Blog, News, Water Meadows Chronicles

The Water Meadow Chronicles, part 26

 Earlier this year the BWMG was asked to put together a submission as part of the Bury in Bloom bid to win the Anglia in Bloom competition. We put together a picture gallery and about 400 words describing our work only to be told that our maximum allowable word count was 80 words!! “Needed by tomorrow!”. Some very severe editing  followed and we were on target within the time constraint. A couple of weeks later we took the opportunity to meet the “in Bloom” judges when they were in town to view the exhibits. We displayed more pictures and described the work that all our volunteers are doing. The judges then travelled around the town so that they could see everything for themselves.

The result ?  On 7th September we were thrilled to hear that Bury won the Gold Award and Trophy for the  Large Town Category and, even better, Bury Water Meadows Group won the Gold Award and Trophy in the Wildlife and Conservation Category. We are very proud of this achievement and thank all the volunteers for their contribution .

More recently the national  “in Bloom” judges visited. Again we took the opportunity to meet the judges  to describe our work and we waited with bated breath. We were thrilled to be part of the submission by Bury St Edmunds that won Gold. Our prize was presented by Rachel de Thame.

Winning such prestigious prizes gives us a great sense of pride. Our efforts, bearing in mind that we are all volunteers, are being recognised. A second point is that this recognition helps to give us support in our efforts to fund raise for the projects we want to undertake.

All of this is “the glossy front end” of our efforts, of course. The volunteers continue to beaver away and more of their efforts can be seen on our Facebook page.

Over the last few weeks we have moved into autumn. It has been so varied. We have had beautiful dry weather and, more recently, we have had  some wet and windy weather. The theme throughout has been the mildness in the temperature. Very little frost has been felt. Perhaps two nights at most in the Water Meadows and that was a dusting rather than a heavy frost.  As a result many wildflowers seem to have had an extended flowering season. Our Biodiversity Survey volunteers have noted this throughout the Water Meadows.

They have noted, as well, changes in the presence of birds. Some migration departures were later than usual. Some, such as swans, left at about the usual time, but the cygnet continues to live a solitary life. We have worried about it but I saw it most recently only yesterday (29/11/2022) by the Abbey Gardens bridge. It was swimming with a flotilla of fourteen mallards, males and females, and two moorhens. 

Mushrooms and fungus have been having a field day. Probably because of the wet spell. I am including a number of photographs. Ironically, we are struggling to identify some of them. 

We have realised that the variety is enormous and we have a lot to learn. We are in a similar position with insects. There is a world of mini and micro beasts of which we do not know enough and yet they are vitally important to us, even if we don’t yet really understand it. For example, a couple of years ago our observers were reporting “bees”. When I asked “what type of bee?” my question was triggered by my observation that we had hive-based bees in the Crankles but we also had ground nesting bees nearby. Now we realise that there are several other types as well. My quiz question is “How many different types of bee do we have in the Water Meadows?”. Answers to, please. If this question intrigues you perhaps you would consider joining our survey team as well?

When we started the Biodiversity Survey three years ago, we were a small group of four observers who covered an area which we felt we could manage. This included Ram Meadow, the Crankles and No Mans Meadow. In year 2 (2021) we were joined by more observers and we began to increase the range of our observing. Now in our third year, while two original observers have been unable to continue, we have gained nine new members to the team. For the coordinator/ data analyst this has brought much more data. A welcome challenge.

We have started to include some Water Meadows areas which we didn’t manage to study before. At the north end of the Water Meadows we are including the area to the east of Ram Meadow. Previously unnamed, this large area of wild meadow is now called Ram Meadow East. Much of it has been undisturbed for many years and we are hoping to identify a diversity of bird life, plant life, insects and even mammals. Two of our observers are working in this area.

Further south, and upstream of the Lark, we are including the Eastgate weir area and the Abbey Gardens and Great Churchyard, as well. While the Abbey Gardens is, of course, an area with cultivated plants there are, nonetheless, wild flowers in the marginal grassy areas as well as lots of birds, butterflies and other insects. The Great Churchyard, on the other hand, which has been largely uncultivated, is a great source of bird, plant and wildlife. It is home to some protected species, such as hedgehogs, and we are hoping that the Council will begin to plan its’ grass mowing strategy in a more wildlife-friendly way.

Moving further south, the Water Meadows stretches round to include the Butts, the Saxon Gate reserve and Harp Meadow. Two of our observers are working in this area, as well. We are building a picture and it will be interesting to see how this stretch of the Water Meadows, as well as Ram Meadows East, compares with the other areas in relation to diversity given a relatively lighter footfall.

For the first time, we are continuing our surveying through the winter. We are looking forward to finding out in an organised rather than anecdotal way what wildlife there is.

Iain Carruthers-Jones