The weather hasn’t been so kind to us over the last few weeks, but that hasn’t deterred volunteers from getting together for tasks in the Reserve. First up, earlier in February, work started on the dipping platform for the new pond. This will create a great spot for youngsters to observe and enjoy pondlife. It will give a great focal point and work station station for educational events that we may hold in the future:
In early March some coppicing of hazel was done beyond the bottom pond, before it gets too overgrown and stops light getting to ground plants. It was stacked up to be kept and possibly used in the charcoal burner later in the year:
Whilst coppicing there was an interesting find – orange ladybirds. The orange ladybird is commoner in the south but is increasing nationally. A nice find. It feeds on mildew. Also called 16-spot orange ladybird, Halyzia sedecimguttata:
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
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:
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:
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.
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!