In late August to September 2020 LWT carried out it’s largest conservation project at Lea Farm Lake, over 1 hectare of new reed beds and over 1 hectare of marshes were created thanks to Network Rail grant funding.
In 3-5 years as the reeds establish, species that breed in Phragmites reed will increase greatly, 10-15 pairs of Reed Warbler, 5+ pairs of Reed Bunting, 2-5 pairs of Sedge Warblers, hopefully 2-3 pairs of Cetti’s and if we are really lucky Grasshopper Warbler and Water Rail.
In the winter we could see double figures of Water Rail and where we plan to cut extensive areas of reed to create muddy stubble, Snipe numbers could rocket to 300+, no doubt bringing Jack Snipe every winter. The area has always been good for Bittern, so we hope to see 2-3 birds from 2023 onwards.
The new marsh will attract passage birds from the moment it is completed, but it will take 2-3 years for the exposed clay to break down and the leaf litter to make mud, after which time the shingle islands will be used as breeding sites for more Common Tern, but we are really hopeful that waders like Redshank, Lapwing, Little-ringed Plover and Oystercatcher could be tempted to breed.
If we can raise enough money before the winter 2020/21 is over we can begin submit formal applications for our second subscription hide, blue prints have already been drawn up to use a 40 foot sea container on 7-10 foot stilt legs overlooking the reed bed and marsh. We have created marsh in the NW corner too and hope to install a hide type viewing screen to allow visitors to sit quietly and watch what appears in the margins and ditches.
We will continue to try to attract breeding Shelduck and re-position the nest boxes.
By late autumn 2020 subject to logistics our Barn Owl box should go in, ideally the solar powered web cam, but this may have to wait until the new hide is built. If webcams are as popular as we hope, others will follow for the Common Tern and Sand Martin colonies.
We are overdue installing formal information boards along the Loddon so footpath users are aware they are on our land and that we expect them to respect our request to pass quietly. Such boards should include maps and guidance on all our conservation mission, thereby serving as membership recruitment assets.
Having invested so much into Lea Farm, the hedgerow along the Loddon will be laid and managed to maintain a thick, nest friendly and fruit bearing haven. During the hedge laying interim period, we will complete installing stock fencing to eradicate dog intrusions into the nature reserve.
Sandford Lake desperately needs a new sluice and there are parts of the path that have been eroded over 35 years of winter flooding that are now easily breached in the summer too, so a key project in 2021/22 would be to put the path back as it was in 1981 and get an EA approved sluice to prevent summer flooding. Any work will be dependent on consent from Dinton Pastures Countryside Services and the Environment Agency, not to mention the potentially high costs, but if achieved it could turn Sandford into an exceptional nature reserve.
We have been contemplating a replacement hide at Teal scrape, but we are more likely to leave it and build a new subscription hide. Like those at Lea Farm Lake it would be on stilt legs, to combat flooding and give better viewing of the scrape, island reed beds and Sand Martin wall.
White Swan Lake (WSL) attracts more Bitterns than Lavell’s and for this reason we hope to move ahead in 2021/22 with a formal a Bittern viewing point there.
The hedgerows of Middle Marsh and running up between BSL and WSL have been a little neglected, new fencing went in during 2020, but much more needs to be done to manage the hedgerows effectively. The same can be said for much of the treeline on the South side of Lavell’s where due to lack of management and deer, there is very little under storey and therefore near to ground nesting birds cannot thrive. The spread of Ash and Oaks in the wrong place also undermines the mission to manage a wetland site with thick low vegetation.
Longer term, but starting in the next 12 months LWT hopes we can become tenants of Lodge Wood Lake and as we did with Lea Farm Lake, take direct action to improve and protect it for wildlife.
If by 2025, we can grow the membership to 1,000 additional families and each subscribing at an average of £20.00 per household, we could go to Summerleaze with viable plans to buy Lodge Wood Lake.
Owning Lodge Wood Lake would open up a wealth of opportunities, first of which would be preventing another owner running recreational activities that could undermine our conservation efforts.
We could run a series of outdoor family events, create another very large reed bed, dig pools for breeding Little-ringed Plover, build a highly desirable NE bay hide and depending on a number of other factors, it might be possible to make our own small car park and a private gate on to the Loddon footpath at the top end of Lodge Wood Lake.
If you would like to assist LWT financially to achieve our long term aims to secure the whole area from development, please do contact us, the landfill will not remain so forever and we need to be sure all our efforts are not dashed by a heartless developer in 20-30 years.