Update on wildflowers, wildflower turf and Elm tree planting

tree plantingLast October we planted wildflower plugs in No Mans Meadow. In February this year we planted European White Elms which had been supplied by Butterfly Conservation and in March, at the same time as litter picking and the river restoration project mentioned above, we laid turf seeded with wildflowers on the banks of the Lark by the Abbots Bridge in the Abbey gardens. So we have come a long way in a short time! There is a lot more to do and we hope with the support of the EA, through funding and the support of the Borough, we will be able to do more in due course.

Of the 50 Elms planted in the Crankles and No Mans Meadow, not one has failed, despite great competition from stinging nettles. We will be able to do some weeding round the plants in due course. The turf is still looking good despite the driest spring for 20 years in East Anglia – all thanks to the Borough staff who provided the standpipe and hose and some of our own members who have given up time to do watering.

CamEO Invasive Non-Native Species Workshop, August 22nd

The Cam and Ely Ouse (CamEO) Catchment Partnership is hosting a non-native invasive species workshop on August 22nd that will bring partners together to discuss the primary species of concern and take a look at recent actions that are already underway to control their spread.

The workshop will cover the legacy of the RINSE project as well as the latest research coming from Cambridge University and the Non-Native Species Secretariat; however, the majority of the time will be set aside for partners to discuss their ongoing efforts and ambitions in an attempt to align our activities effectively to tackle invasive species at the catchment scale.

You can book a ticket for free here.

Little egret

Most walks along the Lark valley in Bury are now rewarded with a sighting of a little egret in, or close to, the water, brilliant white.  The RSPB says the little egret is a small white heron with attractive white plumes on crest, back and chest, black legs and bill and yellow feet. It first appeared in the UK in significant numbers in 1989 and first bred in Dorset in 1996. Its colonization followed naturally from a range expansion into western and northern France in previous decades. It is now at home on numerous south coast sites, both as a breeding species and as a winter visitor.

Little egret is not to be mistaken with the much rarer great white heron, although they look similar from a distance. This BTO video explains the differences, but look out for the yellow feet and black bill of little egret.

This video was taken from the Lark bridge at the Crankles (facing the Abbey gardens) in February 2017.

Reptile survey

This Sunday 7th May from 1.00pm for an hour or so, The Bury Water Meadows Group is carrying out a reptile survey with the help of a local ecologist, Nick Sibbett. We will learn how to set up the survey, how to record the wildlife we find and what to do with the data. The survey needs to last about 7 weeks so that creatures get used to finding the mats to hide under. We will need to come back to the mats during the summer but I will set up a rota so that no more than one return per person will be expected and it will be at your convenience!

If you want to take part please let me know in the first instance that you want to come. All you have to do is bring gardening gloves and suitable clothing as I think it will still take place if it rains. Amphibians and reptiles like the rain!

Jillian Macready


River restoration & litter pick 19th March – report

On March 19th teams from Bury Water Meadows Group (BWMG) and the River Lark Catchment Partnership (RLCP) undertook a range of restoration and litter picking activities.

Five different work parties went in different directions on the Sunday morning, from their Base Camp in the Crankles. The Bury Water Meadows Group was on a mission to get three litter picking operations, one turf laying project on the river bank by Abbot’s bridge and one river restoration project underneath the foot bridge in the Abbey gardens carried out by the end of March, or vital funding from the Environment Agency via the RLCP would be lost.

River restoration project at Abbey Gardens March 17 (27)First out at 9am was the river restoration group. Not content with his very successful restoration of the River Lark at West Stow, Glenn Smithson, a River Lark angler and RLCP member, was the obvious choice of man to get the job done. Armed with a £2500 grant from the Environment Agency, Glenn was able to buy all the materials needed for softening up the concrete side. This includes coir matting impregnated with marginal plants held in position by posts rammed into the river bed. Faggots made of willow have also been put in place to create habitat for waders and water creatures to live.

River restoration project at Abbey Gardens March 17 (28)Narrowing of the channel needs to take place so that the water flow increases and moves the sediment down river. The Lark is a chalk stream and should be good for spawning trout and salmon but the water is sluggish so sediment builds up and there are too many man-made structures on the bank to benefit wildlife in that stretch. Volunteers from the Bury Water Meadows Group who had been specially trained to work safely in the river were guided with Glenn’s expertise to get the first part of the job done

A further work session will be needed to carry out a similar action on the opposite bank.

turf laying in Abbey Gardens March 17 (7)

Turf laying

Bank erosion on the Abbey Garden side was also a problem since dredging and bank modification had been carried out last year, so Glenn suggested this side be stabilised with planting and for this operation he teamed up with Jillian Macready, founder member of Bury Water Meadows Group and BWMG representative on the RLCP. She suggested wildflower turf would knit the soil together as well as providing valuable nectar plants for our beleaguered bees.

turf laying in Abbey Gardens March 17 (13)Thanks to Simon Collin and Council colleagues, who prepared the site for the turf to be laid and another team of Bury Water Meadows group volunteers, 60 sq metres of turf was laid at the same time on Sunday morning. The turf mats are made up of a mixture of 50% native wildflowers and 50% native grasses all beneficial to insects, these are sown into a substrate which is knitted onto biodegradable netting. This makes for easy handling of the turf. Will Cranstoun of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust volunteered his expertise and Simon Collin of St Edmundsbury Council was on hand to help with perfect turf laying. Welcome rain followed on Tuesday!

As if this wasn’t enough, three different litter picking teams were dispatched from the Crankles.

litter picking team March 17 (1)

For the first time BWMG organised a group for the Butts and one for Holywater Meadows.

Ditches full of cans and litter were attacked with energy – hopefully now many people will choose to not drop their litter –that has been our experience on No Mans Meadows!

Afterwards, BWMG chairman Andrew Hinchley thanked everyone involved and said:

It’s been a great day and moving up to five groups working has taken us up a huge level in capability for BWMG and the River Lark Catchment Partnership.

Special thanks to our professional volunteers: Will Cranstoun (Suffolk Wildlife Trust), Sam Hurst (Environment Agency) and volunteers Jillian Macready and Glenn Smithson who worked on all the advance preparation, as well as today. Thanks to Rob Clapham (Environment Agency) who worked on delivering the grant and advance planning including the permits needed. BWMG members paid £400 for insurance,new waders and angling “catch” nets.

See also the Bury Free Press article about the day.

River restoration project at Abbey Gardens March 17 (12)

Tree planting in the Water Meadows

Wednesday 1st March, meeting in the Crankles 9.30am to 12 noon

We have a number of elms to plant in No Mans Meadow and along the Lark banks. These are European White Elms which hopefully will replace the job done by native English elms which don’t get to maturity anymore. The White Letter Hairstreak butterfly is now a rare sight as a result of the devastation caused by Dutch Elm disease on native elm. However the beetle that causes the disease seems unable to wreak the same havoc on European White elms. This work party is taking place on a Wednesday to be able to take advantage of Borough staff on hand.

Please register your interest even if it’s only to say you can only do weekends!

The next litter pick

Sunday 19th March at the Crankles 

litter pickersLitter picking has now become a regular feature and we aim for two a year; one that coincides with Keep Britain Tidy big clean up (more or less) and one on World Rivers Day at the end of September. March is a good time as the vegetation is still low and hasn’t started growing.

A word about the difference between the in-channel pickers and the on-land pickers. A few of our members were trained in water safety so that when work is eventually carried out to restore the river these people can operate safely.

Please contact us if you want to join in.