An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.
Our year started off, as always, with our two-day hedgelaying event. Although we started hedgelaying on the reserve in 2006, it wasn’t until 2010 that some bright spark suggested that we start hedging at Primrose Bridge and lay the entire length of Bradley Stoke Way. “Won’t take long,” they said. And now here we are eight years later and the end is in sight, but only if you were half way up a fire truck’s ladder! Much of the area, on both sides of the fence, is now covered with blackthorn thickets which have greatly slowed us down. Fortunately, Green Gym have, for the last two years, gone in and have cleared the area in advance so that the Conservation Group can concentrate on just laying the hedge. This year we managed a record-breaking 42 paces, beating last year’s record of 32 paces. The weather may have been cold, but we were warmed by our traditional hot lunch cooked by our quartermaster Rob Williams, and as dusk began to fall we toasted our new hedge with his homemade sloe gin.
Sadly, our new advertising banners didn’t last long, as the one on Bowsland Meadow quickly disappeared, although the banner on Bradley Stoke Way worked well and we welcomed several newbies who had seen it. And for those who said they would have come if only they’d had more notice, the next hedgelaying weekend is on 5th/6th January 2019!
On 27th December we received an email from Peter alerting us to high levels of water at the lake, and by the 28th the lake had risen high enough to cover the feet of the blue bench. We tried to alert StreetCare and Wessex Water, but it seemed everyone was on a well-deserved break, so we informed the Environment Agency, who were very helpful. Although we knew that the nearby houses would be safe, we were concerned about the Wessex Water construction site being flooded, which I’m sure would have caused them delays, but I believe that the weir must have been opened as by the next day the water level had dropped by 5ft or so. We still have a blockage by the Tump path, which has caused the brook to burst its banks in several places. However, our two attempts to clear this were thwarted by the water covering the blockage, so we couldn’t see what it was we were trying to clear. Last time, the blockage was caused by a damaged inflatable boat and we’re taking bets as to what it is this time!
At a recent event, we were surprised and just a little disappointed by how many people didn’t know that Bradley Stoke has an amazing nature reserve (just 617 species at the last count), so we’re hoping that our new banners, supplied by South Gloucestershire Council, will show them the way. We have two on Primrose Bridge, one at the lake and one at Sherbournes Brake. If you want to find out more, Bradley Stoke Library and our website both have a range of free leaflets with everything from reserve maps, group info, bat walks and children’s ‘I Spy’ sheets. The library also has maps for our two permanent orienteering courses, if you fancy something a little more challenging.
It was with great sadness that we posted on Facebook that our adult male swan Bradley had been picked up by the RSPCA at Bristol Harbour on 6th December and was put down the next day. As previously reported, we believe that Angelo, the cygnet with the disabling ‘angel wing’ condition, was killed on 5th December at Forty Acres in Stoke Gifford. Three other cygnets from our resident family group have been missing ever since.
The adult female Brooke and one cygnet had for some reason remained at the lake that day and are now all that remain of our iconic swan family. The vets at Slimbridge Wildfowl Trust have offered to do a post mortem on Angelo and PC Jamie Shiels has been very proactive in his investigations. Although we may find some more answers to our questions the sad fact remains that nothing will bring him back.
Photos: 1 Volunteers lay a hedge alongside Bradley Stoke Way. 2 Bradley on a nest at the lake in May 2017.
This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 18 & 19). 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.