the resident sparrows plus starlings and robins - the hawthorn berries are now all gone, but the birds forage all day in the undergrowth.

A male and female blackbird have taken up residence in the large hawthorn. They may be the same pair that nested last year - but I'm not sure if they are that territorial as a species. We did not see any chicks last year - hopefully they will be more succesful this time around.

My observations demonstrate how important this site is for birds - if displaced there is no other area nearby that would give the same amount of feeding opportunity for the large birds and food and protection for the smaller species. I hope that this year brings good news, and all the residents here can be secure in the preservation of our locality.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Catch Up!

Well it's been a while since my last post! This is more because of little to report on the planning application than disinterest or lack of activity in other areas. In August the council cut the hedge back for the first time in two years. Although it was nice to see the abundant growth of the hawthorn, eventually the hedge would loose definition - so cutting back is better for the hedge in the long run. The cut will help it thicken up.

The crab apple was loaded this year - a damp but mild spring helped the blossom (see pics below) - the fact that it held so much fruit is a sign that there must have been a lot of pollinating insects doing their job despite the rain.

There have been a couple of article in the local press recently about our campaign. As a result I have been in touch with a few interested parties. The National Playing Fields Association have written to the Council in support, and also the Sports Council of Wales have been informed. Some residents who lived in houses that backed on to the field have e-mailed me some information about their personal recollections of using the field more than 40 years ago.

Here are some memories from Mary Hayman :

I was born in 5 Pentyla Rd and lived there till I was 10 I'm near the middle of 6 children - The oldest born in 1951 and the youngest in 1963.We had marvellous times there- making dens, having huge communal bonfires , pretending to be Lyn Davies doing the long jump in the sand pit, playing cricket, playing in the long grass round the edge, catching lizards by their tails, walking to school throught the field, climbing on the roof of the changing rooms and jumping down and running off when the keeper tried to catch us, lying on the grass finding pictures in the clouds, collecting flowers and ladybirds My mum and my brother Peter and I can remember there always being a hedge along on the left as we went up Pentyla, starting roughly level with the old changing rooms. My mum reminded me that we had frogs, field mice and a newt in our house on various occasions as well as finding hedgehogs. She can also remember celebrating the Queen's coronation in the field with the neighbours and eating ice cream on a freezing day (when my oldest brother was a toddler).

The Hayman family at Pentyla Playing Field early 1960s

Andrew Hayman adds:

I used to play a lot of cricket in the field with friends from Gors school like the Terry, the Carters, Rober Watkins. Sometimes groups of older boys would play and let us younger ones join in. We werent supposed to play on the well-mown parts like the football pitch and the caretaker would send us off from time to time. Widlife- I can remember catching grasshoppers in jam jars in the long grass. There was a hedge on the left at the top half of the street (and on the right, backing onto the houses in Townhill Rd.) What else? The Pentyla road Guy Fawkes bonfire, walking across the field to go to school, squeezing throught the hole in the gate along Lon Coed Bran. Playing in the snow and rolling enormous balls of snow.

These words show us how important the field had been to families over many years - 45 years after the photographs above were taken, my own children play football and fly kites there, they find ants nests, hedgehogs and strange spiders in the rough-grassed edges. We need to preserve this for the next generations.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

gulls and fungi

Since the article in the Evening Post I have been in contact with Mr Peter Gange, after whose father Tom Gange the field is colloquially known. Although in his 80's now, he is clear in his memory of the hedge and field. His is another voice to add to those who protest the antiquity of this site. He also told me that it was his wish for his ashes to scattered on the field - he was upset at the thought that this may not be possible. His once neighbour, Jack Vernon, remembers playing amonst the hawthorns in the 30's and recalls when the whole field was divided into three by hedges that were grubbed up.
So who will the council believe? The authentic voices of people who lived here half a century ago and their own publication which extolls the hedge's historic significance? Or one report by so called experts who say the hedge is less than 20 years old?

Today it's been pouring again and the field has been doing its job of soaking up the deluge.

Dozens of seagulls are here - perhaps feeding on worms forced up from drowned burrows.

The wet weather has also been good for fungi.
They seems to appreciate the grass cuttings from the last mowing that are rotting quickly in the damp conditions.

These ones appear in small clumps rather than in rings like the field mushrooms that appear later in the year

Hopefully we will get a summer, and we will see more visitors like this comma butterfly that was here last autumn, feeding on the ivy flowers. It was in the company of red admirals - although numbers of these were less than I had previously seen. Is this due to habitat loss? If so, all the more reason to protect small feeding sites such as the Gange's Hedge

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

newspapers,sponges and sparrows

Thank-you to the Evening Post for running a story about the field in tonight's paper. The council are sticking to their assertion that the hedge was planted in modern times - unbelievable! There are local people in their eighties who were born in houses that overlook the hedge. Hopefuly the article will prompt interest from anyone who has used the field in the past.

The council say that housing plans only take in part of the field - and then what? Stop?
A few years ago the council did a survey which said that the field should not be built on because of access problems and because a dangerous precedent would be set in relation to building on green spaces. This shows that there are sensible people at county hall.
Last year Derwen Fawr residents were successful in having plans for houses at Bishop's Grove rejected - lets hope Townhill gets the same result.

Last week it poured down. When you walk on the grass after it has rained, you can hear the water bubbling underfoot. Almost like walking on a sponge. How much ground water does the field absorb? The runoff from the old car park area causes a river down Pentyla Road - imagine how it would be if they built here! There was a programme last night about flooding - it mentioned that surface water flooding is caused by building on green areas that otherwise act like a natural sponge. Perhaps it is the old peaty subsoil from the ancient bracken that makes the field good at holding rainwater.

The sparrows are going crazy at the moment because of a lot of magpies in the area - they must be protecting their nests - I saw one harassing two magpies on its own - and winning.

Perhaps us resident sparrows should adopt this approach to the magpies of the estates' department...

The blackbirds are back and forth feeding their young - you can hear them almost screeching for food. The adults are careful that no magpies are around when they go to the nest - they perch in the crab apple until they are sure they are not being watched before diving into the hedge.

Please feel free to post any comments or thoughts you may have about this blog - thanks!

Monday, 19 May 2008

hawk in the hedge

The problem, from the point of view of the sparrows, with being marooned in this island hedge is that when predators are on then look out, you've a good chance of being spotted. The flock of sparrows was reduced by one this week thanks to a sparrowhawk. You can see it - perched in the centre of the bush - just after his dive-bomb. It's got light coloured streaks down its side - I'm told this is an identifying feature of a sparrowhawk. A couple of weeks back, another hawk became stuck in the hawthorn after misjudging his attack.

As I said earlier, the Ecological survey said there was no wildlife of any note in the hedge - how wrong can you get?

The Mayflower is in bloom right now - it attracts insects to its heavy scent, these are picked off by the sparrows as they move up and down the hedge. They crab-apple blossom has dropped already - but the ivy will not flower until Autumn, when it is visited by butterflies. I'll add photos of the butterflies later. (More of the non-existent wildlife!) The female blackbird has not been so active this week - I did think that she had given up on the nest for some reason, but I spotted her today darting in - perhaps she is being more secretive following the appearance of the hawks in the last couple of weeks. The bats have also re-appeared. They scan up and down the hedge just after sun-set - they seem quite large in size, bigger perhaps than a pipistrelle.

This picture show most of the hedge - around 60 yards long. At one time the hedge bordered both sides of Pentyla Road, which was an ancient bridleway that led from Gower in the West. Futher up Pentyal Road, on the South side are some tall hawthorns - remainders of the old hedge on that side of the road. These trees have preservation orders on them, As the hedge is the same age, why is this not protected as well? The Ancient and Important Hedgerows act says that hedges can be protected if they contain native species and are on raised banks - exactly what we have here!

(Picture taken with permission of parents of those children who appear in it)

This view looks down from the north of the field towards Cefn Bryn in the distance. The hedge is on the left. Graigllwyd Road borders on the right, Lon Coed Bran to the south. Originally this was common land - vestiges of this can be seen in the bracken that still occurs sporadically on the margins. The field ends in a point formed by two old droving roads converging at Graigllwyd Square - Pentyla Road was one - Graigllwyd the other. The field was enclosed in 1762, and divided into three. You can still see large Hawthorns here and there around the Graigllwyd Road perimeter, as wellas the odd mature beech - these are all are left of the original Enclosure Hedging. This is why it is so important to preserve the continuous stretch that is left in Pentyla Road - once gone it is lost forever. It is amazing that this area was saved from being built upon. It seems that the landowner, The Duke of Beaufort, retained this field for himself while other parts of Townhill were sold on piecemeal to other landowners and the corporation - possibly becasue it was the flattest space in the area and thus easier and more profitable to farm. Given back to the citizens

of Swansea in the 1930's, it is now in danger of being taken from them by the very people who profess to care for open spaces and the environment. There are no other open spaces like this for miles around. It is an irreplaceable amenity that should be treasured and preserved.

Monday, 12 May 2008

KItes back - sparrows busy - Mayflower starting to come out

Monday 12th May.

Single Red Kite over field yesterday - was mobbed by a herring gull so didn't stay long.
Along the hedge the flock of sparrows are really active - they are up and down all day.
I noticed they now have young with them - although they appear to be larger than the adults.
The youngsters follow the adults along the hedge line or verge. When they want food they lower their wings and are promptly fed.
The female blackbird is also busy back and forth her nest - she perches on the wire fence above the hedge and seems to check no-one is looking before she darts into her young. I have seen her take beaks' full of worms. The male blackbird also helps occasionally - but with bread crusts.

The Mayflower is starting to come into bloom as the Crab Apple blossom drops. The council have not cut the hedge back for at least two years - which means that the blossom will be profuse again this year - but I'm not sure that not being cut regularly is good for the hedge in the long run.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Save Our Field!

Hi, and welcome to the Save the Ganges Field Blog!
I decided to start this after seeing a pair of Red Kites overhead as I walked my dog over the field today (and they said there was no wildlife here!) You can see them in pictures on the left, and below.
The images can be enlarged by double clicking on them.

First some background: situated in Townhill, Swansea South Wales, The Ganges Field was originally common land that was enclosed back in 1762. It remained open farmland while other enclosed space surrounding the field was sold off for housing. The field was given to the people of Swansea to be used a school playing fields in the late 1920's. Now the Estates department of Swansea City Council want to build houses on it. This would mean tearing up an ancient Hawthorn Hedgerow - home to families of sparrows, blackbirds, bats, blue tits as well as butterflies and insects. When local residents protested about the building plans, the council commisioned an ecological survey. The specialist company which did this (at what cost?) came to the conclusion that the hedge was 'not likely to be more than 25 years old' - despite the council sponsoring a book in twenty five years ago that extolled the historic significance of the hedge. It is the last continuous stretch of 1762 enclosure hedge left in the area.
I'll now try to upload some recent photographs, so you can see why we think it's important that the hedge and field are preserved.
The picture on the left shows the Hawthorn Hedge with Crab Apple in bloom in foreground. The ecological survey said this was malus domesticus - cultivated apple! Even an amateur lioke me can tell the difference... The tree that can be seen further down the hedge is a white poplar. These trees were planted along with hawthorn to create a mixed hedgrow. Hedges such as this are now supposed to be protected under the recent changes to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

As time goes on, I'll post more photos of this field and hedge - as well as the wildlife around - (there's a blackbird nesting just to the right of the
crab apple) - and let you know how the planners are proceeding.

Thanks for taking the time to read this!