The Water Meadows Chronicles part 11 (mid May 2020)

Iain Carruthers-Jones looks on the bright side. Earlier parts of the Chronicles can be found here.

There’s been a bit of a gap since the last edition of the Chronicles. The coronavirus put us all into lockdown and the volunteer work programme shuddered to a halt. Much to everyone’s chagrin both from a “doing enjoyable worthwhile conservation work” point of view and from a social point of view. It was always rare to hear nothing when a work group was working. There was the teamwork-oriented effort and the chatter that went with working together and there was the chatter which covered everything from politics (how dumb can some politicians be?) to what’s growing well in the allotments. And then there were the tea-break goodies. The camaraderie was palpable.

For some of us, the lockdown felt like a prison sentence, perhaps especially for those living alone. We all recognise that these guidelines are essential but for those over 70 the realisation that restrictions may last into the new year is a difficult pill to swallow. It feels like an eternity; we have had a mere couple of months and there could be another seven months yet to cope with.

So this is where I apply the Pollyanna Principle. Some of you might remember a story written by Eleanor H Porter about a girl called Pollyanna. Newly orphaned, she was sent to live with her Aunt Polly, a spinster without a kind thought or deed to her name. Her life was orderly and austere. Pollyanna was an unwelcome burden but Aunt Polly knew that she must take on this responsibility.

The first weeks were difficult for Pollyanna. A happy natured girl, she was always being scolded by her aunt. Everything that Pollyanna did was too noisy, too unself-controlled and totally lacking in dignity. When she tried to introduce Aunt Polly to the Glad Game she was scorned. Eventually the two were reconciled and there was a very happy ending.

So – what is the Glad Game or Pollyanna Principle and how is it relevant to the Water Meadow Chronicles? It is simple really. With my psychologist hat on I would call it relentless optimism, with my whimsical philosopher hat on I would call it seeing the silver lining in every adversity and with my Cognitive Behaviour Therapist hat on I would call it reversing the negative cognitive spiral. So every difficult or problematic situation can still allow a positive perspective.

The Glad news is that the Watermeadows are still there. We may not be able to do our volunteer work but we can walk (with or without a dog) even if we have to “social distance”. We can say “Good morning, another lovely day” without getting fined. I walk every morning with my dog Luna and it has been a joy. We don’t see many people but most are polite and courteous and we all play the Glad Game. There are cows on No Mans Meadow and if we wait patiently more often than not one of the cows comes across to greet us. There are sheep and lambs in several meadows; Luna is fascinated by the lambs and, anthropomorphising, I think she is disappointed that they don’t come across to play. She certainly makes the noise she does with other dogs when she wants to play.

And the trees and flowers. I am amazed (again) at how leaves open in what seems like moments. The cherry blossom was beautiful – I wish you were there – and now the cherries are forming. I think this year we will have a good crop. The hawthorn has flowered; a cloud of white. The horse chestnuts are in flower – both red and white – and are graceful and elegant. The willows are that acid green which almost makes your eyes hurt. The hedgerow plants are in full flow. The cow parsley is wonderful, especially in the Great Churchyard (it’s only 100 yards from the Crankles!!)

While that is the star for many people, lots of other plants feature and in the last few days in Ram Meadow, the Crankles and No Mans meadow we have seen, among many, common comfrey, green alkanet, red campion, creeping groundsel, ground ivy, alexanders, burdock, white deadnettle, red deadnettle, hedgerow crane’s bill, garlic mustard, creeping buttercup, germander speedwell, red valerian, black mustard, hogweed, dame’s rocket, and garden yellowrocket. We have also our fair share of hemlock which though native is a bit of a thug and liable to take over if we don’t deal with it before it flowers. I chose to mention these because most of them are in flower.

To add to the artist’s palette of flower colours there is an orchestra of birdsong. Birds are everywhere. Most are heard but not seen. But those that are include pheasant, egret, mallard (of course), magpie and rook. Further along No Man’s Meadow there are lots of Jackdaws. A couple of weeks ago I saw something I’ve not seen before. Jackdaws were clustering around some sheep. I thought at first that they were attacking lambs but on closer inspection I realised that the sheep were quite placid and that one corvid was perching on a mature sheep’s back and tugging wool. It was passing the wool to other birds which then flew off with wool in their beaks. No doubt to line nests.

As I write, we have no news of when restrictions will be lifted. Obviously BWMG is hoping that we can get the volunteer programme going again. One key factor is when the 2 metre rule will be relaxed. The other key factor relates to when the over-70’s will be liberated. We have to “watch this space” however much it irritates us.

In the meantime, get out for a walk. You will feel better for it. The fresh air and the natural beauty of plant life and bird song are a powerful combination to impact “wellness”. We can improve our knowledge as well. A series of lectures has been organised; via Zoom, we have heard experts talk about a variety of topics including how we can help the insects, how chalk streams can be brought back to life, how we can use herbs for health and cooking and very practical support to help swifts when they return on their long migration. The talks are proving very popular and all you need is a computer, a tablet or a smart phone. Visit our events page on the website for more details.

 

The Water Meadows Chronicles part 10 (March 2020)

Iain Carruthers-Jones continues his accounts of BWMG work parties. Earlier parts of the Chronicles can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

What extraordinary times we live in. Daily the situation changes; we have pronouncements every day from what the Scots call “high Heedyins”. The only problem is that every day we get different pronouncements as well as predictions about what will be announced the following day. We get news roundups around the world and find that Italy is closed. Germany is partially closed. The US doesn’t seem to know what time of day it is; the esteemed president banned all people from the EU going to the US, but it was OK for people from the UK. Now Brits are no longer allowed either. My head is spinning with it all but I’m obviously going to be able to slow down and calm down; it has been decided to suggest (or perhaps decree) that all over 70 self-isolate for four months, what on earth does that mean? How many of us are going to struggle with this?

I am really hoping that common sense begins to prevail soon. However, I have been called an optimist many times and this is probably another example, if the panic buying spree is anything to go by. It was reported yesterday that someone was trying to buy toilet rolls. Not one pack but eight packs and each pack contained 24 rolls. Perhaps he has an incontinent family or perhaps he was planning to sell them through the internet at an inflated price?

I had another, different, surprise earlier in the week. You may remember that, in Chronicle 1, I wrote about the six o’clock dog. Bark, bark to make sure that I’m awake nice and early. Well, he’s back. The following day I was awake and ready at 5.55. There was no dog. Of course, I could not go back to sleep. I’m hoping that someone else, perhaps less tolerant than myself, offered succinct advice on what to do with the dog. Perhaps the owner complied. One can always hope!

A week or so ago, I received my invitation to the latest volunteer working party from Jillian and Julian. My invitation was to join one of two work parties planned for Sunday March 15th. Those wishing to join the litter picking team would assemble at Barwell Road for litter picking in Ram Meadow. This was led by Ian Campbell. I was delighted to see that there was an excellent turnout – around a dozen or so – and, under Ian’s guidance they soon spread out across the Meadow.

Necessarily, a lot of attention was focused on the river and the banks. In a number of places there were fallen trees reaching across and into the water. It was clear to see that the river had flowed at widely varying levels in recent months. Plastic bottles and plastic sheeting had lodged in bundles of twigs and even in the higher branches of the low hanging trees. In small groups the volunteers dispersed across the Meadow and began filling the collection bags. Having offered encouragement and taken a few pictures, I set off upstream to the Abbots Bridge and then into the Abbey Gardens.

The planting team had assembled around the iron foot bridge over the River Lark. The plan was to seed the gabions with soil, which later on (either later in the season or in autumn) would be planted. Additionally, plug plants of woodland favourites such as bluebells, aconites and primroses would be planted under the trees where the wildflower turf had not taken. Another dozen or so volunteers tackled this work. As always we were advised to wear gumboots and tough gardening gloves. We have all learned to be incredibly careful where brambles are concerned. The work on the gabions was exciting for those with a mountaineering bent; it was good to see transformation happen quickly. Those working on the riverbanks north of the bridge achieved a lot of change, too. Caution was needed all round to make sure none of us fell into the river.

As well as the woodland plants we gaped up some spaces in the existing wildflower turf and planted 5 of each of Meadow cranesbill , Lesser knapweed, Greater knapweed, Wild marjoram, Wild basil, and Common Birds-foot-trefoil. The latter arguably the most important one as it’s a vital foodplant for the caterpillars of the Common blue butterfly as well as Silver-studded blues and Wood Whites. You won’t see any Silver Studded blues or Wood Whites in the Abbey gardens but you should see Common blue butterflies.

It was very noticeable that the trees and plants have decided it is spring. There is blossom perfuming the air and the daffodils are in bloom. So are crocuses and a number of wildflowers like wild garlic, daisies and nettle.

So, overall, we were lucky. Although it was largely overcast there was no rain. Layered up, as most of us were, meant that we didn’t get cold. Sue, as is often the case, raided her kitchen stock and brought along some of her oaty specials. All in all, another very successful volunteer session for those in Ram Meadow and those in the Abbey Gardens.

Sad to say, this will be the last instalment of the Chronicle for a while. The culprit is, of course, the virus and the restrictions imposed on us in an attempt to keep as many of us safe as possible.

Keep safe.

Iain Carruthers-Jones

The Water Meadows Chronicles part 9

Iain Carruthers-Jones gives his account of the BWMG work party on 19th February. Earlier parts of the Chronicles can be found here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Nearly twenty volunteers gathered on one of those days. You know, the ones where the sun shines and there is a little crispness in the air. We set to work , were ready for the tea break and really enjoyed the Water Meadows Oaties made to a secret recipe by Sue (some even had two!!), set to work again and by about 12.15 those with sensitive noses noticed the wind changing and the temperature beginning to drop. We gathered all the tools in and dispersed as the clouds began to darken a bit and before long it was raining and cold. Great timing. I would not blame anyone who turned up the heating and relaxed with a good book and a cup of tea for the afternoon and evening.

So what did we do during the volunteer session? Well, we all commented that it felt like spring was within grasp. While there were no lambs gambolling in No Man’s Meadow, there was plenty of birdsong. A robin sang his heart out, while keeping an eye to see if we turned up anything juicy for a snack. A flock of tits flitted around. We see a mixed flock of blue tits, coal tits and long tailed tits most days. It is lovely to see although it drives the local robins wild as they graze the very bird feeders which the robins consider their territory. The tits have worked out a cunning strategy for distracting the robins; it works every time.

One group of the volunteers set to on the meadow and Linnet bank part of the south Crankle. A lot of dried off plant material was gathered in using rakes.  Essentially the material was gathered into 3 different types of habitat pile, all with their specific uses. The first is finer dried grass and plants; at wildlife Trust sites this would probably be burnt in situ, but it breaks down and in the process creates heat which attracts lizards and slowworms. The second was thicker twigs and small branches which will attract bird foraging for grubs and act as shelter. The third pile was cut bramble which the council will take away. Some bramble of course is left as it’s a favourite source of nectar for many beasties and it’s good nesting material for hedgehogs and birds.

What was really nice ? As the ground was raked it became obvious that there is already a lot of new green growth and there is a large variety of plants. Most spectacular today was the extensive carpet of snowdrops in flower. They had been completely obscured before the area was raked. Now there is a large patch beside the bee hives and a bigger stretch along the east bank of the Linnet to enjoy.

So a large part of the volunteer team was satisfied with the change they achieved. Big smiles from the team and from passers-by as well. The other part of the group was working on the north bank of the South Crankle ditch. While centuries ago this ditch and the others a few yards further south were probably kept in a very orderly way since they were the arms of the Abbey fish farm, in recent years an air of neglect has developed. A number of trees, some quite large, have fallen and the ditch is criss-crossed with the boughs.

Our task was to begin to tidy up while , at the same time, leaving the well rotted boughs to continue to provide a wonderfully rich habitat for birds and all kinds of “creepy crawlies”. For example, at one point I moved a foot fractionally and nearly trod on a beautiful green frog. It made me jump but it lived to hop another day. In the muddy bank, too, I saw the hoofprints of a muntjac deer.

Sometimes it is difficult to see what has been achieved. During this session the piles of twigs, branches and brambles were clear evidence and the objective of clearing “stuff” to allow fresh new growth to burst through was achieved. Congratulations to the whole group.

The Water Meadow Chronicles part 5 (December 2019)

Iain Carruthers-Jones shares his experiences as BWMG volunteer, with the latest Chronicle:

The mid-December (14/12/19) Watermeadows Volunteers work party assignment was a good challenge. The weather forecast was fair and it was a bit nippy. The incentive to get started was clear. More activity means that you keep warm as well as see progress, and even transformation.

The task was outlined by the group leader, Julian. The ten volunteers were to work on the east bank of the Lark moving in a northerly, down river, direction towards the red dogwood. This stretch had a lot of overgrown dead plant material and several extremely elderly elder trees. There was, as well, a considerable number of extremely thorny rambling plants ready to cling to jackets and gouge nasty scratch marks. Undaunted and having donned stout clothing and good leather gardening gloves we set-to with our secateurs, loppers and saws. We made great progress. The smaller twigs were moved by wheelbarrow to the compost heap on the west bank and the larger pieces were stacked in piles in the hope that they will be good small mammal and insect refuges. We will cross our fingers and see.

As always, a really good team esprit developed. It’s always nice to chat as well as work. Today’s session was particularly lively because we discussed the results of the general election which was held two days ago. Opinions and comments were very forthcoming about Brexit (yes or no), the pantomime of the election promises made during the last few weeks as well as the personalities of both the leading and lesser characters. It would be fair to say that plaudits were in very short supply. It will be interesting to see how things play out over the next weeks and months. Will the election promises, such as the improvement in meeting the urgent needs of the NHS services and infrastructure, be fulfilled and who will become the new leader of Labour? Even that discussion and the heavy rain we endured didn’t seem to dampen our spirits.

Something that has become evident to me is that one notices things when you are working on a small area of ground. Things you wouldn’t necessarily notice when you are out walking. Or even when you are out walking the dog and dawdling along as the dog enjoys a “sniffathon”. The former tends to give you an eye level or a horizon level perspective and the latter, at least in my case, needs a micro, ground level perspective to ensure that the dog is not eating something it shouldn’t. My dog finds it difficult just yet to tell the difference between dog biscuits and dried poo. From discussion with other dog owners, it would seem that many dogs are similarly challenged!

However, working as a volunteer allows me to look closely in the arms’ reach to medium distance range. I saw lots of buds and shoots on shrubs and trees. It looked more like early spring than early winter. I saw quite a lot of daisies in flower and I saw plenty of new growth grass and nettles. There were cow parsley shoots as well. It made me smile as I was reminded of the vision of ethereal beauty we can look forward to in the spring, especially in the Great Churchyard. Since I moved to Bury St Edmunds only earlier this year I did not know what to expect and I was transfixed.

Birds-wise, a grey heron flew past us. I am so impressed with the elegance of these birds. Flight seems to be languid and effortless. I wonder if the raised water levels in both the Lark and the Linnet will help or hinder the herons search for food? Certainly the increased flow might hinder the moorhens. They haven’t been seen around in the last few days.

In contrast, there has been a daily mid morning flypast of long tailed tits. They seem to gambol along. Twittering away to each other they fly from tree to tree seeking out food. They queue up on my fence to get to the bird feeder; I’ve seen as many as six all on the feeder at the same time. Sometimes they allow great tits, coal tits and blue tits to fly with them as well. It’s like a flying circus; it certainly brings a smile to my face.

As well as tits of various types, we enjoy robins. They seem to thrive in this area. During the volunteer session there was a robin “keeping an eye” on us. It even adopted one of the new stumps as a vantage point. Sadly I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to get a picture!

Many people seem to think that the robin is a friendly bird. It is always close by and chirpy. However, I was talking with an expert in bird behaviour recently and he was saying that they can be very territorial and aggressive both with other robins and other birds in general. In support of that idea, I witnessed some “furious flying” a few minutes ago ( Sunday, 15th Dec 14.35) . A robin was perched on the bird feeder outside my kitchen window. A flock of long tailed tits and a couple of blue tits flew in. While the robin was chasing off about five or six of them, the rest settled in to feed. When the robin returned it chased off the ones that had been feeding. This left space for the others to come back and feed. This went on for several minutes. The robin was very agitated. If I could hear in the frequency range that tits laugh, I would have been deafened.

Robin (image from http://www.gardenbirdwatching.com)

Iain Carruthers-Jones

AGM 7th November 2019

Notice of Bury Water Meadows Group AGM
Thursday 7th November 2019
Quaker Meeting House at 7pm

Members only

Richard Summers, representing the River Lark Catchment Partnership, will present a River Lark Corridor strategy, which is a contribution towards the next round of planning in West Suffolk, to help safeguard our green spaces for future generations. Richard will also present a short round up of what’s happening at the Abbey of St Edmund Heritage Partnership.

This will be followed by the AGM, after which a mulled cup and mince pies will be served.

Agenda: Final AGM for Bury Water Meadows Group (small charity)

1 Chairman’s Report

2 Treasurer’s Report

3 Reports for in-channel and bankside/water meadow work

4 AOB

NOTE: At this point the Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) will become active. Initial governance of the new CIO until the first AGM will be by the founding trustees approved by the Charity Commission:

Stephen Brunner
Ian Campbell
Andrew Hinchley
Jillian Macready
Mike Palmer
Libby Ranzetta

Extraordinary General Meeting 18th July 2019

7pm, Thursday 18th July
St John’s Centre, St Johns St, Bury St Edmunds (almost immediately opposite our usual venue)

Members only

Agenda
1.    Bury Water Meadows Group (BWMG) now
2.    The limitations of being an unincorporated association
3.    Why change to become a formal charitable organisation?
4.    What are the options?
5.    What are the implications of changing?
6.    Proposed objects for the future organisation
7.    Proposed new BWMG constitution
8.    The Resolutions : At the request of the BWMG Committee, the following

Special Resolutions are proposed:
1) That Bury Water Meadows Group apply to be registered as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) with the Charity Commission.
2) That the new Constitution be submitted with the application as the CIO governing document.
3) That once the CIO is registered and its details entered in the register of charities then the existing Bury Water Meadows Group is wound up and its assets, including its bank account are transferred to the new CIO.

March 3rd work party report – more scrub clearance

Jillian Macready writes: We are now in meteorological spring as opposed to astronomical spring which is worked out according to when the equinox falls, and this is more complicated. Meteorological spring on the other hand simply follows the calendar months, so March, April and May are Spring. This is a time of rebirth re-greening and optimism, so it just didn’t feel right, at the end of February 2019, to be experiencing almost high summer temperatures but with no green leaves, flowers or butterflies! What a difference a year makes though; this time in 2018 we were cowering from the Beast from the East or getting the snow sledge out of the garage. For 2019, we are back to something approaching normal and we had welcome rain last week, though perhaps never welcome on the morning of a work party! However, I take my hat off to all those who turned up and that was most of those who said they would, on a rainy Sunday morning to continue the scrub clearance along the Lark path between the Crankles and the Abbey Gardens.

The idea of clearing scrub and taking down some of the trees is to let in the light to the river which becomes shadowed by overhanging trees and clogged up by fallen trunks. Though fallen trees can also stimulate a faster flow when it restricts the area the water has to flow; the faster water has more power and takes the silt and mud downstream with it leaving the gravel bed exposed. This is important for fish spawning, especially river trout which are very loyal to their place of birth and will disappear if the habitat is degraded. Much river restoration has been done so far along stretches of the Lark to try to speed up the water, provide habitat for wildlife and created conditions for fish to thrive.
Dominant species such as stinging nettles and brambles (though good in many ways) have been allowed to take over on the path to the Abbey Gardens.

In 2016 Graham Maynard, a former Abbey Gardens head gardener planted 6 or 8 European White Elms by the confluence of the River Lark and River Linnet, and these were overcome by brambles, having not been touched for some time, so this was another prickly job tackled on Sunday. If the grass verges are managed for conservation and mown at a time good for the plant species rather than when the council has time (or complaints from the residents!), native herbs and wildflowers will be able to make a comeback among the grass and where there are bare patches which expose the natural seedbank. So the work on the bank and path on Sunday would have cleared the way for the seedbank to regenerate.

Feb 2019 work party report – clearing the Lark path by the Crankles

Jillian Macready writes: Our February work parties got off to a flying start on a cold but bright and blowy morning. Bury Water Meadows Group volunteers have been doing conservation work for a couple of years now, but this stretch of the Lark path on the way to the Abbey Gardens between the old St James’ school and the Crankles (i.e. the ancient fishponds area which had been planted with cricket bat willows until they were felled to be used for, well you guessed it, English cricket bats – best in the world I am told!) I have been itching to get at for a number of years now.

It had been overgrown with brambles and rambling hops, both of which are very important larval food plants for a number of invertebrates, but not when there is so much of it and when it starts to pull the trees there into the river. The trees, mostly elder and field maple with a couple of hawthorns had become leggy and it was time to put a bit of vigour into them. By cutting the trees down to the ground, a practice called coppicing, they will grow back sturdier and with extra life in them. Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland or scrub management which makes use of the fact that new shoots will grow from cut off stumps (also called stools) when cut to the ground. The word copse comes from a coppiced wood, which is a little-known fact I have just picked up!

We started at 10am and a record number of volunteers turned up which goes to show people like to get out into the sunshine and do some practical work, it has been proven that gentle physical exercise is good for mental and physical heath and apparently the Government is thinking of measuring wellbeing as a criteria for grant funding. BWMG can produce bucket loads of wellbeing now that conservation projects exceed the number of volunteer days available!

We were lucky to have John Smithson (pictured) who knows the water meadows well since he’s newly retired from a long carrier with the Borough Council as Park’s Manager. He gave us a quick pep talk about the correct use of hand saws and watching out for people when trees came down. Working in teams, some volunteers took up rakes to rake off last year’s vegetation, others picked up bow saws and loppers and work commenced. All the material was collected in large barrows by a third group, wheeled over to the other side of the river and dumped in what became an enormous pile. This will be a habitat pile, left to rot over the years and useful for wild creatures to shelter in. All too often, you see scrub clearance but there is a huge big bonfire getting rid of all this valuable material especially rotting wood. Decaying wood either standing or in log piles and old spent plant material is of great value to insets, fungi mosses and lichens which in turn feed animals higher up the food chain.

We picked a black sack’s worth of litter; there were plenty of the usual offending items such as black dog poo bags and plastic bottles.

We even unearthed a section of the old Abbey wall, which had been hidden in the undergrowth for many years. This must have been attached to a bridge over the Lark in ancient times and marked the boundary of what was thought to be a vineyard belonging to the Abbey of St Edmund.

By the time we had finished, the section we had tackled looked completely different – no scrub, no rubbish, plenty of light getting onto the river. Just another two such sections to go!

 

 

In this video, Jillian, John Smithson and Glenn Smithson explain what we were doing and why it is important.

Bury gets a new green space and river path

A project which Bury Water Meadows Group (BWMG) has been working on for the past five years has at last become reality; the first new public green space and a new Rights of Way along further sections of the River Lark path in Bury St Edmunds. This has been achieved through a long-lease donation of land by British Sugar along the back of Fornham Road between Tesco (just after the A14 underpass) and the Tollgate.

We are very thankful to Jo Churchill MP (pictured here walking a section of the new stretch with our Chairman Andrew Hinchley) who very capably managed to push the project over the finishing line in December when, having been stalled for many months, it was clear it was close to crashing out.

Bury is set to increase in size by 20% by 2031 and while new estates are being built to include some green space, the opening of this wood and river path will constitute the single largest new green space accessible in the town for generations. With St Edmundsbury Borough Council the recipients of the land, there is no possibility of further development on it.

The wood has received limited management in recent years. Alongside creating pedestrian access for the public, pro-active woodland management can now start, to ensure the health of all remaining trees. The management of the wood will effectively provide double the path length available to the public at present, it is about the same length as the Leg of Mutton path. As well as providing a pleasant amenity, almost unique in the centre of a town the size of Bury, access to the river increases public appreciation of this rare chalk stream and of Bury’s green spaces but also helps recruit volunteers to swell the BWMG volunteer team.

In 2017, as the video shows, Bell Meadow residents worked with volunteers from BWMG, and River Lark Catchment Partnership (RLCP) and won a national award from the Wild Trout Trust, the acknowledged national experts on river restoration, for their work on this special stretch of the Lark. Now the residents there have the assurance that for their lifetimes and future generations, their enhanced outlook will be maintained.

Some of our most beautiful rivers are chalk streams. Their pure, clear, constant water from underground chalk aquifers and springs, flowing across gravel beds, make them perfect sources of clean water, rich in invertebrate life which support a range of special wildlife such as the wild trout, kingfishers and otters. Surveys carried out by the Wild Trout Trust, showing just how degraded and neglected our chalk streams have become, encouraged the Environment Agency to make further funding available to do work on this stretch to halt this neglect. This is also in line with the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) call to halt this collapse of a unique ecosystem.

This part of the Lark enjoys an absence of enduring man-made structures such as locks from the past 150 years of the river operating as a canal. This so-called Lark Navigation will be the subject of our first speaker meeting in March.  A faster flow also allows for a cleaning of the gravelly river bed, so important for the spawning of wild trout.

In the coming weeks, and before the bird-nesting season, the council will fell a small number of trees, many of which are overdue for removal (pro-active maintenance of the wood can now go ahead) and open a rights of way dedication process. The path is expected to open next spring and the wood will not be publicly accessible before then.

BWMG has however committed that volunteers will assist in riverbank planting which will help maintain privacy for as many as possible of the few houses with shorter gardens.

Thanks!!

Thanks are first due to British Sugar for this generous donation, championed for all five years by Chris Johnson, British Sugar’s senior environmental engineer.

Thanks are due to Cllrs Jo Rayner (on the right of the photo) and Julia Wakelam (on the left of the photo) who have been long-term supporters of this initiative, with implementation from Council Officer, Damien Parker (in the photo, pointing).

Thanks are also due to SCC Public Rights-of-Way Officer Claire Dickson who has fiercely supported this project over the five years, supported by her boss Andrew Woodin.

Thanks also to Mark Ereira-Guyer who, as a County Councillor, made a special locality grant allowing BWMG to purchase a tiny strip of land which unlocked the whole project.

Finally, thanks to the Church Walks charities which also financially supported the project.