Saltford Environment Group
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Public Meeting 20th August: Previously permissive footpaths
It has been announced by our Parish Council that a public meeting will be held at 7.00pm on Wednesday 20th August at Saltford Golf Club to discuss possible ways forward for the previously permissive paths which were recently closed. The meeting will be facilitated by the Parish Council; all walkers, riders and anyone else with an interest in using the paths, perhaps on a subscription basis, is welcome to attend.
The objectives of the meeting will be: (i) to enable members of the public to understand the history and issues around the loss of previously permissive paths; (ii) to gauge the extent of the interest in re-opening permissive paths in Saltford parish among walkers and horse riders; (iii) to determine an order of priority for any re-instatement of these footpaths; and (iv) to consider possible future arrangements including the establishment of private legal agreements between users of these paths and the landowner.
We reported in April the regrettable loss of permissive footpaths and bridleways on the south side of Saltford that have been brought back into arable use by the landowner following the loss of Government funding for providing public access under the (former) Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Permissive paths/bridleways like these are there at the voluntary discretion of the landowner, they are not public rights of way, but nevertheless they have become an integral part of life in Saltford. Our Parish Council has been investigating this issue and holding discussions with the landowner.
Footpath Maps. The 'Saltford on foot' maps, which were available from Saltford Post Office for £1 each, have been temporarily removed from sale as the information about the permissive paths is now inaccurate.
Annual Village Walk, 13th August
The annual Saltford Village Walk takes place this year on Wednesday 13th August starting at 7.00pm from The Shallows car park. It will last 2 - 3 hours, on footpaths with an option of going up to Kelston Tump (Round Hill). All welcome, dogs on leads please.
Remaining vigilant for ash dieback
[This article was first published in the trees section of our wildlife page in July 2014.]
Found widely across Europe, ash dieback disease is spread by the Chalara fraxinea fungus, a fungus that was found in England in 2012 after being imported in infected trees from Holland. It causes the crown of ash trees to blacken and wither, and eventually kill the tree, killing younger trees more quickly. Experts advise that the spread of the disease cannot be stopped, and are resigned to mitigating the worst distribution and impact of the organism on the UK's estimated 80 million ash trees. Local spread of spores, up to some tens of miles, may be by wind (including possibly from mainland Europe) whereas over longer distances the risk of disease spread is most likely to be through the movement of diseased ash plants. Movement of logs or un-sawn wood from infected trees might also be a means of transmission but that is considered to be low risk.
Chalara fraxinea is treated as a quarantine pest under national emergency measures and any suspected sighting must be reported. So far, no trees have been identified within B&NES but the Council is reliant on residents remaining vigilant. If you find a tree which you think is infected please report it; the B&NES web page with contacts for reporting ash dieback is at www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/environment/trees-and-woodlands/ash-dieback-disease.
If you're not sure that you've identified ash dieback the Forest Research Disease Diagnostic Advisory Service can be contacted on tel: 01420 23000, email email@example.com or the Forestry Commission's Chalara helpline is 08459 33 55 77, email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Forestry Commission has the latest scientific research and other information on ash dieback at www.forestry.gov.uk/chalara.
In and around Saltford, the landscape changed enormously with the loss of mature elms in the 1970s. As a result, ash became an even more important tree for wildlife away from woods and river-banks, and is a major constituent of native woods. Losing such an important tree to our landscapes and wildlife is obviously a major concern. Some ash trees may have a genetic resistance to this disease so it makes sense not to cut down healthy ash trees unless absolutely necessary.
B&NES Council adopts Core Strategy - Saltford's Green Belt not included
At the Council Meeting on 10th July 2014 Councillors voted to adopt the Core Strategy. Saltford's Green Belt is NOT in the Core Strategy as land identified for development.
The Core Strategy now forms part of the Development Plan for the District and will be used in the determination of all planning applications submitted to the Council alongside policies in the Joint Waste Core Strategy (2011) and those saved policies in the Local Plan (2007) not replaced by the Core Strategy. Following the adoption of the Core Strategy, there is a six week period during which any person aggrieved by the Core Strategy could make an application to the High Court under Section 113 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 on the grounds that the document is not within the appropriate powers, or that a procedural requirement has not been complied with.
Developers had sought inclusion of our Green Belt for housing development, something SEG and others had lobbied strongly against over a lengthy period. Whilst SEG welcomes the excellent news that Saltford's Green Belt has retained its status and protection, we naturally have concerns that other parcels of Green Belt land in the B&NES area will be developed including land East of Keynsham which will have a negative effect on the existing traffic congestion on the A4 and surrounding roads, quite apart from the unsustainability of developing such land.
The Core Strategy is the economic and planning strategy for this area's development over a 15 year period (to 2029) and determines where new housing will be located. It will be reviewed every 5 years however the first review will be timed to co-ordinate with the review of the West of England Core Strategies in around 2016. In terms of the 5 year housing land supply (plus a 20% buffer to provide for flexibility) that B&NES is required to identify, B&NES has stated the assumption that housing will start to be delivered on the sites removed from the Green Belt during 2017/18.
The next stage is for the Council to prepare its Placemaking Plan; Saltford Parish Council submitted the Saltford contribution that was produced by a small working party in December 2013. The purpose of the Placemaking Plan is to complement the strategic framework in the Core Strategy by setting out detailed development principles for identified and allocated development sites (other than the strategic sites allocated in the Core Strategy) and other policies for managing development across Bath and North East Somerset.
Further details and background information on the Core Strategy as it affects Saltford can be found on our Green Belt page >>. The adopted Core Strategy document itself and news concerning the Core Strategy can be found on the B&NES website from this link: www.bathnes.gov.uk/corestrategy.
Himalayan Balsam removed from Railway Path Habitat project
On the evenings of 3rd and 8th July a small team of 6 SEG volunteers pulled out and cleared the huge volume of the invasive, fast growing and damaging Himalayan Balsam from our Railway Path Habitat project. Having cleared this we shall be re-checking regularly for any fresh growth so that it can be uprooted to avoid the production of new seeds. It is important that we prevent this invasive plant from re-seeding itself so that there will be a lot less to remove next year.
Our priority has been to clear the upper parts of the embankment slope. The pilot area is a short distance towards Bath from the Bird-in-Hand Public House on your right as you cross the bridge opposite the old Rectory.
More information about this project is on the project's feature page >>.
For a description of why this plant is such a threat to the local ecology see see our earlier news item below.
Eating Himalayan Balsam...
Searching the web reveals that the seeds of Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) have a nutty flavour and have been eaten in India for hundreds of years (e.g. in curries or even raw). Research suggests that the young leaves can be eaten as a vegetable, the flower petals are edible (in salads and summer drinks) and, apparently, the young stems can be eaten too after they've been blanched.
We haven't tried Himalayan Balsam ourselves and are therefore not in a position to recommend its consumption, but we would be interested to hear from anyone in Saltford (or beyond) who successfully cooks and eats this plant. If it sounds good we'll share your recipe on our website. Caution: Some people can react to Himalayan Balsam so if you are attempting to eat it for the first time (at your own risk!), we suggest you try a very small quantity first...
Why Himalayan Balsam is bad for our ecology
[This article was first published on our widllife page in June 2014.]
Whilst many might agree that the Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is an attractive looking plant (see photograph courtesy of the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat) it is not native to the UK and its invasive nature is causing major problems for local habitats and ecosystems. It grows and spreads quickly and smothers native plants. It flowers from June to October; each plant lasts for one year and dies at the end of the growing season.
A serious issue for our rivers including the Avon in Saltford is that the plant leads to river bank erosion as it smothers out native plants and undermines the stability of riverbanks, especially when it dies down in the winter leaving the riverbanks bare and exposed.
According to the Government's Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) Himalayan Balsam is listed under Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; as such it is an offence to plant or otherwise allow this species to grow in the wild.
Supporting the ecological case for preventing non-native invasive plants like Himalayan Balsam from destroying the habitat of native plants and insects must surely be paramount if we wish to have a balanced, healthy, wildlife-friendly environment. For this reason it makes sense to eradicate this non-native invasive plant from growing wild in and around Saltford. Removal should ideally be before it produces ripened fruit capsules - each plant ejects hundreds of seeds a distance of up to 6 or 7 metres.
For further details about Himalayan Balsam including an identification fact sheet visit the Non-Native Species Secretariat website - click here: Himalayan Balsam - NNSS.
Stop Fracking in Somerset petition
The Stop Fracking in Somerset petition addressed to Somerset County Council and Tessa Munt MP for Wells (who opposes fracking) can be found at: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-fracking-in-somerset.
The petition states:
We call on Somerset County Council to reject all planning applications for exploration, appraisal or production of shale gas and other unconventional gas. This is the only opportunity for local people to have any say in whether their area gets fracked. Once planning permission is granted all decisions about the exploitation of our area will be taken by central bodies in London (the Environment Agency/DECC/HSE).
Fracking companies do not have to disclose exact details of the chemicals they will inject into our land (25-75% of which will remain there), because they are "commercially confidential". It will be impossible for local people to make proper representations about the planning application if they don't know what the chemicals are, so it will be impossible for the planning application process to be carried out fairly and in accordance with natural justice. It will necessarily be procedurally unfair and unreasonable (and perhaps also an infringement of the Human Rights Act).
For more information on this controversial topic, visit our Fracking page >>.
Next upcycling group workshop on 21st August
Our 'Make it Magic' upcycling group's summer meeting is in August rather than July this year. Do join our free workshop on August 21st at Signs of Saltford (works entrance), 559 Bath Road, Saltford, from 7-9pm when we will be turning the humble throwaway crisp packet into something practical and pretty. If you would like to save washed crisp packets in the meantime that would be good, but we will have a supply for you to use.
Open garden at Eastover Farm proved popular
Over 170 attended the open garden and wildflower meadow at Eastover Farm organised by SEG on the afternoon of Sunday 29th June. SEG thanks the hosts, Ray and Penny Buchanan, everyone who baked a cake, our Fairtrade Group, Signs of Saltford, Saltford Community Association, Saltford Girl Guides for helping with the catering arrangements, the local Tesco, Waitrose and Co-Op stores for donating Fairtrade cake ingredients and all those working behind the scenes to make the event so enjoyable and a success.
Proceeds from the event will support the Citizens Advice Bureau and also help replenish SEG's funds to enable us to continue our work towards a better future for our village. A small donation is also being made to Saltford Girl Guides as thanks and recognition for all they did assisting with the catering and for the construction and donation of a 'bug hotel' for the gardens.
The Great British Bee Count!
You can be part of the generation that saves the bees. There's currently no accurate picture of the condition of bees in the UK. It is known that bees are going hungry and homeless. A big problem is the loss of their vital habitat, with 97% of wildflower meadows gone in the past 60 years. Already more than 20 species of bee have become extinct and over 25% are under threat.
But you can help The Great British Bee Count by telling them about the bees you see to help scientists keep track of bees' health. You don't need to be an expert to take part, simply choose which bee best matches what you see in their easy to use free app. The app has been developed by charity Buglife, Friends of the Earth and retailer B&Q and it allows users to report the species, number and location of bees they spot between now and the end of August.
Can you identify the Swifts and Swallows over Saltford?
Even when our skies are grey, a sign of summer is when the Swallows, Swifts and House Martins can be seen flying their acrobatic displays overhead as they pluck flying insects and airborne spiders from the air.
They are welcome summer visitors to Britain, but can you readily identify the different species just from their shape when they are in flight? Swifts are larger and have longer scythe-shaped wings and short tails, Swallows have long tail streamers, and House Martins have a more dumpy appearance and much shorter tails (see the illustration below).
It is Swifts you can hear screaming overhead. Swifts appear to be all black, although close up they are dark brown. House Martins and Swallows both have white undersides with a glossy blue-black back but the Swallow has a distinctive red chin and throat.
The Sand Martin, also observed in Saltford, is similar in shape and can be confused with the House Martin but its white underside is divided by a dark breast band just below its head and it has a brown back.
If you want further information about these fabulous birds, our wildlife page has links to the RSPB web page about each bird (the links are on the right-hand side list of birds observed in Saltford).
[This article was posted on our wildlife page on 3rd June 2014]
Saltford Parish Council in 2014-15 - new Councillor
The Parish Council announced during May that it had filled the following positions for 2014-15 by election:
Chair - Councillor Duncan Hounsell
Following the resignation of Kim Johnson, due to pressure of work, a vacancy for a Parish Councillor arose. An election was requested and one candidate, Marie Carder (a member of SEG), was nominated by the 30th May deadline; Marie was therefore elected unopposed on 1st June.
Railway Path Habitat Project: Girl Guides show how to get involved
During the summer months members, their family and others can get involved with this exciting project to re-establish the former wildflower-rich rough grassland habitat on the west facing embankment for a short stretch of the railway path and cycle track near the Bird-in-Hand pub.
Occasional clearance sessions will be arranged by SEG to keep down the re-growth of perennial weeds and any new tree saplings, shoots etc. Check out our feature page for further details.
Many thanks to Saltford Girl Guides who spent the evening of 21st May pulling weeds and in particular Himalayan Balsam at the project's cleared area (see photograph). Their enthusiasm and effort in clearing so much of the re-growth in one session is much appreciated.
SEG's wildlife adviser, Will Duckworth, identified the invasive and highly toxic Giant Hogweed growing in a clump on the side of the railway path in Saltford during May (nowhere near our habitat restoration area). This was promptly reported to B&NES who took urgent action to destroy the plant. Contact with Giant Hogweed can cause severe burns, blisters and lasting skin damage. Presence of sap in the eye can even cause temporary or permanent blindness.
We have posted details about Giant Hogweed on our wildlife page so that you can be aware of what the plant looks like and the dangers associated with it.
We hope this is an isolated incident but if you come across Giant Hogweed in a public area in Saltford DO NOT TOUCH IT but report it as soon as possible to B&NES Council (Council Connect on 01225 39 40 41) and our Parish Council.
New rock exposure planned for the Railway Path at Saltford
Simon Carpenter, field naturalist and geologist, is co-ordinating a project to create a new rock exposure on the Railway Path at Saltford. The rocks here are approximately 180 million years old and were formed during the Lower Jurassic period. A superb exposure of these rocks can be seen along the length of Mead Lane, Saltford. These rocks are not accessible to the public as the outcrop is in private gardens. The new exposure on the railway path will link to other rock exposures in Saltford to form an accessible circular geology trail so that visitors can explore the local geology for themselves.
The Lower Jurassic rocks in Saltford are particularly interesting as they contain an abundance of well-preserved fossils. The coiled shells of ammonites are particularly common and can be seen built into walls around the village.
The clearance work will commence in late summer/early autumn to minimise disturbance to wildlife and people. The site has already been cleared of trees and is located between the Avon Lane gated access and the Avon Lane footbridge (if joining the railway path at the 'Bird in Hand', turn left towards Bitton).
Simon Carpenter, grew up in Saltford but now lives in Frome, Somerset. He has led geology walks around Saltford on several occasions in recent years and is very excited by the new project which has been funded by a grant from the Geologist's Association.
If you would like more information, please contact Simon Carpenter by email to email@example.com.
This year's tick warning & advice
Following the mild damp winter, health experts have warned that ticks, the bloodsucking, disease-carrying arachnids, appear to be on the rise in the UK. Residents and visitors to Saltford will need to be careful when walking in long grass or wooded areas where deer may have been present.
For advice on how to safely deal with ticks on your or your child's skin and how to watch for the symptoms of the bacterial infection Lyme disease (which requires prompt treatment to avoid complications), click on this link to the article on our wildlife page:
The value of deadwood to our local ecosystems
Dead and decaying trees have an integral and ecological value as wildlife habitat. In "over-managed" woodlands, for example, the felling and subsequent removal of trees and debris means that the amount of deadwood is greatly reduced compared to natural woodlands, thus impairing biodiversity and reducing the health of local ecosystems.
Rather than being a wasted resource, deadwood has many key roles in our environment including as a habitat and food source for many terrestrial and aquatic species; seedbeds for plants (including trees); a store and source of water, energy, carbon and nutrients (e.g. providing a steady, slow-release source of nitrogen); and a structural role that can contribute to the structure and functions of streams and rivers including providing a cover for fish, slowing the river's velocity, reducing soil erosion and regulating flooding.
Over a third of woodland wildlife is dependent on deadwood. Standing dead trees and fallen trees and branches provide a huge array of microhabitats. There is an extensive range of deadwood-dependent organisms including fungi, lichens, invertebrates, mosses and birds, many of them having very specific requirements, and some specialising exclusively on one particular microhabitat. This means that for all species to persist, deadwood of all sizes from massive trunks to twigs, both standing and fallen, and at all stages of decay from freshly dead until rotten away, are important.
In summary, a healthy, natural and balanced environment includes standing dead trees and fallen trees supporting numerous life forms that thrive on decay. It is therefore important that we resist the temptation to clear away deadwood and instead see it as a natural resource integral to supporting the many wildlife species living in and around our village.
[This article was posted on our wildlife page on 23rd April 2014]
SEG thanks paddlers for clearing the river at Saltford of litter
We would like to say a big "Thank you" to the group of 20 kayak paddlers who journeyed back and forth between The Riverside Inn and The Jolly Sailor many times to remove rubbish from the banks on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th April. The Riverside Inn supplied them with coffee and bacon butties.
They were led by Vanessa Hiller from the Avon Outdoor Activities Club and did this to clear our beautiful river of litter whilst fund raising for The Youth Adventure Trust (www.youthadventuretrust.org.uk), a children's charity that provides outdoor activities for disadvantaged children to help them build confidence and self-esteem.
They did a super job in clearing away so much rubbish and improving the look of our river. If you want to make a donation, their Just Giving Page is: www.justgiving.com/RiverAvonCleanup.
A significant amount of rubbish had accumulated on Saltford's river banks especially during last winter's high river levels that brought rubbish to Saltford from further upstream. SEG welcomes this approach from regular users of the river to help return the river to a litter-free environment. Vanessa Hiller has told SEG they hope to make this an annual event.
If you would like to borrow a litter-picker tool for litter-picking in the village, contact our committee member Tina at Signs of Saltford on 01225 874037.
Consultation shows strong support for Saltford station
The results of the Saltford residents' consultation survey carried out by B&NES Council on the possible re-opening of Saltford Railway Station have been released by B&NES Council. 370 questionnaires were returned. 68.9% (255) wanted a station at Saltford and 20.5% (76) did not, with 10.6% (39) not having a view. If a station was to be provided, 62.7% (232) said that they would walk to it and 10.8% (40) said they would cycle whilst 11.7% (43) said they would drive.
Chris Warren, leader of the Saltford Station Campaign, said "The positive results of this BaNES survey will feed into the report by consultants. I firmly expect that the work of the consultants will lead to a decision to take the project onto the next stage of detailed study."
The consultation findings are in line with the station campaign petition of our village during November 2011 which revealed support in at least 65% of Saltford's households for the re-opening of Saltford railway station. Approximately 30% of homes did not participate in the 2011 petition as either the house was empty (e.g. for sale) or the occupants were away when the petition team called, despite return visits. Of those residents that did speak to our petitioners, well over 90% supported the campaign.
Further information on the consultation results and the campaign to re-open Saltford station can be found on our station page.
Safer walking & cycling on Manor Road lanes
Residents will be aware of the public consultation in 2013 on the introduction of 20mph speed limits for Saltford's residential roads by B&NES Council; residents' responses were 2:1 in favour. Saltford Parish Council's Chairman Duncan Hounsell has since approached B&NES over his concern that both the lane immediately behind Montague Road and the part of Manor Road (lane) from the top of Grange Road towards the first T-junction in the Keynsham direction were left out of the original indicative diagram.
We can report that the response from B&NES has been that whilst the rural nature of these lanes would not normally be appropriate for a 20mph speed limit, due to local circumstances they agree that the 20mph limit should be applied on the Manor Road lane behind Montague Road and on the other section of Manor Road, between Courtney Road and Grange Road.
This is welcome news on safety grounds as it should help reduce speeding by motorists in those lanes which are in constant use by walkers, cyclists and school children. We understand that B&NES will advertise the necessary Transport Regulation Orders in April/May, with potential implementation in June/July of this year (2014).
Annual Saltford Dawn Chorus Walk, Sunday 27th April
The April 2014 Dawn Chorus Walk organised by the Keynsham and Saltford Branch of the Avon Wildlife Trust was held on Sunday 27th April starting at Saltford Shallows car park. 36 species of birds were identified on the walk westwards along the Bristol to Bath railway path. Birds identified included Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Black Cap, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Rook, Carrion Crow, Kestrel, Wren and Yellowhammer as well as the early risers the Blackbird and Robin, of course.
RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results out
The RSPB has published the results of the nationwide Big Garden Birdwatch, the world's largest wildlife survey, that was held in January when over 7 million birds were counted by nearly half a million participants. The top 10 birds observed (top 10 Somerset observations shown in brackets) were:
1. House Sparrow (House Sparrow)
Despite staying at its No. 1 spot, the House Sparrow is a red-listed species (highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action) and is down 62% since the first Birdwatch in 1979.
Full details of the 2014 Birdwatch can be found on the RSPB website at www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/.
Saltford Green Belt Inquiry: Secretary of State dismisses appeal and refuses planning permission!
On 4th March (2014) the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities, Eric Pickles, dismissed the appeal and REFUSED planning permission for the Crest Nicholson planning application to build up to 99 dwellings on Saltford's Green Belt fields south of Manor Road.
SEG welcomes this decision. The Secretary of State, on examining the evidence given at the Inquiry in August 2013 and the Inspector's report, overruled the Inspector's recommendation to allow the development. The Secretary of State concluded that the appeal proposals were inappropriate development in the Green Belt, harmful to the Green Belt's openness and harmful to the Green Belt's purpose of preventing encroachment into the countryside. He disagreed with the Inspector about the extent of that encroachment and attached considerable weight to that issue.
We have more information about the Secretary of State's dismissal of this planning application on our Green Belt page.
We wish to thank everyone who joined the campaign to oppose the proposed housing development on Saltford's Green Belt.
We especially wish to recognise and thank the Saltford Green Belt Campaign for helping to demonstrate the residents' opposition to building on Saltford's Green Belt.
We would also like to thank local councillors from all political parties who opposed this planning application, our MP Jacob Rees-Mogg for his advice and support, B&NES Council Planning Department for its work relating to this Inquiry, and also our Parish Council for its support.
As we have reported on our website in recent weeks, we are conscious that there may be further attempts by developers to build on our Green Belt. This important decision by the Secretary of State does show that the community was right to defend Saltford's Green Belt. We hope progress on the Core Strategy can be made rapidly so that we do not face a similar situation again.
Our evidence and further background information including photographs can be found on our Green Belt page.
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Saltford Environment Group
"Think global, act local"
Saltford Lock, a local beauty spot popular with visitors in the summertime. Photograph © Phil Harding
Link: current level of the River Avon in Saltford (recorded on the Environment Agency website).