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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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 enquiries@tamevalleywetlands.co.uk or phone 01675470917.

If you missed our 2019 newsletter, you can read it here: https://mailchi.mp/d5857e26756f/tame-valley-wetlands-in-2019. You may wish to sign up to our mailing list to keep updated with our newsletters and project updates! Remember, we also post regular updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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.

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”.

 

Start of the ‘big’ stream clean up at Borrowpit Lake

Today, we have been working on clearing the brook that links Borrowpit Lake to the River Anker.  Just two people worked hard to clear a 30m section of litter and encroaching instream vegetation.

The clean up produced 10 bags of litter, 6 traffic cones, 1 tyre, 1 snowboard and 1 full size punch bag.  We estimate between 150-175 glass and plastic bottles and cans were removed from this short section of stream in less than 3 hours.

  • 6 traffic cones, 1 tyre, 1 snowboard and 1 full size punching bag were the interesting finds of the day
  • 10 bags of litter containing no less than 150-175 bottles and cans collected in 3 hours
  • Many bottles and cans were submerged in the stream.
  • Over 20 bottles were found within a 2m square area beneath nettles on the stream bank
  • It may look like vegetation but it is hiding something....
  • We discovered a headwall into the stream, completed blocked and with bottles inside the pipework too!

We received lots of great comments from passers by who told us to “keep up the good work” or “you are doing a great job”.   This nice feedback is great motivation.

Thanks again to Tamworth Borough Council Streetscene team who came out to collect all the rubbish.

Take a look at the before and after photos.

 

 

 

Pathway improvements at Borrowpit Lake

Tame Valley Wetlands are extremely grateful for help by six volunteers from Keir Services (Area 9) who transformed a dark, enclosed pathway to be more open and accessible at Borrowpit Lake, Tamworth.

  • The guys start to remove the willow dome den that is a hub of anti social mischief. Removing this will help make the area safer.
  • The girls remove the blackthorn scrub encroachment, opening up the pathway and making it more accessible and feeling safer by improving the sight lines
  • Streetscene came out to chip all the vegetation which can be used as landscaping material in the Borough
  • The Environmental team from Keir Services who manage Area 9 for Highways England.

The environmental team worked hard all day to clear vegetation near Borrowpit Lake and the Snowdome to help define a pathway and create a safer space for walkers around the lakeside. Their hard work was immediately recognised by passers by who welcomed the work and said what a difference it made.

Partners in our Borrowpit Lake project, Tamworth Borough Council and The Lamb Angling Club came out to see the work and thank the group.

We are also extremely grateful for support from Tamworth Borough Council, whose Streetscene team chipped the arisings and removed three large bags of rubbish from the site.  The  wood chippings can be reused as landscaping material.

Take a look at some of the before and after photos.

 

 

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?…

Doing our bit for National Nest Box Week

BTO National Nest Box Week: 14th-21st February 2017

In preparation of the BTO’s 20th National Nest Box Week (NNBW) and the onset of 2017 breeding bird season, Tame Valley Wetlands have been doing their bit to create homes for our feathered friends.

Recently, Tame Valley Wetlands supplied 23 nest boxes to project sites at Kingsbury Water Park, Community Wetlands and Tameside LNR in Tamworth.  These have been installed and are ready for 2017 occupation.  The woodcrete boxes are BTO’s official nest boxes for National Nest Box Week which runs from 14th to 21st February, every year.  These sturdy boxes can last 20-25 years, much longer than the classic wooden nest boxes and they have different designs to accommodate different bird species.

We have also provided specialist boxes for :-

  • Kestrel
  • Tawny Owl
  • Kingfisher
  • Two willow baskets which can be used by Hobby
  • Barn Owl

Kestrel box (Left,)                   Owl box (right)

As well as classic nest boxes, two Sand Martin hotels have been built in February 2017 offering a total of 102 flood proof nest burrows.  We may even get Kingfishers using them!

Tameside LNR, Tamworth                            Kingsbury Water Park

(Photos: © T Doherty 2017)

The simple action of putting up a nest box is easy and will provide a thrilling reward when our feathered friends use them.  Find out more about what you can do on the BTO website.  Alternatively, why not join us on Thursday, 23rd February 2017 in Tamworth to build your own bird box which you can take home and put up in your garden.  There are still a few places left.  Book online via the events page.

 

Photos from our Nest Box Building day in 2016. (Photos © R Gries 2017)

Funded by Heritage Lottery Fund