I thought it was about time that I got down to writing about what we’ve been up to as it’s been a while since I wrote the last one!

New Signs.

I’m sure you will have noticed the updated signs on the roadside outside the reserve. Very smart and colourful!

… and also the new information signs at Adwick.

These were put up last July, so you should have noticed by now!

 

Scrub Clearance.

The lush green of summer looks great around the site, however, come the autumn a lot of it has to be cut back otherwise some areas would be taken over by birch and willow in particular, but also some non-native species like Italian alder and black poplar. The natural progression for reed beds is for woodland to take over and so dry up, a situation clearly we don’t want.

A lot of time over the autumn was therefore dedicated to removing unwanted scrub.

Alongside the Reed Bed path, here’s Megan, Laura the intern (now moved on to new pastures), Smiley Steve and Paul brushcutting in the background.

 

Here’s Karen getting stuck in with a chain saw. You can see how dense it has got over the summer.

 

The biggest job is removing all the cut vegetation to the burn site round by the Reservoir.

Bonfires are fun though …

 

Another one on Gypsy Marsh. Pete, Paul and Heather are feeding the fire.

Here’s Heather and Pete removing willow from dense reeds on Reed Bed 1

This is the entrance to the spot where they’re working; the Monitoring hide is in the background. Once you’re walking in the reeds, they are above your head and you’ve no idea where you are, how do bitterns find their way?

A large area was also cleared by the Wildlife ponds.

Paul, Laura, Steve and Heather removing the reeds

Channels in the reeds also have to be cut so that Bitterns have feeding edges where they can fish. This is from the viewing platform on the way to the Reed Bed Hide/Screen.

… And how it was more recently when the water levels had risen. When the platform was built the reeds here were only about 4 metres thick and you could see over them to the water, now they are more like 25 metres thick. That’s successful management!

 

Reed Planting.

A fair bit of time has been spent on ongoing projects, planting out or moving reeds from one place to another is one of them.

Planting more reed seeds in the polytunnel.

 

Heather and Dave transplanting reeds taken from Wath Ings into the Toyota pond. Note the low water level in the summer, so low that we had to build a lower platform so that kids could reach the water!

The platform and the steps are now covered with water!

Out at the reservoir, reeds planted a couple of years ago … which are looking pretty tall … needed the protective fence repairing so the reeds can spread unhindered by hungry ducks/geese.

Megan and Pete erecting the protective fence, again notice the low water level, the reeds normally have their feet in water.

 

Sluices – a regular feature!

Controlling the water flow through the site is vital to maintain the correct habitat for different areas of the site. So, you’ve guessed it, more sluices are required!

This is a lengthy section and so unless you’re interested in detail, you could look at the pictures and then move on!

You will have seen the new sluice by the Toyota platform; this one controls the water level in the Wildlife Ponds. Here are Karen and Dave the Digger installing it.

 

Here it is before installation, Tim and Noel are bolting the penstock (the thing that slides up and down to control the water flow) to it.

Here it is in place with a mud- dam on the left holding the water back so it can be installed. Dave is trying out the penstock.

 

With the mud-dam removed.

 

On the other side of the path, the waterway has been cleared of scrub. This feeds into the small pond behind the family hide, then onto the Green Lane dike.

 

Another sluice was put into Reed Bed 5; this is a completely new pipe leading from the main feed to the Mere (more later) so that RB 5 can be flushed without having to go through Reed Bed 3/4.

 

A quick aside here so that you can understand which reed bed is which!

Reed Bed 1 is the one looked at from the Monitoring Hide. It’s on the left as you approach the Reed Bed Screen and also when you look through the screen it’s still RB1.

Reed Bed 2 is on the right as you walk towards the Reed Bed Hide/Screen. It’s also the one when you face forward in the Bittern Hide.

Reed Beds 3 and 4 used to be separate but were joined when the Bittern Hide was moved a few years ago. So RB3/4 is the one from the Reed Bed Hide, the boundary of which is on the right hand side and back of the channel from the Reed Bed Screen.

Reed Bed 5 is not accessible to the public and lies beyond the back of the view from the Reed Bed Hide and the back of the Mere from the Family Hide. The “Cuckoo tree” sits in it.

This would have been clearer if I’d shown it on a map but unfortunately I couldn’t find a suitable one. The ones I found were either out of date or too small to show enough detail.

When the sluice in RB5 was installed this cover became a casualty of the process and so we had to cement it back in place, Noel, Dave and Laura in the picture. The main feed to the Mere goes underneath this, a pipe was connected to it to go to RB5.

 

 

I mentioned the main feed into the Mere earlier, here it is. It was becoming overgrown and becoming blocked, Dave and Laura are cutting away the grass and weeds. In fact this pipe is the main feed into the whole of the reserve, splitting off to feed into Reed Beds 1, 3/4 and then under the vehicle track into the Mere.

 

In the picture above the Reservoir is behind the bank on the right, a sluice comes through the bank and feeds into the near pool. We built the small dam a few years ago because beyond the pool is the gravity feed back into the River Dearne and when the wind pump was installed (pumping water from the river to the reservoir) we found water was coming from the Reservoir and flowing along here back into the Dearne!

We built a protective wall around the pipe to discourage grass and weed growth around it. Noel and Dave are cementing blocks in place.

 

You may have noticed this new sluice in front of the Sand Martin Bank. This feeds water from the Mere into the Field Pools.

  

There are several more sluices around the workyard waiting to be installed, so sluices will be in the next blog I’m sure!

 

Stepping Stones

Have you tried out the stepping stones in the Wildlife Ponds? No? Ok, have a go next time you’re round there. We started to lay them out in September when the pond was dry; guessing where the water level was going to rise to was fun!

The pegs show the route and also where the top of the stones needed to be. We then had to go to more urgent jobs for a while and when we came back to it, it had rained!

We had to pump the water out and then lay the stones into sticky mud, with a mortar base underneath.

Steve wallowing in the mud

 

The finished stepping stones.

 

Monitoring Hide

Those of you that have used the hide will know that this year there were 3 bittern nests, 2 roughly the same as previous years i.e. in view looking out the front of the hide, but the 3rd was on the extreme right of the hide … viewing of which was through a very small window with no seat or shelf!

Now, the observers had a word with the Bittern Watchers trade union, but the bittern was unimpressed and stayed put!

So plan B was to make the window bigger, put in a seat and shelf.

The much improved view through the enlarged window.

The finished window and shelf.

 

Tern Rafts.

In November the tern rafts were brought in and refurbished.

Laura and Karen towing a raft in to the shore.

Refurbishing with gravel.

 

The Playground

Also in November we spent a happy two weeks in the rain and mud clearing the grassy growth that had crept over the rubber matting underneath the equipment!

The Gaffer … the not-so-smiley Steve. In the background are Laura, Heather and James our newest intern.

New matting was installed where the old had worn out.

  

Megan’s not crying, she’s tie-wrapping all the matting back together.

The finished matting.

 

We also took a lot of tree growth out of the playground, mainly willow and blackthorn.

Karen and Megan removing some of the willow and recreating the willow arch.

Pete cutting out the blackthorn that had invaded the playground.

 

Cows

Also in November a group of us took and erected the temporary cattle fencing out to Edderthorpe ready for the farmer to remove them from the site for the winter.

The handsome bull.

Just before Christmas the cows were also taken off Old Moor and Adwick.

Here’s one in the summer gazing across Wath Ings … “hmm, is that a shoveler?”

 

… and here are the Adwick cows in December “helping” us to repair the fence that they’d destroyed!

 

And finally …

Here we are in December repairing the fence at the back of Wath Ings that the Old Moor cows had ruined.

You can see that the track here is flooded, in complete contrast to the dry conditions we had in the summer.

 

That’s it for now, ‘til the next time!

Derek

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