In terms of weather 2012 had very little to commend it although previously there had been an even longer period of exceptionally pleasant conditions so the rain was overdue. Even so, compared with many other areas of the country the Stour valley has been let off very lightly. Hopefully somewhat more normal weather patterns will dominate through 2013. A prolonged period of bright winter sunshine would help to begin to dry the ground so that winter tasks requiring the tractor such as fencing repairs and rotational ditch maintenance with a JCB can go ahead. As regular walkers will know ground conditions are very poor at present.
Although still in the depths of winter life is already awakening and giving some indication that spring is, in fact, not too far away. In sheltered locations both the elder and honeysuckle are pushing out new leaves and snowdrops are already in full flower.
Whilst waiting for drier ground conditions other tasks hare being carried out. On the Mill acre some tree felling was necessary. Sadly one of the common alder trees along the mill race footpath had to be removed as it was in the grip of the deadly alder fungus which arrived in this country during the 1990s. Numerous species of our native trees now appear to be under threat as a result of foreign fungal diseases with ash being the latest victim. Later this year the full extent of the ash dieback will become apparent.
At the town end of the Valley Trail old and unsightly access restrictions have been removed and a much simpler arrangement has been installed. This should make access much more convenient for cyclists and pushchairs.
Further along the trail scrub clearance has taken place opposite the habitat of the Deptford Pink. Whilst the removal of blackthorn and hawthorn might be viewed with some alarm this work is absolutely crucial as part of the effort to safeguard this nationally rare plant at its last remaining natural site in the East of England. The plant requires maximum light to thrive so any shading of its habitat will lead to its loss. By 2011 there were just ten plants remaining so the situation requires addressing in a comprehensive and urgent manner. The Sudbury Common Lands Charity took on the responsibility for this area from 1st April 2012 so it is very early day in terms of management for this species.
There is absolutely no doubt that with the passage of time the popularity of the riverside areas increase. Sadly this increasing use is coupled with an increasing number of regrettable incidents. For instance it is barely conceivable that anyone feeding the swans could be run down and injured by a vehicle or that dog walkers could come to blows out on the tranquil pastures; yet such incidents took place during the course of 2012. The Trustees would encourage everyone to enjoy the priceless riverside assets that Sudbury is so very fortunate to have and hope that through 2013 these areas will be enjoyed by all users in a peaceful and responsible manner.