As part of ‘Blythe Alive’, a project to improve the River Blythe SSSI and its environment, we are planting native riparian trees and hedgerows at various sites near to the River Blythe.
One of the benefits of hedgerows is their importance in acting as habitats for small animals such as birds and invertebrates. Hedges provide food and shelter for animals, and also act as corridors for animals to move along, improving connectivity between habitats.
Hedgerows 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.
When planting close to a river, as we are doing for our Blythe Alive project, the flood management aspect of hedgerow gapping-up has been particularly important. 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.
We have planted 1000 hedgerow plants and Black Poplars at Hawkswell Farm. This planting contributes to gapping-up the existing hedgerows, which is necessary for maintaining their longevity and structure.
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.
With the help of a team of volunteers from Severn Trent Water, we planted around 2000 hedgerow plants at Packington Estate to create a new hedgerow for the field.
The new hedgerow will provide more habitats and more protection against flooding for the field,
Watch the video below to see just how many plants were planted to create this hedgerow!
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 email@example.com or phone 01675470917.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
The wetlands of the Tame Valley, located along a 20km stretch of the River Tame between Coleshill and Tamworth, offer a wonderful hidden landscape for people and wildlife.
The last century has seen huge impacts on the river and its floodplain due to pollution, sand and gravel extraction and fragmentation from development and transport routes.
In the past twenty years, the value of this area as a cohesive landscape has started to be recognised. In 2005, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust set up the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership and has championed action to strengthen the resilience of the area through the creation of bigger, better and more joined up habitats and by reconnecting local people with these natural assets that are so important for society.
Since then, the Partnership has grown and strengthened. On behalf of the Partnership, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust secured £1.8 million of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2013 to develop and deliver a landscape partnership scheme with the vision of ‘creating a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all’.
As we near the end of this funding, here are the headlines achievements from the last four years:
Over £2.5 million has been invested in the landscape.
23,500 volunteer hours have been donated and we’ve captured some really interesting local memories.
There have been over 110,000 page views of the Tame Valley Wetlands website and a Facebook total reach of nearly 450,000. We also reached an audience of 6.3 million people when we featured on BBC Countryfile!
1,949 metres of hedgerow have been created or restored.
Over 240 events and training sessions have been run, with over 10,000 participants
21 people have received a City & Guilds or Open College Network training accreditation, with a total of 3,088 guided learning hours. 40 young people have also received the John Muir Award.
A new brand and website has been established; a variety of new interpretation and films have been created; and a new ‘Gateway to the Tame Valley Wetlands’ visitor centre at Kingsbury Water Park has been created, with over 75,000 visitors.
The grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled us to deliver great outcomes for wildlife, people and heritage. It has also made us stronger as a partnership, with 24 organisations all working together towards our new shared 2030 vision.
We have been working hard to make our presence in the area sustainable and a team of 5 members of staff plus our fantastic volunteers, hosted by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, will continue into 2019 and beyond.
Now, more than ever, partnership working at a landscape-scale is vital if we are to protect our wildlife and heritage, turn threats into opportunities, and build on the exciting momentum that we’ve created over the last few years.
A huge thank you to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award, our other funders, partners, volunteers, the delivery team and the local community for making the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme such a success!
To find out more about our work over the last four years, watch our documentary film below!
Here’s another dreamy, relaxing video of fish on the River Tame.
In 2016, Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership led a project to recreate a back channel and reinstate an island feature at Tameside LNR, Tamworth, Staffordshire.
The back channel was created to serve as a fish refuge for small fish and fry, giving them a place that they could shelter, feed and grow within the dynamic River Tame environment. Within the first summer, instream vegetation grew within the channel, offering ideal habitat for our target fish.
The presence of different species of fish in the River Tame is a good sign that the quality of the water has improved – it now provides a habitat suitable for sustaining fish populations.
Two years on and the banks have established wonderful riparian plants, suitable for water vole, should they return! The in channel vegetation is both submerged and emergent, which is great shelter for fish.
Our film evidences that minnow, gudgeon and fish fry are present within the refuge. A job well done for securing an essential environment to support natural recruitment of freshwater fish in our big river systems.
Tame Valley Wetlands is excited to share with you the first of a few short videos filmed underwater in our fabulous rivers.
We have been working with Jack Perks who has perfected the art of underwater filming and we are truly thrilled with the results.
Our first clip was filmed on 25th September 2018 at three points within the River Tame at Kingsbury where we carried out river restoration work in 2014.
We have filmed a variety of different species of fish present in the River Tame.
The River Tame was once dead to life. Decades of work to improve water quality and improve river habitat are helping the river recover to its former glory, with grayling being caught by anglers in recent years.
The film shows different age classes of fish and certainly points to a productive fishery, supporting natural recruitment.
The short film is both fascinating to watch the behaviour of fish but also is very relaxing.
Dive in and watch the video. Look out for the pike!
Tameforce volunteers have installed 80m2 of pre planted coir pallets to transform a forgotten stream in Church Pool Covert at our Hams Hall office.
We have worked with volunteer groups this year, to clear Himalayan balsam from the wooded site where the invasive plant has dominated the area. We have then reinstated native species to improve biodiversity value and help prevent soil loss in flood events. This is part of our ‘Balsam meets its match’ project funded by Banister Charitable Trust where we are working with our partners to improve a number of sites with the Tame Valley Wetlands.
Yesterday, our Tameforce volunteers prepared a 400m2 area ready for grass seeding using species which are happy in shaded and wetland environments.
We then installed 80m2 of preplanted coir pallets along a 20m length of stream. The coir pallets 2m x 1m in size and are like a planted rug. The pallet is made from coconut fibre which will degrade over time, giving the plants the chance to establish the root system in the bank while also providing some erosion protection of the soil, preventing the soil being washed away in the winter into the river system, which degrades water quality.
Take a look at these awesome before and after photographs.