Author Archives: Emily Reilly

Hedgerow planting at Hawkswell Farm

We have planted 1000 hedgerow plants and Black Poplars at Hawkswell Farm as part of ‘Blythe Alive’, a project to improve the River Blythe and its environment. This planting contributes to gapping-up the existing hedgerows, which is necessary for maintaining their longevity and structure.

Our volunteers have planted around 1000 tree and hedgerow plants at Hawkswell Farm.

Hedgerows not only act as habitats for small animals such as birds and invertebrates, but are also important for preventing flooding. Hedgerows provide weather barriers and contribute to natural flood management by intercepting rainfall and slowing runoff from the land.

At Hawkswell Farm, where this planting took place, the flood management aspect of hedgerow gapping-up has been particularly important, as the River Blythe flows adjacent to to the farm. The improved hedgerows will help to absorb rainfall and therefore limit the amount of water running into the river. They will also intercept sediment and pollutants from land run-off which would otherwise contaminate the river. This lowers risks of flooding, loss of nutrients from the land, and pollution of the river.

This work was carried out with the help of our dedicated volunteers, and plays an important part in our project to improve the health status of the River Blythe and the quality of its surrounding ecosystem.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Tame Valley Wetlands team!

Here is a picture from our Christmas celebration with our volunteers, where we enjoyed a bonfire and jacket potatoes.

Thank you to our volunteers, project partners and staff who have helped to deliver work this year. We will be continuing with our two current projects, Blythe Alive and Love Your River Cole, in the New Year, as well as planning for new projects in the future.

If you are interested in volunteering for us, taking part in practical conservation work across the Tame Valley Wetlands, please contact enquiries@tamevalleywetlands.co.uk or phone 01675470917.

If you missed our 2019 newsletter, you can read it here: https://mailchi.mp/d5857e26756f/tame-valley-wetlands-in-2019. You may wish to sign up to our mailing list to keep updated with our newsletters and project updates! Remember, we also post regular updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Planting at Southfields Farm

We have been planting plug plants at Southfields Farm as part of our work to help restore and improve the River Blythe SSSI.

Plug plants in their trays before being planted

Plug plants are small-sized seedlings, grown in trays, which can then easily be planted into prepared soil. We are using species such as Meadowsweet, Reed Sweet Grass and Marsh Marigold.

Planting native plant species along the banks of the River Blythe will provide considerable benefits to the health status of the river. Firstly, the inclusion of a range of native species will help improve the biodiversity and species composition of the environment. This is important for the robustness ecosystem surrounding the river, making it more resilient to change and fluctuations. Additionally, the plug plants will help to stabilise the river banks and reduce sediment run-off, which will aid in enhancing the water quality in the river.

We have had fantastic contributions to this work from local and corporate volunteer groups.

After some initial doubts regarding the suitability of the weather conditions (considering the amount of rain we had in previous weeks!) our hard working TameForce volunteers braved the elements and aided in planting a huge number of plants at Southfields Farm.

Luckily, the rain managed to hold off for our two final planting days at the end of October. During these days, we had volunteers attend to help us with our work, as well as staff from Jaguar Land Rover. Morale was kept high by supplies of tea, coffee and biscuits, and we successfully reached our target of planting 14,000 plants in total.

Thank you to all who helped us to complete this work – we really could not have done it without you! Keep an eye out for more updates on our River Blythe work.

Beat the Balsam – Biological control of Himalayan Balsam

Working alongside CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International), Tame Valley Wetlands have been trialing a rust fungus as a method of biocontrol to target Himalayan balsam.

You can read more about Himalayan balsam here.

Biocontrol is a method of controlling the growth of a population – usually a pest or a weed. It has been successful in many other circumstances as it is much more environmentally-friendly than using chemical pesticides, and requires much less physical labour than manual removal of pests.

Biocontrol involves using one species of beneficial living organism (the control species) to limit the spread of another species (the target species). The target species must be controlled as it poses a threat to the environment. It is important that studies and monitoring are carried out throughout the control process to ensure the control species continues to work effectively against the target species.

The process of trialing the rust fungus for the biocontrol of Himalayan balsam began at the beginning of 2019. Initial studies were carried out to ensure the fungus would propagate on the plants.

What Himalayan balsam can look like if left uncontrolled – taking over everywhere!

The photo above shows what the Himalayan balsam at one of our project sites looked like before we started any of our control methods. The plants look strong and are growing in huge quantities, meaning they pose a threat to the other plant species in the area.

To initiate the biocontrol process, we sprayed test areas with the rust fungus to allow the fungus to establish on the plants.

After allowing the fungus to propagate and grow on the Himalayan balsam plants, we re-visited the site multiple times over the following months to monitor its progress as a biocontrol agent. Here you can see there areas where the fungus has established. The brown patches on the leaf show where damage has been caused by the fungus.

We hope that the rust fungus will eventually become fully established on the invasive species.

If the fungus is successful over the winter, we will be able to be confident that the fungus will make an effective long-term biocontrol mechanism by helping to reduce the growth of Himalayan balsam without harming other plant species.

Himalayan balsam leaves successfully infected with rust fungus biocontrol

Tame Valley Wetlands are also planning to carry out biological control, as well as mechanical control, of Himalayan balsam at other project sites.

We will post updates about this on our website and social media pages – keep checking back!

Beat the Balsam – Mechanical Control of an Invasive Species

Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) is a non-native invasive species (NNIS) causing a major weed problem.

You can read more about Himalayan balsam here.

Himalayan balsam plants are extremely fast-growing and can tolerate shady conditions better than many other plants. The plants also disperse their seeds very widely. This means balsam out-competes many native plant species; it is often the case that very few other plants are able to survive where balsam grows. For the health of the environment, this is bad news – a low variety of different species of plant means the biodiversity of the ecosystem is decreased, with a negative impact on the overall ecosystem stability and health. Another problem caused by the excessive growth of Himalayan balsam is that it can block the flow of rivers, leading to flooding.

As part of our work in our two current projects, ‘Blythe Alive!’ and ‘Love Your River Cole (LYRiC)‘ we have been tackling the problem of Himalayan balsam growth along the Rivers Blythe and Cole.

One method we have used to remove the balsam plants from the river ecosystems is by mechanical control. Mechanical control methods involve manually pulling up the invasive plants to physically remove them from the environment. Although this requires a lot of manual labour and hard work, it is generally a fail-safe way to remove a species from an environment.

Before mechanical control works – Himalayan balsam is growing all over the river banks and out-competing native plants.

Mechanical control has been a particularly useful method of beating Himalayan balsam at some of our project sites, where we have employed contractors to remove the balsam plants. You can see that in the ‘before’ photos, the plants were growing in huge amounts and taking over many of the available space. In contrast, after mechanical control works had taken place, much more space was left for other native plants to grow. We hope that in the future this will help contribute to a more biodiverse and healthier ecosystem surrounding our rivers.

After mechanical control works had taken place to remove the Himalayan balsam plants from around the river.

Hopwas Woods & Countryside Circular

A medium difficulty circular walk through the countryside through Hopwas Woods and the surrounding countryside. There is also an additional walk available as well as other paths through the Hopwas Woods over roads which can be explored.

 

Distance: 3.5km (2 miles)

Time: Allow 1-2 hours

Landscape and path type: This route uses surfaced footpaths and bridleways, muddy tracks, hills and steep inclines, tarmacked pavements and roads. There are slopes and kissing gates during this walk. Sturdy footwear is recommended.

Map: OS Explorer 232 Nuneaton & Tamworth, Lichfield & Atherstone.

Download the walk leaflet (4.6MB PDF)

You can also visit our YouTube page to watch videos about this and many other circular walks. Click the link to watch: https://youtu.be/QxDMTCi0_7g

Middleton Circular

A medium difficulty circular walk through the countryside through Middleton Village, visiting the historic sites and landscapes around the area.

Distance: 6km (4 miles)

Time: Allow 3-3.5 hours

Landscape and path type: This route uses unsurfaced footpaths through arable fields, muddy farm tracks, tarmacked pavements and roads. There are footbridges, slopes, pedestrian and kissing gates and a stile. Sturdy footwear is recommended.

Please be aware that this walk takes you across the PGA course at The Belfry, so be mindful of golfers and adhere to warnings and signs.

Map: OS Explorer 220 Birmingham, Walsall, Solihull and Redditch.

Download the walk leaflet (4MB PDF)

You can also visit our YouTube page to watch videos about this and many other circular walks. Click the link to watch: https://youtu.be/QxDMTCi0_7g

Dosthill & The Lakes Circular

 An easy circular walk through the countryside around Dosthill, exploring RSPB Middleton Lakes and sights around Dosthill.

Distance: 11km (7 miles)

Time: Allow 3.5 hours

Landscape and path type: This route follows surfaced footpaths and bridleways through nature reserves, muddy tracks, hills and inclines. There are tarmacked pavements, towpaths and roads. There are also footbridges, steps, slopes, pedestrian and kissing gates, and a stile during this walk. Sturdy footwear is recommended.

Map: OS Explorer 232 Nuneaton & Tamworth, Lichfield & Atherstone.

Dogs: Restricted to public rights of way through the reserve, under close control at all times.

Notice: During adverse weather, the section of this walk through RSPB Middleton Lakes can flood. Please take care and use sound judgement, adhering to warnings and restrictions which may be in place along the route.

Download the walk leaflet (4MB PDF)

You can also visit our YouTube page to watch videos about this and many other circular walks. Click the link to watch: https://youtu.be/QxDMTCi0_7g

Warwickshire Moor & Alvecote Circular

An easy circular walk through Warwickshire Moor Local Nature Reserve and Alvecote Pools along footpaths, bridleways and tracks.

Distance: 10.5km (6.5 miles)

Time: Allow 3-4 hours

Landscape and path type: The route uses surfaced footpaths and bridleways, muddy tracks, hills and steep inclines, tarmacked pavements and roads. There are slopes and kissing gates during this walk. Sturdy footwear is recommended.

Map: OS Explorer 232 Nuneaton & Tamworth, Lichfield & Atherstone.

Dogs: Restricted to public rights of way through the reserve, under close control at all times.

Dowload the walk leaflet (5MB PDF)

You can also visit our YouTube page to watch videos about this and many other circular walks. Click the link to watch: https://youtu.be/QxDMTCi0_7g