I have been the warden at Baron’s Haugh for two years now, and it is safe to say it has been an eventful period! I have been lucky enough to see some amazing wildlife such as otters kingfishers and little egrets, work with some wonderful volunteers and also learn from locals about the history and wildlife of this fascinating nature reserve. The past year however has of course been difficult, as the team here, like everyone else, has struggled through the pandemic, doing what we can to continue our work on the reserve.

One small silver lining of all this, however, is that more time indoors has given us the opportunity to plan for the future of Baron’s Haugh. Over the past few years, the reserve has faced increasing pressure from flooding and erosion as the River Clyde has made its presence felt. Sections of the Clyde Walkway which runs through the reserve have been lost, and areas of the soil bund which separates the reserve from the river have been destroyed. We have spent thousands of pounds attempting to repair this damage over the past few years, however as fast as we have put in repairs, new problems have popped up.

Wetland habitat at RSPB Baron's Haugh (Credit: RSPB Images)

This is clearly a huge challenge, however where there are challenges there are opportunities. Over the past year, the reserve team has been  developing an ambitious project to tackle the issue highlighted above and create a sustainable long-term future for the reserve, delivering exciting new habitat for wildlife and new access opportunities for people.

The first stage of this project was to develop a feasibility study to examine the options for future management of the reserve. Working with consultants Aecom, we were able to look at the impact of flooding on the reserve, how best to maintain its fantastic habitat for wildlife, and how to create excellent new access for visitors. We examined the effectiveness of different management options and developed plans for potential future management.

Visualisation of potential enhanced wetlands with viewing infrastructure at RSPB Baron's Haugh

One of the most important findings of the study was that continuing to hold the river back is likely to be unfeasible in the long term. Instead, we need to focus on working with the river to adapt to its changing course and re-naturalise parts of the reserve. A concept plan of a possible future for the reserve is attached to this blog.

This study however is only the first stage in the project, it provides a route map for the future, not full designs. Before we move on to the full design stage, we want to hear from you. What are your thoughts on the future of the reserve? Where would you like new access routes developed? How can we make this reserve even more special for wildlife? This reserve is important to so many people and we want to work with you to make it as good as it can be.

As such, the reserve team will be holding a series of drop in consultation events throughout June and July to chat to locals and visitors, show the outputs of the feasibility study, and get feedback on the options that have been developed. Staff will be on hand from 10am to 4pm in a marquee in the reserve car park and you are free to drop in at any time. We will be following government guidance on physical distancing at all times. The dates of the events are below;

Wednesday, June 2nd- 10am to 4pm

Saturday, June 5th- 10am to 4pm

Wednesday, June 30th- 10am to pm

Saturday, July 3rd - 10am to 4pm

If you are unable to come along to the consultation dates you can provide feedback online by following this link https://forms.office.com/r/pejd6zzj9u. Please email baronshaugh@rspb.org.uk for further information about the project.

We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at these events, and can’t wait to chat to you about an exciting future for RSPB Baron’s Haugh.