Sustainability With Lucy October 2021

Sustainability With Lucy October 2021

On my first day back, I was brought along by Greg and the Wildlife Trust to investigate one of the owl boxes on the golf course, which was known to have had a 2nd brood of eggs laid in it last time it had been checked. To our delight we were met with 4 barn owlets, all varying in ages between a couple of days to 3 weeks from youngest to oldest. Unfortunately, owls born this time of year have a lower chance of reaching adulthood; barn owls are poorly insulated and need more food to make up for loss of body heat, meanwhile their usual small prey is less active during winter and makes less noise, making them harder to find. We’re hoping that at least one or two of the owlets survives the winter, despite the hardships.

I’ve been helping with signage and designing posters to be placed around the course- one to promote the growth of wildflowers at the entrance and in the rough and another sign promoting the protection of wildlife by keeping dogs on leads when taking them for walks here. It’s important to us that we communicate with everyone, not only our practices and preferences, but why they are there in the first place. I’m currently looking into suitable anti-vandal sign stands/displays that are suited for outdoors, but until these can be displayed, I can elaborate on the messages we want around the golf course;

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Dogs can disturb wild animals and chase them as it is in their nature. There is scientific evidence that wildlife, if disrupted by dogs, it will leave and avoid areas of land forever. If you are a dog walker, please don’t let your dog/s walk without a lead- even if you know them to be well behaved. With many rare listed species living on the course we don’t want to have a further negative impact on such species if it can easily be avoided.

As for the growth of wildflowers and grasses around the course, we want to highlight that the reason for unmown areas of the golf course isn’t out of neglect, but out of aiding wildlife and reducing carbon emissions. It is also reducing workload that would be better utilised for other areas of the course. (Greg discussed this in length in his August blog; https://www.hunleygolf.co.uk/gregs-greenkeeping-blog-august-2021/)

That being said, the long grassland areas have recently been cut and collected by a local farmer who is in need of grass to feed his animals over the winter period. Although this might appear contradictory, cutting the grasses provides its own set of benefits. Most importantly it helps to promote more diversity by reducing nutrients in the soil, provided that the cuttings are removed from the area. Soil with less nutrients allows for finer, more delicate plants to germinate and grow. It’s also important to ensure grass is cut in autumn, after the nesting season has finished.

We’re happy that we can provide help and resources to those who are in turn helping us, creating mutually beneficial connections in our area.

Speaking of mutual benefits, we’re pleased to announce that we are supporting local beekeepers in their endeavour to provide a sustainable future for bees. Local beekeepers David and Alan have been raising British Black Bee queens for several years with the aim of developing a more hardy, docile and productive bee suited to our local environment. They’re working together as part of The National Bee Improvement Programme (NatBIP), an initiative organised by the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association (BIBBA). Their goals are to reduce the number of imports of honey bees into Britain, Ireland and associated islands, and improving the quality of our native honey bees. David and Alan have several apiaries along the North East coast, and we’ve made plans with them to set up a queen rearing station at the golf club. This is an ideal match with our vision of creating a natural habitat where wildlife, plants and animals are protected and undisturbed. 

Lastly, our biggest project is currently in the works- we’ve created new ponds in the rough grassland area just west of The Arches country house. This area receives very little traffic from golfers using the course and would be very beneficial to the wildlife inhabiting the area. We’re aiming to create variety to the ponds, differing in depths and bank steepness and seeded with native grasses and wildflowers. With enough luck, these ponds will create a suitable breeding area for great crested newts, among a variety of species.

The first couple of days of digging out the ponds were very wet, so they started filling up with water immediately. The banks of the ponds are currently being covered with turf in a way that requires as little human intervention as possible- we don’t want the new wetland area to look designed or artificial, but we do want to encourage growth of vegetation and let nature do the rest.

The days are getting shorter and colder and as many species of wildlife start to hibernate, we can begin focusing on practical projects to provide for them in time for them to reemerge in the new year. The trees we ordered should be ready to be planted in November and the ponds will be ready for further development in the following weeks.

Thanks for taking the time to read this update and we hope you found it interesting!

Lucy Dowey

Environment Officer

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