Author Archives: Ebony Smith

Tesco Bags for Help Projects

Work has started on the ground to improve walking routes throughout the Tame Valley Wetlands area, thanks to Tesco’s Bags for Help grant scheme, who have gifted £8000 from the 5p plastic bag levy.

A short distance from the urban city of Birmingham, the Tame Valley Wetlands is an ideal spot for city goers to escape the hectic buzz and enjoy the calm of the countryside. With help from Tesco’s funding, two new circular walks are being created, making access to the country easier than ever before!Improvements have already started in Curdworth, Over Green and Wishaw, by replacing way marking posts and installing kissing gates, with the help of Tame Valley’s TameForce volunteer group. Further work is to be carried out around Kingsbury Water Park, Bodymoor Heath and Marston, in preparation for the scenic circular walks.

Leaflets are also being produced to help connect the Tame Valley’s hidden landscape to it’s local community. They will feature the new routes available as well as activities that you can do along the way. Even better yet, they will act as great guides for a family day out that doesn’t cost a single penny!

For further information on the Tesco Bags for Help scheme, click here.

Keep up to date with the latest news and events – sign up to our quarterly newsletter and monthly events emails!

 

Six of Britain’s Toughest Winter Wildlife

Winter is the coldest and darkest time of year. While we’re keeping warm in our heated houses and warm clothing, the rest of Britain’s wildlife are taking their own steps to ensure they survive the winter. With the lack of food, heat and short days, how do they manage it? Let’s take a look at six of the UK’s toughest wildlife.

 

The Robin

These common birds are widely recognised as a symbol of Christmas in the UK. This is because Victorian postmen were nicknames “robins” due to their red-breasted coloured uniforms and so came to represent the postman who delivered the card.

They are also widely seen throughout winter and have a very clever way of keeping themselves warm, by fluffing up their feathers, increasing the amount of air next to the body. They can then trap the air using their multiple layers of feathers, acting as a fantastic insulator!

Of course, they also consume calories by foraging for berries and insects using their sharp eyes.

Robins can be found in most places around the UK! Add a bird feeder and some nice bushes to your garden and they’ll be right on your doorstep. If you’re in the Tame Valley Wetlands area, then why not visit RSPB Middleton Lakes, grab some bird seed and have a unique experience with their local robins.

RSPB Middleton Lakes © Ebony Smith, Tame Valley Wetlands, c/o Warwickshire Wildlife Trust


The Red Fox

Finding food for the red fox is tough in the winter. With all of its prey hiding out of the cold weather, it can be difficult to get a good meal. Fortunately, the fox has extra sharp hearing! The slightest rustle or squeak can be heard from as far as a football pitch away, allowing them to find whatever food is available.

Keeping warm isn’t too much of a problem for them either. By growing longer and thicker winter coats, they are well insulated and tend to curl up in a ball, using their long bushy tail as a blanket.

Foxes are very common and can be found both in the countryside and cities. Best places to see them in the Tame Valley Wetlands would be to visit one of the wetland nature reserves, where they tend to prey on the wetland birds that flock. – RSPB Middleton Lakes, WMBC Ladywalk nature reserve (members only), Tameside Local Nature Reserve (LNR).

 

Red Fox © Ben Andrews (rspb-images.com)

Red Fox in snow © Pixabay.com


 The Exmoor Ponies

Surviving on the harsh Exmoor moors is never easy, especially when you have a poor diet and are unsheltered from the elements.

The Exmoor ponies are a truly incredible species though, surviving for over 10,000 years, with little change from their ancestors, they have managed to adapt to the toughest of conditions.

Developing a tough coat and mane, they are virtually waterproof and well insulated. Snow can build up on their backs and not melt due to their special adaptation!

Exmoor Ponies © Suzanne Meaker, Pixabay.com

Konik Ponies

Here in the Tame Valley Wetlands, we have Konik ponies. These Polish ponies are fantastic for wetland habitats and have been used all over the UK to restore reserves due to their grazing habits.

They are very intelligent and can live on a limited amount of food. They can even slow their growth progress when times get tough, for example in the winter when there is a lack of food. They also have a strong immune system which allows them to brave the toughest of weather! This is pretty amazing considering the Polish winter is far colder than the British, which has allowed them to adapt to temperatures of -40 degrees.

You can find these grey/mouse coloured ponies at RSPB Middleton Lakes. They are wild with a tame side and can sometimes be seen grazing across the reserve.

Konik Pony © David Tipling (rspb-images.com)

Konik Ponies © Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)


The Otter

Playful and cute, the otter is a loved mammal by many and yet their conservation status is near threatened. That being said, they are an all year round, happy animal with its dense fur to keep it cosy throughout the harsh winters. As a top predator, they tend to feed primarily on fish but will also dabble in a little bird, frog, crab and crayfish if the opportunity arised.

They do not hibernate through the winter period and remain active looking for food.

The otter is a difficult creature to spot. The best way is to look for its scat, usually around rivers. You can find them in the Tame Valley Wetlands, on the River Tame where they have made a comeback after being extinct in the area. This was due to the industrial revolution, which caused the River Tame to be inhabitable and very poor quality.

Otter on the River Tame © Tracey Doherty, Tame Valley Wetlands, c/o Warwickshire Wildlife Trust


 The Common Frog

These amphibians tend to lie dormant over the winter, slowing their metabolism down and waiting out the cold weather. They can be found at the bottom of ponds, buried under the silt or in compost heaps and amongst dead wood.

They take in oxygen through their skin when dormant under water, but can sometimes be seen on milder days swimming underneath the icy ponds, looking for oxygen pockets or to forage.

These common frogs can be found all across the country. If you have a pond, you may even get them in your garden! Best places to find them in the Tame Valley Wetlands, is to visit one of the many reserves. Kingsbury Water Park’s Community Wetlands is a great spot! There are also local nature reserves, such as Hodge Lane LNR and Tameside LNR.

Common Frog © Pixabay.com


The Black Slug

This slug is a remarkable survivor. Sometimes getting caught out when the temperature drops, their slimy bodies can freeze. Luckily for them though, if the conditions are not too harsh and they are not subjected to it for too long, an adult black slug can partially freeze and then come back to life again!

Slugs tend to spend the winter out of the exposure of the elements, finding shelter in pockets of soil. They can also be found under logs and in cracks in walls.

Where to find a black slug? Take a few steps out your front door! In the winter period, they may be harder to find, so find a pile of wood and see whether it has any residents. Best bet is to find woodland in the Tame Valley Wetlands. There is plenty of it about, but if you’re not sure… visit our directory of wild places

Black Slug © Pixabay.com

A New Year’s Resolution to Volunteer?

It’s that time of year again! New Year’s resolutions are being made and at the top of many people’s lists are things like ‘Get fit’ or ‘Keep active’. If you’re of a younger age, it might be ‘Get a new job’, ‘Get into university’ or ‘Do well in exams’. If this is the case, TameYouth may be just what you are looking for!

TameYouth is a youth volunteer group for 16-25 year olds, created by Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme, which runs valuable conservation projects and community engagement in the hidden wetland landscape between Tamworth and Birmingham. The group currently meet once a month to help with a range of tasks on different sites, including removing invasive species, planting reeds, and working on footpath maintenance. The format of the meeting times are changing in 2017 to allow for more participation among young people in the scheme area.

Nicola Lynes, Youth Engagement Officer for the Scheme, explains more:

“TameYouth was set up in 2016 and we had some great volunteering days around Tamworth and Kingsbury Water Park, but we’re aiming to become even bigger and better in 2017. Some of the barriers to youth volunteering are lack of opportunity and lack of accessibility. We aim to tackle this challenge by running sessions once every 3 weeks as well as having a minibus pick-up service. This will allow individuals to access the harder to reach areas, which could benefit from some conservation work.”

Conservation volunteering is a great way to get outside and keep fit, but there are lots of other hidden benefits to joining a youth volunteer group.

“If you are looking to gain some experience for a new job, build up volunteering hours for Duke of Edinburgh, or want an extracurricular activity to put on your personal statement for university or college, TameYouth provides all of this as well as a great social atmosphere.”

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.

From January, TameYouth will meet every third Sunday starting from Sunday 15thJanuary, between 10am-1pm. If you are between 16 and 25 and are interested in joining, please get in touch with Nicola Lynes at youth@tamevalleywetlands.co.uk, call 01675 470917 or look on the website at www.tamevalleywetlands.co.uk/youth-project for more information.

Tame Valley Wetlands 2016 Highlights

Planting wildflowers (© Ebony Smith, Tame Valley Wetlands)This year has been a busy one for the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme. Led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the scheme has delivered 33 events with approximately 2,400 attendees and 57 training sessions with 560 attendees. Click here to download the latest Activity Guide.

In early April, the scheme also took on a full time apprentice and currently has 5 City & Guild traineeships in progress. Many school children have been engaged with approximately 730 children attending over 30 school sessions from various schools.

Himalayan Balsam pulling © (Ebony Smith, Tame Valley Wetlands)Through the TameForce volunteer group, corporate days and drop-in volunteering, 73 practical conservation sessions have been delivered and approximately £60,000 worth of volunteer time has been given over the last 12 months.

Not only that but 95 metres of hedgerow has been restored, a 6 hectare new wetland has been created at Kingsbury Water Park and a 140m new river channel has been established at Tameside Local Nature Reserve on the River Tame in Tamworth.  Thanks to Biffa Award, the Environment Agency, the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Howard Victor Skan Charitable Trust, Tamworth Borough Council and Warwickshire County Council for their support and funding, plus all other funders and partners involved in the scheme.

A brand new website has also been launched and created lots of information for people to start discovering the Tame Valley Wetlands for themselves, including leaflets and interpretation panels.

Click here to download the Tame Valley leaflet and start discovering the area for yourself!

Wandering in the Woods

There has been a journey of discovery this year, as young people from Project Nirvana, run by Warwickshire Community and Voluntary Action (WCAVA) and Skillstank CareFirst in Tamworth, got involved in learning new skills, exploring different areas and contributing their time towards the the conservation of the Tame Valley Wetlands – a valuable and hidden landscape located between Birmingham and Tamworth.

20160404_102155-resizedParticipants in the both groups have learning or physical difficulties. The sessions provided them with an opportunity to explore the natural world in their local area and get involved with conservation tasks in a safe, fun and engaging way. They tackled invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam plus cut back spreading bramble, planted a hedge and tried their hand at different bushcraft activities. The CareFirst group has also become a dab hand at lighting a fire to boil water for our mid-morning tea break!

Not only have the groups seen health benefits from being active outside, but working as a team has helped some of the participants build up their confidence and communication skills. Sarah Murray, Community Development Officer for Warwickshire CAVA had this to say about the sessions:

“The activities that they took part in at Tame Valley encouraged some young people, who had previously not met or not spoken, to get to know each other and work together.”

This youth 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.

Other activities delivered by the Tame Valley Wetlands include a youth conservation group open to all 16-25 year olds, delivery of the John Muir Award to groups, and a wide range of taster days and volunteering opportunities. For more information, visit our website at www.tamevalleywetlands.co.uk

Taming the Tame – The Diary

Welcome to Taming the Tame’s, project diary. Keep up to date with project entries from Tameside Local Nature Reserve in Tamworth, and witness a ‘lost island’ being reborn back into the River Tame.

Move slider left to right to see before and after

Monday 3rd October 2016 – And so it Begins!

Dear Project Diary, 

Today was the start of the Tameside project, ‘Taming the Tame’. The shrub around the entrance was cut back to allow the diggers to access the site, off Peelers Way. The area has been sealed and prepared ready for action! Lets take a look…

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Tuesday 4th October 2016 –  We had a visitor!

Dear Project Diary,

Today the earthworks got into full swing. The diggers looked happy and so did their operators, removing spoil from the site. We even had a visitor! No I’m not talking about Tamworth Herald, who were also present for a photo shoot of the site. I’m talking about a resident Heron decided to pay a visit to check in on what was happening. Back to Tamworth Herald though… go and check it out for an insight into the ‘Lost River Island’.

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Thursday 6th October 2016 – The start of a channel!

Dear Project Diary, 

Today we have a channel! This is the start of the ‘Lost River Island’ being reborn.

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Friday 7th October 2016 – A tree?

Dear Project Diary,

Continuing to dig the channel out, we came across an unexpected treasure. A tree! Underneath the ground, across the channel, is an old tree which has fallen. This is a fantastic find, which will naturally help slow down the flow of the river, thus creating a better habitat for fish and invertebrates. The tree has been left but part has been sent away for carbon dating, which is very exciting. But wait, there is more… With the help of an onsite archaeologist and ecologist, there has been a couple other discoveries, including old wood posts and a horse shoe!

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Monday 10th October 2016 – A Misty Morning.

Dear Project Diary, 

Wow, what a beautiful Autumn morning. Blue skies, frost and diggers. What more could you want? Today the downstream channel wall was broken to connect with the River Tame! Oh and there is a new name circulating the Environmental Agency for the ‘Lost River Island’… Tracey Island! Courtesy of Tracey Doherty, Wetland Officer for the Tame Valley Wetlands and lead on the project. P.s Gravel has arrived!

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Wednesday 12th October 2016 – Digger and drone duo.

Dear Project Diary, 

Today we welcomed Fresh FX Media to site to film the progress of the ‘Taming the Tame’ project with their drone; the same that was used for the Community Wetlands short film. Most importantly though, we broke through the upstream channel wall! It’s officially an island reborn.

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Friday 14th October 2016 – Picture perfect.

Dear Project Diary,

The final product of two weeks hard work can be seen. Over the process, gravel has been added to the channel to help improve biodiversity. The gravel acts as a safe haven for fish and invertebrates, as they can hide in between the stones. It’s also very good for food and breeding. The project isn’t completely finished though. A sand martin bank is due to be installed and the remaining spoil (earth) will be seeded with wildflowers.

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▸ Click here for more information about Taming the Tame…