Category Archives: Project updates

Himalayan balsam meets its match!

Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership is working with CABI scientists and Partners to introduce a new control method for Himalayan balsam, a non-native plant species that is negatively impacting the river corridor and its associated wetland habitats.

Non-native invasive species cost millions of pounds each year to control. Their negative effect on our native wildlife and habitats is of deep concern to conservation groups.  One such plant is Himalayan balsam.  In 2003, the Environment Agency estimated it would cost £300 million to eradicate completely; since then, the weed has continued to invade new areas.

Introduced to the UK in the 19th Century as an ornamental plant, its spread to the wider environment has negatively affected rivers, floodplains, connected ditches and waterbodies.  The plant efficiently spreads through seed dispersal, with each plant producing upto 2500 seeds that are released and catapulted to a distance of upto seven metres.  It is then widely spread through rivers and flood events, colonising river banks and connected wetland to create dense stands of plants.

In 2006, CABI scientists were commissioned by the Environment Agency, DEFRA and the Scottish Government to find a reliable and efficient biological control method for Himalayan balsam. Field visits to the Himalayan foothills of India and Pakistan identified a number of natural enemies that were tested as potential biological control agents for the weed.  Most of these agents were later ruled out, buta highly specific rust fungal plant pathogen, which lives its whole life cycle on Himalayan Balsam, was found to offer the best control solution.

The Tame Valley Wetlands area is now benefiting from over 10 years of CABI research, public consultation and associated field trials by introducing the rust fungus on to Himalayan balsam in the Tame Catchment area. If successful, the rust will help decrease the impact of the weed.

Tracey Doherty, Wetland Landscape Officer for Tame Valley Wetlands said “100,000’s of volunteer hours are spent controlling Himalayan balsam along our rivers and floodplains in the UK.  There are many negative effects of this plant on the environment, namely the monoculture that it creates. These tall 10-12ft plants with large leaves shade out our native plant species and also reduce the beneficial fungi that live in the soil that our native plants need but balsam doesn’t.  Its shallow root system does not help with soil retention, contributing to erosion and aiding sedimentation pathways into our rivers and streams that negatively affect water quality, fish and invertebrate populations. Biodiversity is reduced in these Himalayan balsam dominated sites.  Less species use the plant, although some pollinators do have a benefit when in flower.  An effective, plant specific rust fungus which has undergone consultation process and rigorous testing is a valuable tool to combat the spread and aid control of this invasive plant. The rust fungus will not eradicate Himalayan balsam completely from our landscape but it will make it more manageable, by being one of a number of plants along a water course instead of creating a monoculture, having more negative effects on our environment, than positive.  This means pollinators will still be able to use the plant but more importantly, they will be able to feed and pollinate our native plant species instead.  We are grateful to Heritage Lottery Fund and our Partners for supporting this pioneering work that will be monitored over the coming years.”

Carol Ellison, Senior Plant Pathologist, Invasive Species Management at CABI said “Invasive plants that have been introduced into a new area usually arrive without the natural enemies, such as insects and diseases, which keep them from dominating in their native habitats.  Biological control aims to redress this imbalance by introducing damaging, coevolved natural enemies into the invasive range, to achieve sustainable suppression of the weed.  This approach, although new to Europe, has been implemented globally for well over 100 years, with some spectacular successes. Strict scientific procedures are followed to ensure the safety of the selected agent. We are optimistic that once established in an area, the rust fungus will spread naturally and significantly reduce the growth and seed production of Himalayan balsam. Although this is likely to take a number of years to achieve, as the rust fungus needs to build up in a population, the impact will be permanent, unlike conventional control methods, such as manual removal and herbicides.”

  • Himalayan balsam dominates ditch system - early May © Warwickshire Wildlife Trust 2017

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.

This project is working collaboratively with CABI scientists, West Midland Bird Club, Warwickshire County Council Country Parks and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.

 

National Citizen Service participants lend a helping hand!

Over the summer, almost 100 young people on the National Citizen Service (NCS) gave their time to help out on Local Nature Reserves around Tamworth. As part of their NCS programme, run by UpRising Birmingham, the groups spend time visiting different community groups and charities in the area, then design and deliver their own social action project in their locality.

Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme hosted each group for a conservation taster day during their programme. The young people visited either Broad Meadow, Kettlebrook or Warwickshire Moor Local Nature Reserves, pitching in to help with tasks such as removing Himalayan balsam, laying bark chip along a path, or removing invasive willow. Each of these sites has a dedicated volunteer group made up of local people, and are supported by the Wild About Tamworth project. Although only visiting the site for a few hours, the NCS participants explored the area and put their energy into helping to complete a task which benefits the reserve and the people who use the areas.

Pam Clark, a volunteer at Warwickshire Moor, said this after the groups visited:

“Thanks to all the young people who came today. They worked hard for us and it really is much appreciated.”

As well as attending the taster days, two groups also asked if they could return to do more conservation volunteering as part of their social action project. In total over the whole summer, 98 young people from Lichfield and Tamworth have spent over 260 hours giving their time to conservation volunteering in Tamworth. Nicola Lynes, Youth Engagement Officer for Tame Valley Wetlands, said:

“I’m really pleased at the hard work that has been put in by all the NCS participants. Our aim at the Tame Valley Wetlands is to introduce people to their local green spaces, and this has given the young people in Tamworth a chance to see the environment on their doorstep, learn ways in which they can care for it, and engage with it in a positive way.”

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.

For more information, contact Nicola Lynes at youth@tamevalleywetlands.co.uk or on 01675 470917.

Project Update: New Circular Walks

Two new circular walks leaflets, the first in a series of self-guided trails, have been produced by Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme.

Curdworth plays host to the longest of the two walks (5.5 miles) and allows walkers to explore the wider countryside, giving them views of the Midlands from the Over Green area whilst introducing them to an array of wildlife. The second circular walk (5 miles) can be discovered at Kingsbury Water Park, where walkers can enjoy a variety of wetlands and the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. We would like to thank Curdworth Parish Council, Kingsbury Water Park and local farmers and volunteers for supporting the implementation of these trails.

TameForce, the TVWLP volunteer group, has worked hard to improve the access of the walks by installing new kissing gates, adding branded way markers, placing finger posts as well as installing an interpretation panel in Curdworth. Two leaflets have been produced, detailing the length, time and what you can find whilst on your journey. They can be found at various locations in Curdworth and Kingsbury and are available to download from our website here.

A third circular walk has been planned and is currently being improved in the Shustoke area, with work scheduled to be completed by mid September. The Shustoke walk will also be accompanied by a leaflet.

Further walks are under development and work will start on the ground over the coming months, with work already beginning on the long distance footpath, the Tame Way. Other access improvement projects, managed by our partners, are also underway across the landscape.

Stay up-to-date with the latest project updates, stories and events – sign up to our eNewsletter and events mailing list here.

Download walks leaflets

Wildlife Discovery Day – BioBlitz 2017 Success!

Kingsbury Water Park’s, Community Wetland is teaming with wildlife after 612 species were recorded throughout a 24 hour BioBlitz, hosted by the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme (TVWLPS).

The Wildlife Discovery Day took place on 7/8 July’17, welcoming 78 primary school children from Kingsbury village, a variety of species experts, Rangers from the County Council and the Environment Agency. Members of the public also entered into the fun, through a range of activities, such as walks, talks and demonstrations, all for free!

The goal for the 24 hour period was to record 300 different species, including mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, plants, trees and fish, in the 6 hectare Community Wetland area at the Country Park, restored and improved by the TVWLPS with the help of local volunteers and thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Biffa Award, Environment Agency and The Howard Victor Skan Charitable Trust. This goal was ‘blown out of the water’ with records doubling expectations, thanks to the commitment of everyone involved and the restoration work undertaken on site. All the records discovered make a huge impact on the data for the area, helping experts from the Warwickshire Biological Record Centre determine the biodiversity value in the area, keeping an eye on endangered and rarer species at the same time.

 

You can do your own recording

It’s easy and you don’t need to be an expert! Download a wildlife recording app for on-the-go, or collect the data on a form and send it to your local wildlife record centre or Wildlife Trust.

You can contribute to wildlife recording in the Tame Valley by submitting your sightings on the TVW iSpot page.

 

Bioblitz

Would you like to know more about what a BioBlitz is? Click here!

Tame Valley Wetlands’ Celebration Supper!

The Tame Valley Wetlands’ team invited local community groups, Councillors, partners and volunteers to an evening of celebration on Thursday 13th July’17.

The event was arranged to mark the achievements over the last 3 years, to thank all who have played a part so far and to share our proposed vision and plans for the future.

The Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership (TVWLP) was established back in 2005 and in 2014, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the fantastic support of local people, volunteers, funders and our partners, we started delivering a £2.5m Landscape Partnership Scheme. We have grown as a team and partnership in this time and have made exciting progress towards our aims and vision of creating a wetland landscape, rich in wildlife and accessible to all.

The TVWLP celebration event took place in the beautiful and historic setting of Middleton Hall, right in the heart of the Tame Valley Wetlands.  Guests received a project update and personal highlight from each member of the team. Gina Rowe, Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscapes Manager, then presented the Partnership’s proposed vision for the future. As the current scheme is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund until mid-2018, the Partnership Board has been looking at the next phase (2018-2030) in order to secure a strong legacy and future. The near 100 attendees were able to feedback on proposals and vote on their preferred actions.

We then shared an informal hog roast supper, and some lovely on-brand cakes. Guests were able to mingle, network and catch-up with the team and each other.  There was a real buzz about the event. We gathered a lot of useful opinions and pledges on our future vision, and everybody left motivated for the year ahead and beyond.

John Muir Award Update

Since January 2017, 33 young people across the Tame Valley Wetlands have achieved their John Muir Award (Discovery Level) with the Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership Scheme. The nationally recognised award is an environmental scheme, focused on wild spaces and connecting people from all walks of life with nature.

Youth Engagement Officer, Nicola Lynes, delivered the award to students from The Rawlett School, Skills Tank CareFirst and Kingsbury High School. Each student worked through the 4 key principles that make up the John Muir Award – ‘Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share’ – by visiting a natural space, such as their school grounds or a nearby nature reserve.

Each group had the chance to discover and explore their wild space in a way that suited them best. One group looked for signs of animals and their tracks, another learned the difference between a badger sett and a fox hole, whilst the final group enjoyed getting VERY muddy by jumping in a big mud puddle for an hour!

This wasn’t the only fun though. To complete their discover and explore sections, the students took part in a variety of activities, such as fire lighting, den building, bridge building, games and crafts.

Next step was conserve, from which each group got to decide what they were going to do to improve their green space. Finally, they created a presentation of their preference and shared it with their friends, teachers and family.

All 33 students came away with a personal certificate and a sense of achievement. The award encouraged them to work together, communicate, create something to share and build a connection with nature.

The next stage of the John Muir Award is the Explorer Level… who will be the first group to achieve this?…

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.

Discover, explore and conserve – a John Muir Award Tale

Students at the Kingsbury School have been on a journey of discovery with the Tame Valley Wetlands as they explored their local country park as part of their John Muir Award. Working through the stages of ‘Discover’, ‘Explore’, ‘Conserve’ and ‘Share’, 12 students made the Community Wetlands at Kingsbury Water Park their base for their outdoor adventure.

The John Muir Award is a national environmental award, open to anyone. It encourages communities to explore and care for their local wild spaces, and share their discoveries along the way. The students from Kingsbury School spent 5 weeks completing their award, culminating in a presentation which they have shared with the rest of their school. Activities throughout the journey were decided upon and led by the students, and included building a bridge to cross a stream, fitting coir mats to improve the vegetation growth on the Community Wetlands, installing kingfisher nest boxes and learning to light fires using natural materials to ensure a ready supply of hot chocolate!

Nicola Lynes, Youth Engagement Officer for the Tame Valley Wetlands had this to say about the programme:

It has been great to see the students improve in confidence and ability throughout the award. They have learnt about the natural world on their doorstep, and have developed a care and understanding for their local areas through engaging with the environment and having fun outdoors.

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. Staffordshire Wildlife Trust is a partner on this project, employing a Youth Engagement Officer to improve outdoor youth provision in the Scheme area.