Archive for the ‘Conservation’ Category

Nature conservation group report for September

Posted on Thursday 3rd October 2019 at 9:07 pm by SH (Editor)

Group photo from the foraging walk.

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

We’ve had a very busy last couple of months but we have at last seen our Savages Wood paths project completed. The contractors that completed the work are called Greenfields and we think it all went well, although I’m not sure their lads would all agree. It wasn’t all plain sailing – a new ramp was added at the last minute, a lorry broke all our paving slabs and there was quite a bit of head scratching over how to install the new disabled access gate (a big thank you to the Disabled Ramblers group for all their help). I think Jack felt he’d dug more holes than an entire family of moles, as both gate posts were moved several times and then the main gate was vandalised, requiring them to return and replace the posts yet again. However, I think we are all in agreement that it’s been worth the effort as now not only can wheelchairs access the woods but also those with pushchairs and those not quite so steady on their feet, as well as our usual dog walkers, runners and cyclists both young and slightly older.

Our new slowworm refugia have also proved to be an asset. Last year a few hundred of the reptiles were translocated from a building site onto the reserve and we agreed to survey the population to see if it was successful. Refugia have been put in place around the reserve to monitor the slowworm population, we’re very pleased to see that it appears to be thriving and in areas that we weren’t previously aware we had slowworms. They are a protected species, so if you find a refugia please don’t disturb it as slowworms can, when they feel threatened, shed their tails. A slowworm is a legless lizard not a snake, the most obvious difference is that they, unlike snakes, have eyelids and flat black tongues. They will be fully grown after 6 to 8 years although the females can breed from 4 to 5 years and I’m told they can grow up to 50cm, although I have yet to see one of ours half that size.

Balsam bashing

Despite South Gloucestershire Council, back in February, imposing a blanket ban on either group working in or near water, we do seem to have won the battle of the balsam this year. Although quite an attractive plant, Himalayan balsam is very invasive and no good for wildlife, so a fair part of the year is spent clearing it from the reserve. Although it can grow to 10ft, it has a small root ball so is easily pulled up by even the youngest helper and I’m very fond of telling them that if you stamp on it, it sounds like dead men’s bones! Each year we have less and less balsam and that’s purely down to the hard work of our dog walkers pulling their ‘ten a day’ and to our volunteers both on workdays and on odd free evenings when they can be spotted prowling through the undergrowth. I genuinely think they get more excited at finding a balsam stalk than they do at finding a £5 note.

More: Working on water; Organised walks »

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Nature conservation group report for May

Posted on Friday 14th June 2019 at 10:08 pm by SH (Editor)

Scouts from the 1st Stoke Gifford Group standing on a large fallen tree during a bat walk.

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


Photo of a pollution sheen on the surface of water in Stoke Brook.

On Wednesday 1st May, we received the unwelcome news that we had pollution in our brooks again, and it was again coming from Stoke Brook by Sherbourne’s Brake. Reg Ward kindly doubled back to get some photographs for us, as these are required as evidence, and it was reported to the Environment Agency. The oily pollution had travelled through Forty Acres (Stoke Gifford) and I believe they also reported the problem. Although some areas still have oily patches, we think we have been lucky this time, as we haven’t found any signs of  lasting damage,

Savages Wood paths

Unknown to us, our paths had, for some, become a bit of a campaign issue. We are well aware of the state of the paths and have been lobbying the land owners (SGC) for many years for them to be improved; unfortunately their tree officers believed that a more solid path would have a negative impact on the tree roots and therefore the length of the trees’ lives. Path making methods have improved over the years and we were finally able to agree on a method which protects the tree roots while providing a path that does not resemble the Somme at its worst. In April 2018, we put together a grant application – which was unsuccessful, but after some tweaking, a second application was submitted in December 2018 which was approved. We are very pleased to finally be able to announce that the Enovert Community Trust has given us a grant of £25,000 which will shortly be used to improve more than 500m of woodland paths at the northern end of the reserve in Savages Woods. The total project budget is £29,444, so the extra funding has come from a combination of match funding supplied from South Gloucestershire Council’s Member Awarded Funding (MAF) Streetcare budget, the Conservation Group’s own funding, which came from our small reserves, and £2,152 of further MAF funding from Cllr Brian Hopkinson.

More: BSCS primary phase wildflowers and Scout’s bat walk »

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Three Brooks nature reserve receives £25,000 grant for accessibility improvements

Posted on Thursday 30th May 2019 at 11:26 am by SH (Editor)

Photo of volunteers from the conservation group planning and marking the route of the new woodland paths.

A project to improve access to the Three Brooks Local Nature Reserve in Bradley Stoke has been given a boost, thanks to a grant of £25,000 from Enovert Community Trust.

Three Brooks is a popular nature reserve covering 60 hectares of tranquil woodland and meadows and lies at the heart of the town of Bradley Stoke. Some of the woodland dates back over 400 years, with a rich mix of habitats that provide valuable food and shelter to a wide range of wildlife, including great crested newts and slow worms.

The project will see more than 500m of woodland paths upgraded at the northern end of the reserve in Savages Wood, to improve accessibility. An environmentally friendly, no-dig cell web system will be used for the paths to protect surrounding tree roots.

Robin Jones, chair of The Three Brooks Nature Conservation Group which is delivering the project, said:

“In recent years the popularity of the site has been causing issues, especially in winter when the main unsurfaced paths have become water logged and unusable.”

“The project to resurface the woodland footpath network will greatly improve accessibility for visitors, while helping to protect ground flora and tree roots from trampling. We hope the upgraded paths will enable more people to use the area, which will lead to a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural environment.”

More: Reserve provides vital access to the natural environment »

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Nature conservation group report for April

Posted on Thursday 16th May 2019 at 8:02 pm by SH (Editor)

Photo of a log pile on the main island at the lake, looking towards the weir.

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?

More: The Tump, newting, Savages Wood and orchards »

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