Following on from one of the wettest winters that we have experienced for a long time spring is now finally showing its head above the parapet and is cautiously creeping into view. Trees and scrub are gradually starting to get their foliage back and the parkland is full of chattering birdsong as nests are built and male birds are competing with each other to find a mate. If one has the time and the patience to stay in an area long enough you may be able to spot where some of the nests are being built and occupied. One of my favourite places to do this is the white gate posts, where if you are lucky enough, you can see a blue tit that has made one of the posts its home, fly in and out of it with nesting material and later it will be taking food into its nest to feed the young that will have hatched within the safety of the cast iron post.
Another bird to look out for, to spot where they are nesting that is, is the Ring Necked Parakeet, which can be seen and heard flying and settling in the trees around the parkland. Many have taken over vacant nesting sites in trees and can be found high up in the boughs like the one below.
Also, if you have the time, try to catch a glimpse for the Goldcrests that one can now find in Hatters Wood and also in the Kitchen Field. These are Europe’s smallest bird and seem to flit from branch to branch very quickly but having spotted them myself I can say that they are worth standing around looking up in the branches for.
Having started their rut in October the Fallow bucks have settled back down now and have returned to their grazing routines again but for a few months from October and leading up to the Christmas season, the deep penetrating bellow given out by the mature bucks could be heard breaking the stillness of the early morning air. This sound would soon be followed up by the hard resonating sound of antler clashing against antler as the bucks fought over the right of them being able to mate with the does and to be in charge of the herd.
I was extremely fortunate to witness such a clash take place in October last year when two equal sized bucks squared up to each other. For once I was able to have a clear view of this happening as it took place in an open field and for forty-five minutes I was totally captivated with what was taking place before me. First of all there came the deep bellow from the buck that was already standing in the field with a group of grazing does suddenly their, and my, attention was drawn to the tree line when out of it came the contending buck. Head held high, it moved quickly across the field to only pause in pace long enough to lower its head in preparation for the clash, which was set to come.
With the does scattering the rut had begun. With antlers locked the bucks pushed against each other for sometime with each not wanting to give ground. Around them, the field, in places, had settled back down and the does appeared to take no notice of the bucks fighting each other but immediately near to them the area had cleared and with every rush forward by one of the bucks a bit more space was cleared. Apart from stopping twice, when both bucks were wheezing and breathing heavily and were drawing in deep gulps of air in a hope to quickly recover, the rut continued until the winner chased the contender off the field.
Now, as I type, all has settled back to the norm (if there is such a thing in the Manor) and many of the does will be carrying young, which will be born in June. One can only hope that they are left alone from being chased by dog’s etc.
Whilst on the subject of the deer I would like to ask all those that use the parkland to report any gunshots that they hear coming from within the park boundaries or for that matter anything untoward happening in the park to the Park Security Team so that they can investigate them. Their telephone number is 07904 805 872. When telephoning either the parks team or the police about anything please tell them what you are witnessing, where you are at that time and where the incident that you are reporting is taking place in a clear and calm manner as it all helps.
Noak Hill entrance to the park.
Once again the padlock on this gated entrance has been taken by someone who believes that this gate should not be locked. Unfortunately by doing this it means that unofficial vehicles can, and do, use this entrance to gain access to the parkland. User’s of the park should be aware of this happening as at times those driving the vehicles do not tend to go slow enough down the trackway. Hopefully this problem will be resolved but until then I would urge all park users to be careful when walking along the trackway leading to Noak Hill. Both the Parks Department and Parks Security are aware of this, as it has been reported to them on numerous occasions and they will be reviewing the gate security at this entrance.
Rogue Dogs and their owners
Over the past few months I have been hearing of (and seeing for myself) owners of large dogs letting their animals loose as they arrive in the park. Whilst many on the whole have well trained and obidient dogs there is a very small minority who frequent the area that think that it is ok for their animal to chase the deer and at times get into fights with more docile pets. One of the reports that have come back is of an owner who is letting his pair of dogs, a Belgium Alsatian and a Rottweiler, to not only chase the deer (and working as a pair the dogs tend to try to separate one or two from the herd), but is also not concerned if they go after other dogs as well, one dog walker is now not returning to the park as his dog was attacked by one of these dogs. (the owner of the two dogs has been reported to Parks Security about his behaviour to other park users).
Fights between dogs are fairly rare within the park, although the odd snap and snarl between dogs does happen now and again but this latest news is a tad unsettling. More so when you hear of one dog owner having to pay upwards of a thousand pounds for treatment to their dog who had been attacked when it was within the park. If anyone does see this type of behaviour from irresponsible owners please make a note of time and date and what you saw and report it either to myself, so that I can make other park users aware, or to the park security team so that they can look into it.
Litter picks for the year.
We have already held out first litter pick of the year which saw members of the FODP collect enough rubbish to fill thirty black sacks of assorted debris left by other users of the parkland. Seeing that we collected just under 70 black sacks of rubbish from the four litter picks that we held last year as well as various car parts, shopping trolleys, Christmas trees, buggies and vacuum cleaners, it would seem that we could be going past that figure this year. When ever we have conducted an event such as this we aim to do a different area each time as well as attempting to concentrate on the main pathways, such as the cycle path and main trackway towards Noak Hill, doing it in this manner each of us that turn up will get to know the park more. With more help we could cover even more areas and also pick up more of the debris that other people tend to throw away. With this in mind I would like to ask all those that live within the area of the park and who receive this newsletter to try to get to at least one of the forth coming litter picks that will be held this year if you can. Even if you can only give an hour of your time it would help. Litter picks are provided as are black sacks and there are people that attend each of these events who do any heavy lifting and carrying. On top of this it will give people a chance to meet up with those that run the Friends of Dagnam Park and where possible to discuss things that concern them (if anything) with regards to the park. Hope to see some new faces at the next litter pick.
The next litter pick that has been arranged by group members is to be held on the weekend of 27th and 28th April (next weekend) and as usual volunteers are asked to meet up in the car park near the Settle Road entrance for 9.15 with a start time of 9.30. Area (s) to be cleared of rubbish will be agreed upon on the morning. Please remember because of the wet conditions that we have been having it is advisable to wear appropriate footwear….hope to see some new faces there.
Held on 13th February at Myplace in Dagnam Park Drive, the Annual General Meeting was attended by a small group of members who heard a half hour talk given by Sivi Sivanesan, public engagement officer from the Peterborough based organisation, Froglife, on amphibians and also what to look for within the parkland in the way of snakes and slow worms. After which, the talk was completed with a question and answer session. From this start the meeting then concentrated on the groups main business of the evening that, being electing committee members and discussing the way forward for the coming year. With all of last year’s committee members being re-elected to their posts and reports given by the various committee members the meeting moved onto any other business where it was agreed upon that more communication was needed between the local authority, in the guise of the Parks Department, and the FODP as things where happening within the park that we, as a group, seemed to be the last people to hear of, (from the comments passed we were invited to meet up with members of the parks dept to discuss the possible introduction of cattle back into the parkland –which was carried out the following week – see next item below).
Cattle in the Parkland?
Havering Council (Parks department) have been looking at introducing a small herd of cattle into a few of the parks that they control under a land stewardship scheme and, among others, Dagnam Park is one of the parks that the council have been looking at for doing this. It would mean the erecting of fencing, in, or around, some of the areas that would be used. A kissing gate would be provided at either end of the fenced off area for members of the public to gain access too and from the field (if this were to happen all dogs would have to be on a lead when in the areas that the cattle are held). The breed of cattle chosen has been the Red Poll, a docile bred which has been used for many years in other local authority areas for grazing on common land as well as in parkland. If Dagnam Park was chosen as the favoured site for this project it is visualised that there would only be up to thirty Red Poll grazing at any one time (in fact the numbers could be less than that) and it would only take place for three months of the year towards the end of the summer months and into the autumn ones. As yet nothing has been decided upon by the local authority and the farmer involved, but when it does I will let you all know. I feel that this is a worth while scheme and if it were to happen it would need the support of the friends group of what ever parkland that is chosen.
The subject of the football pitches being placed into the nature reserve has been bounced around before ever since they were withdrawn some thirty odd years ago.
At our very first public meeting in 2003 the council plans for reintroducing football pitches back into the park were revealed and although they were then not connected to any pitches being removed from other sites within Harold Hill the plans were there for all to see what could possible come in the future. Now ten years on, plans on paper have become reality with heavy plant machinery churning up an area near the car park (which is also under revue to be enlarged) to provide football pitches for junior teams to use. Without going into the details of how we got to this stage in this news letter it is suffice to say that the general feeling amongst those that are presently using the park is that the pitches should not have been placed in the parkland at all. However if one is to look at the wider picture it does mean that there should be more people visiting the park and, hopefully, potential new members for the FODP. To see the plans put forward by the council please click here.