Category Archives: Uncategorised

Education at Hams Hall Environmental Centre: Session Plans

Click on the links below to download copies of lesson plans for each education session at Hams Hall Environmental Centre.

Please contact enquiries@tamevalleywetlands.co.uk if you have any queries or would like to book a school visit.

Re-profiling the River Cole

The re-profiling of the River Cole, located upstream of the River Tame in North Solihull, is an important project aiming to enhance the biodiversity and aesthetics of the river. Working alongside Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and the Environment Agency, with support from our National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF), the project will make the River Cole better for both wildlife and people visiting the area.

Initial assessment of the River Cole concluded that it was an unsuitable environment for wildlife, because of its poor water quality and low variety of different habitats available for a diverse range of species to thrive. Therefore, project planning commenced to decide what improvements could be made to the worst areas of the river.

The poor quality of the water was found to be because of urban pollution further up the river, such as regular use of overflows by sewerage systems and runoff from roads or agricultural land. Work by Severn Trent will make sewerage systems more efficient, find alternative drainage options from roads, build buffers along the river banks and promote use of more environmentally-friendly farming methods. This will mean the water in the River Cole can be made cleaner so it provides a safer environment for the development of fish populations. Moreover, placing large hay bales along the edges of the river will help to catch any sediment; this clever technique ensures that sediments do not contaminate the river.

The habitat quality and diversity of the River Cole was another important area identified for improvement.

Because of human activity and the high energy water flow which had gradually eroded the river banks, the structure of the River Cole had been changed over time so that it became straightened and unvaried. This had a negative impact on the diversity and richness of different wildlife species inhabiting the river. It also meant that the river was unable to accommodate large populations of wildlife.

Work to improve the quality and variety of habitats in the river involved creating more islands and meanders (bends in the river course), planting more trees and shrubs along the river banks, and introducing gravel to the river bed. Adding these kinds of features improved the environmental diversity and allowed a greater variety of plants and animals to thrive in the area, especially different fish species. It also improves the visual aesthetics of the river, making it a more enjoyable place for people to visit.

Work on the River Cole project began on Monday 11th February 2019 and was complete by the end of the week. The re-profiling involved working mainly within a 300m section of the river. By improving this space, with a focus on the quality of the water and surrounding habitats, the project will yield many benefits in terms of the River Cole’s natural diversity and public appeal.

Hedgerow planting


As part of ‘Blythe Alive’, a project to improve the River Blythe SSSI and its environment, we are planting native riparian trees and hedgerows at various sites near to the River Blythe.

One of the benefits of hedgerows is their importance in acting as habitats for small animals such as birds and invertebrates. Hedges provide food and shelter for animals, and also act as corridors for animals to move along, improving connectivity between habitats.

Hedgerows are also important for preventing flooding. Hedgerows provide weather barriers and contribute to natural flood management by intercepting rainfall and slowing runoff from the land.

When planting close to a river, as we are doing for our Blythe Alive project, the flood management aspect of hedgerow gapping-up has been particularly important. The improved hedgerows will help to absorb rainfall and therefore limit the amount of water running into the river. They will also intercept sediment and pollutants from land run-off which would otherwise contaminate the river. This lowers risks of flooding, loss of nutrients from the land, and pollution of the river.

Hawkswell Farm

We have planted 1000 hedgerow plants and Black Poplars at Hawkswell Farm. This planting contributes to gapping-up the existing hedgerows, which is necessary for maintaining their longevity and structure.

This work was carried out with the help of our dedicated volunteers, and plays an important part in our project to improve the health status of the River Blythe and the quality of its surrounding ecosystem.

Tree planting – filling the gaps

Tame Valley Wetlands staff and volunteers recently braved the soggy conditions underfoot to plant some native hedgerow trees in fields adjacent to the River Blythe. Hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, dog-rose, wild cherry and field maple were among the species used to fill in gaps in existing hedgerows. Species-rich hedgerows have multiple benefits for wildlife and the ecosystem as a whole by serving as a habitat for a number of organisms and movement corridors for wildlife. They also provide shelter, natural connectivity in the landscape, and reduce soil erosion by preventing excessive run off. The hedgerow planting is another part of our larger Water Environment Grant funded project focusing on improving the ecological status of the Blythe SSSI and surrounding land. Local landowner support has been critical to the success of this project and we certainly benefit from the strong relationships we have with our local farmers and project partners.

Posted by Tame Valley Wetlands on Thursday, 28 November 2019

Packington Farm

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With the help of a team of volunteers from Severn Trent Water, we planted around 2000 hedgerow plants at Packington Estate to create a new hedgerow for the field.

The new hedgerow will provide more habitats and more protection against flooding for the field,

Watch the video below to see just how many plants were planted to create this hedgerow!

Hedgerow planting!

The results of a day's hedgerow planting with help from Severn Trent Water – around 2000 whips planted to create a new hedgerow!

Posted by Tame Valley Wetlands on Friday, 13 March 2020

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.