Busy times in the Three Brooks nature reserve

Photo of moth expert Peter Cranswick with one of his traps. Photo of volunteers installing marker posts around the perimeter of the Tump.

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

The weather has recently seemed determined to push our group’s rather limited resources to their limits – we’re either been rescuing creatures from dried out ponds in the heatwave, wading through deep water caused by blockages and heavy rain or dealing with fallen trees caused by high winds!

Three Brooks lake

We’ve had some help with SGC’s Robocut being back on site –  you may have seen it clearing the area they call ‘the bun’. This is where the silt was left when our lake was last de-silted, which we think was in 2002, but no one seems sure. The plan is to see how much space there is in the hope that when the lake is again de-silted, the silt can be left here instead of being taken off site. The first step to clearing the lake is testing for contamination and hydrocarbons. This has been done and has come back negative, now all SGC need to do is finish their ‘method statement’ and find a large pot of money! One of the fishermen told me of a lake that was effectively cleared for free as the cost was offset by the silt being sold to a fertilizer company, an idea I think should be looked into. We’ve also discovered our silt traps aren’t silt traps at all, just bends in the brook, which could go some way to explain the state of our lake. Thank you to everyone who has been petitioning SGC to get our once lovely lake restored to its former glory. Whatever you’ve been doing, it has worked.

Several of you have spotted the egret at the lake and some think they may have seen a pair; please keep the reports and photos coming in (sightings@three-brooks.info) and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that our newest visitors stay.

On the 29th August we received reports from dog walker Andrea of contamination in the brook at Sherbourne’s Brake. We reported it to the Environment Agency and we’re hoping no lasting damage was done. It’s not the first time we’ve had this problem in our brooks, caused by what appears to be someone pouring paint or cleaning fluid down one of the road drains, although I’m sure if they were aware that these drains feed into the brooks, they wouldn’t have done it. If you should spot a problem, the Environmental Agency incident hotline number is 0800 807060.

Further sad news is that we received the post-mortem report on our cygnet Angelo from Slimbridge vet Dan Calvo-Carrasco. Readers will recall that Angelo was found dead at Forty Acres in Stoke Gifford. His death was, as we feared, caused by: “A heavy impact, a force applied vertically to the back of the animal. He also had a rib fracture (likely caused by trauma as well)”. The police have been informed and the report added to the file. Our other three cygnets haven’t been seen since the day of Angelo’s death, although our exhausted cob Bradley was picked up the following day by the RSPCA who, without consulting us, put him down. Our thanks then and now go to PC Jamie Shiels for his investigations into what was an abhorrent and heartless crime.

The Tump & moth trapping

Our September workday saw us begin the ‘battle of the bramble’ on the Tump. As the bramble has encroached on the edge of the meadow, the perimeter paths have moved inwards and many new paths across the middle have also appeared. On a summer’s evening, you used to be able to see and hear our skylarks as they soared above the grassland, but due to habitat loss and disturbance by people and dogs, that is a dim and distant memory. We are doing our bit with the habitat, but please would you do your bit and keep to the edge path which we are marking out with posts.

Photo of "flags" marking the location of rowan saplings.

Should you see what look like 20 white sails in the long grass, it’s not some kind of strange grass regatta, it’s just our way of marking the rowans we planted last year so that the Robocut driver sees them and hopefully goes around them. They have grown well and although they won’t feed many waxwings this year, it’s a step in the right direction.

Photo of a Jersey tiger moth.

On our August workday we had an impromptu moth survey with expert Peter Cranswick, who put out the trap the night before and talked us though his vast cache of lepidoptera in the morning. I was unaware until then of how many moth varieties we had (120), how many fly during the day (lots) and, up-close, how stunning many of them are. Although there were several new ones for this area, like the jersey tiger (photo), which has, in the last decade been spreading up from the south of the country. Our finding was only the third record of them in South Gloucestershire. My favourite was the rather bold poplar hawk-moth which climbed onto my hand and sat contently warming itself. In our 2014 ‘bio blitz’ in the same area, we found 126 species, but surprisingly, only 38 species were present in both years, so we’ve just added another 82 species to our moth records!


Despite the drought, most of our fruit trees have survived, although we lost the grape vine and two of the fruit bushes planted in memory of our own Colin Davies, though all will be replaced when we can. We have for the past few years been disheartened by the same family who choose to not understand the meaning of ‘community’ and who descend on our small orchard (behind BSCS) armed with rods, tarpaulins and a trolley and who bash the trees until every piece of fruit, ripe and unripe falls, leaving the rest of us with nothing but bare and damaged trees. However, this year they were seen and photographed by a member of the public when causing the damage to the orchard. They asked them not to strip the whole orchard and although they didn’t at the time seem very responsive to this request, they have not yet been back to take the remainder of our harvest, so we are hopeful that the message has got across that the orchard is not for the few to take many apples but for the many to take a few apples.

It has been fun to chat with the many children who are learning the age old tradition of blackberry picking and how the largest fruit always seems to have the largest thorns! I especially enjoyed the lass who wanted to share with me the family recipe for apple and blackberry crumble, which turned out to be ‘give it to granny as mummy can’t cook’. My grandmother taught me that blackberries should not be picked after 10th October as that was the day the devil was kicked out of heaven and fell from the skies straight into a blackberry bush, leaving himself and his ego battered and bruised. In a temper he piddled on the fruit and the story goes he returns each year on the 10th to do the same! I can’t vouch if this is a true story but…

Becoming a teenager!

The conservation group has this month turned 13 years old. We’re not sure if becoming a teenager is something we ought to celebrate or not! There are not many of us who have been with the group from the beginning, but although experience is great we do need new people with a fresh perspective to come and join us, both on workdays and on the committee. We have a newish committee, Robin has taken over from Paul as our new chair, Rachael and Rob have taken over from Gill and are sharing the secretary role, Peter is a new vice-chair, Emma B is now our events secretary, Andy M remains as our tools master and I remain as treasurer amongst other things. We are always open to fresh ideas, so I hope some of you, both young and old, will come and join us in looking after what is I feel the green heart of our small town.

Photos: 1 Moth expert Peter Cranswick with one of his traps. 2 Installing marker posts around the perimeter of the Tump. 3 Flags mark the location of rowan saplings.

This article originally appeared (in a slightly abridged form) in the October 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 16 & 17). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

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