Category Archives: Social distancing blog

blog posts to keep people entertained throughout period of social distancing 2020

Habitat Management for Willow Tits

“Hey… it’s not just all about this guy behind me you know! Well on this project it is…”

Good news to end the year on, apart from actually spotting a few willow tits at Ladywalk Nature Reserve.  We have also delivered a couple of work party sessions with our volunteer group, Tame Force, through which we have been able to make a start at Langley Brook and Hams Hall to enhance and create habitats for willow tit as part of our project.

Within an area of the Langley Brook near Middleton, the Tame Force team removed a fallen willow tree to create a clearing.  The wood that was removed has been reused for habitat piles and deadwood has been placed to create great resources for willow tit nesting. 

Removing the tree manually and using machinery, rather than letting it break down naturally, meant the section of the river bank was opened up and allowed to flood. It was the perfect opportunity to restore this fantastic bit of habitat back from woodland to wet woodland. Now the fallen tree has been removed the established sedge in the cleared area will be able to spread.

At Hams Hall Church Pool Covert, the volunteer team also set out to remove some of the rhododendron from the area. Rhododendron is an introduced species and is highly invasive, so will easily destroy important habitats if left unmanaged. Eventually the areas will be regenerated with native species of scrub and trees, creating a more suitable environment for wildlife to thrive.

Thank you to the volunteers for all their amazing work on this.

Love Your River Cole Traineeships

Do you love wildlife and working outdoors?

Are you practical and willing to learn new skills?

Ever thought about a career in nature conservation?

The Love Your River Cole (LYRiC) project aims to transform the Cole Valley, enhancing natural spaces and training local people to look after this important natural river corridor.

If you are looking to start your conservation career, this 12 month trainee placement will give you the skills and experience you need, including a City & Guilds Level 2 Work Based Certificate in Environmental Conservation.

Click here to apply

Love Your River Cole Conservation trainee roles x 3
Placements: Hams Hall, Brandon Marsh, Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens
Duration: 12 months
Bursary: £9,000
Deadline: 6th January 2021

Applications to be made through The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country.

Vegging out

The vegetable patches at Hams Hall Environmental Centre are coming along nicely! Click on the link below to read more how Andrew created our no-dig beds.

We have even been able to harvest some produce already – radishes were on the menu for lunch today. Radish grow well in colder weather, under a fleece cover, and they taste fresh and sweet this time of year as opposed to the peppery hot ones that grow late in spring. The broad beans are growing very well and so far have withstood several nights’ frost without attracting any of the resident squirrels, rabbits or voles…. however the resident voles did find a way past the fleece in one of the no-dig beds and have demolished a whole lot of lettuce, pak choi and broccoli seedlings!

Our big compost heap stopped producing heat a few weeks ago as we added too many dry ingredients. However, after a thorough turn and adding some comfrey, nettles and water, it is now a steaming hot 50 degrees C again! Once the temperature drops again it will be ready to use.

Stay tuned as we are getting ready for some exciting plans in the spring and summer as well as creating more beds.

Love Your River Cole: Green Recovery Challenge Fund

With funding awarded from the Green Recovery Challenge Fund, Tame Valley Wetlands are leading a partnership project to help transform the Cole Valley.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a Government fund developed by Defra in partnership with its Arms-Length Bodies, which the National Heritage Fund are administering on behalf of Defra.

Funding organisation logos

The partnership involves The B37 project, Birmingham City Council, Castle Bromwich Hall & Gardens Trust, North Warwickshire Borough Council, The Prince’s Trust, Solihull Metropolitan Brough Council, The Wildlife Trust for Birmingham and the Black Country and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. These partners will work to deliver the project whilst involving and engaging local people.

Partner logos

The river Cole and the Cole valley form a fantastic green corridor linking the centre of Birmingham to rural North Warwickshire. With the support of the Environment Agency (EA), a vision for the valleyhas been developed, and this funding will help to make it a reality.

The Green Recovery project will expand on the current Love Your River Cole(LYRiC) work, delivering improvements to various key locations in the Cole valley including Glebe Farm Recreation Ground, Meriden Park, Castle Bromwich Hall Park and Gardens, and Cole End Park. The valley is a brilliant haven for wildlife, as well as a highly valued green space for the diverse communities living alongside it.

The project will involve tree planting, wildflower meadow creation and wetland habitat enhancements, as well as access improvements to paths and trails through the key sites. We will also be focusing on creating and supporting local green jobs to boost the local economy. The project includes six traineeships aimed at giving people the experience and accredited training required to pursue a career in the environmental sector. The Prince’s Trust will also be working with young people from a range of backgrounds, to offer first-hand experience of the local environment and support in finding work or further training.

“To have secured this funding is a tremendous achievement and is real testament to how partners can work together to make a real difference on the ground. The Covid crisis has demonstrated how valuable local green spaces are and this funding will go a long way to improve these for people and wildlife”.

Ian Wykes, Tame Valley Wetlands Programme Manager

Project Deliverables +

The project will deliver the following works between January 2021 and March 2022:

  • Creation and restoration of 2km of footpaths, trails and boardwalks to improve public access at key sites.
  • 100m of in-channel improvements to the river Cole
  • 7km of bank restoration, including removal of invasive species and planting of wildflowers and trees, to improve riparian habitats, prevent sediment runoff and sequestrate carbon.
  • 2 hectares of woodland management to provide habitats and enhance species diversity.
  • 2 hectares of wetland creation to support a variety of invertebrates, amphibians and birds.
  • 3km of wildflower meadow creation and restoration using well-established conservation techniques
  • Creation of 6 traineeships and delivery of 144 training courses for 16-24 year olds to provide opportunities for development of conservation-related careers
  • 50 short course accredited training opportunities for delivery partners and community groups.
  • 20 biodiversity and environmental audits carried out through citizen science with 50 volunteers from local communities.
  • Weekly volunteer opportunities to help deliver practical conservation work
  • 12 engagement events explaining the benefits of nature to wellbeing
  • Weekly blogs and social media posts to update on our progress and relevant events

These deliverables will have a long-lasting positive impact on the river Cole and its communities.

The project will significantly enhance the environment and ecological health of the valley by re-naturalising the river Cole, helping to move it into a better condition, and connecting habitats so that important native species are once again able to thrive.

Local communities will be provided with the skills and experiences needed to continue taking care of the environment after the project ends, to sustain these outcomes into the future.

Project Sites +

The project will focus on four main locations throughout the Cole valley: Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens and Park (Solihull), Cole End Park (North Warwickshire), Glebe Farm Recreation Ground (Birmingham), and Meriden Park (Solihull).

Click on the project area map to zoom in.

Press Release +

Click on the link below to read Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s press release announcing the project.

Read the press release

Get involved +

We will be posting more information about applying for traineeships joining training courses or volunteering on the project soon. Keep up to date by following us on social media.

Keep an eye on our website and social media for regular project updates, events and opportunities.

No-dig beds

When Hams Hall Estate was owned by the Adderley family, its walled garden was used as a kitchen allotment, growing vegetables and flowers for the manor residents. The manor was auctioned off in 1905, and today the walled garden hosts Hams Hall Environmental Centre, the base for Tame Valley Wetlands.

Andrew, our Water and Habitats Specialist Officer, has been working in the walled garden to restore the original vegetable patches back to their productive state, as they would have been during the Adderley residence. He has been using a no-dig method to enrich the soils and create a plot with a natural absence of weeds. So far, produce including dill, purple kale and lettuce have grown with great success.

No-dig methods are efficient and effective ways of growing produce in a garden. As their name suggests, the soil is not dug, minimising disruption to the essential microorganisms, fungi and invertebrates living under the surface. This means the soil retains a higher level of moisture, and the beds are less prone to weed growth. There is also research showing how no-dig methods improve carbon storage in soil, by preventing release of excessive carbon. Charles Dowding, an expert on no-dig gardening, has some helpful tips and detailed explanations on how to create your own no-dig bed on his website.

Andrew is hoping to develop this patch into a community garden in the future – keep in touch with us on social media to find out more about these plans!

Volunteering with Tame Valley Wetlands

Clare is a volunteer for Tame Valley Wetlands, and here writes about some of the work she has been carrying out alongside the team.

I began volunteering with Tame Valley Wetlands a few months ago and I feel like I have learnt so much in such a short space of time. I wanted to volunteer to ‘give something back’ and feel like I was helping to conserve and restore some of the nature in my local area. However I was also hoping that it might help me make the transition between careers that I was looking for.

My scientific background has always been molecular. I have worked in a research laboratory environment, have a PhD in Genetics and spent many years working in education teaching mainly GCSE and A Level Biology. During the last couple of years I have found a renewed interest in nature and the environment. I began to understand the massive impact that we have had on this planet and decided that I would like to work in a scientific environment where it felt like I was helping to restore things.

During my first few volunteering sessions with Tame Force I helped to clear overgrown areas of footpaths in nature reserves and helped work on the ‘daubing’ to form the walls of a replica medieval Roundhouse that is to be used as an outdoor classroom.

I have loved working outside during these sessions and meeting other volunteers who all have their own reasons for volunteering. Every session I learn something. It might be the history of a site, how to use a certain tool or even about a particular species that we stumble across during the session. Everyone shares their knowledge and each person brings their own skills to the session.

After chatting to some of the team at Tame Valley Wetlands I became interested in one particular project that was beginning at Langley Brook in Middleton and I began to get involved with this, working with Tame Valley Water and Habitats Specialist Officer, Andrew Apanasionok. The Langley Brook site has been identified as a site with the potential to be improved as a local wildlife site.

I have been assisting Andrew in preliminary assessment surveys at the site which included a Topographic survey and a Macroinvertebrate survey.

During the Topographic survey I learnt how to take elevation measurements along transects and investigate ground composition using an auger and a small trial pit. The survey concentrated on an area of low lying ground opposite the brook to assess its suitability for re-wetting. Sampling up to a metre deep, the ground was found to contain organic matter overlaying glacial and fluvial deposits. The elevation measurements taken will give us an understanding of the topography of the land and enable us to calculate where to excavate and the extent of excavation to allow the land to re-wet without risk of flooding to the surrounding area.

We also carried out a Macroinvertebrate survey of the brook. We chose 5 representative sampling sites along a 300m reach of the brook and using a standardised kick sampling method we collected the macroinvertebrates found there. We then identified the organisms found and scored each sample using the British Monitoring Working Party scoring system. This scoring system can be used as a way of assessing water quality. Invertebrates can be used as ‘bioindicators’ as many species are sensitive to pollution and sudden changes in their environment. Our survey found that all the sampled sites were categorised as ‘Poor’ in terms of water quality, indicating that they are polluted or impacted in some way. This survey will be used as a baseline to look for improvements following interventions. We are also hoping to establish an ongoing water quality monitoring programme using citizen scientists to take regular measurements using handheld probes. This will help us to identify any trends or pollution events and make appropriate interventions.

Each time I have visited the Langley Brook site I feel like I have learnt something new. I am understanding how important it is to work with local communities to conserve areas and some of the challenges involved.

Volunteering on this project is providing me with some quality training and practical experience in the field that will inevitably help me with future employment. I am loving being able to build on my existing knowledge, being able to work outside and being involved in a project where you can see you are making a difference. I can’t wait to see how the Langley Brook site develops and be able to enjoy it as a local wildlife site.

Fantastic Fungi

Autumn is the peak time for fungi to appear in woodlands, meadows, riverbanks, roadside verges and gardens.

Coming in all shapes and sizes, they are hugely diverse and play a major role in the ecosystem by recycling waste and organic materials to help trees and plants grow. The part of the mushroom growing above the ground, the fruiting body, produces spores to reproduce. Under the ground, the mycelium is a mass of branching thread-like structures (hyphae), which absorbs nutrients from the ground and, in some cases, connects the fungus to trees and plants.

Some are edible, some are poisonous – and it’s best to leave them alone unless you’re with an expert!

Here are just some of the fungi that have been spotted around the Tame Valley Wetlands. Click on the images to enlarge them.

Nature Spots 6.0

The last couple of weeks at Tame Valley Wetlands have been busy with Tame Force, plans for future projects and work delivering current projects. We’ve also got a few great nature spots to show!

This small white butterfly, Pieris rapae, has recently emerged from its cocoon. The pupa, which you can see in the background, has a pointed shape and attaches onto a surface with a thin silk strand. Once emerged, fluid is pumped through the wings, helping them to unfold. The butterfly rests whilst its wings dry, then is able to fly off and begin foraging.

A walk through Church Pool Covert and Lea Marston churchyard was rewarded with some fascinating fungi findings in the form of these large parasol mushrooms, Macrolepiota procera, and some bracket fungi growing on fallen dead wood.

These and other fungi play important roles in the ecosystem, especially in the nitrogen cycle, by acting as saprophytic decomposers. They break down plant materials and other waste from the forest floor, then release nitrogen back into the soil in the form of ammonium nitrate, for it to eventually be used by plants.

Click on the images below to enlarge.

Whilst carrying out habitat management and scrub clearance with Tame Force, we noticed two den holes in the ground underneath a bed of nettles, but it was unclear whether or not they were being used. Speculations were confirmed when trail camera footage from the next evening, recorded by Ian Wykes, our Development Manager, captured this fox exploring the walled garden!

The apple trees at Hams Hall Environmental Centre are now abundant with fruit. These crab apples are tiny and sharp tasting! They make excellent food for birds and other wildlife around the garden.

Stop the badger cull coming to Warwickshire

We are concerned that the UK Government will include Warwickshire in this year’s badger cull. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust have opposed badger culling since 2004, as there is no conclusive scientific evidence that culling badgers will decreases the incidence of bovine tubercolosis (bTB) in cattle. In fact, long-term trials by the UK Government suggest that culling could make the prevalence of bTB worse by encouraging remaining badgers to spread around.

Please visit Warwickshire Wildlife Trust’s website to find out about how you can help try to change the Government’s mind, preventing the death of thousands of Warwickshire’s badgers.

Badger
WildNet

Nature Spots 5.0

It’s been a while since we last posted about nature spots but the wildlife around the Tame Valley Wetlands has continued to thrive! We’ve had a lot of butterfly photos and a few interesting plants too.

Here are some great shots of a brimstone butterfly, Gonepteryx rhamni. You can see from these photos how the shape, colour and vein patterns of its wings resemble leaves, giving the butterfly the ability to camouflage well whilst it hibernates over winter, one of the few butterflies in the UK that do this.

This gatekeeper butterfly, Pyronia tithonus, shows off the false eyespots on its wings which act to deter predators such as birds, giving the butterfly time to escape. The eyespots might also act as a secondary form of defence by encouraging birds to attack the wings rather than the body – damage to a butterfly’s wings is much more tolerable than harm to its body!

Robin’s pincushion is a red hairy growth that appears on wild roses, caused by the larvae of the tiny gall wasp that feeds on the plant. Despite looking significant, robin’s pincushion causes little damage to the plant. The gall holds many of the wasp grubs, which feed on the gall tissues throughout winter. The adult wasps emerge in the spring.

Photo submitted by Debra Starkey

A common blue butterfly, Polyommatus icarus, displaying the patterned underside of its blue wings whilst feeding from a dahlia. The caterpillars of common blues have a fascinating mutualistic relationship with ants during their development. The caterpillars secrete a substance called honeydew that attracts ants. The ants will eat the honeydew and tend to the chrysalis, often taking it into their nests to protect the caterpillars from predators. The butterflies effectively use the ants for free childcare, and the ants receive a tasty meal of honeydew in return. This kind of mutualism is seen in some other species of butterfly too.

Photo submitted by Stephen Powell

This interesting plant is the fruiting stage of Arum maculatum, commonly known as Lords and Ladies, or cuckoo pint. Its berries are highly poisonous, although you’d struggle to eat many of them as they have a acrid taste and would burn your mouth! During the flowering stage, Arum uses a method of trap pollination, in which it attracts fly pollinators to itself by emitting odour and heat. Flies fall down into the trap where the flowers are located and are prevented from escaping by a layer of hairs at the entrance. The flies deposit pollen from other plants on the female flowers, and the male flowers deposit their pollen on the flies. Once pollen transfer is complete, the trap collapses and the flies are able to escape… until the same thing happens at another Arum flower!

Keep sending your nature spots to enquiries@tamevalleywetlands.co.uk!