SMCV’s final activity for 2021 yesterday was a day of clearing rhododendron at Spud Wood, on behalf of the Friends group. There was only a small band of volunteers (a few human and one canine) – presumably everyone else was shopping for Christmas, or similar – but we made a good impact on a tract of woodland over-run by rhododendron, and had the pleasure of winter sun filtering through the trees!

Hedgelaying in the snow

Nothing like getting into the spirit of the season by feeling the snow start to fall, but keeping warm by hedgelaying! That’s what some of us did last Sunday on the Middlewood Way, continuing the stretch of hedge we had worked on four weeks before.

Last Sunday (31st October) was the group’s first day back in action since the start of COVID, and it was great to be out on the Middlewood Way, taking on some hedgelaying with ranger Ed. Unexpectedly, despite torrential rain before and after the event, there was no rain during our work and even a little sunshine! Big thanks to both the familiar faces and the new volunteers who came along. The section of laid hedge has now opened up views from the Way, and we’ll be back on 28th November to continue the same stretch.

The first activity of our new programme is coming up this Sunday, 31st October! We will be hedgelaying on the Middlewood Way so whether you’re completely new or an old hand, this is the chance to brush off your boots and brush up on your bill-hook skills. Hedgelaying is an ancient craft which helps the environment and is easy to get stuck into; here are examples of our past hedgelaying activities. Please contact us for more information or if you would like to come along on Sunday!

We are in the process of finalising our other dates for the months ahead and will update the Events page as soon as they are confirmed.

John Agar

It is with great sadness that we have learned of the death of John Agar on 17 April 2020.  John was a very committed and enthusiastic member of SACV and right up until recent weeks he was a stalwart of the group, for many years our most frequent volunteer.  John was out with us most recently at Chorlton Water Park on Sunday 1 March, where he busily got stuck in to the construction of a willow arch.

John had a passion for the natural world and conservation and he especially enjoyed having more time to indulge these interests in later life.  In former years, John was a fixture on our residential weekends in the Peaks, until he “retired” from weekends away in 2013.  On those weekends, John continued his working life’s habit of very early starts, so by the time the rest of us were up John would inevitably have been for a walk to listen to the local birdsong as well as got the breakfast porridge, tea and toast on the go!

John was a founder member of the Friends of Chorlton Meadows, a group we have worked with many times over the years.  Having lived in Chorlton all his life, John was a source of fascinating memories of the changing local environment.

Since the loss of John, tributes have come in from the volunteers who have worked with him over the years: it is clear he was held in huge affection and warm regard, a vocal advocate for the natural environment, infectiously enthusiastic and always willing to share his knowledge with others, warm and welcoming to volunteers of all ages, good-humoured and good company.  He will be greatly missed.

Coppicing in Spud Wood

Today we were helping in a woodland a stone’s throw away from Lymm, called Spud Wood.  As in the past, we were working with The Woodland Trust and the Friends of Spud Wood.

This is a relatively new mixed broadleaf woodland, planted in the late 1990s.  It was planted on a former potato field – hence the name, which was suggested by local school children in a naming competition, and is a reminder of its historic use for growing Golden Wonder crisps!

We were coppicing hazel trees and, with the branches, creating a picturesque barrier along the edge of the wood, which cut off the ditch behind but should also prove a perfect habit for wildlife!

A great day out.  The weather remained nice and dry apart from a short five-minute burst of rain.

Today we were back at Chorlton Water Park.  There was a good crowd of us so we were able to work on a couple of different things, but mainly some maintenance of the willow groynes at the edge of the lake which we have worked on several times over the years.  These groynes are important in preventing erosion of the lakeside and in providing a habitat for birds and for spawning fish.

We also cut encroaching saplings from among the reed beds and used some cut willow to strengthen and maintain the arch by the wildflower area.

This past weekend was our first residential weekend of the year, working as usual with the Peak Park Conservation Volunteers and staying in their volunteer accommodation near Grindleford.  On both Saturday and Sunday we worked on reconstructing a set of steps on a steep footpath above Eyam – thirty-nine steps, pleasingly!

For our first outing of 2020 we were at Tegg’s Nose, working to clear some areas of gorse.  Gorse has a long flowering period, so is an important nectar source in early spring and early winter; plus its density makes it ideal for a range of nesting birds.  However, it can also take over and dominate a habitat, and the ongoing work to remove some here will better connect the Tegg’s Nose woodland and the higher heathland.

The weather stayed pretty dry (and even occasionally sunny), which was a welcome change from the heavy rain of the last day or two.  Ranger Martin introduced us to the iNaturalist and Seek apps, so we look forward to using those more.  And finally, it was great to have a good turn-out of volunteers – the best we’ve had in a while – so let’s hope that continues into the rest of the year!


For our last activity of 2019, we joined the Friends of Chorlton Meadows, this time to work in an area of grassland which (it is hoped) will return to being used for the grazing of cattle for part of each year from 2020.  Careful management and grazing at the right time of the year will help to maintain this important habitat. We continued work already started by the Friends to remove areas of bramble encroaching onto the grassland – and had fine weather until the very end of the day.