Friends of the Railway Path

Promoting and developing the Coate to Marlborough Railway Path

2013 Events

Grasslands near Whitefield Farm - 3rd August 2013

We visited the grassland site near Whitefields Farm on 3rd August with local naturalists Helen Senior and Peter David. The weather had been intermittently very wet for a few days, but on this morning the sun came out. We hoped to see some butterflies, and also take a quick look at the kinds of plants growing in the area.

Silver washed fritillary butterfly on the Railway Path (© Peter David)

In about 2 hours, we saw 14 different butterflies (including a silver washed fritillary - see left) and 3 moths.

Below is a list of the ones we saw. The names in italics (and †) are characteristic of chalk grassland.

English name
Latin nameEnglish name
Latin name
Small SkipperManiola jurtinaSilver Y mothAutographa gamma
Essex SkipperThymelicus lineolaCommon CarpetEpirrhoe alternata
BrimstoneGonepteryx rhamniShaded Broad-barScotopteryx chenopodiata
Large WhitePieris brassicae  
Small WhitePieris rapae  
Green-Veined WhitePieris napi  
Marbled WhiteMelanargia galathea  
Red AdmiralVanessa atalanta  
Small TortoiseshellAglais urticae  
PeacockAglais io  
Gatekeeper / Hedge BrownPyronia tithonus  
Meadow BrownManiola jurtina  
RingletAphantopus hyperantus  
Silver Washed FritillaryArgynnis paphia  

We also noticed a variety of habitat types in a small area. Not only are there patches of chalk grassland: there is also scrub (some of which is invading the grassland), hedgerow and a lightly wooded area. In the adjoining fields there is arable, and also set-aside. The woodland might account for the presence of the silver washed fritillary.

We also noticed lots of plants. This is probably just the tip of an iceberg: what you see depends largely on how hard you look! Again, there is a wide variety consistent with the variety of habitat types and the names in italics (and †) in the list below are those of species associated with chalk grassland.

English nameLatin nameEnglish nameLatin name
NettleUrtica dioicaRibwort PlantainPlantago lanceolata
Bladder CampionSilene vulgarisElderSambucus nigra
Creeping ButtercupRanuculus repensGuelder RoseViburnum opulis
AgrimonyAgrimonia eupatoriaField ScabiousKnautia arvensis
Salad BurnetSanguisorba minorYarrowAchillea millefolium
BrambleRubus fruiticosa agg.MugwortArtmisia vulgaris
Cultivated AppleMalus domesticaColtsfootTussilaga farfara
HawthornCrataegus monogynaRagwortSenecio sp.
BlackthornPrunus spinosaLesser BurdockArctium Minus agg.
Tufted VetchVicia craccaCreeping ThistleCirsium arvense
Bush VetchVicia sepiumSpear ThistleCirsium vulgare
Broad-leaved Everlasting peaLathyrus latifoliusWelted ThistleCarduus acanthiodes
Meadow VetchlingLathyrus pratensisGreater KnapweedCentaurea nigra
Birdsfoot TrefoilLotus corniculatusNipplewortLapsana communis
Black MedickMedicago lupulinaDandelionTaraxacum officinale
White CloverTrifolium repensBlack BryonyTamus communis
Meadow CranesbillGeranium pratenseLesser HawkbitLeontodon taraxaciodes
Herb RobertGeranium robertianumLords and LadiesArum maculatum
Perforate St John's WortHypericum perforatumField BindweedConvolvulus arvensis
Rosebay WillowherbEpilobium angustifoliumHedge BedstrawGalium mollugo agg
DogwoodCornus sanguineaGround IvyGlechoma hederacea
IvyHedera helixHedge WoundwortStachys sylvatica
Burnet SaxifragePimpinella saxifragaWild BasilClinopodium vulgare
HogweedHeacleum sphondyliumBittersweetSolanum dulcamara
HemlockConium maculatumRed BartsiaOdontites verna
CowslipPrimula veris  
Quaking GrassBrizia media  

The pictures below show some of the other butterflies which we managed to get shots of. Gatekeeper


Large White

Large White

Brimstone(@copy; Peter David)

Brimstone(© Peter David)

Annual General Meeting - 16th July 2013

We held our 2013 AGM on 16th July in the Three Trees Farm Shop and Café in Chiseldon. 15 members and friends attended.

We had a presentation from Georgie Starkie, an ecologist, on the habits and habitats of badgers: there are several setts at various points along the Path. Her presentation is here: Badgers on the Path Presentation (PDF).

Alistair Millington of Sustrans reported the results from the traffic counter installed at Chiseldon Firs. Sustrans Report on Traffic Counter (PDF).

Nick Stedman, our Treasurer, presented the accounts for the year. 2013 Annual Accounts (PDF).

And Dick Millard, chair, presented the annual report. Friends of the Path - 2013 Annual Report (PDF).

During the discussion, the points made included:

  • We should provide signs for walkers, especially those from Marlborough wanting to access the Path
  • We should put leaflets in local bus stops
  • We should get temporary repairs in hand to the Path surface
  • We should review signage, especially at the Barnfield (Marlborough) access point to discourage parking and dog mess.

Hedge Laying Workday - 23rd February 2013

We had a wonderful day! Although chilly, it was dry and we were out of the wind. 11 volunteers turned out, which is a good size for a hedge laying party.

Introduction to Hedge Laying

We walked down to the hedge laying site (just south of the motorway) and had a brief introductory talk from Clive Leeke, a professional hedge layer.

Preparing the way for Hedge Laying

We then got to work, clearing and pruning the hedge ready for laying.

Laying down the Hedge

The laying is a bit unnerving, as you need to cut through a large part of the stem of each plant so that it will lay flat to produce a pleacher.

Staking out the Hedge

And then you put the stakes in, bind the tops with hazel binders and cut the stakes to a uniform height.

By the end of the day, we had laid about 40m of hedge. This opens up the view of the field, and will encourage thick growth which will improve the habitat for small animals. And give less purchase for encroaching brambles – so path users won’t find them dangling near their eyes.

Hedging Stalwarts

A rewarding day’s work, and great fun! There are different jobs to be done, to suit different people (not all of them very energetic). We would like to do some more ...

So an extra follow-up event has been planned for 2nd March 2013 meeting at 10am. Meeting just south of the Curly Wurly Bridge by the bit of the hedge that was layed the previous weekend.

Workday - 7th December 2013

The weather was kind to us: still, dry and quite warm (relatively for the season).  16 of us gathered and achieved a good deal.  We worked mainly on the section of the Path between the motorway and Chiseldon.  It was well used on this morning: cyclists, walkers, runners galore.  It was good to see them all, especially the group of three teenagers on their bikes.

Picture of before we got to work

Here’s a shot of the section before we got to work.

Hedge Laying in Progress

We laid 32m of hedge, improving habitat for a variety of small animals and opening up the view for people.  This added to the 40m laid earlier in the year.  We also hacked back the bramble which is invading the hedge, to give a bit of a chance.  The bramble can be a hazard for path users on the unlaid section of hedge, where it often appears at about head height.  Well, not any more, it won’t!  Here is the hedgelaying party in action.

Hedge Laying Finished

Some brave folk volunteered to deal with the bramble – “a bit of a rake’s progress” …


And here’s the finished result, with the laid hedge by the side and the brambles in a pile on the other side.


We cleared leaves from about 1 km of the Path, making it safer and easier for Path users.  We were pleased to get a grant from Swindon Borough Council to buy this very effective leaf blower.  It helps enormously!


We tidied rubbish and removed a car load of old bark guards (you can see about half of them in this picture).  Some of these are now on the municipal tip, but I have saved some for re-use when we get to planting up gaps in hedges.

We also
  • Improved the fence to the south of the curly wurly bridge making it easier to avoid falling in to the ditch at that point
  • Added a plain wire strand to the fence at the Coate Water entrance, to reduce the chances of anyone getting snagged on the barbed wire.
  • Cut back about 12 overhanging trees between Chiseldon and Marlborough. You can now cycle without fear of obstacles at eye height (although there is still a very large elm which has come down just north of the Kennet, which will require professional attention).