Bob Jones

Bob Jones MBE (Freeman)

The Cricklade Court Leet is sad to hear of the sudden death of Mr R.L. Jones M.B.E. on Thursday 4th January 2024.

Bob was a long time officer of the Court and Freeman of the Hundred and Borough of Cricklade. His passing will cause great sadness and sorrow throughout the Cricklade community. He was involved in many aspects of the life of the Town and worked, tirelessly, to help develop the unique ethos associated with our Town. His drive, enthusiasm and energy will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all his family at this sad time.

C Smith

High Bailiff of Cricklade

Plant Identification Course

Jenner Hall Presentation

Our course started with a welcome from our Cricklade Court Leet Town Crier Eric. We were delighted to have David Gowing as our tutor. David is the Professor of Botany at the Open University and director of the Floodplain Meadows Partnership. He has carried out research on North Meadow for 30 years.

Floodplain Meadows

David had prepared a fascinating presentation for us covering many aspects of floodplains with his deep insight into how they work and why this creates such  species rich plant communities. We were surprised to learn floodplain meadow soil stores huge amounts of carbon. One hectare of floodplain meadow stores 100 tons of carbon in the top 100mm of soil. David explained that research had shown we need to value the role of floodplains much more. Floodplains compare very favourably with peat bogs and woodland which receive  so much attention. This has led to tree planting on floodplains which actually releases carbon!

 

Many floodplain meadow plants are deep rooted as the above diagram shows (see explanation). His presentation generated many questions which David answered very fully with yet more new and interesting information.

North Meadow
Discussing the drainage channel

After a very enjoyable morning we set of to North Meadow to have our lunch, stopping on the way to discuss the plant communities in the central drainage channel.

Plant Identification

Next we looked at some of the plants characteristic of a floodplain meadow which are found on North Meadow.

 

We then headed to one of the most species rich areas of North Meadow and after splitting into groups attempted to identify as many plant species as possible with occasional help from David. We found the grasses challenging!

Recording a Quadrat
Examining our 1m by 1m quadrats

Soil Structure

David using an augur to obtain a soil sample

David explained the importance of soil structure in the morning session and used his augur to show us a soil core sample. We looked at the composition of the soil to a depth of about 80cm down to the gravel aquifer layer.

We headed back along the opposite side of the meadow. On the way we stopped to look at one of the dipwells used to monitor the water depth on the meadow at 6 hour intervals. Dipwells provide important data used to model meadow hydrology for the many research projects carried out by the Floodplain Meadows Partnership.

Meadow Restoration

Our final stop was in Priors Ham a restoration meadow adjacent to North meadow. David and Anita explained the restoration process which has been informed by David’s work. Much of this advice is available in the Floodplain Meadows Technical Handbook.

We ended our fantastic content filled day back at the Jenner Hall. We must thank David for such a brilliant course which everyone really enjoyed as can be seen from some of the many positive feedback comments below:

Well organised, friendly atmosphere – an excellent introduction to floodplain meadows. Has helped me to appreciate my local context and do more to support it. Thank you very much!

It was a really well structured day with context set by the talk , a lovely walk plus lots of helpful instruction in plant identification.

All very interesting. Not just plant identification but why the plants grew where they did.

 

Damselfly Identification Course

Damselfly Course
Jenner Hall Course Room

Our Damselfly Identification course started with a welcome by the Cricklade Town Crier and Court Leet member Eric. Sue Rees-Evans our tutor for the course then outlined the programme for the day to a full house of 12 attendees. The weather was very hot at 29 deg C with a thunderstorm forecast for the afternoon at the end of our field trip to North Meadow NNR.

Fortunately our room at the Jenner Hall was nice and cool. Sue explained the species of Damselflies and Dragonflies found in the UK using some stunning close up photographs. We then focused on the Damselflies we were likely to see and the key features used to identify them.

Emperor Dragonfly Female Egg Laying
Emperor Dragonfly Female Egg Laying © Charles J. Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0

Sue followed this with some very helpful exercises using photographs to practice our newly discovered identification skills.

After a nice packed lunch siting in the shade around the Jenner Hall we set off for North Meadow. Surprisingly as we approached the meadow entrance we were delighted to see an Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) ovipositing (egg laying) in Little Kent Close.

Field Trip to North Meadow NNR

We headed into North Meadow to find a shady place for our base out of the hot sun. On the way we saw some more Emperor Dragonflies which is the largest dragonfly in the UK with a wingspan of 10cm. Several course members also saw a Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly (Libellula quadrimaculata).

Inspecting Damselflies
Inspecting Damselflies
Black-tailed Skimmer Female
Black-tailed Skimmer Female

In the shade of some willows we closely inspected male and female Banded Demoiselles (Calopteryx splendens) and some of the many Common Blue Damselflies (Enallagma cyathigerum).

Red-eyed damselfly (Erythromma najas)

Sue explained how to carefully net and hold these beautiful insects without damaging them. As we headed back along the River Churn, in a stretch of open water with some lily pads, we noticed several Red-eyed damselfly (Erythromma najas). The bright red eyes are amazing.

After about two and half hours, with the sky darkening, we headed back to the Jenner Hall. Luckily the thunderstorm started just as we arrived.

Heading back through Priors Ham

Our day concluded with a session on sources of identification information such as Sue’s website Shropshire Dragonflies and how to submit records using iRecord.

We must thank Sue for such a brilliant course which everyone really enjoyed as can be seen from some of the many positive feedback comments below:

Thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile experience. Delighted to be given a copy of Britain’s Dragonflies. Course tutor never less than enthusiastic and engaging, in short one of the best courses I have attended.”

I’ve had a really enjoyable day and learned a lot. I’m keen to put the knowledge gained into practice

A very enjoyable informative day. I learned a huge amount about damselflies and feel much more confident in identifying them. Excellent organisation, warm and welcoming atmosphere.

North Meadow is Open

North Meadow
North Meadow Entrance
North Meadow Entrance 4th June 2023

River levels are down to seasonal levels and Natural England lifted the temporary closure yesterday. The fritillary season is finished for this year and the hay crop is growing fast ready for the hay cut later this month.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

Large numbers of birds around today including a red kite overhead. Skylarks, Reed Buntings, Curlew, Meadow Pipets, Stonechats, Lapwings and Yellowhammers all nest on or close to the ground. To avoid disturbing these birds please stay on the marked paths and keep your dog on a short lead.

 

North Meadow Closure Extended

North Meadow Entrance 18th May 2023
North Meadow Entrance 18th May 2023

Natural England have extended the closure of North Meadow until 16th June. The warmer weather and no rain in the last week has reduced river levels which are now lower than any time since February. Natural England are reviewing the meadow condition regularly and will re-open the meadow to the public as soon as possible.

Female Banded Demoiselle

Banded demoiselles, newly emerged common blue damselflies, brimstone and large white butterflies were visible from the entrance to North Meadow this morning.

Check back here for further updates on the condition of the meadow.

Update 27th May 2023

North Meadow is still closed to the public. River levels have dropped and the meadow is drying but still very muddy and prone to compaction damage. Natural England are continuing to check to the condition and hope to re-open the National Nature Reserve soon.

North Meadow still closed and flooded

North Meadow Closed

North Meadow Entrance 11th May 2023

The rainfall this week (37mm) has raised the river levels again. The growing hay crop makes the meadow look green from a distance but much of the meadow has 100mm of water in the grass. The paths are impassable and drainage channels have deep water in places where they cross the paths,

The temporary closure is in force until 19th May and it is possible that this may now be extended as  concern is growing for the condition of this internationally important habitat.

Check back here for further updates on the condition of the meadow.

Coronation Concert and Picnic

Our Coronation Concert and Picnic was a great success. About 400 people enjoyed the Cricklade Band Concert in the unexpectedly fine weather.

We are very fortunate in Cricklade to have such talented musicians in the Cricklade  Band to enable us to celebrate important events like the Coronation in such an enjoyable way.

Lots of people brought a picnic to enjoy while watching members of the Court Leet light the beacon.

Here are some pictures from the event

 

Thank you to all the members of Cricklade Band and everyone who helped to make this a special day.

Coronation 2023 Red-Blue

Court Leet Coronation Mugs

Cricklade Court Leet members visited St Sampson’s School, Cricklade Preschool Playgroup and Thames Playgroup this week. The Court is giving every child up to the age of 11, who lives in Cricklade, a Coronation Mug to celebrate the coronation of King Charles III on Saturday 6th May 2023.

A selection of Photos from our visits

Coronation Mugs

Coronation Mugs
Court Leet Coronation Mugs

Some of the children had made amazingly colourful crowns and it was very enjoyable to celebrate this historic event with them, and to give them a small memento to mark the occasion.

 

North Meadow is closed but drying

North Meadow 4th May 2023

 

North Meadow Entrance 4th May2023

River levels  have dropped quickly this week and the meadow is now drying rapidly. Ground conditions are still very soft and the pathways are blocked in several locations by water in the drainage ditches. Natural England have not yet opened the meadow to the public to protect the meadow from compaction damage. The temporary closure from 14th April until 19th May is still in force see  closure notice and map showing the area of restriction.

Great White Egret
Great White Egret

The meadow is full of birds feeding on invertebrates in the soft mud. A Great White Egret was feeding on Frogsham meadow next to the road this morning.

The Snakes Head Fritillaries have now reached the end of their flowering season and with more rain forecast  in the next few days it is not going to be possible to see the spectacular display this year.  The hay has now stared to grow and will soon be full of wild flowers still a wonderful sight when the meadow re-opens.

It is possible Natural England will open North Meadow to the public before 19th May if conditions allow. Check back here for further updates on the condition of the meadow.

North Meadow is closed but water levels are lower

North Meadow Entrance on 27th April 2023

River levels  are now dropping but 3 mm of rain this week and more expected today is not helping. The cold overcast weather is slowing the drying process, we need more sun. Although the meadow now looks green the long grass is hiding 50 to 100mm of water over most of the meadow and all of the paths.

Fritillary on North Meadow

The fritillaries are flowering in these difficult conditions see adjacent picture taken by Natural England’s Reserve Manager when assessing the need for continued closure.

Natural England have temporarily closed North Meadow from 14th April until 19th May and have issued a closure notice and map showing the area of restriction.

Red Crested Pochard
Red Crested Pochard (Netta rufina)
Little Egret
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)

It’s disappointing for those of us who would like to see the fritillaries but the soft mud is providing much needed food for lots of birds. Several Little Egrets, a pair of Red Crested Pochards and lots of Black Headed Gulls were feeding on Frogsham Meadow next to the causeway road today.

It is possible Natural England will open North Meadow to the public before 19th May if conditions allow. Check back here for further updates on the condition of the meadow.