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January 2014

wildlifematters NEWS FROM YOUR LOCAL HERTS & MIDDLESEX WILDLIFE TRUST AND AROUND THE UK

THIS ACTIVE FOR ISSUE WILDLIFE

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS OF PROTECTING WILDLIFE IN HERTFORDSHIRE AND MIDDLESEX

Active for wildlife

The nature of good health

Take on a challenge... and get fiti ithis New Year!i

Walks work for Hillingdon residentsi in more ways than onei

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YEARS

Herts and Middlesex

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS

PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE

LOCAL NEWS

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Our history Fifty years of working for wildlife

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Get out and explore! Our new iPhone app puts more than 2000 nature reserves across the UK at your fingertips

■ Discover our protected moors, woods, meadows, rivers and grasslands ■ Browse upcoming events ■ Learn about 800+ species ■ Find your local Wildlife Trust easily ■ More details on wildlifetrusts.org/app

Free to download on the iTunes store or wildlifetrusts.org/app


contents

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January 2014

YEARS

NEWS FROM YOUR LOCAL WILDLIFE TRUST AND AROUND THE UK

LOCAL NEWS 4 5

Herts and Middlesex

DAYS OUT

High Speed 2 latest Trust takes on records centre Transfer from County Council complete

6 Green sandpipers We’ve got the best place in the UK to see them

A fruity feast

UK NEWS

HELP WILDLIFE THROUGH THE WINTERi

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Water vole decline Latest statistics make worrying reading

MORE ON 18

PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE

COMMENT 13 The miracle of ecotherapy

The nature of good health

14 Reserves Roundup What you’ve helped us achieve in the last three months

Mind Chief Executive Paul Farmer on nature and mental health

How health walks are working for Hillingdon

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS

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wildlifematters HERTS & MIDDLESEX WILDLIFE TRUST

Grebe House, St Michael’s Street, St Albans, Herts AL3 4SN 01727 858 901 info@hmwt.org www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk Editor Sarah Buckingham 01727 858901 x 228 sarah.buckingham@hmwt.org Assistant Editor Julie Mulley 01727 858901 x 240 julie.mulley@hmwt.org Membership Alan Cotterell 01727 858901 x 234 alan.cotterell@hmwt.org

April 2014 issue copy deadline: 21 February 2014 Cover photo: Bittern by Tim Stenton

Registered Charity No: 239863 Registered in England: 816710

All rights reserved. No part may be reproduced without written permission from the editor. The publishers do not necessarily identify with or hold themselves responsible for the views expressed by contributors, correspondents or advertisers.

Design TU ink www.tuink.co.uk Printed on FSC stock R

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16 The first in a series of articles celebrating our golden anniversary this year

YOUR WILDLIFE TRUST 20 Share your thoughts, ideas, pictures and questions with us

RESERVE FOCUS 22 Amwell Garden for wildlife Early flowering plants

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Micro habitats

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LOCAL NEWS

When there’s not much venturing out mid-winter, your best bet for wildlife is to go birdwatching. We are lucky enough to have some of the best birdwatching spots in southern England in our care, including Tring Reservoirs, Stocker’s Lake, Amwell (page 20) and Lemsford Springs (page 6). From wintering ducks to waders, you will be amazed by the sights on some of our reserves in the colder months. I certainly was when I visited Lemsford Springs last January. One species that is especially challenging to spot is the bittern, on the cover this issue. The great thing about exploring our nature reserves is that you can search for wildlife and feel better for having a walk at the same time. This issue we’re looking at both the mental and physical health benefits of access to nature. This is yet another reason why we should be putting a monetary value on our natural environment; the NHS and the wider economy could be saving huge sums of money (pages 11-13). I hope you will be inspired to explore more of our reserves, in this our 50th year. Look out for our special events for new members in Go Wild too!

High Speed 2: hybrid b iThe Trust is very disappointed that the government has decided to bring a billi ito parliament that will allow the first phase of High Speed 2 (HS2) to go ahead,i iwithout having properly examined alternatives to the route proposalsi

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f approved by parliament, the hybrid bill (a bill affecting both the general public and private interests) will determine precisely where HS2 will run and what works will be undertaken to minimise its impact on the natural environment. Gadwall

ALAN REYNOLDS

From the editor

The proposed route will cut across the Colne Valley, on a viaduct bisecting the Mid-Colne Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the Wildlife Trust’s Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve. The site is internationally renowned for the diversity of breeding wetland birds and the numbers of wintering waterbirds such as gadwall, shoveler and great crested grebe, and summer moult gatherings of tufted duck. Broadwater Lake is also one of the most important sites in the UK for Daubenton’s bats. Jane Durney, Chief Executive of Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said: “There has been inadequate consideration of alternative options to the HS2 project and the proposed route. We remain unconvinced by the economic case argued for HS2, and concerned about how the environmental impact will be mitigated and compensated by the government.”

Volunteer awards We were very pleased to recognise the achievements of three of our hard working volunteers at the volunteer Christmas party in December. Maureen Ball, John Bristow and Peter Vickers all received awards for their significant contributions to the Trust’s work over the years.

Survey finds rarities at Tring Reservoirs A recent plant survey has confirmed the continuing presence of some of the rarest plants in Hertfordshire at Wilstone and Startops End Reservoirs, part of the Tring Reservoirs complex. Trevor James, the county recorder, conducted the survey in June 2013 with a follow-up visit in August to record some of the later flowering plants. A total of 212 species were recorded. Lynne Lambert, one of the Volunteer Wardens at Tring, said: “Of the more important plants found on site were whorled water-milfoil and ivy duckweed, which are indicators of good water quality – and also great yellow cress, the first record since 1960. Lesser water-parsnip was by the inlet stream and the trifid bur-marigolds that grow along the 4 wildlifematters January 2014

water’s edge are locally important. The inlet area of Startops End Reservoir offered up more scarce species. Lynne said: “Although the muddy inlet may not look anything special, it actually contains some of the scarcest plants that occur at Tring. The aptly named mudwort (Limosella aquatica) grows here. Wilstone Reservoir is the only other known locality of this species in Hertfordshire. It is the only site in the county for round-fruited rush (Juncus compressus) and other rare and uncommon plants include orange fox-tail, graceful sedge, marsh yellow-cress, pink water speedwell and toad rush.” The records will be submitted for the Botanical Society’s 2020 Atlas of the British Flora.


PETER WHITEHEAD

ill published An Environmental Statement numbering almost 50,000 pages has been published alongside the hybrid bill. This sets out where the government thinks there will be significant impacts on the local environment – and how they propose to compensate for this impact. Individuals and groups affected by phase one of HS2 only have until 24 January 2014 to respond to the government’s consultation on the Environmental Statement. Tom Day, Head of Living Landscapes for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, said: “The consultation period of 42 working days equates to reading around 1,000 pages of the document a day. We will be assessing, to the best of our ability in the available time, the ecological impact of the proposals on Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve, the SSSI, and the wider Colne Valley.” At the time of writing the Trust is still waiting for the Supreme Court ruling on the government’s decision not to carry out a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) during the consultation process on phase one of HS2. The SEA

Broadwater Lake Nature Reserve will be severely affected

would have considered alternatives to HS2 and the environmental implications of those alternatives. Write to your MP and help us to keep up the pressure on government to do the right thing for wildlife and the environment. Read more at hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/hs2

OTTE R U There is PDAT E eviden ce of o in He

rtfor tter act ivit good s dshire on the ign tha Mimra y t our o m ,a restora ngoing tion wo river r k a s part o Otter P Thanks roject is helpin f the g. to ev

eryone suppor who ted donatin the project b y g to ou r appea l

Trust takes on records centre H

HMWT/SARAH BUCKINGHAM

ertfordshire Environmental Records Centre (HERC), which holds vital data on wildlife across Hertfordshire, was transferred to Herts and Middlesex

Wildlife Trust in November. This valuable database, previously held by Hertfordshire County Council, is an important resource for planning authorities, developers and nature conservation groups. Ian Carle, the new Records Centre Manager, said: “The data we now hold is provided by wildlife recorders, professional ecologists and the public. We have just over 690,000 records of species, over 4,000 sites and 20,000 habitat records for Hertfordshire – and the database will continue to grow in the future as more data is added.” Tom Day, Head of Living Photo, from left: Tom Day, Head of Living Landscapes and Trust Chairman Mike Master with Terry Douris, Herts County Council and Jane Durney, Trust Chief Executive

Landscapes at the Trust, said: “The records we hold tell us about the habitats, species and important sites for wildlife across our county. If we know where important wildlife populations and habitats are, we can work on doing as much as we can to protect them for the future – and help others to recognise their value, for example when considering new developments.” Terry Douris, Cabinet Member Highways and Waste Management at Herts County Council said: “Hertfordshire’s biodiversity faces many pressures, including housing and commercial development, changes in agriculture, and climate change. This new partnership arrangement between the County Council and Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust will strengthen HERC and in turn help to deliver positive biodiversity outcomes on the ground.” Requests for information from Herts Environmental Records Centre can be made at the new website: www.hercinfo.org.uk January 2014 wildlifematters 5


HMWT/PAUL THRUSH

LOCAL NEWS

Green sandpipers at Lemsford Springs

See rare sandpipers!

Project Wild Thing The Trust has organised a special screening of Project Wild Thing in Welwyn on 30 January (see Go Wild enclosed). The film is an ambitious, feature-length documentary that takes a funny and revealing look at a complex issue, the increasingly disparate connection between children and nature. The film starts at 8pm and entry is free (donations to cover costs welcome). Welwyn Civic Centre, Prospect Place, Welwyn AL6 9ER. Booking is essential. Book your place online at hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/whats-on

place in the UK to get a view of these winter visitors! Well worth a trip in the colder months to see what turns up.” Read more about the special nature of Lemsford Springs in your Reserves Guide or go to hertswildlifetrust.org.uk /reserves/lemsford-springs

HMWT

Senior Reserves Officer Paul Thrush captured this great photo of green sandpipers at Lemsford Springs. No more than 23 have been recorded in Hertfordshire in any one year – and it’s unusual to see them so close together. Paul says: “Lemsford Springs is the best

Film screening:

Take on an Active Challenge

COURTESY OF CAROL KETCHLEY

The New Year marks a new beginning. A chance for you to start something fresh, try something new. So how long do your resolutions last, honestly? A day? A week, maybe two? You can make your resolution count. Make one now that lasts for generations to come. Pledge to take part in a sponsored event and turn your sponsorship into a long-term contribution to local wildlife.

That’s exactly what our Membership Officer, Alan Cotterell, plans to do. He will be running the Berkhamsted Half Marathon on Sunday 2 March 2014. Come and cheer him on! You can sponsor Alan at justgiving.com/ alanjcotterell Find out more about how you can get active and raise money for the Wildlife Trust at hertswildlife.org.uk/active

Alan’s gearing up for his run

Leaving a lasting legacy: Elizabeth Mary Hyde Hertfordshire resident Mary loved the countryside, a passion instilled in her from a young age, growing up in the beautiful Mary Hyde surroundings of the Black Mountains in Abergavenny. She and her husband were members of the Trust from the 1980s, with their interest in wildlife continuing right though their lives. They were avid birdwatchers, often visiting Tring Reservoirs. Norfolk was another popular destination for them, to spot waders and seabirds. 6 wildlifematters January 2014

Although they loved travelling to see wildlife, the nature on their doorstep – garden birds in particular – was always very important to them. Carol Ketchley, Mary’s daughter, said: “Thinking back to my childhood in the early 60s, I recall that Mum always fed the garden birds and my Dad built bird tables and nest boxes which were put to good use. Mum’s favourites were robins and blackbirds, which received a special diet in the form of grated cheese!” The legacy bequest Mary kindly left the Trust has helped us protect native wildlife and habitats, giving people continued access to nature.


From the Chief Executive

PICTURES HMWT/SARAH BUCKINGHAM

Tony Juniper inspires members at AGM

Above: Tony Juniper (centre) with Trust Chairman, Mike Master and Chief Executive, Jane Durney. Inset: Speaking to members at the Trust AGM

Thank you • The Trust would like to thank the late Audrey Randall’s daughter, Marcella, who donated to the Trust in her memory. Audrey was a key member of the Herts and Middlesex Badger Group, whose interest in wildlife and commitment to conservation helped set up the mammal hide at Tewin

In 2014 we will be celebrating the Trust’s 50th anniversary. We held our 2013 AGM on the same day, 16 November, in the same location, St Albans Town Hall, as the very first meeting in 1963 that led to the formation of the Trust on 21 August 1964. Today we face many of the same pressures as we did then. With Living Landscapes we are working towards an environment rich in wildlife for everyone, whatever the land use. During the year you can read about the Trust’s history in Wildlife YEARS Matters. Herts and Middlesex Look out for events marked with the anniversary logo and take part in our celebrations. This is my last column before I step down at the end of March. Thank you so much for your support during my time at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. I hope you continue to enjoy your membership into the future. Your local wildlife continues to need all the support we can offer it – and your membership makes all the difference. Wishing you all a very happy new year.

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e were very pleased to welcome leading environmentalist Tony Juniper as our guest speaker at the Trust’s AGM in St Albans in November. Tony is a campaigner, writer, sustainability advisor and leading environmentalist recognised for his work as Executive Director of Friends of the Earth. He inspired the AGM audience with stories from his recent book, What Has Nature Ever Done For Us. The book puts forward the economic argument for valuing nature, with wide-ranging and sometimes astonishing examples of ‘natural capital’ from across the globe. Read more on our blog, written by our Living Rivers Officer Charlie Bell: hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/blog

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Orchard Nature Reserve. Thanks and condolences go to her friends and family. • Thanks and birthday wishes go to Neale Holmes-Smith, our Volunteer Warden at Stanborough Reedmarsh. Neale, who already supports the Trust through his continued membership and volunteering at numerous sites in mid Hertfordshire, kindly asked friends and family to donate to the Trust in lieu of birthday gifts.

Apple Day at Tewin Orchard (6 October) was a great success, with over 300 visitors and £1,500 raised for the Trust

PICTURES HMWT/PAUL THRUSH

Colonel Peter Gerahty We were saddened to learn that Colonel Peter Echlin Gerahty, Honorary Vice President of the Trust, died in November. He was 92. Colonel Gerahty was instrumental in the Trust securing and moving to Grebe House in St Albans. Our condolences go to his family and friends.

January 2014 wildlifematters 7

COURTESY OF IAN JOHNSON

Apples galore


UK NEWS

Water voles disappe Habitat loss, mink predation and extreme weather have produced a dramatic drop in just five yearsi

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ew maps produced by the National UK Water Vole Database and Mapping Project show that the mammal’s range may have shrunk by 22% between 2007-2011 when compared with the previous recording period (2004-2008). The maps identify areas of England – especially the south west, south east and parts of the north west – where the species is vulnerable to further decline and extinctions. The reasons for the continuing losses are long-term habitat loss, mink predation and extreme weather such as 2012’s spring drought. There are still strongholds in areas with more extensive wetlands, or where the non-native American mink is absent or at low levels. However, some of these have reduced in size since the first mapping period. Wildlife Trusts are also succeeding in restoring water vole populations through targeted conservation efforts in some areas, but this work needs to be sustained and extended to stop the wider decline. In part, the new data reflects a reduced survey effort due to a

reduction in available funding. But there is clear evidence from some areas that water voles are disappearing fast. “This latest information is a real cause for concern,” said Paul Wilkinson, The Wildlife Trusts’ Head of Living Landscape. “Not enough is being done to secure this charismatic species’ future. We must protect the remaining strongholds and renew efforts to save this species, through targeted conservation and sustained monitoring. We need to create and maintain large-scale, good quality habitat, good for voles and other wildlife. We must also control mink, and conduct reintroduction schemes. A lack of funding for these crucial projects is a real threat to their success.” The Wildlife Trusts and the Environment Agency are calling for a national water vole monitoring programme to be established. Annually recording populations in key areas would show how this vulnerable mammal is faring over time. Read what The Wildlife Trusts are doing and submit sightings: wildlifetrusts.org/watervole

There is not enough habitat at a landscape scale to support viable populations

Critical areas South east Despite records across the south east of England, there are no viable long-term populations. Kent Wildlife Trust aims to find isolated populations and reconnect them, allowing populations to expand.

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River Ock and Ginge Brook BBOWT’s Water Vole Recovery Project has focused on survey and mink trapping for many years, allowing water vole populations to expand in some areas.

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Fran Southgate, Sussex WT

>> AROUND THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS AVON

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Endangered white clawed crayfish have been moved to a new safe haven in Dorset. It’s part of the South West Crayfish Project, led by Avon Wildlife Trust, with Buglife and the Environment Agency. wtru.st/AvonCrayfish

The Trust has launched an appeal to secure another huge piece of the Great Fen Project by unlocking a £1.9m HLF grant. This would increase the area of traditional fen habitat by almost a fifth. wtru.st/FenJigsaw

The Trust is restoring Delamere’s lost mosslands thanks to a £250,000 grant from WREN. This rare habitat is home to specialist plants and animals such as the whitefaced darter. wtru.st/DelamereBogs

A 15-year project to restore 300ha of peat bog at Foulshaw Moss is complete. Conifers have been removed and miles of drains blocked to bring water levels back to their natural state. wtru.st/Foulshaw Restored

The Trust’s Woodside Farm meat box scheme is raising funds for wildlife. The meat comes from the Highland cattle and rare breed Jacob sheep that graze the nature reserve. wtru.st/Derbys MeatBox

Record numbers of rare silver-studded blue butterflies have appeared at Upton Heath reserve. The species only lives on heathland, limestone grassland and dunes. Dark green fritillaries also did very well. wtru.st/RareSilvers

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for water voles Devon and Cornwall Water voles are now extinct in the south west due to predation by American mink. Habitat restoration on the River Tale in east Devon should allow a future reintroduction.

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Lincolnshire Coastal Grazing Marsh A complex system of drainage ditches make this farming landscape surprisingly good habitat for water voles. Continuous survey effort and support by land managers mean the population is also well documented.

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Lancashire Wetlands Farm ditch systems are amongst important strongholds for the species in the north west, but the future of the water vole in these areas relies on sensitive management.

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5 Uplands Headstreams in the Peak District and Pennines, Snowdonia and the Cairngorms are important strongholds, although mink remain a threat even at high altitudes.

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Habitat showing signs of water voles is disappearing at a frightening rate. This is the 2007-11 map of water vole presence

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The Trust opposes plans for the Circuit of Wales which would see a 350ha MotoGP circuit built in Blaenau Gwent. The development threatens heathland, marshy grassland and peat bog. wtru.st/GwentMotoGP

A moth previously unrecorded in Kent has been discovered at the Trust’s Holborough Marshes reserve. Harpella forficella has only been found in the UK four times before. wtru.st/HolbroMoth

The British Birdwatching Fair, jointly organised by the Trust and RSPB, celebrated its 25th year in August. Thousands of wildlife enthusiasts attend the event at Rutland Water every year. wtru.st/25thBirdfair

Green energy company Ecotricity is donating up to ÂŁ60 to the Trust for each customer switching their energy supply. This raises funds for conservation and helps develop green energy. wtru.st/Ecotricity Donate

Volunteers from a local brewery have built an artificial otter holt at Hickling Broad reserve. Now it has received its first otter visitor. The Trust hopes breeding activity may be filmed there in the future. wtru.st/HicklingHolt

The Trust celebrated its 50th anniversary with 50 hours of wildlife recording at Attenborough nature reserve. 620 species were spotted over the weekend, including 60 never recorded there before. wtru.st/AttenbroCount

January 2014 wildlifematters 9


100+ new wildflower meadows on the way

UK NEWS

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Road proposal threatens Gwent Levels G went Wildlife Trust has expressed disappointment as the Welsh government push forward with proposals to build a new 15-mile stretch of dual carriageway through the Gwent Levels. The Trust has been campaigning against proposals for a new M4 relief road in the area for more than a decade. This latest proposal is one of

many to be considered in recent years and comes as a blow to efforts to protect this nationally important area, home to iconic wetland wildlife including water vole, otter and more than 140 notable invertebrate species. The Trust is promoting alternative options which it believes are less damaging to the environment and also cheaper. Details on savethelevels.org.uk

The Wildlife Trusts’ Joan Edwards (centre) with representatives from other charities

A celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation is creating more than 100 new wildflower meadows. The project, run by Plantlife, The Rare Breeds Survival Trust and The Wildlife Trusts, has already selected flower-rich donor grasslands in each county of the UK to provide seed for new meadows nearby. The Coronation Meadows project was proposed by HRH The Prince of Wales, who is patron of all three charities. Traditional wildflower meadows have declined by 97 per cent in recent decades. The donor sites include Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust’s Red Hill, famous for its butterflies, and Hannah’s Meadow, now looked after by Durham Wildlife Trust after a long history of traditional management. Hay-making and seed harvesting has taken place over the summer, and some recipient sites have already received their donor seeds and green hay. More on coronationmeadows.org.uk

Green hay harvesting for the project at Hollybed Farm Meadows in Malvern

Shoals of public support for marine protection More than 350,000 people have called for the designation of a network of Marine Conservation Zones (or MCZs) around the UK. The Wildlife Trusts and other environmental charities presented the pledges to Downing Street in June. The Wildlife Trusts remain concerned that the government has failed to commit to the designation of a complete network of MCZs in English seas. An extensive regional consultation in 2010-12 involving a million people recommended 127 sites be set up. So far the government is only considering 31. The government must now make a statement on its next steps. It’s hoped the pledges will provide a mandate for swift and effective action. More on wildlifetrusts.org/mcz

>> AROUND THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS SCOTTISH

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Five newly born beaver kits have been seen at Dubh Loch, one of the Scottish Beaver Trial sites in Knapdale. Introduced in 2009, the beavers have successfully bred every year of the trial so far. wtru.st/BeaverKits

Greater butterfly orchids bloomed in record numbers at Caeau Llety Cybi reserve thanks to the long, wet winter. 624 flower spikes were counted this year – almost double the previous best. wtru.st/OrchidBoom

Volunteers have created a new wildflower meadow the traditional way in the Churnet Valley. Locally sourced hay spread by hand ripened on site, dropping seeds naturally to create new meadows.

Wild About Worthing is a new project made possible thanks to an HLF grant. Residents will be offered wildlife activities including a Forest School programme and wildlife gardening competition. wtru.st/WildWorthing

Ulster Wildlife has begun mapping barn owls’ nesting and roosting sites to help target conservation work. The species has been in decline since the 1930s and is now estimated to number just 50 pairs in NI. wtru.st/NIBarnOwls

Help for Hedgehogs will map hedgehog populations across the county, target conservation activity on hedgehog hotspots and raise awareness of the issues they face. wtru.st/HelpForHogs

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Strap?

PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE

NATUREPL.COM

The nature of

good health THE WILDLIFE TRUSTS’ COLLABORATION WITH MENTAL HEALTHI CHARITY MIND SHOWS HOW EFFECTIVE PRESCRIBING ‘NATURE’ ASI THERAPY CAN BE (PAGE 13). HERE, JENNIFER GILBERT REPORTSI ON THE LOCAL SUCCESS OF HEALTH WALKS IN HILLINGDONI

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or most of us it is clear that being outdoors in nature and going for a walk is good for us. It makes you feel good, clears your head, helps you relax and of course keeps you fit. However, if you don’t have anyone to walk with or if you don’t know where to go, walking can be a daunting prospect. Quite understandably fears over safety or getting lost mean that many people avoid walking around isolated green spaces on their own. Fortunately there are schemes which help remove these barriers. Health walk programmes are now being offered in many parts of the country as part of the national Walking for Health campaign. Coordinated by organisations including local authorities,

NHS trusts, charities and volunteer groups, these regular free guided walks give people the opportunity to get out, socialise and improve their general fitness all in one go. Since their inception in 1996 they have become hugely popular. More than 70,000 people now regularly walk at 3,400 health walks across the country led by 10,000 trained volunteers. Local walks Within Hertfordshire and Middlesex there are several schemes providing a large number of walks. In Hertfordshire this is coordinated by the Countryside Management Service and in Middlesex by local authorities such as London Borough of

Hillingdon. Between these two schemes alone there is a total of 60 different walks covering every day of the week, taking in a huge number of green spaces across the two counties. As part of our Connecting People with the Colne Valley project, I have been lucky enough to be involved with the Hillingdon Healthy Walks. Having trained as a walk leader I regularly go along to health walks in Uxbridge, Harefield and Denham to show people the wildlife they can see at different times of year. Not only has this been a great way to reach a new audience and teach them about wildlife, it has also shown me how important these schemes are, having seen the benefits for myself. > January 2014 wildlifematters 11


HMWT

Strap?

PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE

ith w k l a W ust r T e f i l d the Wilest Go Wild eventfs

HMWT

so lat See our losed for detail ion, c g diary en s across our re .uk lk rg a .o w guided lifetrust o d il w s t r nt he or visit ck on What’s O alk and cli ildlife w w a d fin u near yo

*Source: Walking Works summary report, Walking For Health, October 2013 (walkingforhealth.org.uk)

Walking works > Physical and mental health As well as helping people improve their fitness, walks are just as important for general well-being and mental health, as the Ecominds project (page 13) shows. A recent review by The Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support who run the Walking for Health campaign concluded that “Walking works. It makes people happy, keeps everyone healthy and can even save your life.” This is a powerful statement but one that is backed up by scientific research. Being active can reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers by 20-50%. The risk of depression can also be reduced by 30% meaning that walking can have massive benefits not just to us but to our economy as well. It is estimated that health care costs, sick days and early deaths could be costing up to £10billion a year!* But we don’t need figures to prove that walking works. Feedback gathered by London Borough of Hillingdon showed an overwhelmingly positive response with many people saying how much better they feel for walking. Some commented that they have lost weight, feel stronger, have better posture and that the walks help them cope with their depression. Speaking to people directly on the walks, it is clear that one of the main reasons for doing them is to socialise. Many people have formed good friendships and look forward to catching up with friends each week. For some this can be a lifeline, especially for those 12 wildlifematters January 2014

Hillingdon health walkers on how it benefits them: “It blows the cobwebs away – being out in the open and being able to talk to people.” “It helps my depression – I feel better just getting out of the house.” “I wouldn’t go out if it wasn’t for the walks.”

who live alone or have recently lost their partner. Having the support of the group gives them the confidence to get out walking again in a comfortable, unpressurised environment. For others it is simply enjoyable, a fun way of seeing the countryside and a good start to the day. So whatever your reason for joining a health walk, walking does work; the benefits are vast and far cheaper than joining a gym!

Jennifer Gilbert is Colne Valley Living Landscapes Officer at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

HEALTH WALKS IN HERTFORDSHIRE: HERTSLINK.ORG/CMS/HEALTHWALKS/RESOURCES HILLINGDON HEALTHY WALKS: HILLINGDON.GOV.UK/WALKING WALKING FOR HEALTH CAMPAIGN: WALKINGFORHEALTH.ORG.UK


COMMENT

The miracle of ecotherapy Paul Farmer reflects on the mental health charity Mind’s partnership with The Wildlife Trustsi

MICHAEL LISHMAN

mental health problems. In truth, ecotherapy could be offered on its own as a treatment for short-term conditions such as depression or mild anxiety. With medication or talking treatments it can also help longer-term conditions such as bipolar disorder. Recently, we surveyed a group of GPs and more than half of them said they see ecotherapy as a valid treatment for anxiety and depression. Sadly only 11% felt that they could prescribe it for a condition such as schizophrenia, even though the Ecominds scheme has made a difference to people with such mental health problems. We clearly need to hear more stories like Wayne’s, and see more evidence of the impact of ecotherapy.

Paul Farmer is chief executive of Mind, the mental health charity helps people to gain the confidence, skills and qualifications to get back into work. Two in five people who attended an Ecominds project were helped back into employment, training, education or another voluntary position. Last year more than 50 million antidepressant prescriptions were written out, at a cost to the NHS of £211 million. Currently one in five people are waiting up to a year to access talking treatments. As

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Y

ou might not think that Mind and The Wildlife Trusts have much in common, but by working together we’ve discovered that we have. Over the past four years, Mind’s Ecominds scheme, with help from the Big Lottery Fund, has supported 14 Wildlife Trust projects that have introduced hundreds of people with mental health problems to ecotherapy. The projects range from nature conservation schemes to community gardens. They’ve helped people reap the benefits of the natural environment, make new friends, feel part of their communities again, and learn new skills to get back into work. A wonderful example of the difference this can make to someone is Wayne, who has attended Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust’s Idle Valley conservation project. Wayne is an ex-serviceman who has been managing post-traumatic stress and depression since leaving active service 14 years ago. He joined the Notts Idle Valley group in November 2010 following a hospital admission, and immediately showed an interest in woodworking and conservation. After a year Wayne’s Community Psychiatric Nurse reduced her visits from every week to every two weeks, and then every month. His medication was also reduced, and finally, after a year and a half, he was discharged by his nurse. For most of us, the benefits of getting outdoors and doing some exercise are obvious. However, few people think of ecotherapy activities such as gardening or walking as valid treatments for diagnosed

Few people realise gardening or walking are valid treatments for diagnosed mental health problems

‘‘

We published our Feel Better Outside, Feel Better Inside report in October. Developed by the University of Essex, the report provides academic research to show the impact of ecotherapy projects on psychological health and wellbeing. For example, we found that 63% of people with mental health problems felt more positive about their lives by the time they left an Ecominds project. In another survey, 76% experienced improvements in overall mood after a single Ecominds session, with 48% feeling less depressed. We have also found that ecotherapy

more traditional treatments such as antidepressants don’t work for everyone, and access to talking treatments is patchy across the UK, it is so important that people are given a wider choice of treatment. That’s why we want to celebrate The Wildlife Trusts’ fantastic achievements. They have helped more people with mental health problems to access ecotherapy – a holistic treatment that is cost-effective and tailored to an individual’s needs. We hope to continue working with them to spread the message about mental health.

READ THE REPORT AND FIND YOUR NEAREST WILDLIFE TRUST ECOTHERAPY PROJECT AT MIND.ORG.UK/ECOMINDS FOR A GOOD DOSE OF RESTORATIVE NATURE:WILDLIFETRUSTS.ORG/RESERVES

The joint Mind/ Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust project at the Idle Valley nature reserve

January 2014 wildlifematters 13


Strap?

ANNUAL REVIEW CONSERVATION

Reserves Roundup HMWT/LUKE SHENTON

I ALISTAIR WHYTE EXPLAINS HOWI I YOUR SUPPORT HAS HELPED USI I IN THE LAST THREE MONTHSI

Hertford Heath

Alistair Whyte is Nature Reserves Manager at Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Buffalo at Rye Meads

HMWT

Patmore He ath O

ur ongoing re st and Novemb oration of the heath contin er, including o u pening up and ed in October and grazing restoring a p the h ond of the heathla eath with sheep, to mainta in the quality nd habitat.

We bought te n ne At the time o w sheep recently, to add to f wr our existing f lock This ‘flying f iting they are grazing at lock’ of Shetla Fir and Pon . d nds moves ar helping us to ound the natu Woods. keep grasslan re reserves, ds in good con dition. Patmore Hea th

HMW T/JENN Y SHER WEN

14 wildlifematters January 2014

Green Team at Aldbury Nowers

>>

ing amphibious vehicle dur We hired a specialist ds, h managing our reedbe the autumn to help wit t rare and important which are among our mos e, called a truxor, can habitats. This machin d, and cuts and rakes ree work on land or water, s lot dbeds healthy with enabling us to keep ree a . Without management, of young, dense growth g out and starts turnin reedbed quickly dries xor also allows us to into woodland. The tru reeds, enabling people cut rides through the rare birds such as to get great views of ls. bitterns and water rai

>>

Reedbed enhancement

Truxor at Amwell

HMWT

Shopping for sheep!


Amwell

In September a digger was used to create new ditches, scrape s and pools. Th is will improve habitat as well the as the visitor experience, with chances to get some great view s of the wildli close to Great fe Hardmead Lake. We also removed invasive willow from the reedbe ds.

HMWT/TIM HI LL

Your support is helping us to carry out vital conservation work

Rye Meads We installed a brand new holding pen in October, to help us gather up our water buffalo and ponies safely. The grass was cut in the meadow, helping to maint ain this rare habitat.

Amwell

Purwell Ninesprings

Hertford Heath

the In October the grass was cut in nd habitat. meadows, to maintain the grassla

HMWT

HMWT

Work continued in October and N ovember to remove holly at this reserve as part of our heathland restoration plan. Heath land is very rare habitat in Hertfordshir e now so it’s important we maintain what’s left.

Frogmore Meadow

Balls Woodees

ded to keep ned and pollar in th re we anches getting In November tr event large br pr d an y th al s, the wide the woodland he Glades and ride f. of ng ki ea br oor, were too heavy and the woodland fl h ac re t gh li ers to emerge paths that let allow wildflow ll wi s ea ar e e host of opened up. Thes pporting a whol su , er mm su d storation come spring an t some pond re ou d ie rr ca so wildlife. We al odland. work in the wo

Aldbury Nowers

ned in October and ai nt ai m s wa at bit ha nd sla as The chalk gr that would otherwise swamp n tio ta ge ve ck ba ing tt cu by r Novembe d summer months. an g rin sp e th in rs we flo nd delicate chalk grassla all sorts of wildlife, g tin ac tr at r fo l ia nt se es e ar These wildflowers erflies. This regular work at including chalk grassland butt be one of the best to es inu nt co it ns ea m s er ow Aldbury N tfordshire. places to see butterflies in Her

Frogmore Meadow We carried out hedge laying and ember. restoration at Frogmore in Nov urces Hedgerows are very important so wildlife. of food and shelter for all sorts of

Hexton Chalk Pit

e in To keep this chalk grassland reserv ng good condition we carried out cutti ll enable and raking of vegetation. This wi erge chalk grassland wildflowers to em in the spring and summer.

Hexton Chalk Pit

HMWT/PAUL THRUSH

January 2014 wildlifematters 15


Strap?

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS

Fifty years of working for THE TRUST CELEBRATES ITS GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY THIS YEAR. IN THIS FIRST OF A SERIES OF SPECIAL 50TH ARTICLES, FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE TO BUILDING A RECORD OF THE TRUST’S HISTORY

50 YEARS

Herts and Middlesex

I

n the early 1960s a group of local naturalists and other interested people assembled out of common concern for Hertfordshire’s rapidly declining wildlife. They were deeply worried about the postwar loss of habitats, especially the conversion of grazing land to arable crops and the devastating effects of agro-chemicals on farmland birds. In November 1963, the Trust’s inaugural meeting in St Albans Town Hall was so oversubscribed that people had to be turned away. In 1964, the Trust was registered as a charity and soon acquired its first nature reserves, including Old Park Wood, Barkway Chalk Pit and Fox Covert. Fifty years later the Trust has more than 40 nature reserves in its care, with over 21,000 members supporting vital conservation work across Hertfordshire and Middlesex, from woodlands in the east to wetlands in the west. Here’s a snapshot of some key dates in our history.

>> 1963 The inaugural meeting of what was to become the Trust was held in St Albans Town Hall on 16 November. >> 1964 The Hertfordshire and Middlesex Trust for Nature Conservation was created on 21 August and formally incorporated on 9 October. Fox Covert was offered as a gift by Mr Fordham of Letchworth and became the Trust’s first nature reserve.

>>

>> 1969 The Trust worked to preserve Wildlife Sites in the Chess Valley from the impact of the new North Orbital Road.

Top:The Trust takes on its first reserve, Fox Covert. Above: Celebrating the reopening of Thorley Wash in 2013

16 wildlifematters January 2014

>> 1970 The Trust continued to grow: Blagrove Common, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), was taken under Trust management and Lemsford Springs was purchased. The Trust had 20 nature reserves.


wildlife >> 1977 Membership of the Trust grew to 5,000: nationally The Wildlife Trusts were 40 strong with 1,000 nature reserves between them. Government began pursuing the idea of National Nature Reserves. >> 1982 The Trust moved to Grebe House in Verulamium Park, St Albans.

>> 2010 The small blue butterfly returned to Hertfordshire at Aldbury Nowers after an eight year absence, thanks to chalk grassland restoration work carried out by the Trust in 2008. The Trust acquired Thorley Flood Pound, a SSSI, from the Environment Agency and started planning a restoration project to protect the wet grassland and improve access for visitors.

>> 2011 Waterford Heath was secured on a long lease, protecting scarce grizzled skipper >> 1987 The name of the Trust was officially changed butterflies for the next 85 years. to “The Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust”. >> 2012 The whole of the Tring Reservoirs complex, >> 1991 Black-necked grebes were seen in one of the most important wetland Hertfordshire for the first time in 60 years reserves in Southern England and a mecca at Hilfield Park Reservoir. for birdwatchers, came under Trustmanagement. >> 1995 The first reports of otters breeding at Rye Meads Nature Reserve. >> 1996 A 50 Year Vision for Hertfordshire Wildlife and Natural Habitat (Biodiversity Action Plan) was published, the first for a county. >> 1999 King’s Meads and Broadwater Lake became Trust reserves, and the following year, Tewin Orchard and Rye Meads were added to the Trust’s portfolio. >> 2007 The Trust bought Amwell Quarry and embarked on a major restoration project. The reserve is now internationally important for its wetland bird populations. >> 2008 The Trust took action to address the serious decline in water voles with the start of the Wetlands for Water Voles and People project. >> 2009 Balls Wood was bought and officially handed over in June, after a major fundraising campaign to protect this semiancient woodland. Meanwhile the Trust took on Gobions Wood and Hawkins Wood was left to the Trust in a legacy. Membership reached the 20,000 mark.

NATUREPL.COM/ROSS HODDINOTT

>> 1974 More reserves were added to the Trust’s portfolio: Hertford Heath, Alpine Meadow, Hexton Chalk Pit and Uxbridge Alderglade and in 1975, Fir and Pond Woods.

Common blue butterfly

>> 2013 Orchids emerged in swathes on Stevenage roadsides, following a programme of careful mowing by Stevenage Borough Council, working in partnership with the Trust on the Wild Stevenage project. Our work on Hertfordshire’s rivers received national recognition with a visit from Environment Minister Richard Benyon. Meanwhile the national Chalk Streams Charter is launched from the dried up River Beane near Stevenage, thanks to our work to raise awareness of the terrible state of Hertfordshire’s chalk streams. Thorley Wash re-opened to the public following a major restoration project. Water rail are reported to be breeding on the reserve. Membership now stands at over 21,000.

Recording our history Over the last year, Anthony Oliver, a long-standing supporter of the Trust, has been researching our history since it all began back in 1964. Drawing on primary source material Anthony has compiled lists of key events in the history of the Trust to form the foundation of an electronic historical database. During his research he studied all the editions of the Trust newsletter (which eventually metamorphosed into Wildlife Matters) and the summaries of every set of Council meeting minutes, which had been prepared by our dedicated office volunteer, Harold Smith. Quite a lot of reading! This historical archive will be updated as time goes by. It will also be a useful tool to plan the celebration of significant anniversaries. This year of course we celebrate the Trust’s 50th birthday. Our plan is to make the database available to view on our website and we hope that members – old and new – will send in details of corrections and additions so that we can make it as complete as possible and keep it up to date. Meanwhile, Anthony is continuing to scour other sources of historical information – including the memories of the Trust’s ‘old timers’! Send us your photos! To complement our history project we are compiling a history of the Trust in pictures. Do you have photos from the early days of the Trust, particularly the 1960s and 1970s? We would love to see them. Please email your scanned photos to sarah.buckingham@hmwt.org or send copies to Sarah Buckingham, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, Grebe House, St Michael’s Street, St Albans AL3 4SN.

January 2014 wildlifematters 17


Tim is Conservation Manager for Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

TIM HILL, THE TRUST’S CONSERVATION MANAGER, HIGHLIGH WILDLIFE AND MAKES SUGGESTIONS FOR THINGS TO LOOK O JANUARY

18 wildlifematters January 2014

DAVE KILBEY

Searching for gold On 25 January 2014 I will be leading my annual wildfowl workshop in the Colne Valley. After an illustrated talk on the ecology of ducks at a local church hall we will head off to Stocker’s Lake, one of the best places to watch wildfowl in the south of England, to put identification skills into practice. Stocker’s Lake was created by the removal of thousands of tons of sand and gravel between the 1920s and 1940s. Since then the lake and margins have been colonised by a huge variety of plants, creating the wonderful home for wildlife you can see today. Stocker’s Lake provides a quiet refuge, with food for ducks such as insects, seeds, vegetation and fish. The lake also provides sanctuary for birds disturbed by recreational activities elsewhere in the Colne Valley. Below water, Stocker’s Lake provides home to large numbers of many types of fish including tench, roach and perch. Unwary fish often provide meals for birds such as grey herons, little egrets and great crested grebes. During the winter thousands of birds fly to the Colne Valley to escape freezing conditions in their breeding grounds in northern Europe. In January, one of the birds we will be searching for is the goldeneye – a designer duck if ever there was one. At a distance the males look simply black and white but up close and in the sunshine, the head feathering is an explosion of colour – jade green then deep purple depending on how the light catches the plumage – Versace has nothing that comes close. Between the eye and bill males have a white patch – described by one of my former colleagues as the ‘kiss of the ice queen’ – alluding to the snowy north from where the majority of these birds originate. The female is a more subdued mix of brown, grey and white. Both have a distinctive triangular head shape and bright yellow or ‘golden’ eyes. Stocker’s Lake is an important feeding place for goldeneye – up to 29 have been recorded here in recent winters. They are diving ducks, searching below water for invertebrates, and at their most active will spend more time underwater than on the surface. This makes watching them a challenge as they often resurface a long way from where they dived! My best advice is to pick a vantage point overlooking the central part of the lake with the sun behind you – one of the hides or ‘leaning rails’ would be ideal. It’s then a case of scanning slowly with binoculars across the water. Tufted ducks can look like male goldeneye at a distance but the identification clincher is the ‘ice queen’s kiss’ which stands out, even from far off.

Stocker’s Lake is one of the best places to watch wildfowl in the south of England

The goldeneye – a designer duck if ever there was one >>

nature’scalendar

DAYS OUT

FEBRUARY An apple a day… As the nights start drawing out, temperatures remain low and frost and snow are commonplace during February. This is one of the toughest months of all for your local wildlife. It’s a time to take action! We can all make a difference but the important thing is to understand the needs of wildlife at this time of year – primarily food and shelter. If you are lucky enough to have a garden or balcony this is the place to start. If the ground is frozen, birds such as blackbirds and thrushes will be unable to dig for worms and other soil-living invertebrates. Most natural fruits will have been consumed by this time of year therefore it’s worthwhile providing some alternatives. Last February I was fortunate enough to be able secure a regular supply of damaged


DAVE KILBEY

TS SOME OF HIS FAVOURITE SEASONALI UT FOR THROUGH THE MONTHS AHEAD...I

apples and pears which I used to feed my local birds. I had a daily routine of slicing a selection of them in half and then spearing them onto the branches of shrubs, cut side up. The fresh fruit proved a magnet to my local blackbirds with pears being the favourite – sweeter perhaps? During the coldest part of the month a male bird established a temporary territory over a bush where the apples had been spiked. It would appear just after first light, feast on the fruit then perch on the apple until it became hungry once more when the routine would begin again. The only time he left his territory was to chase off any other birds that showed an interest in ‘his’ fruit. Elsewhere in the garden, other birds that enjoyed the fruity feast included song thrushes and occasional fieldfares, as well as blue, coal and great tits. Such was the feeding frenzy on the coldest days that by lunchtime all that was left of the apples were the skins, hanging limply from the branches.

>>

Froggy went a courting As temperatures rise through March so will the hormone levels in our best known amphibians. Froggies all over our counties will have only one thing on their mind – courting a mate and passing genes on to a new generation. March is the time for me to head out and marvel at the wonders of the pondiverse. However, ponds are not the only place to spot a frog at this time. Those that hibernated on land will be making their way back to wetlands and can be found almost anywhere – in meadows, woods and gardens. Their movement is one of the best ways to tell them apart from toads: frogs hop and toads walk. Frogs will have spent the previous five months in hibernation. Some will find a secure frost-free cavity below ground. Frogs are unusual in that they are able to absorb oxygen through their skin which enables them to hibernate in the bottom of ponds, safe from most potential predators. Males have an advantage over those which have hibernated on land as they will be able to establish breeding territories immediately, ready for the arrival of females. Male frogs court a mate by croaking incessantly. Where there are large gatherings there can be quite a chorus! Females are usually considerably outnumbered by males and this results in some seriously aggressive battles to win a mate. During the breeding time males develop

In March frogs head to wetlands to breed

enlarged pads on their thumbs which help them to hold on to the females during mating or amplexus. Once the bond is formed, females will lay many hundreds of eggs in a large clump which the male fertilises whilst still grasping his mate. The breeding frenzy is soon over and all that remains are thousands of eggs wallowing in the shallows. Eggs hatch within a week or so and over the next couple of months will develop into froglets before leaving the breeding site and heading off to find food and shelter on the surrounding land. As a child one of my favourite things was watching tadpoles collected from the local pond developing slowly, first losing their external gills, then growing their feet and legs and eventually losing their tails – a truly wondrous experience which I can remember vividly to this day.

Providing fresh fruit helps birds when natural sources are scarce

TIM HILL

ROB HOPKINS

MARCH

January 2014 wildlifematters 19


YOUR WILDLIFE TRUST

T S U R T E F I L D L I W R U O Y IT’S

iWELCOME TOOUR NEW SECTION FEATURING MEMBERS’i NEWS,VIEWS, HINTS AND TIPS.WE BEGIN WITH SOMEi iRECENT QUESTIONS FROM OUR MEMBERS...i

Alison

Alison Shersby Head of Fundraising

Your questions

ELENA CAPE L

Thank you for your continued support.

How can my children get more engaged with wildlife? We always have some family events highlighted in our Go Wild events guide (enclosed with Wildlife Matters) so look out for them. There is also a great Wildlife Trust website called Wildlife Watch with loads of free activity sheets for you to download. Great for a rainy day!

ctures, urite pi o v fa r ou e. On e o f by G rac sent in G race! Thanks We want your wildlife gardening tips! For next issue please send us your comments and suggestions for wildlife gardening to membership@hmwt.org – the copy deadline for our April edition is 21 February 2014.

wildlifewatch.org.uk

Can I walk my dog on one of your reserves? We welcome responsible owners who keep their dogs under control. In some places and at certain times we ask you not to take dogs onto our reserves. This may be because of grazing animals which help to preserve the habitat or at times which are particularly sensitive for wildlife. Please check the information for the reserve you want to visit on our website at hertswildlifetrust.org.uk – look out for this “paw” symbol.

Do we have your email address? We currently have addresses for about a third of our members. If you have an email address and you are happy for us to communicate with you we would love to send you our monthly e-newsletter and other updates. Email is a cost effective way for us to let you know what’s happening with wildlife in our area. Gift Aid If we claim gift aid on your membership, please help us to keep our records up to date by letting us know if you are no longer a UK tax payer. membership@hmwt.org 20 wildlifematters January 2014

JENNY SHERWEN

STAYING IN TOUCH

I’ve just joined the Trust, how can I get more involved? We are planning a series of walks during the year especially for new members. These walks will give you the chance to meet other new members as well as Wildlife Trust staff. Look out on the website and in the spring edition of Go Wild. We are also running a series of talks throughout the two counties called “Your Wildlife Trust” which give you an opportunity to learn more about what we do.

WE’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. GET IN TOUCH WITH US AT MEMBERSHIP@HMWT.ORG


PEOPLE AND WILDLIFE

News from the woods Organiser Susannah O’Riordan, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust’s South Herts Woods Living Landscapes Officer, said: “It was very rewarding to see so many happy faces going home at the end of the day wearing leaf crowns, brandishing happy flappy bats and raving about what a great day it was.”

WOODLAN D FESTIVAL

ord must have got around about our second Wild Woods Day as nearly 500 people turned up, three times as many as last year! It was hard not to have a fantastic day out with so many different activities on offer and some gorgeous sunny autumn weather to enjoy. There was willow weaving, twig pencil making, pond dipping, how to make a pine cone creature and fascinating facts about rocks. Groups went on guided walks to learn about animal tracking and find out how to identify trees. Lots of people took the time to stop and marvel at the chainsaw carver as he turned a tree trunk into a beautiful sculpture and to listen to how natural soaps are made. When all the excitement got too much there were plenty of opportunities to take a breather at the Wild Woods cafe and listen to the storyteller’s woodland tales.

PHOTOS BY ELENA CAPE L

Second autumn woodland festival a huge success W

Woodlands for People and Wildlife

A magical winter adventure Children made amazing angels and other Christmas decorations made from natural materials at Danemead Nature Reserve in December. Everyone kept warm and cosy with hot chocolate around the camp fire and had fun toasting marshmallows!

These woodland events are part of the Woodlands for People and Wildlife project. Hertfordshire has some wonderful oak-hornbeam woodlands in the south and east, but habitats have become fragmented and some have suffered through lack of management. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust is carrying out vital woodland restoration work and encouraging more volunteers to promote and look after the woodlands. Our project covers Balls Wood, Gobions Wood, Fir and Pond Woods, Northaw Great Wood, Danemead and Broxbourne Woods National Nature Reserve. For more information about the project contact Susannah O’Riordan, South Herts Woods Living Landscape Officer: susannah.oriordan@hmwt.org

THERE ARE MORE FREE WOODLAND EVENTS COMING UP IN THE EASTER HOLIDAYS – GO TO HERTSWILDLIFETRUST.ORG.UK/WHATS-ON TO BOOK YOUR PLACES TODAY. BE QUICK AS THEY FILL UP FAST! January 2014 wildlifematters 21


HMWT/TIM HILL

RESERVE FOCUS

AMWELL

Nature Reserve

FOR A MID-WINTER TRIP TO A NATURE RESERVE,I A WETLAND SITE LIKE AMWELL IS A GREAT OPTION.I SO WRAP UP WARM AND ENJOY SOME OFI OUR SPECTACULAR WINTER WILDLIFEI

A

mwell Nature Reserve is an area of lakes and reedbeds near Ware in the Lee Valley. The Trust took over this former quarry site in 2006 and began the process of transforming it into a wetland nature reserve. Today Amwell is internationally important to nature conservation because of the number of water birds that visit. This diverse wetland nature reserve supports outstanding communities of breeding birds as well as dragonflies and damselflies. 22 wildlifematters January 2014

Things to see in winter Amwell is a great place to spot birds and in the winter they are easier to see. Look out for snipe, water rail, smew and huge numbers of gadwall and shoveler. On a visit to Amwell at this time of year you may also spot tufted duck, pochard, teal and little grebe. Amwell is also one of the best places in Hertfordshire to spot the elusive bittern – a small brown heron which is extremely rare. Not only is it one of the most threatened bird species in the UK, but it

is also very difficult to detect: its brown streaked plumage gives it excellent camouflage as it hunts silently for food in the reeds at the edges of wetland. The Trust has undertaken a special programme of work at Amwell to create suitable reedbed habitat, encouraging the bittern to return year after year. In November we cut small sections of reed on the water’s fringe which provide a great place for bitterns to feed. These cuts also make an extremely well camouflaged bird easier to see. So if you visit in winter, spend time quietly watching from one of the Amwell viewpoints or hides – and you might just see a bittern! Other times of the year In springtime Amwell is home to fifty species of breeding birds including terns, herons and lapwings. Birds of prey


ANDREW PALMER

TIM STENTON

NEW TO AMWELL NATURE RESERVE? WHY NOT JOIN US ON A GUIDED WALK?I Reedbeds at Amwell Inset above: Shoveler Above right: The elusive bittern

including hobbies and buzzards can be spotted, as well as warblers, buntings and martins. Dragonflies begin to appear and the southern marsh orchids flower near Hollycross Lake. In summer all 19 species of dragonfly and damselfly known in Hertfordshire can be found at Amwell including the hairy dragonfly, southern hawker and ruddy darter. Our dragonfly trail is open from May to September, giving you the chance to watch dragonflies close up, hunting over open water. The trail includes interpretation panels providing information about dragonflies and their habitats and a specially constructed boardwalk giving views over pools, bays and marshes. In autumn passing migrant birds stop off to refuel at Amwell and we await the return of the bittern for another year.

The Sunday Roost Sunday 26 January 2014, 2:30pm – 4:30pm Meet Reserve Officer Jenny Sherwen and Conservation Manager Tim Hill who will lead you on a two mile walk to watch and find out about wintering wildfowl. Search the reedbeds for the elusive bittern as it goes to roost. Booking essential as places are limited. To book a place please email the Trust, providing a contact telephone number stating the number of places you would like to book: events@hmwt.org Location: Amwell Nature Reserve, Amwell, Ware, Hertfordshire SG12 9SS. Grid reference TL 376 127

Directions to Amwell From the A10 leave at the junction signposted A414 to Harlow. At the first roundabout take the B181 to St Margaret’s and Stanstead Abbotts. At St Margaret’s, just before the railway, turn left up Amwell Lane. After 1/2 mile look out for a sign on the left and the reserve is on the right. Accessibility Amwell Nature Reserve is well served by tracks, viewpoints and three hides. It’s a good site to visit if you’re new to exploring our nature reserves or have restricted mobility. Paths are firm and level in most places but may be muddy after wet weather. Visitor information Dogs are allowed in some areas of the reserve but must be kept on a lead. Please note: dogs are not allowed on the boardwalk leading to the White Hide or on the Dragonfly Trail. Opening times: Reserve is open all year round. Dragonfly trail open May-September. There are no toilets on site. The nearest toilets are located in St Margaret’s. January 2014 wildlifematters 23


GARDEN FOR WILDLIFE

Early flowering Bring life to the winter garden with colour, scent and food for wildlifei

I

Gardens

am sure everyone will agree that some colour in the garden helps us cope with the long dark winter months. Early flowering plants give the senses a boost, especially if they are scented. Obviously the gardener has considerably fewer choices of plants that are both colourful and scented. But there are still many options available to widen the flowering season in your garden. These plants provide a vital food source for those insects that are around in the depths of winter. Even in January or February it is certainly not uncommon to have sunny days where the temperature can reach double figures. On these special days you may see a queen bumble bee on the move, or honey bee emerging after a long winter in their hive, on the lookout for food. There are plants available for all types of garden, from small to large. A real favourite of mine if situated close to a path or even by the back door is the winter box, which has a wonderful sweet fragrance. Winter honeysuckle is also excellent in a sheltered position. The flower beds will be very bare

but in our garden we have a number of hellebores which push up with lush green foliage and very early flowers which are always popular with early insects. The beds are perfect for a variety of flowers from bulbs, which make the most of the bare ground before being covered later in the spring and summer. Snowdrops, crocuses, aconites and grape hyacinths all produce valuable nectar. A little later in March, the daphnes and flowering currant are wonderful choices for colour and fragrance. If you have a larger garden some trees can be very valuable for wildlife. Goat willow, which can grow into quite a large tree if left unchecked, will be covered in catkins in early spring, which in turn will be covered in bumble bees gathering early pollen.

HMWT

TIM HILL

are increasingly important havens for wildlife as habitats shrink and fragment and climate change takes its toll. Up to a quarter of a city’s area can be made up of gardens, so although each garden on its own may be small, together they form a patchwork linking urban green spaces with nature reserves and the wider countryside. Together, our gardens represent a vast Living Landscape: and with an estimated 16 million gardens in the UK, the way they are managed can make a big difference to wildlife.

Rob Hopkins is Reserves Officer with Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Sallow catkin

Robin

CONTACT THE TRUST FOR OUR FREE GUIDE TO WILDLIFE GARDENING ON 01727 858901 OR DOWNLOAD IT FROM HERTSWILDLIFETRUST.ORG.UK 24 wildlifematters


plants AMY LEWIS

Winter wildlife gardening tips to help the birds and insects Hazel also produces attractive catkins which are rich in pollen, an important protein source. With both these trees it is important to note that the flowers are only produced on older stems. I have several hazels on my allotment and will leave some older stems (five to ten years) to produce catkins, whilst some stems are coppiced (cut at ground level) every three to four years for peasticks and bean poles. Plant bulbs under the trees if you can. I hope you enjoy your winter garden – spring is just around the corner!

Provide a natural food source for wildlife Early flowering plants are a vital food source for insects in early spring. Also think about planting native shrubs or trees such as holly, hawthorn or crab apple in your garden. Berries will provide natural bird food and shrubs and trees provide a place to nest and roost. Feed the birds Birds need a range of food provided in different ways especially in early spring when supplies of winter berries are running out. Food provided to birds should be kept clean and fresh. Water is just as important, so consider creating a pond or water feature and remember to make sure birdbaths stay ice-free – a floating ball will do the trick.

As winter turns to spring... BELL BLUE LK m WA0.00am-12.00p

pril 1 y 27 A EVENAGE to explore r Sunda ST d walk look fo

THANG TO

uide e to for a g ture Reserv ther spring s u in o a Jo d N e n d a Woo bells ntranc Pryor’s utiful blue the main e Bring . a t the be ers. Meet a Gresley Way m! flow wood at u have the to the culars if yo k just come bino ed to boo day. No ne ng on the alo

January 2014 wildlifematters 25


MICRO HABITATS

THE NATURE OF... a

golf course fairway

ALASDAIR BRIGHT

WILDLIFE CAN THRIVE BETWEEN THE TEES AND THE GREENSI

With over 100 golf courses in Hertfordshire and our boroughs in Middlesex, there is a huge area of land which supports all sorts of wildlife. By far the largest areas of grassland on any golf course are the fairways – those sections between the tees and greens. However, not all fairways are the same and if managed sympathetically with wildlife in mind, they can support a rich biodiversity. Taking the rough with the smooth On most fairways the central part is short mown grass – the part that golfers aim for when teeing off. The design of the course will dictate the mowing regime. The harder the course, the narrower the area of short mown grassland that will be maintained on the fairway. This is good news for wildlife as there will be a correspondingly greater area allowed to grow long as ‘rough’ or ‘semi-rough’. These roughs may be flowerrich havens for insects and small mammals, which will in turn provide food for animals further up the food chain such as bats and owls. Some of our rarest habitats are found along fairways – at Harpenden Common Golf Club heather is being encouraged to regenerate through positive management. A wood is good This isn’t a reference to club selection, but 26 wildlifematters January 2014

to the benefits of having woodland within the golf course. Those bats and owls referred to above will nest and roost in older trees with splits and rot holes. At Berkhamsted Golf Club the fairways are lined by woodland containing ancient beech and oak trees, a beautiful backdrop to this popular course. Where safe to do so, leaving standing and fallen dead wood provides homes and food for saproxylic insects – those species which live in rotting timber. It will also prove popular with woodpeckers for excavating their nests. Amphibians such as toads will hibernate below log piles or in cavities below trees. The wetter the better Lakes, ponds and ditches adjacent to or within the fairway all provide exciting and often frustrating challenges to even the most experienced golfers, but a few

dropped shots and lost balls are surely a small price to pay for the diversity of wildlife they support. In spring, frogs toads and newts will breed. In summer dazzling dragonflies will dart and dash over the water in search of prey or a mate. At night these areas will be favoured by bats feeding on the multitude of flying insects emerging from the water. A close shave… Whilst at first glance the close mown heart of a fairway may look wildlife-unfriendly, visit at the right time and it’s easy to see how it provides a valuable habitat. At dawn and afterwards, until the first golfers tee off, the close mown grassland will attract blackbirds and thrushes, feeding on worms and other soil-dwelling invertebrates. In the spring or autumn you may even be lucky enough to find a wheatear feeding up before continuing its migration to breeding or wintering grounds. On winter afternoons the same prey may attract a gaggle of black-headed gulls catching a quick snack before moving on to roost at one of our reservoirs.


APPEAL

Kiss for Valentine’s Day PENNY BIRD

Give us a

We n eed

£15,0 00 Children love to play on our

to giv conti e children nued to na access ture

Kissing gates PLEASE

Playing on a kissing gate can lead to a lifelong passion for nature. Ravaged by the storms of winter our kissing gates, bridges and boardwalks are desperately crying out for repair. These simple structures give children vital access to get close to nature. Without your support, the chance of adventure will be lost. Help us protect access to nature. Please ‘give us a kiss’ for Valentine’s Day and keep the adventure going.

• donate online at www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/donate • call our Donation Hotline on 01727 858901 ext 242 • post your cheque payable to ‘Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust’ to HMWT, FREEPOST 76, St Albans, Herts, AL3 4BR

Herts and Middlesex For more information visit www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk


Every time you buy bird seed direct from Vine House Farm you are supporting Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust

Vine House Farm also supply bird feeders, nest boxes, wildlife camera kits and children’s gifts – take a look at the full range online...

To order, visit www.vinehousefarm.co.uk


Wildlife Matters January 2014 issue