An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.
Although sometimes the weather has been cold, there is nothing quite so warming as a winter walk through the reserve, watching the birds squabble over the last few berries and seeing the mole hill tremble as he heads further down underground away from the frost. Apart from one very unimpressed looking poodle, who did not want to get her feet muddy, the dogs seem to be enjoying themselves greatly and we’ve been sent some fabulous photographs.
The first weekend of the year is always put aside for us to continue our project to lay a stock/dog-proof fence along the length of Bradley Stoke Way. Although our workdays are usually just the Saturday, hedgelaying is a long laborious task and requires two days. We were greatly aided this year for several reasons. The mild weather helped, some years it has been so cold the sap has frozen in the trees and the bill hooks just seemed to bounce off, or maybe it was just because our fingers were so cold that we couldn’t feel anything! The path here has at times resembled The Somme with the cold mud oozing over the top of our boots and, although it wasn’t totally dry, it was much more usable this year. But the main help this year was the preparation Green Gym had put into preparing the site. The length of tree line to be laid was covered in blackthorn 20ft deep in some places and although SGC had intended to clear the area and the meadow with machinery, this has yet to be done, so the Thursday group spent two days taking down all the blackthorn trees, bramble and scrub, removing it and making a dead hedge with the fallen trees. Because of all their hard work (and I was amazed at just how much they managed to clear), we managed to lay 33 paces of hedgeline compared to last year’s 13. Rob Williams was our quartermaster for the day and kept us warm with hot food cooked on site and also supplied us with some homemade sloe gin to toast the new hedge with. I hope newbies Ben, Becky, Ryan and Lucie don’t expect this every workday!
Reports from the public
We’d had several ‘dens’ reported to us, one in the pump track area and one behind the lake. Although Gill and I were reluctant to walk over the icy weir, Andrew came to the rescue and stood in the water and helped us over, I’m not sure if he was braver for standing waist high in frozen water or not worrying that we may have landed on him if we went in! The camp was quite a good one with hand painted signage, shelves, seats, snacks, soft drinks and even an outside loo! Although we were impressed, the council decided it had to go and two of the town council’s staff cleared it away the following week.
We were told by a resident that he had reported to the council several times that a tree had fallen and was almost blocking the main path by Campion Drive. We went to take a look and soon cleared it away, along with several other trees that were dead and would come down in the next high wind. If you have any problems to report, we have our own dedicated email address firstname.lastname@example.org (We may not be able to resolve everything, but we’ll give it our best shot!)
We tried clearing the rubbish that had collected in the Stoke Brook, but found that it was so cold the rubbish was held firm by the inch thick ice that covered the stream and parts of the lake, so we had to come back later in the month when it had thawed.
We have some fat looking rats at the lake at the moment, and although it’s better that they live here than in your garden, please can we ask that you don’t leave lots of bread on the ground after feeding the ducks. Porridge oats, peas and grain are much better for the birds, and can be fed to them in the water, which makes it harder for the rats to get to.
Our hopes of getting our cygnets ringed this year are not completely dashed, but it will need to be done in the next few weeks before Bradley and Brooke’s thoughts once again turn to romance, as they will then send their ‘teenage’ children packing to make their own way in the world. Much as I would like to see them stay, it’s nature’s way.
You may have seen some large machinery down by the lake, and although at times it has looked as though they are just making mud pies, I’m assured that they are doing much more than that. The committee has a meeting planned with a Wessex Water manager to discuss their project and we look forward to sharing their plans when we have them.
Photos: 1 Quartermaster Rob Williams cooks hot food on site for the hedgelaying troops. [Credit: Sammi Dee] 2 “Teenage” cygnets at the lake.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 30 & 31). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.