Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 – Result and pictures

We were delighted with the turnout for this community event in the nature reserve on Sunday 28th January.

Conservation Group members set up a stall in the Reserve, offering free refreshments, cake and biscuits, which seemed to be a good incentive for visitors to come and take part in observing the birds in the reserve at both the hides.  There was a steady stream of families, and children enjoyed making their own bird feeders using very sticky lard and peanut butter, mmmm…. (see images below).  There was some storytelling too.

Despite the blustery conditions, there was a good bird count, the highlight being a group of 11 Yellowhammers who swooped down to feed in front of the Woodland hide.

Full results for the RSPB one hour bird count are below and have been submitted to their database. But first, take a look at a few of the images from a super community morning gathering, click on any image to enlarge and scroll:



Final count for the Big Garden Birdwatch, Clara Vale Nature Reserve:

Tree sparrow – 15
Blue tit – 5
Great tit – 3
Long tailed tit – 1
Coal tit – 1
Robin – 3
Blackbird 2
Bullfinch – 2
Chaffinch – 6
Pheasant – 6
Mallard – 7
Nuthatch – 2
Magpie – 1
Moorhen – 3
Kingfisher – 1
Yellowhammer – 11
Wren – 1
Dunnock – 2

These are combined for the 2 hides with the maximum numbers taken  so we’ve not double counted.   Also 3 roe deer seen.

We’d also like to thank those people who donated a total of £16.60 to our funds.

Apple Day – A Sweet Success

The Conservation Group were delighted with the turnout and support for Apple Day on Sunday 15th October, which this year saw an extended range of activities aimed to broaden the appeal of our community orchard.  Having secured funding for new equipment including an apple crusher/press from the Community Foundation, this was our first opportunity to engage the community by taking part in making apple juice.

In the Orchard, the steady production of juice proved to be great fun, with lots of participants collecting, chopping, mashing, pressing and bottling!  Children especially loved turning the masher wheel and seeing the apple pieces drop into the bucket below, while those a little stronger could turn the press to extract the juice.  

We were also fortunate to have on hand local experts Tom and Peter from Wylam Community Orchard and Jon from the 69 Orchard, who shared their expertise in identification of varieties, tree husbandry and apple juice production.

In the autumn sunshine, families with younger children enjoyed interactive storytelling and apple art activities, while at the Village Hall, tree rents were paid and delicious homemade cakes devoured alongside refreshments.

The Conservation Group would sincerely like to thank everyone who contributed to make the event such a success, including the cake bakers, kitchen volunteers, tree rent takers, John and Tom who gave their time, expertise and loaned equipment, Malcolm the storyteller, Veronika for childrens’ art, Karen for the silk painting. Special mention to Steve ‘Scrumpy’ Hilton, who put in hours of preparation work behind the scenes, which included making the successful grant funding application for the apple press and new equipment.

Below is a gallery of photos taken from the event to enjoy, just click to enlarge:


‘The Best Coffee Morning Ever!’

The coffee morning on Saturday 28th to coincide with the RSPB bird watch weekend was a resounding success.  Children from Clara Vale and Crawcrook made bird feeders to take home to attract birds to their own gardens.  Wildlife artist, Jonnie Foker demonstrated using pastels to draw bird shapes. Children and parents joined in to produce a colourful  frieze which will be hung in the hall for all to see.

Thanks to everyone who came along, to all the people who baked scrumptious cakes and especially to the team in the kitchen.  We raised around £150 towards bird feed for the birds in the nature reserve.

Thanks also to all the parents and children for taking part in activities and allowing these photos to be shared, we are so glad you enjoyed yourselves! One of the youngsters, Jake Raad, declared it ‘…the best coffee morning ever!’.

Click on any image for a larger version.

Coffee Morning/RSPB Big Birdwatch

The January Clara Vale Village Hall Coffee Morning coincides with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, so the CVCG are joining forces with the Village Hall Committee to make a little event out of it.

Alongside the usual tea, coffee and delicious home-made cakes, if that weren’t reason enough we have opportunites to:

  • Make a bird feeder to take home
  • Try out a bird-related art activity with local artist Jonnie Foker* (and view some of his work)
  • Visit our bird hides and complete the RSPB survey (11:00 – 12:00)

All funds raised from the activities will help us to purchase bird feed for the Nature Reserve.

*Jonnie Foker is a member of the Society of Wildlife Artists and Bearpark Artists Co-operative, specialising in birdlife. Jonnie will provide a taster art activity and bring some of his work to view or buy. Find out more at

When: Saturday 28th January 10:30 – 12:30

Where: Clara Vale Village Hall




New Educational Resources uploaded!

The CVCG are delighted to announce that following an extensive review and with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund within our Flowers in the Vale project, new educational resources are now available to download. The resource has primarily been created with the purpose of encouraging more schools to bring children to the Reserve and benefit from all that it has to offer.

A total of 18 Activity sheets are available, to assist childrens’ outdoor engagement with the natural environment in Early Learning, Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2. The activities can be applied in many educational outdoor environments, not just at Clara Vale.

All of the educational material can be accessed from under the ‘Visiting the Reserve’ tab and going to ‘Educational Visit Resources’.

Here are links to the individual resource elements:

If you would like to get in touch about arranging and educational visit please use the contact form on the Planning Your Visit page.

Picnic Day Round-up

We thought you might like to see a gallery of photos from our wonderful Family Picnic Day, held in July, along with some of the feedback received and even some poetry too!

Photos – just click on any to enlarge and scroll through them….

Feedback – Here are some of the wonderful comments we received about the Nature Reserve in our Visitors’ Book on the day:

‘It feels like such a magical place…’

‘… one of the best things about living in Clara Vale.’

‘We liked the moths, the pond life and the scything.’

‘A lovely, tranquil place…’

‘Really enjoyed the moths, guided flower walk and lovely atmosphere!’

‘What a wonderful family-friendly day.’

Thanks to everyone who contributed, we loved receiving your feedback!

And finally… here are some reflections on the picnic day in the nature reserve by Hannah aged 7:

Sun, fun enjoyable days are beautiful

And green and wet and gleaming,

Clear pond ripples in the lovely atmosphere,

Being able to have an enjoyable chat, meet up with friends,

Music plays from my favourite films,

While the nature obviously absorbs interest thanks to strange plants and

magnificent moths and beauty

Admiring pond weed

Nettles tower over the transparent stream

Bunting hangs over the wooden bridge

Tiger moths on display are a real hit!

Stoats may be shy but when no humans explore, stoats are sure to roam the

clearing, birch trees stand straight and tall.

Thanks again to everyone who came along and made all the efforts of the Conservation Group worthwhile.



A Great Family Picnic Success!

The sun shone, the wind was gentle and most importantly, adults and children came along with their picnics!  As more people arrived, the Reserve took on a fete-like atmosphere and all of the activities we put on were of interest to visitors.

The art area was very popular with the children, as was kitemaking and facepainting. We had baby newts in water trays and a huge haul of moths, over 60 species, trapped the night before and released after viewing and cataloging them.  The flower walk was well received too as were the scything demonstrations.  There was an interesting collection of fossils, stone age tools and clay pipes all found locally.  And under a canopy, there was interactive storytelling to a very young audience.

More details and pictures will be put up soon.   A big thank you to everyone who came along for the Family Picnic, you made our efforts worthwhile!


Clay Figures Appearing in the Reserve

Sixty children from Crawcrook Emmaville Primary School visited the Clara Vale Nature Reserve on Wednesday 10 February to explore the environment and learn more about textures and colour.

The children visited the bird hide in small groups and saw many birds including a Kingfisher and Heron. In the grassland and woods they spotted spring flowers, catkins and sticky buds.

If you see trees decorated  with clay faces, these were made in the Village Hall during the childrens’ visit. Have a walk through the Reserve and see if you can spot them, along with the other signs of spring!