Author Archives: Ebony Smith

Apprentice Blog: Goodbye Tame Valley Wetlands

25.08.17 Today is my last day as a marketing apprentice for the Tame Valley Wetlands.

I have enjoyed every moment of my journey over the last 17 months and I am forever grateful for all the support that I have been given. I have learnt so much by being here and not just to do with marketing either. I have experienced seeing different species of animals for the first time, such as a Kingfisher and Water Voles. I have discovered about the flow of a river and how it can be slowed down by islands and sped up by being canalised. I have explored many of the nature reserves in the Tame Valley Wetlands that I never knew existed before. I have met some of the most inspirational and amazing people, all who have helped or are helping to protect and conserve the Tame Valley. I have enjoyed a variety of events that have been hosted either by the scheme or partners. I have gained knowledge and skill in photography through courses, so that I can enjoy my passion for taking photos better. I have grown in confidence through helping out on events and working with youth groups from schools and organisations across the Tame Valley Wetlands.

None of this would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for the Tame Valley Wetlands team, who have pushed my to strive for my best, who have continuously praised me and made me feel a part of the team, who have told me that I can do anything I set my mind to and who have given me the opportunity to excel in such a wonderful environment. There are really not enough words to describe how amazing my time here has been and I am truly sad to leave but I am also very ready for my next challenge and to better myself and my skills in a different work sector.

Below is a quick video that I have made to show off my favourite moments over the last 17 months. Thank you to all who I have had the pleasure of meeting!

National Citizen Service participants lend a helping hand!

Over the summer, almost 100 young people on the National Citizen Service (NCS) gave their time to help out on Local Nature Reserves around Tamworth. As part of their NCS programme, run by UpRising Birmingham, the groups spend time visiting different community groups and charities in the area, then design and deliver their own social action project in their locality.

Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme hosted each group for a conservation taster day during their programme. The young people visited either Broad Meadow, Kettlebrook or Warwickshire Moor Local Nature Reserves, pitching in to help with tasks such as removing Himalayan balsam, laying bark chip along a path, or removing invasive willow. Each of these sites has a dedicated volunteer group made up of local people, and are supported by the Wild About Tamworth project. Although only visiting the site for a few hours, the NCS participants explored the area and put their energy into helping to complete a task which benefits the reserve and the people who use the areas.

Pam Clark, a volunteer at Warwickshire Moor, said this after the groups visited:

“Thanks to all the young people who came today. They worked hard for us and it really is much appreciated.”

As well as attending the taster days, two groups also asked if they could return to do more conservation volunteering as part of their social action project. In total over the whole summer, 98 young people from Lichfield and Tamworth have spent over 260 hours giving their time to conservation volunteering in Tamworth. Nicola Lynes, Youth Engagement Officer for Tame Valley Wetlands, said:

“I’m really pleased at the hard work that has been put in by all the NCS participants. Our aim at the Tame Valley Wetlands is to introduce people to their local green spaces, and this has given the young people in Tamworth a chance to see the environment on their doorstep, learn ways in which they can care for it, and engage with it in a positive way.”

This project is part of the Tame Valley Wetlands – a landscape partnership scheme supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, aiming to create a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all.

The Tame Valley Wetlands is led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with a wide variety of organisations including charities, local groups, statutory bodies and councils.

For more information, contact Nicola Lynes at youth@tamevalleywetlands.co.uk or on 01675 470917.

Project Update: New Circular Walks

Two new circular walks leaflets, the first in a series of self-guided trails, have been produced by Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme.

Curdworth plays host to the longest of the two walks (5.5 miles) and allows walkers to explore the wider countryside, giving them views of the Midlands from the Over Green area whilst introducing them to an array of wildlife. The second circular walk (5 miles) can be discovered at Kingsbury Water Park, where walkers can enjoy a variety of wetlands and the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. We would like to thank Curdworth Parish Council, Kingsbury Water Park and local farmers and volunteers for supporting the implementation of these trails.

TameForce, the TVWLP volunteer group, has worked hard to improve the access of the walks by installing new kissing gates, adding branded way markers, placing finger posts as well as installing an interpretation panel in Curdworth. Two leaflets have been produced, detailing the length, time and what you can find whilst on your journey. They can be found at various locations in Curdworth and Kingsbury and are available to download from our website here.

A third circular walk has been planned and is currently being improved in the Shustoke area, with work scheduled to be completed by mid September. The Shustoke walk will also be accompanied by a leaflet.

Further walks are under development and work will start on the ground over the coming months, with work already beginning on the long distance footpath, the Tame Way. Other access improvement projects, managed by our partners, are also underway across the landscape.

Stay up-to-date with the latest project updates, stories and events – sign up to our eNewsletter and events mailing list here.

Download walks leaflets

Wildlife Discovery Day – BioBlitz 2017 Success!

Kingsbury Water Park’s, Community Wetland is teaming with wildlife after 612 species were recorded throughout a 24 hour BioBlitz, hosted by the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme (TVWLPS).

The Wildlife Discovery Day took place on 7/8 July’17, welcoming 78 primary school children from Kingsbury village, a variety of species experts, Rangers from the County Council and the Environment Agency. Members of the public also entered into the fun, through a range of activities, such as walks, talks and demonstrations, all for free!

The goal for the 24 hour period was to record 300 different species, including mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, plants, trees and fish, in the 6 hectare Community Wetland area at the Country Park, restored and improved by the TVWLPS with the help of local volunteers and thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award, Environment Agency and The Howard Victor Skan Charitable Trust. This goal was ‘blown out of the water’ with records doubling expectations, thanks to the commitment of everyone involved and the restoration work undertaken on site. All the records discovered make a huge impact on the data for the area, helping experts from the Warwickshire Biological Record Centre determine the biodiversity value in the area, keeping an eye on endangered and rarer species at the same time.

 

You can do your own recording

It’s easy and you don’t need to be an expert! Download a wildlife recording app for on-the-go, or collect the data on a form and send it to your local wildlife record centre or Wildlife Trust.

You can contribute to wildlife recording in the Tame Valley by submitting your sightings on the TVW iSpot page.

 

Bioblitz

Would you like to know more about what a BioBlitz is? Click here!

Tame Valley Wetlands’ Celebration Supper!

The Tame Valley Wetlands’ team invited local community groups, Councillors, partners and volunteers to an evening of celebration on Thursday 13th July’17.

The event was arranged to mark the achievements over the last 3 years, to thank all who have played a part so far and to share our proposed vision and plans for the future.

The Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership (TVWLP) was established back in 2005 and in 2014, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the fantastic support of local people, volunteers, funders and our partners, we started delivering a £2.5m Landscape Partnership Scheme. We have grown as a team and partnership in this time and have made exciting progress towards our aims and vision of creating a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all.

The TVWLP celebration event took place in the beautiful and historic setting of Middleton Hall, right in the heart of the Tame Valley Wetlands.  Guests received a project update and personal highlight from each member of the team. Gina Rowe, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscapes Manager, then presented the Partnership’s proposed vision for the future. As the current scheme is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund until mid-2018, the Partnership Board has been looking at the next phase (2018-2030) in order to secure a strong legacy and future. The near 100 attendees were able to feedback on proposals and vote on their preferred actions.

We then shared an informal hog roast supper, and some lovely on-brand cakes. Guests were able to mingle, network and catch-up with the team and each other.  There was a real buzz about the event. We gathered a lot of useful opinions and pledges on our future vision, and everybody left motivated for the year ahead and beyond.

John Muir Award Update

Since January 2017, 33 young people across the Tame Valley Wetlands have achieved their John Muir Award (Discovery Level) with the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme. The nationally recognised award is an environmental scheme, focused on wild spaces and connecting people from all walks of life with nature.

Youth Engagement Officer, Nicola Lynes, delivered the award to students from The Rawlett School, Skills Tank CareFirst and Kingsbury High School. Each student worked through the 4 key principles that make up the John Muir Award – ‘Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share’ – by visiting a natural space, such as their school grounds or a nearby nature reserve.

Each group had the chance to discover and explore their wild space in a way that suited them best. One group looked for signs of animals and their tracks, another learned the difference between a badger sett and a fox hole, whilst the final group enjoyed getting VERY muddy by jumping in a big mud puddle for an hour!

This wasn’t the only fun though. To complete their discover and explore sections, the students took part in a variety of activities, such as fire lighting, den building, bridge building, games and crafts.

Next step was conserve, from which each group got to decide what they were going to do to improve their green space. Finally, they created a presentation of their preference and shared it with their friends, teachers and family.

All 33 students came away with a personal certificate and a sense of achievement. The award encouraged them to work together, communicate, create something to share and build a connection with nature.

The next stage of the John Muir Award is the Explorer Level… who will be the first group to achieve this?…

TameFest’s third year of successful celebration!

The community came together to  celebrate the landscape and heritage of the Tame Valley Wetlands for the third year in a row at TameFest 2017 on Saturday 27th May.

The bank holiday weekend event saw approximately 2,500 people at Tamworth Castle Grounds, enjoying the fun and friendly atmosphere.

Hosted by the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme (TVWLPS), TameFest provided the community with a taster of what the area has to offer through a variety of stalls, entertainment and activities. This included wattle & daub making, willow swords crafting, wildlife games and close encounters with hedgehogs.

Rita Gries,  Tame Valley Wetlands LPS Community & Events Officer said “We are really pleased with the event and the feedback we received. Many visitors commented on how friendly and buzzing the atmosphere was, and said they’d had a lovely day”.

Sadie Chapman, whose business, Staffie Central UK, had a stall at TameFest said “We were really impressed by the day! As we are local to Tamworth, we are always looking to create new contacts within to community and TameFest was the perfect event to make that happen”.

Philippa Truman, Membership Engagement Officer for Warwickshire Wildlife Trust said “Warwickshire Wildlife Trust had a great time at Tamefest, encouraging people to sign up for 30 Days Wild this June. Visitors loved getting stuck in to making fatball bird feeders and playing hook –a-native duck”.

The Mayor of Tamworth, Councillor John Chesworth and his wife, Mayoress Tereasa Chesworth, also enjoyed the day. Both got involved in the activities, met stallholders and spoke to members of the public.

The Major of Tamworth said “TameFest was a fantastic free event which really showcased some of the good work that goes on in areas, such as our Local Nature Reserves. It was great to meet some really interesting people and learn about conservation in and around Tamworth. I know that the event have grown year by year, and I hope it is something that could return to the Castle Grounds next time around”.

This project is part of the Tame Valley Wetlands – a landscape partnership scheme supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, aiming to create a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all.

The Tame Valley Wetlands is led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with a wide variety of organisations including charities, local groups, statutory bodies and councils.

To see photos taken on the day, visit the Tame Valley Wetlands on Facebook. For more information on the Tame Valley Wetlands and the many other free events that are available, please explore www.tamevalleywetlands.co.uk.

Tamworth to welcome popular heritage event, TameFest!

TameFest 2017 will take place on Tamworth Castle Grounds, on Saturday 27th May for its biggest edition yet.

Hosted by the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS), TameFest is a fun event showcasing the vibrant heritage and landscape of the Tame Valley Wetlands area. Tamworth residents and travellers from further afield will be able to enjoy a range of family friendly activities, entertainment and shopping provided by local groups, businesses and charities, all for free.

TameFest has been on a journey through the Tame Valley Wetlands area since 2015. The first ever edition took place in Coleshill and welcomed over 750 people. Moving on up the River Tame to Kingsbury Water Park in 2016, it saw over 1,500 people attend, doubling it in size within a year. This year, it will take place on the scenic grounds of Tamworth Castle.

Rita Gries, Community and Events Officer at the Tame Valley Wetlands LPS said “We’re very excited about this year’s Tamefest. We will have the mix of shopping, food and fun educational activities that proved popular in the past years, from stone carving demonstrations to circus skills workshops. For the first time, we’ve also invited some out-of-time characters such as a pair of Saxon peasants and a Victorian “Bobby”. We’re hoping people will have a great time and learn something new about the area they live in!”

Tamefest runs from 11am to 4pm on the upper and lower lawns of Tamworth Castle. Entry is free of charge and most activities will be free. Dogs are welcome but must be on a lead at all times. For more information on the stalls, activities and performances that will be present, visit www.tamevalleywetlands.co.uk/tamefest-2017.

This project is part of the Tame Valley Wetlands – a landscape partnership scheme supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, aiming to create a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all.

The Tame Valley Wetlands is led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with a wide variety of organisations including charities, local groups, statutory bodies and councils.

 

Make a Difference in Conservation, Train for Free!

Local people are being offered a FREE, nationally recognised qualification in Environmental & Heritage Conservation.


Courtesy of the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS), people of all ages, looking for a new career path or wanting to gain new skills and experience, can now take part in practical conservation training, for no cost at all!This fantastic opportunity allows people to take advantage of the health benefits of socialising and being outside, whilst learning at their own pace. The courses available cover a variety of levels and completion times, from one day short courses in identifying freshwater invertebrates, through to longer courses lasting between six and nine months.

Simon Lowe, Training and Education Officer said:

“We are really excited at the chance to be able to offer this great training opportunity free of charge. We are delighted to be able to offer local people the chance to gain a qualification which may help them find future employment in the conservation sector. Whether you are out of work or looking to change career, our training courses can give you that vital, practical and hands on experience that employers are looking for!”

Tame Valley Wetlands LPS courses available include:

City and Guilds

Level Two – Certificate in Work-Based Environmental Conservation.

Open College Network West Midlands Region

Level One Award and Certificate in Environmental Conservation and Heritage

Level Two Award and Certificate in Environmental Conservation and Heritage

These training courses are part of the Tame Valley Wetlands LPS supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, aiming to create a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all.

The Tame Valley Wetlands is led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with over 20 organisations including charities, local groups, statutory bodies and councils.

For more information on the training courses provided, visit www.tamevalleywetlands.co.uk or contact Simon Lowe, Training and Education Officer, at training@tamevalleywetlands.co.uk /01675 470917.

Invasive Species Week 27th March – 2nd April

This week is Invasive Species Week, hosted by NNIS (Non-native invasive species). Would like to know more about them specifically? Pop over to their website here – NNIS


The agenda for Invasive Species Week and how you can get involved!:

Monday – Welcome to Invasive Species Week!
Tuesday – Biosecurity
Wednesday – Identification and recording
Thursday – Local Action Groups
Friday – Other projects


Monday – Welcome to Invasive Species Week!

This week is non-native species week.  There are a number of non-native species which are found in the Tame Valley Wetlands area.  These species have a devastating effect on our local flora and fauna which affects the balance of our native ecosystem.

Some of these species you will know as grey squirrel, American mink, Signal Crayfish, Plants:- Himalayan Balsam, Japenese Knotweed, Giant Hogweed, floating pennywort, new Zealand pygmy weed, Asian hornet.

If you want to find out more about these species and their negative effect on our environment, visit www.nonnativespecies.org for helpful identification guides and measures you can put in place to prevent the spread of them and educate others.

 

Tuesday – Biosecurity

Biosecurity measures on sites where there are known non-native species are essential to prevent the spread of them in the environment.  Non-native species can unknowingly be transported from one waterbody to another.  One easy and simple measure to put in place is to follow the Check Clean Dry campaign. http://www.nonnativespecies.org/checkcleandry/index.cfm#

CHECK your equipment and clothing for contamination eg boats, fishing equipment, wellies, tyres on vehicles (hard to reach places).

CLEAN your equipment thoroughly onsite with clean water, if you find any organisms, leave them at the  waterbody where they were found.

DRY your equipment thoroughly before visiting another site.  Some organisms can live for days in moist conditions.

Remember: Check Clean Dry

Why not use the free e-learning module on biosecurity found here http://www.nonnativespecies.org/elearning/

 

Wednesday – Identification and recording

It is important to identify and record non-native species in the Tame Valley Area.  This helps us track their spread and more importantly, work on management plans to aid removal and put in control measures.  There are some excellent Identification tools online at www.nonnativespecies.org including species fact sheets and free e-learning tool.

Your County Biological Record Centre would also like to know these records.  There are three record centres in the Tame Valley Wetlands depending on where you have seen them:-

Warwickshire  https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/

Staffordshire http://www.staffs-ecology.org.uk/

Birmingham & Black Country  http://www.ecorecord.org.uk/

If you use a smart phone, there are good apps available.  Search for:

Plant tracker  http://www.planttracker.org.uk/

Aquatic Invaders http://www.brc.ac.uk/aquainvaders/home

 

Thursday – Local Action Groups

There are a number of Tame Valley Wetland Partners that undertake management of non-native species.  Why not get involved with a local volunteer group and help out in your local area.

Tame Valley Wetlands – Tameforce (meet every Tuesday)

Natureforce, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (meet every Wednesday)

Kingsbury Water Park Volunteers, Warwickshire County Council (meet every Friday)

RSPB Middleton Lakes (volunteer work party days, various)

Wild about Tamworth volunteer groups, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust (once a month),

Your local Angling Clubs

Community Environmental Trust, Castle Vale

West Midlands Bird Club members volunteering

 

Friday – Other projects  STILL WRITING THIS – leave this with me….

Tame Valley Wetlands are working on non-native species control in the scheme area.  This includes

Himalayan Balsam control.

Simple methods of control:

A simple technique to control this plant species which spreads along the river corridor and active floodplains is to pull it out and is known as ‘balsam bashing’.  This activity is done before the plant has time to seed.  The plant is an annual and its root system is easily pulled out of the soil.  Many local action groups use this method of control. Alternatively, cutting the plant down below the first node ensures the plant does not try to regrow back

Why should we do it:

Himalayan Balsam is a prolific plant that spreads quickly, creating monoculture stands of plants which dominate the river and floodplain environment.  The plants grow tall and shade out any native species present.  The plant dies back in winter leaving bare soils which are unconsolidated and that can easily enter the water course during flood events.  Sediments are not good in the river, they can cover important fish spawning habitat and affect freshwater invertebrates populations as well as introduce nutrients into the watercourse promoting algae and weed growth.

American Mink Control

American mink were liberated in the Tame Valley Wetlands scheme area afew decades ago.  The consequence of this unauthorised release was the demise of the local, abundant water vole population.  Currently, water voles are not recorded as present in the scheme area but there have been some potential sightings. American Mink are present and are now also affecting the local wetland birds during breeding season and fisheries. To ensure that water voles can return to the area, mink control is a necessary requirement under the UK Water Vole Steering Group policy, agreed by a number of conservation organisations and relevant government agencies.

With Water vole populations close by on the River Anker and the Coventry Canal, we are confident that with improvement of habitats at historical water voles sites and continued mink control, we are confident that water voles will once again, be a regular site in the Tame Valley Wetlands.