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)



Moth Trapping 23/24th June

Come along to 13, Edington Gardens at around 9pm to find out how moths are caught for identification. A powerful lamp attracts the moths to the trap. It is left on overnight and the catch is examined in the morning. So if you can’t come along on Friday night come along at around 9 am on Saturday morning to see what we’ve caught. Unless it rains or blows a gale there should be some of these beautiful insects for you to look at at.

Spring Time in the Nature Reserve

Spring Time in the Nature Reserve

Despite the arctic blasts the spring awakening is well underway in the nature reserve and the orchard is breaking out in its annual blossom, have a wander down and enjoy this beautiful spectacle.

Those northerly winds are probably holding up the migratory swifts we are hoping will take up residence in the new boxes at the village hall – listen out for our decoy call and look out for the swifts! Other birds are already busy nesting, so please keep your dogs on a lead when going through the reserve, to protect ground nests.

The paths have dried out again around the ponds after the winter quagmire, but this year thanks to funding from the Tyne and Wear Community Foundation we will be building an all-weather path around the reserve which will allow access for wheelchair users, buggies and anyone who doesn’t want to leave a welly stuck in the mud! All we need is your help to lay our recycled green honeycomb path and build a new bridge. Watch out for more details about this exiting volunteer project.

Clara Charcoal! As part of the funding package we will also be getting a mini charcoal burner for the reserve, along with some expert tuition on its use from local green wood crafts guru Morris Pyle. So along with helping us manage the reserve better we could also be providing some fuel for the new bread oven/barbeque at the village hall.

Plus usual link to web site etc.

Will the swifts return?

The swift boxes on the Village Hall have been opened up (we closed them to prevent sparrows taking them over) and are waiting for the first swifts to take up residence.  If you’ve passed the Village Hall you will have heard the calls of swifts and thought “They’re here!” Not yet. To encourage passing swifts to stay a while and view their possible new homes, we have rigged up a speaker that broadcasts swift calls throughout the day. So far not many swifts have passed by. This year swifts have trickled into the country from sub-Saharan Africa and so far not many reaching the north east. A couple were seen flying around the village recently but did not stay. So keep a watch on the boxes. We’ll be broadcasting the calls for a couple more weeks. Lets hope they find the new homes irresistible.

Did you know?….. a swift spends almost all its life in the air, only landing to breed. they sleep and even mate on the wing. A young swift, having left the nest, will stay in the air for up to three years before making a nest and breeding.