Handpost Gully conservation project
Handpost Gully is a steep wooded gully lying within the southern boundary of New Greenham Park, on the southern edge of Greenham Common, which forms part of the Greenham and Crookham Commons SSSI. The Gully is owned and managed by the Trust, who wish to maintain the conservation value of the site whilst providing opportunities for local people to appreciate its value.
The Trust, in partnership with English Nature, commissioned a plan to provide guidance on maintaining the conservation value of the site.
Greenham and Crookham Commons lie on a ridge between the Rivers Enbourne and Kennet. The ridge consists of Eocene deposits of acid, sandy clays of the Bagshot Beds overlain by plateau gravels and seated on heavy impermeable London clay. This produces a complicated pattern of variable deposits in which free draining soils dominate. Where clay is present, however, extensive seepage zones and springs are produced and these springs give rise to streams creating small, flushed waterlogged valleys of Alder woodland.
Handpost Gully is a steep sided valley with zonal bands of mature Birch and oak woodland giving way to Alder woodland along the stream edge. At the head of the valley there are two concrete balancing ponds and a stream runs down from the ponds south towards the A339.
The stream is fed by a system of balancing ponds and natural seepages in the gully sides containg a rich variety of flora creating a nutrient rich flushes dominated by Elder and nettles. On the stream edges there are patches of opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage, and large bitter-cress is a frequent associate. Abundant on the sides of the gully are lady-fern, broad buckler-fern, creeping soft-grass, wood meadow-grass, wood sorrel and common marsh-bedstraw. The adjacent ground is soft, supporting Alder woodlands which gives way to Mature Birch woodland and mature oak woodland as the slope ascends. Around the perimeter of the gully is a younger scrub community, the boundary of which is marked by a newly planted hedge.
There is a large amount of dead wood present in the gully, both standing and fallen. This, coupled with the stream and ponds provides important invertebrate habitats and consequently the gully is important for small birds. Wet woodland habitats are important for amphibians which in turn provide food for reptiles such as Adders, Vipera berus and Grass snakes, Natrix natrix. The gully perimeter is littered with various types of rubble. Young grass snakes have been observed using this rubble to bask on.
Handpost Gully is located on the edge of New Greenham Park. Greenham Common Trust is keen to encourage people to take an interest in conservation and aims to provide opportunities for appreciation of the gully without damaging it.
Nature conservation objectives
- The alder valley woodland and associated species
- The transition zones with mature Birch woodland and oak woodland
- The hydrology of the valley to benefit the woodland and associated species
- The dead wood ecosystem of the woodland
- Nightingale and small bird habitat
The Gully is open to public access by invitation only. If you would like to visit this fascinating site please contact the Trust on 01635 817444 or email email@example.com.