By Sara Messenger of Bradley Stoke’s Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group.
We’ve always known what an inspiring place our nature reserve is, we’re just sorry it took a lockdown for it to be appreciated by everyone. At 46ha it’s the largest local nature reserve in South Gloucestershire, and it’s surrounded by one of the largest housing estates in Europe (home to over 20,000 residents).
Whether your thing is just feeling the sun warming your face, cool ancient woodlands, open meadows, flowers, orchards, bug hunting, pond dipping, orienteering, butterfly or bird watching or just chilling by the water, we have it all and it’s right on your doorstep!
Although we have had our fair share of cancellations – workdays, birthday cakes, Earth Hour and organised walks to name but a few, we have managed to get some things done. Some of the gates have either been removed or have been propped open, some paths were widened and bridges were cleared of encroaching vegetation. And although a group is required for a newt survey (traipsing around ponds in the dark on your own is not recommended!), it is easy to monitor our burgeoning slowworm population on your own. Our refugia have also given us an unexpected bonus as they are often used by small mammals and we have at times found up to three field voles and a shrew all huddled together beneath one of them, suggesting that we have a much higher population than we previously thought.
Sponsored by SGC, eight leaves from each of our apple trees have been sent off for analysis to have their provenance determined. We hope to soon be able to replace ‘like for like’ some of the lost trees in the community orchard (located behind BSCS). A big ‘thank you’ too, to Michael Hunt, who nipped out one morning and, at the orchard, dug over Colin’s allotment just in time for what would have been his birthday.
We aren’t the only ones who have been busy on the reserve – David Neale spotted red kites overhead (although I can’t print what was said when he wasn’t able to get a photo!) and a ring-necked parakeet was seen near the lake (thought to be an escapee from a local home).
In other news, our lake’s duckling population has increased by one – a couple rescued an ‘abandoned’ duckling from some overly attentive cats, but as it was almost fully grown, I took it down to the lake in the hope that our only resident mum (Matilda) will add him to her small family. If you see her with three ducklings you’ll know she did.
We’ve also had reports of pollution in the water caused, we think, by heavy rain washing oil from the roads into the storm drains. Please do be aware that what goes down the street drains ends up in our brooks.
During lockdown the woodland school area was trashed and we’ve also had a surprisingly large number of reports of fires and barbecues (neither of which are ever allowed on the reserve without prior permission). The seating area in Savages Wood is designed as an outdoor classroom, not a campfire pit.
Several areas have been turned into ‘outdoor pubs’ (notably the ‘scrape’ on the Tump that was cordoned off for the grizzled skipper butterfly). Thank you to our army of unsung heroes who clean up after them, but we’d prefer that if you’re going to use the reserve for drinking alcohol you didn’t leave behind broken bottles and empty cans (both are dangerous to people and animals). Also, if you’re going to pee in a public place, please try to be discreet, as there are some photos that I really don’t want on my computer!
Even though we are unsure how many organised walks we will be able to run this year, we are very grateful to Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC) for again granting us £2,000 for our service level agreement. The reserve is ‘owned’ by SGC but it is BSTC who give us the grant. Before the lockdown, Green Gym had also applied for a British Science Week grant to install a permanent star gazing bed with a compass and planisphere, but as that fund has now been closed, I am hoping that any underspend we have this year can be used for this project.
If you’ve spotted something that looks like a cormorant or a shag at the lake, you could be right. Although they are both usually sea birds, no one seems to have told them. We don’t mind – unless you’re Himalayan balsam we’re fairly inclusive.
At the moment, the water level is very variable, but until it is de-silted there is not much we can do about it. As you may know, SGC has agreed to cover the cost of de-silting the lake this winter and there will be a small pot of money left over for other ‘improvements’.
Local architectural designer Jake Richardson has generously drawn us some plans for a very posh bird hide and I would like to see more educational boards, bird & bat boxes and a boardwalk enclosing a shallow ‘pond dipping area’ along with a hand operated water wheel and a solar fountain. Maybe I should find out just how ‘small’ the pot is before I add any more suggestions!
• How to contact the Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group…
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 14 & 15). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.