An update from Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.
Life at the lake
No one who has been down to the lake recently could have failed to see that the islands look just a little different; the main difference being that now you can actually see them! I know I’d forgotten how big they were.
The project was arranged by the land owners (SGC) and the work was carried out by Lawrence Tree Services, who certainly had their work cut out as two of the islands have never, to my knowledge, had any work done on them. Adam told me that on ‘Island 2’ there was evidence of water voles and the beginnings of an otter holt, although if you look now you may be able to see that two new purpose built otter holts have been installed along with several habitat log piles.
The plan had been to remove the wood for us to use, but the water level was so low the pontoon became grounded with just two logs in it, so they had to abandon that plan. I’m also told that the lads can add ‘dog rescue’ to their resume, as at one point they paddled over to rescue one that had jumped into the lake and was unable to work out how to get back out!
The islands do look incredibly bare with many of the trees and the scrub gone, but we are hopeful that the long term gains will outweigh the short term losses and that the works will have improved the habitat for all of our wildlife at the lake.
To help the birds out this season, Green Gym did carry lots of reed over to the main island for nesting, being careful to not harvest it from areas where other birds might nest, and we have also installed a small duck house donated by our ‘Big Dave’. The floating platforms are not quite living up to their name at the moment, as once we had untangled their ropes from the debris we were unable to refloat them without getting into the water (something that we have recently been banned from doing). We have used the chippings from the island works to line the rather muddy lake path and, although we didn’t have enough to get all the way down, what we have done is a real improvement. Sadly, some have already sought to undo everyone’s hard work by pulling out the fence posts and throwing them in the weir, along with most of one of the habitat piles. Am I being negative in wondering how long our new lake notice board will last?
Although our swan Brooke has cut a solitary figure since her son Nugget left to find his own mate, she seemed quite content, provided that she was given her favourite treat of garden peas, but I’m told that one weekend two Canada geese arrived at the lake and were giving her ‘a hard time’ and on the Monday morning she was gone. Although we found two long flight feathers, I’m sure there would have been more evidence if she had come to any harm, and we are hoping that she will soon return with a new mate. I have given the RSPCA her ring number and have asked if they have any news, but I have yet to have a reply.
The Tump was the focus of our last workday, where we have put up ‘route markers’ and have reinstated the perimeter path. We are hoping to discourage walkers from cutting across the Tump on one of the many ‘new’ paths that now zigzag their way through the meadow, and to encourage them to go around the outside, as at one time we had skylarks nesting on the Tump and we are doing all we can to reinstate their habitat so they will return. We are trying to create a balance that works for the wildlife and for us humans and our four-legged friends.
It isn’t just dogs that put the birds off; we have had several reports recently of ‘teenagers’ riding motorised bikes and scooters on the Tump. Please, if you see this, it would be very helpful if you could let us know the times and dates. If it is possible to safely get a photograph and to ring 101, that too would also help us enormously. Even if the police are not able to come out, at least the incidents get logged and we then know how big an issue this is.
At the other end of the reserve, several of our group hold newt licences and we have begun our annual newt surveys. Most surveys take place in early spring and are done by torchlight. It’s as simple as it sounds – you shine a torch on the water and count the number of boys showing off their tail-waggling routine to the girls hanging around the edge (think Saturday night disco and you get the picture). Although we thought it may have been too cold for romantic thoughts, the girls must have been impressed, as we have already found several great crested newt eggs laid on the pond vegetation, so what do we know! Both the upper and lower newt ponds were bottle-trapped by the group; this involves putting the traps out at dusk and collecting them back in at a very unsociable hour the next morning, but it is a more efficient way of estimating the number of newts in the pond. So if you see a dodgy looking group out one morning huddled round some brightly coloured flags that would be us! The flags were made by my Girl Guides and we have three numbered sets in different colours so that we don’t lose traps or cross contaminate equipment across the ponds. We have all three types of newt here on the reserve – palmate, smooth and great crested (which is larger), and they and their habitats are all protected by law.
Off the reserve, we also manage several other ponds. The pond at Huckley Way has finally had its fence repaired and the Dewfalls Drive pond has again got some water in it, although very little else. There was a time when this pond was teeming with newts and we’re hoping that with a little love and attention they will return.
We have been greatly aided in our project to improve the paths in Savages Wood by the generous donation of £2,152 from Cllr Brian Hopkinson. The money, which was gratefully received, came from his annual SGC Member Awarded Funding budget and will enable us to enhance more of the paths. We hope to have more information about the paths project at our AGM (details below).
The Community Orchard lost several trees over the winter and we are trying to replace them like for like, which is proving to be quite a task! Who knew how hard it was to find a Peddington Brandy? Until we can find one, we have put in a Beauty of Bath and two Mère de Ménage (literally ‘housekeeper’).
The ‘new’ orchard was planted by girls to commemorate 100 years of Girl Guiding, although we did allow the Cub Scouts to add a tree. Last year the area was extended by Robocut and it is here that we planted 60 rowan trees donated by Bradley Stoke Town Council. Group members have also donated trees to fill the gaps and we have a medlar to celebrate the birth of Estelle Callow and a morello cooking cherry for Emily Matthews, both of which have grown faster than the girls! In memory of Mrs Matthews we have another cherry, a Keswick apple for Terry Gill, a Golden Delicious apple for Fay Lofthouse and two Red Love apple trees for Mr & Mrs Wright. We also have two apple trees in memory of group member Charlotte Edwards and, for Colin Davies, ‘Colin’s Allotment’, which is filled with fruit bushes and strawberries.
Local artist Lorraine Durrant has generously given us a print of her painting of Savages Wood, which we hope to use to raise some money for the group. Possibly by raffling it with the draw being held at our AGM. So if you would like the chance to get your hands on a limited edition print, and help us at the same time, come and buy a ticket!
The Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) is on Wednesday 22nd May, 7.30pm to 9.30pm, at the Jubilee Centre, Savages Wood Road. The AGM is open to everyone; please come and join us if you would like to find out more about what we do and what our future plans are. We expect to also have a report on our paths project and the de-silting of the lake.
• How to contact the Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group…
Photos: 1 Log pile on the main island at the lake, looking towards the weir. 2 A male great crested newt trapped at the upper newt pond in the nature reserve.
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 8 & 9). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.