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Malago Valley Conservation Group has published My Manor Woods Book, an original and innovative guide to the Manor Woods open space in Bishopsworth. The book is for any and everyone, but it is particularly aimed at young people and their families.

My Manor Woods Book is a lively and colourful guide to the history, geology, and (especially) the wildlife of Manor Woods. Readers are invited to customise the book - to make it truly My Manor Woods Book - by adding notes, drawings, photographs etc. To encourage this, the book is in loose-leaf format, A5 size, in a sturdy folder suitable for outdoor use.

The book will be used by schools, thereby encouraging the next generation to appreciate and conserve the wealth of habitats and species which we have in the area. Generous sponsorship from Bristol City Council and Bristol Water plc has covered the cost of the printing and allows the book to be sold for just the cost of the folders, 2.00 each.

My Manor Woods Book is on sale at Bishopsworth Library or directly from Malago Valley Conservation Group - ring 964 3106 or e-mail info@mvcg.org.uk.

Here are some extracts ...

WELCOME TO MANOR WOODS. Manor Woods is a haven of green within South Bristol. This book tells you about it - how it was formed - what has happened here - interesting things to look for today and plans for the future.

But the book isnt finished yet - thats your job. It isnt finished partly because things are changing all the time - mostly for the better, we hope - and partly because nobody knows everything there is in this rich and surprising part of Bristol.

You can make this YOUR Manor Woods Book by adding drawings, photos, notes of things you see - and you can help to improve future editions of the book by letting us know what you discover.

Add your own pages to personalise the book, and use the forms to record your observations. If you see anything really special, please use the Report Form at the back to let us know.

We hope this book will help you to appreciate the very special magic of Manor Woods.

History all around us: all these artefacts have been found within a mile of Manor Woods

MANOR WOODS is a familiar name, but why is it so called? To find the answer, we need to know a little bit of history. A manor was a medieval land holding in which the land was either held directly of the king or through some intermediate major landowner. The final holder of the Manor was the Lord of the Manor who generally lived there with his family and retainers. The other occupiers of the Manor comprised various categories of villager. These included freemen holding some land themselves, free villeins without land, landless serfs and often slaves.

The Lord of the Manor would normally reside in a Manor House and the manorial lands were often grouped around a Manor Farm or Home Farm. The present village of Bishopsworth contains a Manor House (replacing a succession of earlier buildings) together with a Home Farm.

The other uncultivated lands of the Manor would include pasture for animals, often along the banks of a river, common land for the common benefit of all (Highridge Common in this case) and woodland.

According to Domesday (which was part of the great land and tax survey of 1086 ordered by King William I), Bishopsworth had two Manors. The description of one of these two Manors includes a reference to woodland 6 furlongs long and 1 furlong wide. You can see from the measurements of over 900 years ago that the modern Manor Wood seems to match the dimensions of the long narrow strip of woodland following the Malago stream that we can explore today.

Woodland

MUCH OF MANOR WOOD is a relic of ancient woodland. Although individual plants will grow, reproduce and die, it is likely that this area has been covered with woodland species for many hundreds, if not thousands of years. Old maps certainly record the woodland, but additionally particular species of plants, which abhor disturbance, suggest that the woodland is very old indeed. These plants include ground- cover species such as the pungent garlic-smelling Ramsons and bright Yellow Archangel. Also found on the woodland floor are the strangely sculpted Wild Arum and many beautiful, elegant ferns: Broad Buckler Fern, Male Fern and the lime-loving Hartstongue Fern.

Above the ground flora of the woodland is the shrub layer - the smaller woody plants which usually develop more than one stem, especially if they have been coppiced as was traditional in earlier times. (Many trees such as ash and hazel can be periodically cut back to encourage many small stems to grow from the roots rather than one large trunk. The resulting timber has many uses, such as making hurdles and fences, simple rustic chairs etc. This practice is called coppicing).

The principal plants of this layer are Hazel with its bright yellow catkins in early spring, Blackthorn, snowy white with blossom in spring and heavy with its indigo fruits (sloes) in the autumn. Also found are the colourful Field Maple, Hawthorn (or May), Holly, Elm and clambering Brambles. The larger trees which canopy the woodland in high summer include Ash, Sycamore, Wych Elm, and old Oaks, many of which, sadly, are victims of thoughtless vandalism.

The woodland habitat supports a rich variety of wildlife, considering its proximity to the city. Wrens busy themselves in the undergrowth, Woodpigeons flap and flutter about in the canopy and Robins mark out their territory with their rich song. Even Tawny Owls can be heard on quiet nights. Small mammals such as Wood Mice, Shrews, Hedgehogs and Squirrels are also certainly here, the woodland web of life providing all the shelter and food they require.

Grassland

MUCH OF THE GRASSLAND in Manor Woods looks rather boring, just acres of green desert. Sadly in some places the variety of plants is restricted to a very few common species of grass and, of course, the fewer the number of plants, the fewer the species of animals that the habitat can support. However, it is important that some areas are set aside for fun and games, so these areas have value for enjoyment of the area, if not for nature conservation.

Other areas of grassland may appear messy and uncared for, but in fact these are some of the richest areas for rare plants and interesting species of insects. Some of the grassland adjacent to the scrubby areas are home to the locally rare and extraordinarily named Corky Fruited Water Dropwort. Have a look for it on the margins of the scrubby areas in July/August.

Bristol City Council, which owns the area, is slowly allowing some patches of green desert to revert to more natural grassland, which is only cut once in the summer. In these areas, other more common but lovely plants can also be found - Ox-eye Daisy, Self-heal, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Hawkbit and Buttercups. In the damper areas, in spring, the delicately mauve-tinted Cuckoo Flower can be found and later in the year the deeper purple of Knapweeds and Thistles. Of course, careful attention to the grasses, especially in June when they are flowering, will reveal a variety of common and not so common species - Fox-tail, Crested Dogs-tail, Fescues and Couch.

If you are really eagle-eyed you will find some places where the sweet smelling Ladys Bedstraw grows or Rest-harrow and the softly striped pink and white Field Bindweed - even sometimes an Orchid.

Fun and Games

If you look and listen carefully you will find that nature is much richer and more exciting than you can imagine. Try some of the ideas below and you will discover a lot about the natural world ...

  • Can you find something that is 100,000,000 years old? (clue: it is probably very, very hard)
  • Stand still and absolutely quiet for one minute. Count all the different sounds you can hear.
  • Collect a suntrap (clue: why is it likely to be green?)
  • Take a paint sample card to Manor Woods. Try to match the colours to those in nature. Youll be surprised how many colours there are.
  • Find a leaf that makes a noise.
  • Place a mirror under your chin and walk under the trees in Manor Woods. You will see the world in a different way. Take a friend to guide you.
  • Can you find something (natural) that is of no use in nature?
  • Get to know a tree. Blindfold a friend and lead them to a tree. Get them to feel it very carefully. Take them away from the tree, take off the blindfold and ask them to find the tree again. It is more difficult than you think.
  • Find a leaf that has provided a meal for a mini-beast.
  • Look for an oxygen maker (clue: they make carbon dioxide too).
  • Find something that has been reused millions of times (clue: what happens to living things when they die?).
  • Draw your very favourite thing in Manor Woods. Add your drawing to this book.
  • Take home two pieces of litter and put them in your dustbin!

What you can do

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO HELP to maintain and improve Manor Woods, there are many things you can do, either on your own or by joining in with other people ...

  • Malago Valley Conservation Group is the local conservation and amenity society for south-west Bristol (roughly the BS13 postal district). Manor Woods is one of the most important open spaces in the area and M.V.C.G. works with the City Council and other public bodies to help to improve it. We also take action ourselves, such as regularly picking up litter on garbage raids and an annual amphibious effort to remove rubbish from the Malago and the pond. We have also put up owl boxes in the woodland.
  • For more information about Malago Valley Conservation Group, ring 964 3106, or look at our website on Digital City Bristol (at Bishopsworth Library, for example). If youve got your own internet access, were at www.mvcg.org.uk. If you would like to join M.V.C.G., you can use the form enclosed.
  • The South Bristol Rivers Initiative is a project involving the City Council, the Wildlife Trust, the Forest of Avon, M.V.C.G. and other bodies. Work has already begun to improve the main path through the woodland, and ideas are being discussed to enhance the stream and pond. If you would like to know more, or to get involved, contact Malago Valley Conservation Group on 964 3106.
  • When you visit Manor Woods, take a plastic bag. It doesnt take much effort to pick up some litter and improve the appearance of the area. If you take two bags, you can keep old drinks cans separate and let M.V.C.G. have them at 14 Queens Road, Bishopsworth. We sort the aluminium from the steel and sell them for our funds (the steel cans get recycled as well).
  • If you see anything wrong anywhere in Manor Woods, do report it. The area is owned by Bristol City Council and managed by the Leisure Services Department. Phone them to report any damage to benches, tables, gates, walls etc. The telephone number is 922 3977.
  • Removal of rubbish dumped on the site or in the stream or pond is also the responsibility of the City Council. The number to ring to report dumping is 922 4730.
  • The Environment Agency is the organisation which monitors and controls pollution of watercourses. If you see evidence of industrial or domestic discharges in the Malago, phone the Agencys Pollution Hotline on (freephone) 0800 807060.
  • Occasionally you may come across people actively doing damage or breaking the law in other ways, for example, by riding motorbikes on the cyclepath. Report this immediately to the Police on 999 or to Bishopsworth Police Station on 945 5666.
  • Would you be interested in joining a Friends of Manor Woods Group? M.V.C.G. helps to look after and improve the area, but a local group concentrating on Manor Woods could do even more. If you like the idea, ring M.V.C.G. on 964 3106.
  • ENJOY MANOR WOODS and encourage other people to enjoy the area too.

 

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