Clara Vale Nature Reserve shortlisted for Countryfile Magazine Award

Now in their seventh year, the BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards 2018 are a celebration of the British countryside and its people, from mighty landmarks and outstanding national parks to the best nature reserves and finest rural pubs.

The Clara Vale Nature Reserve has been nominated by readers of the BBC Countryfile Magazine for the Nature Reserve of the Year 2018 category, then shortlisted by the Countryfile panel of experts, gathered to review all of the submissions, and whittle the nominees down to five in each category.

Countryfile Magazine Judge Phoebe Smith says: “It’s a very small site that was saved by the local community rallying together to save it from being developed. It shows the dedication from the community and how you can be small and still effective.”

Voting commences on Friday January 19 until Monday 5 March. Votes can be cast here

You know what to do, thank you for your vote!

Winners will be announced mid-March in an online ceremony and will appear in the May issue of the magazine, which goes on sale 13 April.

The Shortlist – Nature Reserve of the Year 2018:
RSPB Ham Wall, Somerset
Rodley NNR, Leeds
RSPB Arne, Dorset
Clara Vale, Tyne and Wear
Loch Druidibeg, South Uist

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2018

Join in with us at the Clara Vale Nature Reserve, as once again  we take part in the this national birdwatching event on Sunday 28th January 2018 between 10:30am and 12:00 noon.

The idea is to count the maximum number of each species seen in exactly one hour and submit the results to the RSPB. This helps them build a national picture of trends in the UK bird population. More information about what they do with the data here.

  • We will be offering free refreshments in the bird hides for those interested in taking part, come along and help us record the number of birds seen;
  • Learn more about the birds you see, with help from birdwatchers and guides;
  • Free children’s activities based on birds and pondlife in the Reserve.

 

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Winter News Roundup

Its been a very busy Autumn and early Winter for the Conservation Group.  As we near the festive season and look forward to putting out feet up, here’s a summary with photos of everything that’s been going on, click on any photo to enlarge –

Reserve Pathways and Bridges
This substantial project, aided by the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation was completed at the end of November. Contractors with heavy equipment cut the pathways, laying stone and topping with fine chippings before machine rolling. This surface will continue to harden over the winter for a lasting result, more usable by those with buggies and wheelchairs than the old muddy paths. The new pathways are a long-awaited improvement to the Reserve:

The large bridge over the pond was dismantled and refurbished, while a new small bridge was also built for the lower pond. Both bridges are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and buggies. The lower pond area has also been dredged and extended to create a larger shallow pond that will have a dipping platform, ideal for future educational events. This should be built and in place by Spring 2018.

Thanks to all the volunteers who helped us on the bridge building days, it was fantastic to see people turn out to help:

 

Charcoal Burning
Our new charcoal burner was commissioned on 25th November, when we burnt a batch of willow, coppiced from the Reserve earlier this year. Under expert guidance we prepared, loaded and lit the burner. After a substantial amount of smoke initially, the furnace settled down and after a few hours we had a batch of usable charcoal, ideal for art, or we may use some for a future BBQ event. Willow charcoal burns quite quickly and we may make some hardwood charcoal to sell in the future, but we’re happy with our first attempt:

 

Exmoor Ponies
We have two Exmoor Ponies on loan from the Moorland Mousie Trust for the next few weeks. They are doing a great job of munching through all the scrub, helping to leave an environment which will encourage meadow plants in the Spring. They are very well tempered, but please keep dogs at a safe distance and on a lead as you wander through the Reserve.

 

Building Bridges on the Reserve

Come along Saturday 11th November10am to help build a new bridge and repair an old one!

As part of the project, funded by Tyne and Wear Community Foundation, to improve access for everyone in the nature reserve, the new path has been put in and we will be building a new bridge and widening the old bridge by the pond. So come along and share your skills or learn new ones and help make the nature reserve a place everyone can explore and enjoy.

Reserve Pathworks Under Way

Contractors are due to start work in the Reserve any day now, cutting pathways and dredging ponds. Please be aware of and keep a safe distance from machinery and work in progress. This could take place over several days.

Grant aid only pays for part of this large project and the Conservation Group will be recruiting volunteers to assist with its completion, to include bridge and jetty building, over one or more Community days, most likely during November.

Keep an eye on the website and notice board for updates, come and be part of it!

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:

 

Summer Pruning Day

There was a great turnout at the summer pruning day on 3rd September.

Local fruit tree expert Tom Gledhill from Wylam shared his expertise and advised us on the summer pruning method to increase next year’s crop. After a morning’s work we all enjoyed a delicious picnic lunch.

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Our community orchard events this year have gone from strength to strength and when our apple press arrives soon, we expect even more folk will be keen to get involved.

Our community orchard Apple Day event is scheduled for Sunday 15th October, when the Conservation Group will be putting on a range of apple-themed activities and taking tree rents for 2017/18.

September Update

It’s all go at the Conservation Group, with two individual grant aided projects to be completed in the Reserve and Orchard.

Reserve Pathway Improvements

Contractors begin work in the next few weeks, cutting pathways and dredging the pond. New bridges and a small pond jetty are also planned. Please take note of redirection signs, keep dogs on a lead and stay a safe distance from machinery while this is carried out. Grant funding only pays for part of this large project and there will be at least one Community Day when we’ll invite everyone in Clara to join with us completing the groundworks, which will be of lasting benefit to all visitors.  

Orchard Equipment and Apple Day

The Conservation Group have secured funding to buy a community apple crusher/press, a juice pasteuriser, educational equipment and tools. The hardware will be purchased in time for Apple Day which is planned for Sunday 15th October, when rents are due. Activities planned include making your own apple juice, tree-tagging, apple bobbing and apple-themed story-telling .

New Reserve Leaflet

A new version has been produced and can be downloaded here.

Bird Feeding

This will start again from around mid-October at the hides. Don’t forget that a hide key is required, available from Thornley Woodland Centre 01207 545 212.

 

Moth Collection Success

Thanks to Brian Pollinger and Gordon Pollinger the event was successful, with a great turnout to the event. The 125mv lamp was used to lure the moths into the trap, to be examined the next morning and released again (no moths were harmed!)

The thriving moth population in Clara Vale is shown with a total of 91 moths being collected overnight, with in these results were a range of 43 species. This is a great result for our community, as the growth in moth population and the species within shows a growing diversity in Clara Vale, which will hopefully continue to grow in the future.

Some images of the moth trapping results are below, as well as the table of results. Desrciption of the moths in the photographs are below:

1+4.Poplar Hawk Moth

2.’Woody’ the moth who has adapted itself over time to survive by disguising into woody environments, such as the nature reserve

3. Peppered moth, which has also adapted throughout time to disguise into the cloudy environment (eg- it darked through the industrial period, but is now adapting back to being more cream)

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