What is the living landscape?
The Langdon Living Landscape was established in 2012, in keeping with a nationwide strategy, initiated by the Wildlife Trusts. Thus the Essex Wildlife Trust has been instrumental in setting up an initial fifteen such living landscapes, with a view to establishing more in the future.
The aim is to encourage landscape-scale conservation, where possible linking up wildlife-rich sites so that wildlife can move more freely across the landscape. Thus we seek to address the problem of species becoming restricted to just a few protected sites, where their longer-term chances of survival are at increasing risk ~ from accident, inclement conditions, genetic inbreeding, etc.
There are other aims as well. In addition to protecting and maximising biodiversity, it is hoped to encourage economic sustainability where that is practicable ~ supporting local businesses and encouraging communities to engage actively with their environment, through volunteered effort, education and initiative.
Various exciting projects are anticipated. The Langdon ridge used to have a lot of orchards of different kinds, with several local fruit varieties. It is possible to identify some of the trees that remain, with a view to propagating and planting new stock, including in community orchards.
It is also hoped to see more of the ancient woodlands brought back into regular coppice management, after very lengthy periods of neglect during the past century. Meanwhile the considerable areas of more recent (‘secondary’) woodland are increasingly being treated as coppice, thereby promoting the wildlife interest.
The Langdon Living Landscape extends right along the ridge, from Dunton and the margins of Horndon in the west to Basildon golf course and Vange Heights in the east. Thus it encompasses the precious green lung which is so important for folk living in the surrounding urban communities.
Click here For more information on The Wildlife Trusts 'Living Landscape' project.
Map showing the area coverered by The Langdon Hills Living Landscape project: Click here to view a larger version of this map
Click here to view a PDF version of this booklet
Song birds Disappearing from our Midst
In recent years there has been increasing concern about the decline of some of the songbirds which hitherto were such a delightful and reliable feature of Langdon Hills.
We appear to have lost our Nightingales and Turtle Doves, there having been extremely few reports of singing males of these two species in the last three years. There is a marked decline in the number of Cuckoos and precious few Willow Warblers remain in our midst.
The number of Yellow Hammers and Corn Buntings has also declined steadily. Fortunately the population of Skylarks (a species declining elsewhere) appears to be stable.
However, it is saddening to contemplate the birds that have gone – joining the Tree Pipits and Red-backed Shrikes which used to be characteristic of the area, half a century or so ago.
Langdon Living Landscape would like to invite you to help us to create a more accurate picture of the status of the six birds shown below. By clicking on each of the birds you will be taken the RSPB website where you can play a recording of the bird’s song or call and find more detailed information on the species. We would course be delighted to receive reports of sightings however it is more likely that the birds will be heard rather than seen.
So please let us know if you encounter any of these birds on the Langdon Ridge by contacting the BNHS website via the ‘Recent Sightings’ page.
Langdon Living Landscape Projects Update
A total of six ponds, located at various points along the Langdon ridge, were cleaned and partially desilted during January 2014. This was done as part of a programme which aims to revitalise these important features of the traditional landscape, enabling them to continue to support wildlife for many years to come.
All six had become increasingly clogged with silt, and in most cases were overshadowed by trees and bushes, reducing the amount of sunlight reaching them while causing increasing acidification on account of leaf-fall. In some cases there was a serious build-up of reed-mace, and one of them had a major problem of rubbish and fly-tipped debris. Two big trailer-loads of lorry tyres, and another of general rubbish, were removed.
This work was done during the depth of winter, in accordance with advice by Natural England. In this way, the short-term impact upon wildlife was minimised. It is expected that natural recovery will take place with the onset of spring, and that these ponds will become beautiful and wildlife-rich features of the Langdon landscape once again.
We are grateful to the Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust for the necessary funding. The digger operation was carried out very skilfully by Ian Baker of Pearl’s (Land Drainage) Ltd. There was also a great deal of volunteer input, under the auspices of the Langdon Living Landscape.
We need volunteers to monitor the recovery of one or more of these ponds over the coming year or two. If you are interested, contact us through the Basildon Natural History Society website, of which this message forms part.
Preparation work started on the Pump Road pond in March 2013 when a small group of volunteers from Basildon Natural History Society cleared a large area of dense blackthorn and hawthorn scrub from the west side of the pond. This work was necessary in order to give the mechanical digger a safe area in which to operate.
January 13th 2014: The digger begins the job of removing encroaching vegetation and silt from the pond,
January 14th 2014: Just 24 hours later and the pond has been transformed, The bare soil will soon be colonised by marginal plant species that will enhance and enrich this valuable wildlife habitat. It is much to the credit of the digger operator Ian Baker, that the young apple tree in the foreground remained completely undamaged during the dredging and profiling.
A newly-constituted team of volunteers came together in November 2013 to learn some of the finer skills involved in laying traditional hedges. Thanks to the Veolia Pitsea Marshes Trust, a one-day course of tuition was arranged by Jim Wallden, an experienced hedge-layer.
Applying these skills, by the end of February 2014 a major section of the hedge alongside Green Lane had been laid, opening up a vista across the pastures towards the heights of Langdon Hills.
Moreover, a different section of hedge was laid near Langdon Lake, at Dunton, by a team led by Lucy Sawyer-Boyd.
This work achieves a great deal. Quite apart from the pleasing visual aspect, and the feeling that the landscape is being properly cared for, there are other benefits. The creation of low, dense hedges creates many more spaces in which small songbirds can nest, as well as the cover needed by a wide variety of invertebrates. Perhaps surprisingly, it also enables the bushes to thrive in the long-term: if hedges become outgrown, a considerable proportion of the bushes die amid the competition, eventually producing a gap-ridden assembly of linear trees, with very little growing underneath.
What’s more, hedge-laying is first-rate exercise, undertaken in the fresh air amid stimulating company.
Further hedge-laying is planned for next winter. We need more volunteers. If you wish to get involved, let us know.
Some of the hand tools that are traditionally used in hedgelaying.
Hedgelaying at Dunton: The tree stems known as 'pleachers' are partially cut through and bent over at an angle, the small strip of bark and wood that is left attached to the root stem ensures that nutriment is still supplied to the pleacher to keep it alive. Over time new shoots form around the area of the cut, when these are large enough they are laid into the hedge structure.
Green Lane November 2013 - Jim Wallden shows the volunteers how to weave the hazel bindings into the headge. The bindings, known as 'heatherings' or 'featherings' add strength to the hedge whilst it regenerates.
2nd March 2014: The hedge in Green Lane Langdon Hills. Within a few weeks this section of hedge will start to burst into leaf and transform the look of this much used bridleway and footpath.
Dry Street Community Orchard Project
Fruit orchards were once a common feature of the landscape in Langdon Hills and its surrounding area, often these were planted and cultivated in gardens for personal consumption but others were grown by market gardeners to be sold locally or transported to larger towns. The existence of the orchards enhanced the wellbeing of the residents who depended on them to provide fresh fruit and preserves throughout the year and for some it provided additional income. The orchards were also very beneficial to wildlife, in the spring the blossom provided a rich source of pollen and nectar for insects and later in the year the fruit would help supplement the diet of animals and birds.
Langdon Living Landscape is planning to re-establish an orchard in Dry Street. The site chosen once had a thriving orchard but over many decades it has become overgrown and many trees have perished through age and neglect. The project will concentrate on saving the fruit trees that remain and planting new stock including some traditional Essex and East of England varieties. This project can only happen with the help of volunteers so if you are interested and would like to get involved, please click on the link below, here you will find further information on the project and contact details.
Click here to view the Langdon Living Landscape Community Orchard Leaflet
Langdon Living Landscape Newsletter
Keep up to date with Langdon Living Landscapes news and projects, just click on the links below to view the latest and archive copies of the Newsletter.
If you would like to receive the next issue of the newsletter by e-mail please submit your details via the 'Contact Us' page.
Click here to download and view a PDF version the Langdon Living Landscape Newsletter No 7
Click here to download and view a PDF version of the Langdon Living Landscape Newsletter No 6
Click here to download and view a PDF version the Langdon Living Landscape Newsletter No 5
Click here to download and view a PDF version of the Langdon Living Landscape Newsletter No 4
Click here to download and view a PDF version of the Langdon Living Landscape Newsletter No 3
Click here to download and view aPDF version of the Langdon Living Landscape Newsletter No 2
Click here to download and view a PDF version of the Langdon Living Landscape Newsletter No 1