Category Archives: Latest News

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.

The Tame Valley Wetlands Scheme – Our Achievements

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.

Tame Valley Wetlands at Kingsbury Water Park © C.Harris (WWT)

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.
  • The Trust and Partnership won the prestigious UK River Prize 2018 ‘Best Multiple Benefit Partnership Project’ category.
  • The area has been designated as Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull’s first Nature Improvement Area (NIA).
  • 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.

    Hedgelaying with volunteers © S.Lowe (WWT)

  • Over 2km of watercourse have been restored or enhanced, and 35 hectares of wetland habitat have been created or restored.

    River Tame re-profiling at Kingsbury Water Park © T.Haselden (WWT)

  • Nearly 300 school and youth sessions have been delivered, engaging with over 5,000 children and young people.

    Scarecrow event © R.Gries (WWT)

  • 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.

    Live Willow Weaving at Lea Marston © Rita Gries (WWT)

  • 1 full-time, 18 month marketing apprenticeship has been completed, leading to the participant finding a full-time permanent job in the sector.
  • Over 6km of footpath have been improved and 74km made more accessible through the creation and promotion of 10 new circular trails.

    Finger post on the B’ham & Fazeley Canal © D.Jones (WWT)

  • 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.

    New interpretation at Kingsbury Water Park Visitor Centre © C.Harris (WWT)

But, that isn’t all!..

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.

‘Looking into the future’ (Farm wildlife event) © Rita Gries (WWT)

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!

Tame Fish (Part 2)

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.

 

The River Tame as you have never seen it before

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!

Balsam meets its match at Church Pool Covert!

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.

 

 

 

Working together in the Tame Valley Wetlands – celebrating our achievements!

Nearly one hundred volunteers and representatives from local groups and organisations on the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership came together to celebrate the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme on Tuesday 17th July 2018.

The evening event took place at Drayton Manor Park Hotel near Tamworth and celebrated the successes of working together in partnership for the benefit of the natural environment, heritage and people in the Tame Valley Wetlands – a unique, watery landscape between Birmingham and Tamworth.  The Partnership also presented its future vision and plans for the area.

Delivery staff talked about their top highlights and there were displays from partner organisations.  A film summarising the scheme’s achievements was also premiered, which will be launched online in August.  Volunteers and staff were thanked for their hard work and support and two individuals received a special award in recognition of their long-standing dedication and commitment to improving the environment of the Tame Valley Wetlands.

Andrew Crawford is the Biodiversity Technical Specialist at the Environment Agency and has worked tirelessly to improve the River Tame and its tributaries for over 30 years. Andrew has led and advised on many river restoration projects and has seen the transformation of the river over the decades – from one that was so polluted it sustained no life at all, to a thriving watercourse home to wildlife such as grayling and otter.

Maurice Arnold is a local naturalist with extensive knowledge of natural and local history.  Maurice was a founder member of Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and has been an active local wildlife recorder and surveyor for over 60 years, in particular carrying out fritillary counts on Broad Meadow Local Nature Reserve in Tamworth since the 1950s.  This has provided vital data to protect these important sites and inform current and future management.

Celebration Event on 17 July 2018 at Drayton Manor Park Hotel © Tim Haselden (Warwickshire Wildlife Trust)

Tim Haselden, Tame Valley Wetlands Scheme Manager said:

“We are delighted to be able to present a special award to Andrew Crawford and Maurice Arnold for their outstanding service to the Tame Valley Wetlands over so many years. We would also like to thank everyone who has volunteered and worked on the scheme over the last four years – none of this would have been possible without their amazing help and support, and the vital funding received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, our partners and other funders.

The Partnership was established back in 2005 and we plan to build on the successes of the last few years with an ambitious 2030 vision, focussed on continuing to enhance the environment and connecting people with their landscape.  We also plan to develop the area as a green tourist destination and work with planners and developers to protect and enhance the environment where possible for both people and wildlife.

The River Tame is in recovery and the Partnership is focused on delivering further projects which will ensure there is ecological resilience in the River Tame Catchment, supporting our precious wildlife and habitats in the face of human pressures such as pollution, flooding, development and climate change.”

The evening was rounded off by a positive speech from Alan Taylor, National Heritage Lottery Fund Committee Member for the West Midlands.  The National Heritage Lottery Fund has been the primary funder of the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme, investing £1.8 million since 2013. This will result in investment in the Tame Valley Wetlands’ landscape of £2.5 million by the end of 2018.

Amongst the successes of the past few years, the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust were named as a finalist for the UK River Prize 2018 and the winner of the ‘Multiple Benefit Partnership’ category.

Over the last four years, the scheme has:

  • improved 1,935 metres of watercourse;
  • created or restored 35 hectares of wetland habitat;
  • restored 1,466 metres of hedgerow through planting and laying;
  • created over 15,500 face-to-face engagements with the public, through school and youth sessions, events and training;
  • held 230 events and training sessions;
  • secured over £325,000 of volunteer time and in-kind support from partner organisations;
  • designated 3 sites as Local Wildlife Sites and the landscape as a Nature Improvement Area;
  • created the ‘Gateway to the Tame Valley Wetlands’ Visitor Centre at Kingsbury Water Park;
  • created a long distance footpath ‘The Tame Way’ and various circular walks.

The Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme is supported by the National Lottery through the National Heritage Lottery Fund.  Its vision is to ‘create a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all’.

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

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Notes for Editors:

The Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership (TVWLP) has a vision of creating a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all. There are 23 organisations on the Partnership and the Board consists of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (Lead Partner), the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency, Natural England, North Warwickshire Borough Council, the RSPB, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, Tamworth Borough Council and Warwickshire County Council.

The Tame Valley Wetlands (Landscape Partnership) Scheme will be delivered by the TVWLP between 2014 and 2018. The Partnership will receive £1.7 million funding from the National Lottery through the National Heritage Lottery Fund (plus £100K development funding in 2013), enabling a £2.5 million scheme to be delivered, which aims to restore built and natural heritage and reconnect local people with their landscape. The scheme covers a 104 km² area of the Tame Valley Wetlands between Birmingham and Tamworth, in North Warwickshire and south-east Staffordshire.

Work will focus on conserving and enhancing approximately 50 hectares of river and wetland habitat and restoring two Grade II listed structures on the canal network. The scheme includes the development of the Tame Way – linking, enhancing and promoting a network of footpaths, bridleways and cycle routes between Birmingham and Tamworth. Plans are also in place for a new interpretation centre at Kingsbury Water Park and an interactive website and phone app, providing easily accessible information and resources to help people explore and discover the Tame Valley Wetlands.

The initiative will also provide volunteering and training opportunities for local people and support groups working to look after their local area. A series of events and activities will also be delivered, with the aim of engaging with hundreds of school children, young people and members of the public. Informal training will be provided through taster days, with the chance for people to learn new skills and improve their CVs through more formal, accredited training programmes.

Wetlands provide a vital role in reducing flooding and improving water quality, whilst their biodiversity-rich habitats also provide an important home for wildlife and a place for sensitive recreation and relaxation. The Tame Valley Wetlands are a ‘blue lung’ in an area of the country otherwise dominated by transport routes and development. For more information, visit www.tamevalleywetlands.co.uk.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (WWT) is the lead partner on the TVWLP. The Trust is the largest local conservation charity working across Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull. Their main purpose is to promote the interests of wildlife, wild places and the natural environment for the wider benefit of society, people and local communities. They promote a better natural environment for local wildlife and local people as part of the aim to create a Living Landscape in the West Midlands where wildlife and local people can live and thrive together. WWT manages 65 nature reserves, covering over 800 hectares and is a voluntary membership organisation supported by more than 23,000 individual members, over 20 corporate members and over 700 volunteers. For more information, visit www.warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk.

The National Heritage Lottery Fund (NHLF). Using money raised through the National Lottery, the National Heritage Lottery Fund aims to make a lasting difference for heritage, people and communities across the UK and help build a resilient heritage economy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, they invest in every part of our diverse heritage. NHLF has supported over 36,000 projects with more than £6bn across the UK. For more information, visit www.hlf.org.uk.

Sand Martins move into the Community Wetlands at Kingsbury Water Park

Exciting news! Sand martins have moved into the sand martin hotel at Kingsbury Water Park’s, Community Wetlands.

The sand martin hotel was built in January 2017 and features 51 nest hole entrances.  It was planted up during the spring and was featured on Countryfile in April 2017 as pupils from Kingsbury School, volunteers from Friends of Kingsbury Water Park and Country Park Rangers, installed pre-planted coir rolls and pallets around the base of the moated feature.

Tracey Doherty, Wetland Landscape Officer for Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership said “This is great news.  We were thrilled to learn this week that our feathered friends have moved in with approximately 20 of the nest holes being used.  Sand martins like to nest in river banks along the Valley.  Summer flood events are getting more common and the nature of the River Tame is such that, the nest burrows will quickly get flooded during the critical breeding bird season.  We designed an artificial nest site which mimicked the aspects of natural nest sites in the river corridor but then ensured that the nesting area was above the level of the highest flood.    It’s a wonderful asset for the Tame Valley corridor and a much needed safe nesting site.  They are likely to return to this site next year, now they have found it”.