February in the Three Brooks nature reserve

Photo of volunteers standing behind canoes used to collect rubbish from the lake.

An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.

Our February workday concentrated on the Tump. I’m told that 24 came out that day, including two newbies. They cleared bramble from the top path and both sides of the steep path leading from the top of the Tump down to the lake to make it a lot wider and allow people to zig-zag up and down if they wish, which will spread the wear on the path. I’m told that a little owl box was installed and that Robin mapped the paths which criss-cross the Tump, which showed that we have too many paths across the middle – which could explain the loss of our skylarks [they have previously nested here]. I’m informed that by lunchtime they thought of going home but decided that they couldn’t get any wetter if they tried, so stuck it out until 4pm. I’m also told that if I rub it in that I spent the day in a warm and dry museum celebrating the Chinese New Year with my Rainbow Guides, I will not last the week!

I would like to say thanks to the chap who found the little owl box in his father’s garage and who donated it to us. When I remember his name, I will!

The lake and flooding

On Sunday 18th we had an additional committee-only workday to clean the lake. Rob brought in a couple of canoes and we managed to collect eight bags of rubbish from the water, which sounds a lot but is less than in previous years. We also cut back the overhanging trees which catch litter and other floating debris, which in turn slows the flow of the water. On the island, we cut back bramble and last year’s reeds, which we used to make two swans’ nests, one in the sun and one higher up. We are hoping that Brooke will take an interest and possibly accept a new mate, although, like her, we think he would have to be a pretty special cob to fill the gaping hole left by our Bradley. Thank to you the homeowner who allowed us to leave our pile of rubbish by her driveway so that it could be easily collected the next day by Streetcare.

The path up to the Tump had several times been flooded with rapids of water going over the bridge path. Although we think that it can be beneficial at times to hold back some of the water (like a ‘leaky dam’), the water was running so fast that we thought a small child or dog might struggle to keep their footing, added to which we were unable to tell where the edge of the bridge was. These two potential issues persuaded us that we should clear the blockage. Green Gym returned an hour or so later and were amazed to see that the water level had already dropped by several feet.

Green Gym spent a session ‘off-piste’ and headed to the path that runs alongside Braydon Avenue where, through pouring rain and hail storms, we removed several large blockages and five bags of litter. Although this is not actually on the reserve, clearing it here just means that we don’t have to clear it downstream next week! As well as stream clearing and litter picking, we also cleared paths (well, David N did most of that), cut back bramble, made mud pies, cleaned maps and graffiti and drained paths.
We also got to learn about water spirits, water pollution at Forty Acres and have possibly found someone who could bring to life our very own deity of the Three Brooks, Trolletheus! We stopped only for a quick cup of tea so that we could help Big Dave celebrate his birthday by eating all his cake for him. We then trundled back to the toolstore, litter picking Hawkins Crescent and Snowberry Close as we went. So, despite the rain and the hail, we had a pretty good day!

You may have seen ‘the boys’ Andy and David on site with their, now not so shiny, new toy ‘Robocut’. If you haven’t seen Robocut in action, you’ve missed quite a spectacle. This piece of equipment (Andy declined to say how much it cost) is essentially a large remote controlled shredder which, a little like Pac-Man, devours everything in its path.

The ‘new’ orchard (behind BSCS) doubled in size in just a few hours and, at Bowsland Meadow, the bramble and blackthorn didn’t stand a chance, with the result that the meadow has now returned to almost its original size and the ‘lost’ orienteering post has been found again. They also took him for a stroll along the edge of the paths around the bottom of Savages Wood and in just a few minutes cut back bramble that would have taken us hours to clear by hand.

I know some groups consider it cheating bringing in equipment like this, but it does mean that we then have more time to spend on tasks that require a more delicate touch.

• For further information, visit our website (www.three-brooks.info), like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/threebrooksncg), email info@three-brooks.info or phone 07497 006676.

Photo of volunteers with a Robocut machine brought in to clear scrub.

Photos: 1 Volunteers with two canoes brought in to help clear litter from the lake. 2 Andy and Dave with their new toy, ‘Robocut’, brought in to devour scrub.

This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 14 & 15). 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.

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