I’ve been a bit lax this year; this is the only blog I’ve managed to do! I did start it a few months ago, but life got in the way so, here it is now … 3 blogs for the price of one!

Tree planting at Houghton.

January saw us erecting some fences and planting trees (a forest) at Houghton.

I think somewhere in the region of 5000 trees were planted, including the hedge in the picture below.


The hedge of several thousand trees/shrubs at Houghton stretches for several hundred metres.

Trees waiting for us in the polytunnel to protect them from the frost.


Tree management at Old Moor

Back at Old Moor, after planting the trees at Houghton, we removed some of the enthusiastic trees round the back of the farmhouse. These were blackthorn which, over a couple of years, had encroached into the field by several metres.


The part nearest the farmhouse was then layed, forming a very attractive hedge – if I do say so myself!


You can see this hedge as you walk in to the entrance to Old Moor; it’s grown a bit since then.


Reed Bed path

February also saw the start of the change of the landscape on the Reed Bed path. Dave the Digger dug out the edges of the path in the reed bed creating channels alongside the path.


The fence was also removed from this section and a new path surface was put down.


Bryony and Heather rolling the path.


With the fence removed it was necessary to put up a screen at the side of the Reedbed Screen.


In November, Dave the Digger returned to continue the channels round to the Reed Bed Hide. The reeds removed were relocated out into deeper water thus extending the reed bed further out. With the fences removed the whole path has a lovely open feel to it, much appreciated by the Bearded Tits as they have regularly been seen in this area.


At the same time part of the fence was taken down near the Bittern “Bus Stop”


In April the Tree Sparrow Farm rabbit struck again but, once this hole had been filled, it didn’t come back … unlike last year when we had to concrete the whole floor! (Apart from this bit of course!)


In April we put a surface on the track leading from the Education garden to the Wildlife Ponds.


Last year’s cows chewed away the rubber on the steps up to the Monitoring hide (why!?) so we fitted some non-slip mesh on to the steps.

Those pesky bitterns still insist on building one of their nests in the Monitoring hides “blind spot”. So no matter where you sit, you have to weave your head backwards and forwards to get it in view. To remedy this we removed even more of the hides walls to get maximum viewability (is that a word?)

We had to leave the corner post in otherwise the hide would have collapsed!


The café balcony was closed in April as the supporting posts were found to be rotting at the base. So professionals were brought in (you’ll be glad to know it wasn’t us) They removed the rotten parts, dug a pit underneath, filled with concrete and fitted metal plates to the base.

We did tidy up the edges and put pea gravel along the side though.


April also saw us preparing the ground near the oak trees ready to sow some meadow flower seeds. The mower had a roller attached to the back to press the seed into the soil to try to keep it out of sight of those blooming birds that eat it before it has a chance to sprout! If you walked along there in the summer you’ll know that this was very successful!

A summer photo with lots of flowers. This area will become part of the Wild Play area under the Heritage Lottery funding plans.


In April the outside of the hide at Wombwell Ings was repainted after new viewing windows were cut on the door side of the hide. This was so that the new landscaped area at Broomhill Flash can be seen from the hide.

Bryony, Megan and interns Craig and Dylan upon finishing the hide.


It was then decided to put a seat outside the hide overlooking Broomhill Flash, so a concrete platform was laid to accommodate it. Maybe this should have been done before the painting, judging by the fingerprints on the hide!


The seat was then bolted to the concrete. Dave and Bob are here enjoying the sunshine.


In May, safety checks showed that a couple of the stones were loose on top of the wall surrounding the raised pond near Grandad’s Garden. So we took them off and here’s Noel and Bob cementing them back into place.



Also in May, a group of us took a trip to Spurn to help set up the electric fence that protects the Little Tern nesting area. It was a day of sun, sea and sand! … and a lot of hard work; we walked several miles laying out the wires!

In a previous life, Warden Heather was Little Tern warden here and so is keen to help them set up each year … it’s also a nice day birding out at the seaside.



Karen and Heather discussing……..something!


In July we relaid the path surfaces around the Wildlife Ponds.



All hands to the rakes… and brushes.


Here we are working on the bridge at the Wildlife ponds, removing crassula…


… and replacing a rotten joist.


In August the cows went back to the farm for a health check, you may have noticed that the ones that were brought back were a different bunch.

The ones that came back, helping with a laser level.


The Sensory Garden.

August was also the start of the transformation of the Education Garden, here erecting a fence to mask of a corner with sheds and a gate. The Education Garden, name changed to Sensory Garden, will form part of a new way onto the reserve as part of the Heritage Lottery Funding plans for Old Moor.




Shortly after we made a start on the raised beds for the Sensory Garden.


It was a slow job, the walls needed to look like a dry stone wall but had to be cemented in, and took several weeks.

The walls finished, infilled with topsoil and some planting done. The barefoot sensory path was laid in-between these two beds.

Recently we’ve started to dismantle the Education Hide you can see in the background; eventually the Garden Hide will be removed as well so when you come out of the Visitor Centre you will have a choice of paths out onto the reserve.

Starting to dismantle the Education Hide.

Update… we continued to take the hide down




A view into the Bird Garden. The rotting seat around the tree was next.

Within 5 minutes it was gone! The view out of the Visitor Centre window is now very different!


Sluices – (chapter 27 or 28?)

In September Dave the Digger was back, digging a trench along the back of the Mere to the Wader Scrape. There’s an existing pipe from the gravity feed part of the reservoir that goes to the Mere, this pipe we’re laying here joins that pipe and makes it possible to divert some of the water to the Wader Scrape without having to go through the Mere.

Dave the Warden and Dave the Digger setting up the laser level used to make sure the pipe doesn’t go uphill as it approaches the Wader Scrape.


The cows offering their advice.


The sluice end of the pipe into the Wader Scrape.


The sluice at the back of the Mere, showing the flow from the reservoir.

Ok, while we’re talking about sluices, let’s get the others out of the way!

Here’s the other end of the pipe at the reservoir end; here Steve is digging out the bank on a cold, wet day so that we can get a sluice on the end to better control the water entering the site. You can more easily see the problem in the photo below…

This shows the gravity feed from the river with the reservoir and wind pump in the background. The dam across the gravity feed was put in just after the wind pump was installed. This was because we found that the wind pump pumped water from the river into the reservoir, came through the sluice you can see in the middle of the photo and then ran back into the river via the gravity feed without going onto the reserve!

So during the recent flooding, the whole gravity feed area was flooded almost up to the top of the embankment; well over the top of the dam. Because the river was high, water was flowing unchecked straight down the gravity feed, through the pipe where Steve is and onto the reserve. Hence we’re fitting a sluice onto this pipe.


After the flood in November, to facilitate getting rid of excess water quickly from the Reed Beds without having to go through the Mere, an overflow pipe was installed from Reed Bed 3-4 to Reed Bed 5. Reed Bed 5 is connected to the dike at the back of Wath Ings, which gets rid of its excess water through the EA pump or the Knoll Beck.

Reed Bed 3-4 overflow.


Non return valve on Reed Bed 5.



November brought the heavy rain which caused all the sites to flood; a reminder of course that this is one of their main functions, to flood and keep the water back from homes and industry further downstream. This caused most of our work to come to a standstill – limited access.

Once the floods had subsided, we had the job of removing debris from the sites, in particular from the electric fence at Adwick. The fence had, in places, been completely submerged.

The top of Green Lane, Old Moor

Removing debris from the electric fence, Adwick.

Of course the cows were only too willing to help!

Walking back up the still flooded main path. Karen can be seen on the right; sad to say that she left us a few days ago to concentrate on the running of her and her brothers' farm. She will be sorely missed.


And finally…

At the back of Wath Ings is a flood embankment along the River Dearne maintained by the Environment Agency. The area gets very wet and when we have to access this area the tracks get deeply rutted and the EA are worried that the integrity of the embankment will be compromised, so they’ve asked us not to use the embankment at all. Because of this we are making a new track inside the fence away from the embankment. Unfortunately the way is blocked by willow, hawthorn, etc so we are having to clear it.

Looking the other way; Karen is in there somewhere. You can see that the way beyond this section is still flooded so we’ll have to stop here until it goes down.

That’s it for now… ‘til the next time