Category Archives: News

Ratty’s Return project update

Tame Valley Wetlands are on a mission to create a wetland corridor fit for Water Voles.

This cute riparian mammal that lives on the banks of rivers, ditches, canals and still waters, was once a familiar sight through the Valley.  Habitat loss and predation by American Mink are the main reason for its decline in the area but the tide is turning in favour our furry friend.  They are not far away and are making their way under their own steam along the River Anker and Coventry Canal.

We are working on a number of measures to aid our beloved Water Vole’s return to the Tame Valley.

  1. Enhance riparian habitat where we can, to be favourable for Water Voles [Find out what we have been doing here]
  2. Engage with land owners and the local community about this charismatic mammal, the threats it faces and how we can help it [Leaflet being produced and available soon to download]
  3. Control Mink populations which threaten their return and monitoring the area for both Water Voles and Mink [Get involved and volunteer with us to survey monitoring rafts – training provided. Contact the Wetlands Landscape Officer on 01675 470917 or email enquiries@tamevalleywetlands.co.uk]
  4. Record suspect sightings to us, so that we can investigate it.

 

Visitor Centre gets a facelift

It’s all change this summer, as Kingsbury Water Park’s visitor centre, near Tamworth, gets a face-lift as part of a multi-million pound scheme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Please see below for information on when the centre will be opening to the public.

Kingsbury Water Park, owned and managed by Warwickshire County Council, sits at the heart of the Tame Valley Wetlands, an extraordinary area of lakes, ponds, rivers and canals between Tamworth and Birmingham.

The 250 hectare country park is renowned for its wildlife and is one of the area’s most popular attractions; over 300,000 people visit the site each year to enjoy the park’s lakes, woodlands, way marked trails and activities.

As part of the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme, led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, the park’s visitor centre is getting an £80,000 makeover and will be re-branded as “The Gateway to the Tame Valley Wetlands”.

Working with consultant ABG Design, the project, with funding from Warwickshire County Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, has redesigned the interior and exterior of the building with a range of interpretation panels, interactive displays and maps detailing the wildlife, landscape and heritage of the area. The interior layout of the building has also been re-organised to make it more user-friendly. Visitors will be encouraged to explore and discover the park and the wider Tame Valley Wetlands.

Tame Valley Wetlands LP Scheme Manager, Tim Haselden said:

Working with our partners at Warwickshire County Council, we are transforming the inside and outside of the visitor centre to help visitors to better understand and appreciate both the park and the wider landscape. Kingsbury Water Park will act as a gateway to explore the Tame Valley Wetlands.

The work to transform the centre will be carried out during May 2017. The centre will re-open with a soft launch in the week of 15th May (likely to open to the public on Wednesday 17th May), with an official opening on Saturday 1st July. Watch this space for more details about the opening.

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

BBC Countryfile visits the Tame Valley Wetlands

The BBC’s most popular rural show visited North Warwickshire in search of Britain’s fastest declining mammal, the water vole, discovering the hidden landscape of the Tame Valley Wetlands on their way.

BBC Countryfile filming along the canal © Ebony Chapman, TVWLPS 2017

On Sunday 30th April’17, BBC Countryfile teamed up with the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS) and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust to discuss the landscape-scale projects that are helping to bring water voles back from the brink of extinction.

Water voles once thrived in the Tame Valley Wetlands – a unique, watery landscape between Birmingham and Tamworth (click here to find out more about the Tame Valley Wetlands). However over the last few decades water voles have been wiped out due to habitat loss, poisoning and predation by the non-native invasive American mink. Now, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and help from local volunteers and landowners, the Tame Valley Wetlands LPS is putting measures in place to help restore the landscape, encouraging the return of this iconic animal in the process.

The Water Vole © Dean Eburne 2017

Water voles can still be found just outside the Tame Valley Wetlands around Atherstone and Nuneaton. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust is working to improve habitat connectivity to help populations survive and spread further into the Tame Valley via the Coventry Canal and River Anker.

New BBC Countryfile presenter Steve Brown came to visit one of the Trust’s most innovative ideas – to create water vole ‘motels’ along the Coventry Canal, which are made up of natural coir rolls full of water vole-friendly plants. They line up adjacent to the steel erosion guards, which are used to protect the canal banks but ultimately stop water voles from being able to get out…until now.

Presenter Steve Brown with Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Tim Precious © Ebony Chapman, TVWLPS 2017

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Wetland Officer, Tim Precious said “A big part of our National Lottery funded water vole project is to encourage water voles to disperse out from strongholds that have developed in North Warwickshire in recent years,. The ‘water vole motels’ act as crucial stepping stones along poor habitat helping water voles to move into uninhabited areas like the Tame Valley Wetlands. Importantly, this increases the long-term sustainability of our regional population making sure we can continue to enjoy watching these beloved little mammals busying themselves on the river and canal bank far into the future.”

The Tame Valley Wetlands LPS is also using coir mats and rolls to improve habitat, as well as re-naturalising sections of the River Tame and its floodplain, where water voles will hopefully soon call home. BBC Countryfile visits one of the scheme’s latest projects at Kingsbury Water Park where a new 6 hectare community wetland has been created with the help of funding from the Environment Agency, Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award and the Howard Victor Skan Charitable Trust.

Filming in the Tame Valley Wetlands at Kingsbury Water Park © Ebony Chapman, TVWLPS 2017

Tame Valley Wetlands LPS Scheme Manager, Tim Haselden said “We had a great day out with the BBC Countryfile team showing them just what an amazing and hidden landscape we have and how it has undergone such change over the last century. With river water quality improving and the work we’re delivering in partnership over a large area, we are hopeful that water voles, along with many other species, will be flourishing again in the area soon.”

Countryfile’s Warwickshire adventure aired on BBC One at 7pm on Sunday 30th April’17.

Missed it?  Catch-up on the BBC iPlayer by clicking here (we’re exactly 16 minutes into the show).

The Tame Valley Wetlands LPS is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund with the vision of creating a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all. The Tame Valley Wetlands is led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust in partnership with 22 organisations including charities, local groups, statutory bodies and councils.

 

Notes for Editors:
1. The Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership (TVWLP) has a vision of creating a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all. There are 22 organisations on the Partnership and the Board consists of Warwickshire Wildlife Trust (Lead Partner), the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency, North Warwickshire Borough Council, the RSPB, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and Warwickshire County Council.

2. 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 Heritage Lottery Fund, 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.

3. 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 61 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.

4. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Using money raised through the National Lottery, the 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. HLF has supported over 36,000 projects with more than £6bn across the UK. For more information, visit www.hlf.org.uk.

Quotes requested for the creation of trail guides

The Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme requires the design and creation of a series of engaging, fun and informative trail guides / walk leaflets.

A Brief outlining the work required is available to download here.

Consultants are invited to quote for the work outlined in the Brief by midnight on Sunday 30 April 2017.

For more information, please contact us.

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.

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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