When the volunteers got together for the Thursday work party the job sounded quite straightforward, but it turned out to be a morning full of surprises, not least of which was the bright blue sky and full sun.

We set out to clear the grass and brambles in front of one of the ponds along the lonning at North Plain, and to take out some of the trees overshadowing the pond. By opening up the pond to more light and reducing the leaves falling into it, the water would be much healthier and better for dragonflies and other invertebrates

The first surprise was finding an old blackbird’s nest, this is now in the Visitor Centre. Then came the discovery of a big clump of iris foetidissima. Judging by the size of the plant it must have been there for some time but, hidden in the undergrowth, no one had seen it before.

Then came the biggest surprise of all. One of the contractors working on the renovation of the house beside the Visitor Centre came along to say they had found an otter in the house and could we please come to rescue it! So off several of us went to investigate and there it was in a small room hiding behind some boards. How it got there no-one knows. It emerged to have a look at us, quite small, with beautiful dense brown fur and seemingly unafraid of people. Dave was delegated to catch it, he knows all about birds so he must be able to handle an otter! With the aid of a bit of cloth he managed to pick it up and carry it outside where it posed beautifully. When released, instead of making a fast getaway it wandered round the yard and investigated some of the outbuildings. It was quite young. Had it been hand-reared and released, or had it lost its mother? We hope it survives and we’ll keep a lookout for it.

After that amazing experience it was time for tea break in the Visitor Centre and a share of the chocolate cake brought by one of the team to celebrate an upcoming birthday.

 Back to the pond for the rest of the morning. No more big surprises but an interesting hour or two. When some of the very tall trees were cut they inevitably fell right across the pond, (where’s a beaver when you need one?) and much ingenuity was required to get them out.

A long-retired boy scout’s knotty knowledge came in handy and a rope was attached to haul one tree to the bank, with a lot of effort. There it could be cut up by Mhairi with her power saw. Another tree proved too heavy to drag up the bank and the tractor was brought along to haul out that one out.


At the end of the morning the pond was transformed. Enough trees were left around it so that birds in the nearby arable field can fly up there in between feeding on the specially planted crops.


When you walk down the lonning in the summer keep a lookout for dragonflies on the pond. Who knows what else will come along to perch, swim, or feed in this newly restored pond?

There are more ponds on the reserve in need of some TLC and the Thursday Work Party will be tackling some of them in the future. We’re never short of work to do, and more volunteers would be a huge help. We can’t promise chocolate cake or otters but there’s always something of interest on a Thursday morning, and we’re a friendly lot.

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