Newsletter – February 2024

A big thank you to everyone who provided feedback on the first Natural Basingstoke Newsletter. My aim is to issue these (roughly) monthly and over time I hope that we can showcase the fantastic work that happens on sites around Basingstoke. At the point that I’m writing this more than half of you have returned your questionnaires. Aside from the common themes of recruitment, and training, the key things that groups would like more of are:
– support to conduct species surveys
– access to a seed bank
– opportunities to exchange ideas with other groups.
Over the coming weeks watch out for more information on these themes as I get to grips with how we can address them. This month we have contributions from Kempshott Conservation Group and Marnel & Popley Group.  If you’d like to include something in a future newsletter, please contact me via the email address below.  
Best wishes Gill 
admin@naturalbasingstoke.org.uk
Latest News
NB Groups/ Our ‘Green’ Partners  
NB Groups
Corporate Work Party – Kempshott Conservation Group (Steve Goodwin) – At the end of January, KCG had our first Corporate Work Party – attended by Martin Brower (a logistics company on Daneshill). We tasked them with using tree poppers to remove blackthorn (a heavy-duty task that could not easily be completed by our group), they loved it and did a great job! In contrast to Community Payback (which is supervised by the probation service – who do not have conservation experience), Corporate Work Parties are generally supervised by the Rangers. There is less need for group involvement, however, based on experience, my observations are:
– corporate groups work best on a well-defined job where they can see results at the end of the session
– it is important to attend at the beginning to explain what is required and WHY
– you need to hang around for an hour or so, ideally working alongside them, to keep an eye on how things are progressing
– it is important to turn up at the end of the session to recover your tools; see how they have got on and most importantly to heap praise where appropriate!
Some of our groups are struggling to complete major tasks which require a high level of resource. If this is you, when you are planning next season’s work with the Rangers, I thoroughly recommend booking some Corporate Work Parties to undertake agreed tasks. 
3rd Party News

Big Garden Bird Watch 2024 – Marnel and Popley Ponds Group (Jessica Cross) – On a beautiful Saturday morning, we linked up with Peter Hutchins (who leads the local RSPB group) to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch. We first visited Popley Ponds where, with the aid of the ‘eagle-eared’ Peter, we spotted some amazing species including a Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Greenfinch, Bullfinch and Goldcrest. At the later HIWWT Wildlife Watch Big Garden Birdwatch event at Eastrop we were lucky enough to spot a beautiful Kingfisher. RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch is the UK’s biggest citizen science wildlife survey and aims to understand how bird numbers are faring and to map any increases or decreases in species across the UK. According to the RSPB we have lost a shocking 38 million birds from UK skies in the last 60 years! Citizen science projects are another way that NB members can help support our wildlife – look out for future events and initiatives on the NB website.
 
Voice for Nature
The Local Plan, Local Nature Recovery Strategy & Planning – In late January the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust ran an excellent workshop to seek input into the Local Nature Recovery Strategy, which was attended by members of Hatch Warren, Overton Hill, Loddon Vale Parks, and Marnel & Popley groups. We are currently awaiting the output of this which will capture local priorities for nature conservation and areas to be protected, including ‘green’ and ‘blue’ corridors which connect important locations used by particular species. Last week, I attended my first Council Planning Meeting – to object to the design of a new development in northern Basingstoke. Some of our members also submitted written objections to Oakdown Farm – the large warehousing complex at junction 7 of the M3. Development across the borough continues to present a challenge for our wildlife, we are intending to use the consultation process for the Local Plan to propose some changes in policy to ensure that biodiversity is properly considered when planning applications are submitted.
 
Nature Notes
Amphibians – Over the coming weeks, the amphibian breeding season will be well underway. It is progressively starting earlier in the year – a worrying indicator of the impact of global warming. Whilst the Common Frog population is more stable, the Common Toad population has declined by 68% over the last 30 years, largely due to the loss and fragmentation of its habitat and other human damage to the environment. Several of our sites have ponds, and the groups that manage them spend part of the work season coppicing trees on rotation to improve ground cover, which helps amphibians by supporting moisture retention in the soil and reducing predation. Garden ponds provide an excellent refuge for frogs and toads, if you fancy building one to help our amphibian friends guidance can be found here: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/actions/how-build-pond.
Training Courses/ Events
Training – Dates for your diary
– May: “Introduction to invertebrates” – provisional date 25th
– June: “Butterfly Identification and introduction to butterfly surveying” – provisional date 22nd
– June: “Introduction to flora identification” – provisional date 23rdInvitations will be issued via Eventbrite.
Events
BDBC has given us approval to run a mini “Bioblitz” at Old Down, during the summer. The aim being to support both recruitment for our groups and public education about nature conservation. Green Week takes place from 8th – 18th June, several groups are planning events including bug hunts and, pond dipping and we are exploring whether we can use a vacant unit in Festival Place as a ‘pop-up’ location for promoting nature conservation.  If you are planning an event, do let me know and we can publicise it via the website and social media.
 
Reminders…
Questionnaires
If you have not already done so, it would be appreciated if someone in your group could complete your ‘NB Member Survey’. This was designed specifically to ensure that NB activity is aligned with what conservation groups across the borough actually need. 
NB Website
A number of volunteers have expressed an interest in working at multiple sites. If this interests you, all our work parities (and similar events by third parties) can be found on the NB website: http://naturalbasingstoke.org.uk/conservation-groups-sites/.