The Survey was conducted by Dave Green FLS, Botanical Recorder for the Botanical Society for the British Isles, North Wiltshire.
The Survey was conducted by Dave Green FLS, Botanical Recorder for the Botanical Society for the British Isles, North Wiltshire and author of The Wiltshire Flora (1993). This brief survey was carried out during dry and overcast weather in the early evening 18.30 to 20.00.
Specific areas identified by British Waterways Board (BWB) for their management and those additional areas considered for attention by Avoncliff Residents Association were surveyed.
Any proposals for management or enhancement within Avoncliff should be considered in wider context of the Avon valley in this locality. Prior to the construction of the railway and canal, the Avon valley was wooded on both sides and, for example, Becky Addys Wood was linked with Great Wood. It is understood that these woodlands have been designated subsequently as Ancient Woodland, i.e. in existence prior to 1600.
In order to maintain and enhance the ecological value of the natural features within the village, it is considered therefore that wildlife corridors linking these woodlands should be preserved or created. These corridors may consist of hedgerows, roadside verges and riverbanks; these will provide foraging and nesting areas for small mammals, birds and insects.
Area 1: Roadside verge north of Canal Cottage
A typical hegderow habitat. Species include: Hedge Parsley. Common Hogweed, Ground Ivy, Germander Speedwell, Yarrow, Creeping Thistle and Wood Melick. Of particular interest is Crosswort, a plant localised in this area.
Hazel, Hawthorn and Wayfaring Tree are present adjacent to the boundary wall and it is suggested that the hazel and hawthorn should be coppiced to prevent damage to the wall and the verge habitat should be protected with perhaps an annual cut in late July. The thistles in this area could be removed by hand to prevent their spread.
Area D: Northfacing Bank adjacent to Canal
At present this provides an excellent habitat for ducks and invertebrates. It consists principally Mugwort, nettles and Horsetails.
It provides a natural extension link to the woodland adjacent to the canal and it is suggested that no cutting or planting is necessary to maintain its value.
Area C2: Small triangular area adjacent to Canal Towpath
A rather interesting area with Campion, Comfrey and Forgetmenots. These plants would be compatible with the area being managed as a wildflower/cottage garden style area.
Area C1: westfacing Bank adjacent to Towpath
This area had been apparently sprayed with weedkiller prior to the survey and was not examined in detail. It is suggested that ‘the ground should be tilled, levelled and reseeded with a wildflower mix.
Area E: Flat area with seats and information board by Canal
A predominantly grassy area which had been eut prior to survey. It is known that this was planted as a wildflower area approximately 3 years ago. The recent cutting had retained Comfrey, Teasel, Crow Garlic and Cut-leaved Geranium. Clematis is present in the fenceline adjacent to the bank; this fenceline is used by nesting birds.
The former would need to be removed, together with the clumps of Coarse grass, if this were to be developed as a lawned area. The hedgerow should be retained as at present.
Area B2: Northfacing, bank adjacent to Road
It is known that this area was covered in rubble during works carried out on behalf of BWB during 1993. There are species typical of wasteland including common Hogweed and Lesser Swine Cress.
It is proposed that shrubs should be planted rather than trees in order to maintain the aspect to the river and the sightline for the bend in the road. Suitable local species would include Hazel, Hawthorn, Dogrose, Dogwood, Wayfaring Tree and Genlder Rose.
Area B1: West Bank of Aqueduct
Predominantly Sycamore and sycamore seedlings. It contains Ash with Wytch Elm undergrowth. It is understood that the Cotswold Wardens are proposing removal of ivy and sycamore seedlings from the Aqueduct structure itself.
It is suggested that the sycamores themselves should be removed to prevent recurrence of seedling growth, to prevent further potential damage to the stonework structure, to allow light to reach groundcover plants and to expose the vista of the Aqueduct feature with its stonework arches.
Area 6: South Riverbank east of Canal
This area is known to support Greater Dodder, a nationally-scarce parasitic plant. It should be noted that its growth may be dormant in some years and therefore, not necessarily observed. Species seen at time of survey included Nettle (principal host of Dodder), Himalayan Balsam, Bulrush, Sweetgrass, Sweetreed and Hemlock Water Dropwort.
In order to maintain the habitat of the Dodder, no ground management should be undertaken
Area A: North facing Bank on the east of the Aqueduct
This area contains a considerable amount of rubble. Species noted included Hemp Agrimony and Great Willow Herb.
The lack of topsoil and predominance of rubble limits opportunities for planting and it suggested that a dense foliage of Dogrose, Wayfaring Tree, Geulder Rose and clematis would be suitable and -~ provide cover for nesting birds. This would be facilitated by the removal of the sycamores as recommended for areas B1 and 6. The removal of the shading would encourage and provide opportunities for ~ the growth of woodland flowers, such as native bluebells and primroses.
Area 2: A small area adjacent to Aqueduct Parapet
This is a grassy south-facing bank containing Creeping Cinguefoil, Hemp Agrimony, Pyrenean Cranesbill and fine grasses. The Small Teasel was also observed here and this is comparatively rare in this part of Wiltshire.
The area should be left undisturbed.
Areas 3.1 and 3.2: Adjacent to Upline Railway Steps
Grassy areas of little ecological value. Dogrose and Clematis could be planted in fenceline.
Area 5: Fenceline Adjacent to Downline Railway Steps
Consists principally of Buddleja and Bramble and with adjacent railway embankment provides excellent habitat for nesting birds and small mammmals.
It is suggested that the area should remain undisturbed after replacement of railway fence.
Area 4: Adjacent to north bank of Canal
This area is predominantly clay dredgings from the canal and contains the pillbox which it proposed to be promoted as a bat hibernaculum. Species noted include Teasel, Spear Thistle, Alkonet, Bristly Oxtongue, Hemlock Water Dropwort, Water Figwort, Wild Turnip and Wild Garlic.
It is proposed that Dogrose and Ash should be planted to reinforce the hedgerow and wooded characteristics of the adjacent areas.
Area 7: Railway Steps Upline
This area had been recently cleared of Bramble and planted with non-native foxglove and daffodil clumps. Species observed included Ash saplings. Bramble, Hawthorn, Sweet Violet, Comfrey, Wild Marjoram, Hop, Hardrush, Bush Vetch, Hedge Bedstraw, Angelica, Hemp Agrimony, Enchanters Nightshade, Water Figwort, Hoary Ragwort and H*rt’s Tongue Fern.
This diversity of species illustrates the potential for other areas within Avoncliff and the best advice is to now leave the area for a year to settle and observe its development.
In order to preserve their botanical interest and retain their value for wildlife, the following areas should be left undisturbed:
Area l; D; 6; 2; and 5