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Bridge repairs completed

The past two weeks has seen bridge repairs completed on two bridges in Dinton Pastures that were deemed to be unsafe. The major repair was on the bridge over the River Loddon, connecting Mortimer’s Meadow to White Swan Lake. This work had been planned for some time, but damage to the railings had resulted in an incident that forced it to be put forward. Wokingham District Council took care of the repairs and the end result is a much sturdier looking bridge which should prove to be more durable.
The second repair was on the low footbridge which connects Black Swan Lake to Sandford Lake, close to the sluice. It appears that the recent flooding had damaged the bridge so badly that it needed to be closed. The Countyside Services staff based at Dinton were able to complete this work themselves and the finished product is a wider and more substantial looking bridge.

Click on the images for a larger version.

The renovated footbridge over the River Loddon.

The new bridge between Black Swan & Sandford Lakes.

Ron Bryant hide construction

Whilst this is nothing like ‘latest news’ it is certainly ‘news worthy’, as Ron Bryant has made available to FOLL his photos showing the construction of the hide at Lea Farm GP.

As you can see from these photos, everything started smoothly enough when work began in September 2009. However, no one had predicted that the following winter would be extremely cold…. and extremely wet! Waterproof clothes, welly boots, thermals and even thigh length waders were needed to keep things moving forward. The boat seen in one of the shots is not a prop – this became the only way to access the site at one point.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting the Ron Bryant hide would surely agree that FOLL now have the best hide in Berkshire, if not the Home Counties, as a result of this massive effort from Ron and his team of helpers.

Getting started 30/10/09










Dinton Activity Centre changes

The car park at the Dinton Activity Centre (former sailing club) on Sandford Lane has a very different look about it, with the addition of a new fence and kissing gate at the south end. This is part of fencing off an ‘activities area’ adjacent to the centre’s building and the other noticeable addition is a new ‘low level rope course’ which has been recently installed.

dac-new-fence New fence & kissing gate (click for larger image)

dac-rope-course Low level rope course (click for larger image)

Lea Farm Tern rafts update

Five years ago Ron Bryant and a team of helpers built the rafts which can be seen on the water at Lea Farm GP, with the purpose of providing somewhere for Common Terns to breed during the summer. Whilst this has been partially successful, there has been a tendency for Black-headed Gulls to populate the rafts before the Terns arrive and get themselves established in sufficient numbers to repel the gulls.

Over the past week or so the latest plan to keep the gulls off the raft has taken shape and on Tuesday 5th April the work was completed by Ron and Alan Rymer. Wire mesh panels have been positioned over the rafts and netting has been added to each end to (hopefully) stop the gulls encroaching. These defenses will then need to be removed at just the right time to allow the Common Terns to settle in, probably in the middle of May. This has taken a lot of hard work from Ron & Alan, so let’s hope it’s successful and that we get a good breeding colony of Common Terns this year.

Ron & Alan at work (click for a larger image)

Tree planting at Lea Farm GP

As part of the OVO Energy tree planting initiative, FOLL were joined by The Conservation Volunteers – Berkshire (TCV) on their January 2016 work party. TCV supplied over 200 berry bearing shrubs, which were planted alongside the hedge next to the public footpath on the River Loddon. These shrubs should provide a good source of food for wildlife from both the blossom and berries, making it a valuable resource.

Prior to the tree planting, FOLL installed over 100 metres of stock proof fencing, to reinforce the hedge laying which has been done by CROW beside the footpath.

before tree planting Before the trees were planted

stock fencing Erecting the fence.

tree planting Tree planting.

FOLL bird news update

The WhatsApp based bird news service is proving to be successful, with several users regularly contributing their sightings of rare/uncommon species from around Dinton Pastures CP and Lea Farm GP. This has taken the onus away from Fraser to provide all the bird news, as was the case with the Twitter based service, whilst also getting news out quicker for other birders who may be interested in seeing a reported bird.

As a consequence, in 2016 the Twitter based service will be discontinued and totally replaced by WhatsApp.  FOLL members are encouraged to sign up for this new service, so that they can reap the benefit of the improved bird news facility.

Details on how to do this can be found here

Ringed gull sighting

Tim Ball from Reading & Basingstoke Ringing has sent us details of one of the Black-headed Gulls rung at Lea Farm GP.  22P6 was rung here in 2014 and no sightings of the bird had been reported until it was seen at St Jean du Doigt, plage de Plougasnou, Finistere, France on 29/10/15.

This is by no means the only time that one of ‘our’ gulls has been recorded a long distance from where it was rung as a chick.  A full list of the subsequent sightings of birds rung at Lea Farm GP in 2014 can be seen here: All 2014 Lea Farm

Hedge laying at Lea Farm GP

21/10/15 Thanks to Peter Scudamore, Conservation Reading on Wednesday (CROW) have joined up with FOLL to lay the hedge alongside the footpath at Lea Farm GP. CROW pay an annual visit to Dinton Pastures to help with conservation work, but this was their first ever visit to Lea Farm GP and despite poor weather conditions they have made an excellent start on transforming the hedgerow. Two further visits are planned to complete the task, with the next being on November 18th.  Any FOLL members who would like to help and learn how to lay a hedge are welcome to join in.

More photo’s of this work can be seen on the Econet Reading website here:

LFGP hedge laying1 Alan Stevens/CROW

LFGP hedge laying3 Alan Stevens/CROW

LFGP hedge laying2 Alan Stevens/CROW

lfgp-hedge-laying Progress after 18/11 session – R. Marsh

New FOLL rare bird news service

16/9/15 Following problems with the old FOLL rare bird news service, which was based around Twitter, a decision was made to trial another system, this time utilising the WhatsApp smartphone messaging application. Subscribers will need to install Whatsapp and inform Fraser so that he can make the appropriate arrangements and check that payment has been made to cover the cost.

Pricing is to be retained at only £2.00 per annum and all the early indications are that this will be an improvement on the old Twitter based service. The primary benefit is that any member of the FOLL bird news group can now report a sighting via their phone as it happens, whereas the old system was dependant on one person distributing any rare bird news, once it became available. Another benefit of the new system is that WhatsApp also allows the sender to add a photo attachment to their sighting, which will obviously help if it’s a tricky species to identify.

Two days after the trial was started, Alan Rymer was able to put out news of a Great White Egret seen arriving at Lea Farm GP by Bob Bennett, although his next message, just four minutes later, was to advise that it had subsequently flown off!

Full details of how to subscribe for this service can be found here.

Great White Egret paying a brief visit to Lea Farm GP and seen by only two observers. Photo: Alan Rymer

Memorial bench and new sign

The footpath to Bittern hide had two new features added in 2015. FOLL installed a memorial bench alongside the path and Dinton Pastures Countryside Services have updated the Lavell’s Lake sign.


The bench contains inset memorial plaques for long standing FOLL members Peter Banks (former group secretary), Elizabeth Watts and Frank Gilder, all of whom are sadly missed.


A new sign has been erected at the top of the footpath, clearly showing the direction to both hides at Lavell’s Lake.

Lea Farm GP feeder stand

18/8/15 Ron Bryant has been busy again and this time he’s built a superb feeder stand, which was installed close to the hide on 18th August 2015. The mark 1 version didn’t prove to be quite as squirrel proof as he’d hoped, but in no time at all Ron was back with mark 2, now with an additional ‘cowl’ to stop squirrels climbing the pole. This has proved successful and a wide variety of species are seen feeding daily on the array of feeders provided. Stars of the show so far have been a pair of Nuthatches but only time will tell what other goodies the new feeders can attract. Watch this space!

The feeder stand is only about 5 metres from the hide, great for taking photo’s

One of two Nuthatches seen regularly on the feeders

Ron Bryant admiring his fine work.