CBWG Chairpersons Report April 26th 2017:
I would like to express my thanks to all the committee, members and supporters of CBWG for all that has been achieved over the last 12 months. I would also like to express our thanks to Robin Dalton and Hugh Firman from CMBC with whom we have continued to work in close partnership with over the last twelve months.
As I have reviewed the last year, four things have stood out:
- Team Work.
- The importance of Volunteers
- The need for education and engagement
- The importance of conservation.
No organisation is dependent on one person, teamwork is essential if an organisation is to grow and develop. CBWG has had a busy and productive year. We have continued to engage with the challenges that come with helping to manage and promote CBLNR as a place where nature and people can come together.
Over the last twelve months we have planted trees, installed benches, made the cabin and toilets available to those who have visited the reserve on a Sunday’s and on other days. We have built a pond dipping platform, planted over a four hundred trees, led walks, worked with young people, hosted a small mammal trapping course, monitored wildlife, cut reeds within the lagoon, bashed and pulled lots of Himalayan Balsam, built and put up owl boxes, restored and erected fences and have done lots of management tasks. This has included doing a lot of work in regard to the policies we have to have in place regarding child and vulnerable adult protection, health and safety. We have established a quarterly news-letter and put on our annual Open Day.
At the present we are in the process of applying to the council for permission for us to put a sand-martin wall on North Loop, which we hope to be in place and ready for spring 2018. And we have established a steering group whose task is to look at how, in co-operation with CMBC, we can undertake and fund some major work in the lagoon area. More about some of these later.
The point to note is that none of this would have been possible without teamwork.
I would like to offer therefore a big thanks to David Langley, who as vice-chair has done a lot of work in relationship to our children & vulnerable adult policies, liaising with Tracy Selves and with Robin Dalton on these and other documents that relate to the way we work as a voluntary group. I would like to offer a big thanks to Nigel and Linda for the work they has done and continues to do in relationship to the cabin. The cabin café is appreciated by all who visit it and has become a place where people are always assured of cake, tea and a warm welcome.
I would also like to offer a big thanks to Shelagh for the work she does as Secretary, to Margaret for her work in fund raising, for Bruce as Treasurer, for Barry and Val for the newsletter they are producing for group members. We are grateful for the creative skills Val uses for the production of CBWG’s publicity cards. To Graham Haigh, our President, for being there not only to offer practical help but for being ready to offer us advice. To Simon and Jane for their creative skills and the way they have used them as part of the team that is CBWG committee.
Team work has enabled us to work together and make a difference.
2: The Importance of volunteers.
The second important key to making a difference on the reserve has been the wide variety and numbers of the people who have rolled up their sleeves, put on their work boots and come down to the reserve as volunteers.
Our volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, male and female, young and not-so-young. Some come for a few hours, some come for a whole day. To you who have given so much and made such a big difference I say thank you.
Since Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group was founded volunteering has been at the heart of it. Over the years volunteers working on the reserve have invested their time and energy and by doing so have made a huge difference on the reserve. Volunteers, do many tasks and often learn and develop new skills along the way. What stands out so often is the enthusiasm they have for whatever it is that is being done on the day. Cromwell Bottom Local Nature Reserve is a wonderful place to work on, whether that is on a Saturday once a month or on a Thursday during the week. It is because so many volunteers have given so much that we are able to celebrate what has and is being achieved. Think then of what could be achieved if more people volunteered to help shape, manage and monitor the reserve.
Let me share with you some of the encouragements that come with volunteering on the reserve. You get to know other people and make some great friends. It is good for your health and a lot cheaper than going to a gym.
We not only have a great time socially, we also get to make a difference for nature, which gives all those involved a sense of well-being and contentment. When you see a Tawny Owl using a box that you have put up as part of a team of volunteers, watching it fly in to feed its chicks and then seeing that chick getting ringed it gives you a sense of delight that is priceless. When you stand by a new pond in the summer that you worked on the previous winter and can now see newts, dragonflies and damselflies that have made it their home it gives you a feeling of having made a difference and reminds you that all that hard work was worthwhile.
As volunteers we believe that it’s not just what we can do for nature it’s also about what being involved with nature does do for us. Which leads me to my third point.
3: Education and engagement:
One of our aims at Cromwell Bottom Wildlife Group is to engage with people and share the delight we find in nature with them. We believe that the reserve is a wonderful place where people can come and engage with all the flora and fauna that is on the reserve. We want people, and especially young people, to come and re-engage with their wild-side. Learning about the bats that visit and hunt on the reserve during our summer evenings’ bat walks, getting people to watch and listen for the rate of different clicks so we can identify it with our bat detectors immersed all us into a learning experience that brought nature up close and personal. Watching them swoop for their prey over the still waters of canal and river in the light of our head-torches brought delight to all of us.
Here are just a few comments from those who went on one of our guided bat walks:
“Great to see the bats and to hear them on the bat detectors. Wonderful to walk round the reserve at night.”
“I am eleven years old and I loved this bat night because I learnt so much and had such a good time.”
“We had a lovely evening on the guided bat walk. The girls (and leaders) learnt a lot about the bats. The highlight of the evening was hearing the bats. We are looking forward to coming back again.”
We want people to come and enjoy the reserve and learn about it. Helping someone to identify a butterfly or a moth, or when we are able to show them a newt, frog or toad or show them the orchids and other wildflowers through one of our planned walks around the reserve not only shows them what lives here it makes them want to come back and do it again. We want people to come and enjoy the reserve and learn about what there is here for two reasons.
- Learning about wildlife is good for you.
- Learning about wildlife is also good for the wild places where they live.
We protect what we value and love and have invested something of ourselves in.
It’s been a delight over the last 12 months to engage with quite a lot of young people, families and youth organisation such as Brownies, Girl Guides, and Cub Scouts. We have provided three young people, working towards their Duke of Edinburgh Award, with conservation experience.
All of this should remind us that one of the challenges that all conservation organisations face is how to re-connect people, especially young people, with nature.
On a Saturday in February, as a group, we welcomed and worked with a group of 15 brownies and 10 of their parents and leaders on North Loop planting 170 trees and shrubs in order to create a hedge for wildlife. All of them had a great day out and are looking forward to doing other things with us. It was an inspiring day.
Over the last twelve months we have held bird-watching days, photography days, run bat and moth nights, promoted walks around the reserve and held a small Mammal trapping course.
Our Open Day last year was again a very special one. It included: A birds of prey display, an animal display, face painting, willow weaving, craft stalls and refreshments. Though the weather was changeable it did not dampened the spirits of those who helped or those who visited.
All of these events have helped us to bring wildlife and people together.
4: The importance of Conservation.
As a group we are committed to the conservation management of CBLNR and North Loop. The last twelve months have been a busy time but fruitful time.
On Tag Loop we watched with great delight as the new ponds we had created the previous year were colonised by Diving Beetles, Broad-bodied Chasers, Southern Hawkers, Common Darters and various damselflies. Newts could be seen in the clear water which meant that we had the occasional visit of the Kingfisher. As we often say, provide the habitat and things will move in, this has proved true yet again.
Regarding the new ponds, we have now finished building the pond dipping platform that was made possible because of a generous grant from the Postcode Lottery Fund. We look forward to seeing it in use this spring and summer.
The number of bird species seen on the reserve was 86. We have built and put up a number of bird boxes, including two Tawny Owl boxes and a Barn Owl Box. We know that one of the Tawny Owl boxes was taken up because we monitored it and had the delight of watching Steve Downing ring the young Tawny Owl.
As a group we have been very busy working on North Loop and the wood that faces the compound. It was there that we worked to clear the trees that had been cut down because of the danger they posed to the power lines that ran overhead. Dragging them to the side we made brash piles so as to create nesting places for birds and hiding places for small mammals. We then planted over 400 trees, consisting of Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Holly with the aim of creating a good habitat that will, in the long term, provide both food and nesting places for birds and small mammals.
On North Loop itself we have been involved in monitoring the bird’s using that area. We have recorded Wheatear for the first time in a number of years. We had a nesting pair of Sky Larks, and kept a watch on a pair of scheduled one birds that used the site on a regular basis. Though there was lots of clover (and I mean lots) I had the delight of watching and photographing a Painted Lady butterfly there in the summer and it was nice to know that it is in the process of being colonised by wood mice and field voles.
Throughout the autumn and winter on North Loop we have recorded, Goldfinches, Linnets, Meadow Pipits, Mistle Thrushes, and a large flocks of Redwings which were to be found regularly feeding on the ground.
An important observation for all concerned with the conservation of North Loop for wildlife is that most of these birds were to be seen feeding on the ground. Though their presence is down to sufficient food it is also down to lack of disturbance, something that must be born in mind as future plans for that site are developed and managed.
Finally: A word about future plans
We have marked out a plot above the river on North Loop where in 2018 we intend, once planning permission has been given, to place a Sand Martin Wall. Hopefully, this will be in place for spring 2018.
For many years concern has been raised about the danger of losing the lagoon on the reserve to tree and scrub succession, aided by the loss of water during most summers.
As a group we are now in the process of applying for a grant that will help us finally do something to alleviate this.
Our aim, if successful will be to:
- Remove the trees and scrub and excavate parts of the lagoon to form ditches, pools and deep trenches of open water.
- Build a pumping station and bring in water into the lagoon from the river,
- Build a sluice gate in the gap under the bund bridge, thereby enabling us to manage the water levels.
- Put a boardwalk along the bund that separates the wet woodland from the lagoon, create viewing areas, and place a hide and/or screens at a suitable places for the public to use.
Allan Wolfenden (Chair)