The Kite Festival was a huge success in searing heat, yet the Heath was very busy with a reported 6k people coming to see the annual spectacular. The Friends of The Heath also attended the Festival and got some great feedback and recruited volunteers, they will be reporting elsewhere in the Listing. Well done Rotary for again organising such a great event and for the huge team effort to clear up so quickly, Thank you to all who helped.
At last a few showers, is there such a thing as the correct rain? Well yes the gentle downpours in mid August were beneficial. This has helped the grasses to recover slowly and remove any potential fire hazard. The natural life-cycle of grasses sees the stems die and go brown as their seed ripens. The dry weather adds a stress which can hurry this process up. It is, however, completely natural for the Heath to go brown, just not necessarily so early in the season. There could be a knock-on effect in availability of seed food for birds later in the season: seeds may be smaller and may drop sooner.
The sheep are still being kept off the Heath south of Penn Hill at the time of going to press. We will keep you up-to-date with their whereabouts via The Listing, the map on the Heath Sports Club our website and social media.
It’s been a fabulous year for butterflies so far on the Heath – with good showings of Chalkhill Blues, Dark Green Fritillaries, Marbled Whites and many more. A few dedicated volunteers conduct regular butterfly surveys on the Heath and we await their results with interest.
A volunteer group conducted Ragwort pulling over the summer, as agreed with Natural England. We did not aim to eradicate it because it is not without its ecological benefits and we didn’t remove those that were already being eaten by caterpillars. Please remember, it is an offence for anyone to pick or uproot any plant on Therfield Heath unless prior agreement is obtained from Natural England.
September should see a cut and collect on Lankester Hill as the second best option to grazing, as discussed with Natural England.
If you are interested in volunteering on Therfield Heath, please contact Cynthia. firstname.lastname@example.org www.therfieldheath.org.uk
Enquiries maybe directed to email@example.com
The Conservators of Therfield Heath and Greens
are holding an Open meeting in Royston Town Hall
on Thursday, 11th October starting at 7:00 PM.
The Conservators recognise the high level of public interest in Therfield Heath and Greens and wish to share their current thoughts on the management of the Heath and Greens.
They’d also like to hear from members of the public their thoughts on the Heath.
This meeting will also be an opportunity for the principal users of the Heath to report to the public about their activities
You may not be aware quite how much it costs us to dispose of your rubbish – around £7500 a year. It seems a real shame that people cannot simply take their litter home – it is, after all, the responsibility of those generating the litter. Sadly, it means £7500 that can’t be spent on site maintenance.
Flora and Fauna
Therfield Heath is a nationally important nature reserve. It supports and incredible diversity of rare flowers and insects. In early June, we found a shieldbug that has not been recorded in Hertfordshire before. In July, the Chalkhill Blue butterfly will be on the wing – a butterfly that is dependent not only on its larval foodplant (Horseshoe Vetch) but also on ants to look after it during its underground chrysalis phase.
This the second update from The Conservators of Therfield Heath & Greens and with improving weather comes increased usage by all which has meant that the introduction of signs has been made to help.
You will have seen four new signs have been placed to protect the ground nesting birds on Lankester Hill. Meadow Pipits and Skylarks are in abundance until July so we ask that to stop dogs quartering either take a wide berth or have them on a lead in this area.
Church Hill & Jubilee Wood
It is a sad fact that some people cannot respect nature and we have had instances where the rare Pasqueflower has been dug up by collectors and this is illegal and liable to prosecution, if you know who it is please notify the Police.
Jubilee Wood now has an abundance of flowers and we ask that you stick to the paths whilst walking through.
The sheep will return to the heath in June. We will keep you up-to-date with their whereabouts via The Listing, the map on the Heath Sports Club our website and social media.
The latest update from The Conservators of Therfield Heath & Greens finds us in the height of summer having had most of June and July without rainwater. This has had a major effect on the grasses which like everyone’s garden has turned brown and the ground under foot is very hard and is a potential fire hazard.
The lighting of fires is a criminal offence and is liable for prosecution and common sense would suggest that any naked flame is dangerous on such dry ground and we prefer not to have even more signs out to spoil the view.
It’s been a fabulous year for butterflies so far on the Heath – with good showings of Chalkhill Blues, Dark Green Fritillaries, Marbled Whites and many more. We have seen many Lizards but none as big as the nesting Monitor Lizards found in the woods which caused the RSPCA to be called out. A big thank you goes to the keen eyes of the dog walkers who are our eyes and ears.
With the summer holidays well under way people using the Heath for picnics need to be considerate of where they are and please make sure you take your rubbish home with you. It costs the Conservators 7.5k PA to remove rubbish and dog bins.
A few instances of holes being dug & BBQs being lit up on Church Hill means we politely ask that no one picnic here as it is the most important & ecologically sensitive nature area for rare flora on the whole Heath. There are of course plenty of other places on the Heath to enjoy the views and have a picnic
The signs placed to protect the ground nesting birds on Lankester Hill have now been removed. Both the Meadow Pipits and Skylarks had a successful breading season and we thank everybody for their consideration.
Meanwhile the hot weather delayed the introduction of the Sheep until July and they have not been very happy up on Penn Hill (map included) In fact the owner has had four occasions where the sheep have been disturbed and broken from their enclosure and meant that they were removed for their safety until further notice.
We will keep you up-to-date with their whereabouts via The Listing, the map on the Heath Sports Club our website and social media.
Our next volunteer task will be ragwort pulling, as agreed with Natural England. Ragwort is deemed harmful and we have a duty to keep it under control and not to allow it to spread. We will not aim to eradicate it because it is not without its ecological benefits and we won’t remove those that are already being eaten by caterpillars. Please remember, it is an offence for anyone to pick or uproot any plant on Therfield Heath unless prior agreement is obtained from Natural England.
Finally, The Friends of Therfield Heath & Greens championed by Rod Kennedy have met and appointed a committee. They will be launching at the Kite Festival on August 5th and will be looking to recruit volunteers who are passionate about the future of Therfield Heath, so please come along and say hello to the team.
The Conservators of Therfield Heath & Greens held their first ever public forum in April at Royston Town Hall, with over eighty people attending.
The forum was to encourage interaction with the users of the Heath. “Friends of Therfield Heath” was proposed & well received. As were presentations from Grazing, Dog Poo Patrol, Archery, Golf, Cricket, Rugby, Heath Sports and the Police.
John King, chairman of the Conservators, advised that with Royston expanding and the increased usage of the Heath, “Education” was top of the conservator’s agenda and work had already started on improving the level of communication to the users of Therfield Heath with further public meetings planned.
We are asking for dogs to be kept on leads in the Lankester Hill area while the ground-nesting birds attempt to breed (until the end of July). Breeding success is severely reduced by disturbance; the more they are scared off their nests, the lower their chance of success. We have populations of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits – the Skylark is on the UK red list (highest conservation priority), while the Meadow Pipit is on the amber list – so both need as much help as we can give them. Please do your bit to help by respecting signs requesting dogs to be on leads.
The sheep will return to the heath towards the end of May/beginning of June. We will keep you up-to-date with their whereabouts via The Listing our website and social media.
With the continuded very hot dry weather please take extra care on the Heath. Of course all fires and BBQs are against the byelaws but please ensure all cigarette butts are cold and placed into a rubbish bin.
If the grass does catch fire it could spread very swiftly with danger to life and property and all the wild life on the Heath
After many difficulties, the sheep have left the Heath. We hope this will only be for a short time.
The enquiry result has been published and you can read it here.
Conservators are naturally disappointed with the Planning Inspectorate’s decision. They will now consider their options for both the immediate and long-term future.
The losers here are all the users of the Heath. The growth of Royston and district means increased pressure on the Heath. There is a real need for increased spending to maintain for all users what is this unique and precious place.
We recognise the current high level of increase of concern about the action of the conservators.
This is the first open meeting the Conservatives have held with the members of the Joint Advisory Committee. All those organisations, tenants, sports clubs with an interest in the Heath are invited to The Joint Advisory Committee. There they report to the other users of the Heath their activities and their concerns. Tonight for the first time they will also be reporting also to you the members of the public. This is not a decision-making meeting but a Joint Advisory Meeting the key word is advisory, conservators will listen to all concerns and then take those views into account at our normal decision-making conservators meeting.
The Big event has been our deregistration request for the land on Briary Lane. This is the most significant decision by the Conservators since the land was bought by our predecessors from the Church Commissioners. As the Conservators look to the future they can only see more and greater use of the Heath by members of the public. Royston is growing as are the towns and villages around it. What was good practice and sufficient management on the Heath 10 to 15 years ago is no longer so. There is urgent need for education of the all users of the Heath. Our current income and our income for the foreseeable future simply will not cover the costs that this extra use will make on the Heath. We need at least one full time warden to help educate and improve every ones understanding of how the heath works, also explaining where the sheep will be but also why the sheep are there and how necessary they are for improving the grass. To fund this we need a large injection of capital. This will then be invested to provide the endowment income to maintain the Heath for the next generations.
With this in mind the Conservators started the process to apply for planning permission and ultimately deregister the land the corner of Sun Hill on Briary Lane in March 2013. Planning permission was granted on 29th May 2105 and the deregistration application was made on 6th January 2017. The initial decisions taken by the then conservators not to engage in a public debate was flawed. But it is too late to turn back the clock, going forwards the current conservators recognise the need to have a better public image and with this in mind today’s meeting was called and going forwards we will have 6 monthly open meetings.
In April 2016 we were approached by Gladmans under conditions of confidentiality, they told us they were hoping to apply for planning permission to develop land further to the south of Briary Lane. We met with representatives from Gladmans who informed us that their client claimed ownership of the whole of Briary Lane. We had no comment. We reserved our position. We then received an offer of an option agreement with Gladmans.
We rejected this offer. We have no agreement, written, oral, or suggested with Gladmans. We have not met them since that initial meeting.
We can understand why people on social media and in other meetings think there is some form of agreement between the conservators/trustees. I repeat what I said at the annual general meeting, there is no agreement with Gladmans or anyone else.
The Conservators are the managers of the Heath, they are also the trustees of the Therfield Regulation Trust who owned the Heath. As trustees of the charity they must consider the wider need of the whole of the charity. To fail to do so would be a dereliction of duty.
Ongoing maintenance of the Heath has continued. Without continuous work the scrub will slowly envelop the Heath. In 2018 we have concentrated on the area above the rifle range and once the weather becomes drier you will see the benefit in the wide range of wildflowers growing in the area. We are delighted that after very many years a group of conservation volunteers has now been formed. This is not an easy and simple operation. Firstly we need a qualified experienced and enthusiastic person to manage these conservation volunteers. When Cynthia Combe was elected a conservator I recognised that we had the right person to provide the energy and knowledge to get the Heath Volunteers up and running. Last weekend saw their first work party start on Church Hill removing scrub from this very important area.
It has recently been made abundantly clear that a proportion of people still think that we the conservators favour sport over nature. This I can assure everyone is not true. Sport is an important part of our delivery system and the revenue that we receive from the clubs that use the heath is used to fund some of the environmental work that is done on the heath. The most important legacy that the current conservators can do is leave the Heath in a better environmental state and with solid financial footings to help fund its future.
When I became a conservator all the grassland was rated as poor by Natural England over the years through the hard work of many people and in particular the grazier the grass has improved dramatically. Most of the grass is now placed in the second highest tier (improving). Some areas of the heath have up to 16 separate vegetation species. The work that goes into keeping the heath in the way you find it today is enormous, The management of the heath itself would keep two full time employees very busy as it is we have our clerk who is part time and those elected as conservators who are voluntary. With greater funding the more habitat improvement work could be done and greater benefits for all users of the heath.
You heard from Natural England in their written report of the user survey that they had commission on the Heath. This would be discussed at the meeting called by Natural England next week. We hope it will inform us and the main users of the Heath how we can protect the Heath and at the same time encourage people to enjoy the unique and special place that is Therfield Heath. .