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Helmdon, Astwell & Falcutt Wildlife & Environment Group

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Delightful Lecture On Hedgehogs - posted 12 April 2011

Dr Pat Morris

Dr Pat Morris addresses

his audience


The Weston WEA and HAFWEG invited Dr Pat Morris, an International expert on small mammals, to come from his home in Ascot to the Weston Community Project to tell us about Hedgehogs.

He came on on Friday 18th March and gave a small audience of 33 an absolutely delightful lecture on these ever less frequent beasts, for which we should blame the increasing numbers of badgers, who eat them! 

We were most fortunate to have Pat visit us and can see exactly why he is has been recently re-elected by the membership onto the National Trust's Executive as their wildlife advisor. 

Glyn Jones



'Hedgehogs' Special Lecture   -  posted 7 March 2011

This is on Friday week, March 18th, at 7.30pm.

Tickets at the door of the Weston Community Project £5. 

Our speaker is Pat Morris of Ascot.  Dr Morris was recently re-elected onto the Executive Committee of the National Trust, where he acts as their wildlife adviser. 

We are truly fortunate to be able to hear such a knowledgeable lecturer talking on one of the most attractive creatures in our countryside.

The lecture is sponsored by the Weston Branch of the WEA and by HAFWEG.

Dr Pat Morris is an International figure in the scientific study of mammals and a specialist in dormice and hedgehogs. He is also a renowned historian of Taxidermy and author of the most up-to-date text on that subject. Having retired from his Senior Lectureship at Royal Holloway University of London, he has been active on the Executive of the National Trust as their expert on wildlife. His doctoral students are widely dispersed and include the current Director of the London Zoological Gardens. Pat has a lively sense of humour and is an experienced extra-mural lecturer and broadcaster.


Join In With The Activities Of The Fungal Study Group  -  posted 4 November 2010

So far this autumn the three active members of the Fungal Study Group have visited Evenley Woodland Garden, Bucknell Wood and Wistley Wood, and had good finds at each. We are making steady progress in recognising the common species. You may not have been aware of those visits. That is because we tend to arrange them quite suddenly, when it is clear that we are unlikely to be hindered by poor weather. If you'd like to know about forthcoming visits, so that you can join in (if free to do so), please say and I'll circulate the information (it may be at quite short notice, of course). If you would like to have a copy of our lists of finds do tell me

Glynn Jones - 01327 261265.   e-mail

Report from Talkabout   -  posted 5th May 2010

Last November, Dr Geoffrey Armitage from Warwick University gave us an illustrated talk, focusing on the biodiversity of our local environment, of interest to anyone who works in, walks in, or in any way appreciates the countryside in which we live.  Earlier in the year our own Dr Glyn Jones shared with us his extensive knowledge of Charles Darwin, his life and evolutionary theories, as part of the general celebrations marking the bicentenary of Darwin’s birth.


HAFWEG sprang from the researches and initial report of the Helmdon Parish Plan Group.  It continues to need some new members to join the small organising committee  which arranges events and practical activities. If you are interested in our rich local natural environment and can give about six hours per year, please contact me.

John Thorne

Celebrating Darwin  -  posted 8th July 2009

It is 150 years since Charles Darwin published his ground-breaking book ‘The Origin of the Species’ and 200 years since he was born.


Come and celebrate this famous Englishman with a dinner followed by a Seminar on Friday 24th July, 7.15 for 7.30 pm, at the Weston Chapel.

Speaker: Glyn Jones.

Tickets for the evening cost £3.50 and should be obtained before Monday 19th July from either Anne Drage, Phil Drage, Irene Inness, Gill Jones, Glyn Jones, or Verity Thorne on 01295 760565.    Please bring your own drinks.

Fungal List Hazelburgh Wood 14th November from the HAFWEG Fungus Study Group  -  posted 22nd November  2008



Trametes gibbosa

T. versicolor

Stereum hirsutum

S. rugosum


Fleshy with pores



Flesh granular



Fleshy with gills

Amanita rubescens

Laccaria tortilis #

Mycena pura

M. vitalis  (A very immature cluster det. as Pholiota sp?

     was more probably Hypholoma fasciculare #)



Calvatia excipuliformis # (not as at first thought

     Lycoperdon? perlatum)

Scieroderma areolatum

Hydnum repandum (local but in quantity)

Xylaria candellaria


All species determined the same day at Whitfield by RF, GJ, BS & PS, except those marked # which were determined by GJ later. PS has photos taken in field of most of them.

Species marked with a ‘?’ are particularly uncertain.


Generally few fungi. Unusually no Collybia, Boletus s.l., Russula or Lactarius spp; nor were any small ascomycetes seen.

The very striking patch of hedgehog fungus made the day!

Unusually, all the fungi seen were identified.

Previous weather: wet for several days, but mild for November. Sunny on the morning.


Peter & Betty Stubbs, Richard Foster & Glyn Jones


HAFWEG Needs New Committee Members  -  10th November  2008

HAWFEG continues to need some new members to join the small organising committee which arranged events and practical activities.  If you are interested and can give about six hours per year, please contact me.

John Thorne

(01295) 760117 or e-mail

Lecture on Biodiversity  -  6th October 2008





Biodiversity: why it matters in the landscape around us


Dr Godfrey Armitage


7.30 p.m. Friday 7th November 2008

Weston Community Project

Entry £3 to include interval drinks

Tickets at the door from 7.00 p.m.



Godfrey Armitage lectures in the Departments of Education

 and Biological Sciences at Warwick University,

 where he is Director of the Lifelong Learning Certificate

 in Ecology and Conservation. He believes that

 “all conservation begins at home”

 and so has chosen to talk about preserving

 biodiversity in the countryside around us.


Perhaps The Final Fungal Foray?  -  3rd November 2007

A fungal foray has been arranged at very short notice as we are conscious that the high season for fungi must be hastening to a closure (this pleasant autumnal weather can't go on for ever).

The foray will be again on a Monday afternoon, starting at 2 pm outside the Weston Community Project building and this time we will go to Everdon Stubbs. Everdon Stubbs belongs to the Woodland Trust and should produce some interesting specimens. We'll go even if rain is threatened.

Afterwards we will return to Weston to identify them (as we did last time) and have a hot drink too.

If possible, please let Betty Stubbs or myself know whether you will be coming.

Glynn Jones - 01327 261265.

Film - An Inconvenient Truth  - 29th October 2007




Nobel Prize winner and Former US Vice President,
Al Gore, argues that we can no longer afford to view global
warming as a political issue -
it is the biggest moral challenge facing civilization.

The screening will take place on Friday 2 November

at 7.30pm

at the Weston Community Project.

Admission is free but there will be a £2 charge
for refreshments.

The film lasts approximately 1½ hours.

No need to book, but if you would like more details please ring:

01295 768104 or 01295 760565 or 01327 860784

Successful Fungus Foray  - 24th October 2007

On October 22nd four fungal hunters braved the hazards of dog poo and foraged briefly in Wistley Wood, briefly because we realised that there was not a great diversity of fungi to be seen, and because in a short time we had enough specimens to tax our powers of identification.

Adjourning to the Weston Community Project for that purpose (and a cup of tea) we surprised ourselves by naming (at times a bit hesitatingly it's true) most of them.  Several were ones we did not see last year when we went round with Michael Jordan.

Glyn Jones

Plea For Help - 8th October 2007

John Thorne, as chairman of HAFWEG, is appealing for help to run the Group so that tasks can be shared.  He particularly needs the support of a secretary and two or three volunteers who will arrange events such as meetings with guest speakers. 

If you are interested in Helmdon's wildlife and environment, and would like to help for a year or two, please contact him on (01295) 760117

Hopping Mad
- 19th February 2007

Ian Cooper from The Wildlife Trust.
Ian Cooper from The Wildlife Trust.
The subject of British herpatology, received an airing at the Weston Community Project on Monday 19th February. Ian Cooper from the Wildlife Trust came along to talk about amphibians and reptiles to a group of twenty or so attendees from surrounding villages.

The presentation covered all eight species of of amphibians and reptiles found in the BRitish Isles, from the well known common frog, to the less well known Great Crested Newt.

Many people had experience of these creatures in their own gardens but it was fascinating to learn about their life cycle, habitat and behavior. Ian Cooper explained the various levels of protection given to these animals and reminded all that certain species, and their habitats, are heavily protected by law.

After the presentation Ian took questions from members of the audience, giving advice on the keeping of tadpoles, and the protection of pond fish from the unwanted attentions of grass snakes.

The talk was a prelude to a HAFWEG event to occur sometime in March. It is intended to conduct a Toad Watch on the road near Astwell ponds where hundreds of toads are killed by cars every year on their way to their favourite breeding pools. The intention is to use volunteers to capture the animals on one side of the road, typically in the first hour after dusk, and transport them safely to the other side. If half can be saved then it must surely be worth the effort. If anyone would like to offer their services please contact any member of the HAFWEG committee.

Talk on Fungi
- 18th September 2006


Are they fruits, or vegetables, or plants, or unique forms of life? Which ones are good to eat? Where can we find them?

Michael Jordan, TV documentary presenter, author, and expert on european mycology gave a talk on Monday 18 September at Helmdon school.

Click here for a publicity poster.

Bats In The Belfry... And Elsewhere
- 15th May 2006

A pipistrelle bat.
A pipistrelle bat.

HAFWEG members and visitors enjoyed an illustrated talk about British bats given by Michelle Henley from the Wildlife Trust. As dusk descended and the rain departed she then led a foray around the field opposite the school, and armed with hand-held electronic detectors tuned to sound waves emitted by the bats electro-location systems we located pipistrelle bats, which were not initially detectable by eye, flying within and alongside the high hedge to the south of the field. These little mammals are Britain's commonest bat and Europe's smallest. One would fit on the end of your thumb, and weighing less than a £1 coin they can enter nesting holes through gaps of just 8 millimetres.

There are 16 species of bat found in Britain of which 11 are vulnerable or have become rare mainly because of loss of places for shelter and food (they feed on insects at night and our insect population is being reduced by the use of insecticides, weed killers, and an increased traffic flow), the use of toxic timber treatment in lofts, and persecution due to myths and misunderstandings. It is probable that we have several species living in the HAFWEG area, and more could be encouraged by well sited bat boxes and sympathetic management of traditional feeding and roosting places.

In response to the decimation of the UK's bat population over the past fifty years all bat species have protected status under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. An outcome of the Act was the formation of the Bat Conservation Trust and if anyone would like to have details about the Trust, or bat boxes, please contact me.

John Thorne
01295 760117

Butterflies & Other Insects - 8th November 2005

Emma Butt
Emma with the giant millipede

The primary school was turned in to an invertebrate menagerie on Monday 7th November when HAFWEG hosted a talk by Emma Butt of the Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly Farm.

25 people, approximately half and half adults and children, learnt about the life cycle of butterflies, the difference between butterflies and moths, and how butterflies feed and mate.

In addition to the butterflies Emma had bought along a giant stick insect, a preying mantis, a hissing cockroach and a giant millipede that the children and adults could handle and get to know close up!

One of the many beautful butterflies on display
One of the many
beautiful butterflies on display

The talk included a description of the work of the butterfly farm, which is Europe's largest. Apart from the display of tropical butterflies at Stratford the business also owns farms around the globe and is one of the world's largest importers and exporters of butterfly pupae.

Many of the species come from Africa and South America and the Butterfly Farm have set up some innovative trading agreements to promote self help in disadvantaged areas of the world.

The Stratford farm also entertains 10,000 school children each year with educational tours to help children learn about "mini-beasts" in the world around them, and it is involved in applied research to better understand the life cycles and behaviours of all butterflies.

A trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon Butterfly Farm is well worthwhile so for more information, and to plan a visit, please visit www.butterflyfarm.co.uk.

John Thorne with the Giant Stick Insect
John Thorne with the Giant Stick Insect

HAFWEG AGM 2005 - 15th October 2005

From little acorns...
From little acorns...

HAFWEG held its first AGM on 6th October in the school.

After a year steering the fledgling group from its inception to the active group it is today, Niki Phillips stood down as chair and John Thorne was unanimously voted in in her place. Other positions stayed the same, with Chris Jones coming in as Secretary to replace John Thorne.

The group discussed the past year and all agreed that the group had been an unmitigated success so far under Niki's stewardship and that it was great that so many of the youth of the village were involved.

The AGM decided that to move forward they would have a regular meeting time, date and venue. This was decided to be the third Monday of the month (holidays allowing) so members and guests can put all the dates for next year in the diary right now!

Events currently planned are as follows:
7 November - an evening with butterflies etc. with Emma from Stratford-on-Avon butterfly farm
16 January 2006 - trees and forestry with Andy Patmore
20 March 2006 - environmental conservation with Dr James Littlemore
15 May 2006 - bats

More details of future events will be published on the notice boards and the web site in due course.

HAFWEG - A Year On - 27th September 2005

A Water Vole.
A Water Vole.

Incredibly HAFWEG (the Helmdon Astwell & Falcutt Wildlife and Environment Group) is one year old, so it's time for the AGM.

Click here for poster.

The meeting will take place on Thursday 6th October at 7:30 p.m. at Helmdon Primary School.

It is a great opportunity for prospective members to come along and hear what's been happening during the last 12 months, and what is planned for the next 12 months.

Niki Phillips, who has chaired the group in its first year, would like to see a good turnout. If you're interested in Helmdon's wildlife there'll be something for you at the meeting.

For more information contact a HAFWEG committee member.

The Bird Man
- 12th July 2005

John takes questions from the audience.
John takes questions from the audience.

A mixed group of non-members and members of HAFWEG met at Falcutt House on Tuesday 12 July. John Clews treated us to a very interesting talk not just about birds but also about the RSPB as an organisation. This included something of its history and the very important work it does in encouraging schemes which help to protect and sustain our existing bird life and in reintroducing species which had largely disappeared.

John showed us a collection of excellent coloured slides of various birds, with some concentration on species which are endangered. He emphasised the concerns about some birds we have come to accept as commonplace, such as the skylark, starling and house-sparrow, all of which are reducing in numbers at an alarming rate. However, on a more optimistic note he described how many farmers, sympathetic to RSPB work, are willingly adapting their farming practices and undertaking schemes which are helping to slow down the reduction in numbers and maintain the populations of our native birds. There was also advice for those of us who feed birds visiting our gardens and some emphasis on the importance of this in the overall scheme of helping to ensure that there are no further reductions in their numbers.

At the end of his talk John was thanked for an interesting and informative evening.

The School Goes Wild - 11th June 2005

Children and adults had a chance to get up close and personal with a boa constrictor.
Children and adults had a chance to get up close and personal with a boa constrictor.

The Helmdon, Astwell and Falcutt Wildlife and Environment Group (HAFWEG) is a relatively new organisation with quite a high student membership. It was set up to meet a need that was identified in the Helmdon Parish Plan. Our aim, in brief, is to help to protect and enhance our environment and raise awareness of the importance of conservation. A HAFWEG fundraising event took place last Saturday, 11 June, in Helmdon Primary School. The original objective of this event was to raise start-up funds for this new organisation to pay for the cost of items such as insurance, various other running costs and environmental projects. Raising awareness of our existence would be an added bonus accruing from this activity.

The event was opened by Mr Brian Webster, an expert on the wildlife of the local environment. There were other special attractions, such as two boa constrictors, brought by Mr Craig De Haan, and an exhibit of beekeeping equipment, including a beekeeper's special clothing, with a beehive and its contents, arranged for us by Mr Martin Seth-Smith. There were also pony rides, a raffle and stalls selling plants; garden tools, bulbs and seeds; fruit and vegetables; wildlife greeting cards and freshwater pearl jewellery, all items which had some relevance to the theme of wildlife and the environment. Payne's, Hurrans, and Farnborough Garden Centres, The National Herb Centre, Instore, and B&Q all contributed very generously to the garden and plant stalls. Local residents were also generous.

The event was highly successful, being very well attended, and an impressive £488.51 was raised by the various activities. HAFWEG members would like to express their thanks and appreciation to all those who supported this event and contributed to its success. The Chair would like to say thank you to group members who worked hard to make the day a success and a special thanks to some members of the student group, in particular Jess Quiney, who worked exceptionally hard leading up to the event.

The next HAFWEG event is a talk by the RSPB on Tuesday 12th July at 7:30 p.m.. Details are available from any member of the HAFWEG committee.

It's The Nature Of Things To Come - 17th May 2005

A white squirrel

HAFWEG - the Helmdon, Astwell & Falcutt Wildlife & Environment Group - is gearing up to hold its first public events.

On Tuesday 24th May there will be a walk and talk with Dr. Barry Meatyard from Warwick University on grasses and non-flowering plants. The talk part will be at Home Farm starting at 7:00 p.m. and then Dr Meatyard will lead the group on a circuit round the village pointing out areas of particular interest. Everyone is welcome and there is no charge so please do join in!

On Saturday 11th June at 2:00 p.m. there will be a family fund raiser at the school to raise working funds for the group. It is hoped to have many and varied attractions for all ages including, plant sale, raffle, competitions and rides. There will also be a sale of second hand tools and HAFWEG would be very grateful for any donations. If you have any old tools you could donate please contact Niki Phillips, Jess Quiney, Phil Bridger or John Plunkett.

Finally, HAFWEG are starting a survey of the parish's wildlife so if you spot anything unusual (like the white squirrel seen recently near the old railway line) please e-mail Niki Phillips or the Helmdon Webmaster, who will keep a log on the village web site.

For further details of any event, or to join the group, please contact any member of the committee.

Conservation Area Clear Up - 10th April 2005

Sue Blackburn, head teacher, surveys the conservation area
Sue Blackburn, head teacher, surveys
the conservation area.

The school has a conservation area by the old railway bridge at the bottom of Wicket Mead. It was donated in trust to the school by the Gulliver family. The area contains blackthorn, several large trees, lots of other plants and countless numbers of "mini-beasts".

Last year a pond dipping platform was built to enable school children to safely collect samples of water from the passing brook.

The area requires quite a bit of maintenance to keep clear, and in particular, to keep safe for the visiting children. This year HAFWEG were able to offer their assistance and on 10th April a band of enthusiastic members gave up their Sunday morning to help out.

Some of the helpers.
Some of the helpers.

The work comprised largely of clearing blackthorn and making sure the site is accessible for visiting school groups. This included getting down to the children's level and checking for eye hazards! Some of the older members took care of the heavy work and had a bonfire, whilst the younger members did clearing, raking and cutting back.

HAFWEG hopes their efforts will increase the enjoyment of the area for the school this year and enhance the educational experience.

More photos here >>>

Second Meeting - 23rd February 2005

The second meeting of the new environment group took place on 23rd February at Falcutt House. The group now has a name! It is HAFWEG - the Helmdon, Astwell & Falcutt Wildlife & Environment Group. It's quite a mouthful but the members felt it was important that the name reflected the fact that it is not just a group for the village of Helmdon, but for the whole parish, including all the outlying properties and settlements. The name also encompasses the aims and objectives of the group.

Many events, talks and activities are being planned so check back often to see what's happening. If you would like to join the group, receive more information, or get details of an event, please contact any member of the committee.

Inaugural Meeting - 15th November 2004

The founding members of the new group.
The founding members of the new group.

The new group held its first meeting at Falcutt House, Falcutt and over 25 people attended. The atmosphere was very positive and many good ideas were put forward.

There was a strong contingent from the youth sector in the parish, reflecting the very strong feelings that came through in the Helmdon Parish Plan that the young people really value the environment in which they live.

With widespread support it is hoped that the new group will be very popular and will contribute towards protecting and enhancing the wildlife of the parish.

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