News from the Three Brooks Conservation Group

We’ve always known what an inspiring place our Nature Reserve is, we’re just sorry it took a lockdown for it to be appreciated by everyone!

At 46ha it’s the largest local nature reserve in South Gloucestershire and with over 22,000 residents is surrounded by one of the largest housing estates in Europe. Whether your thing is just feeling the sun warming your face, cool ancient woodlands, open meadows, flowers, orchards, bug hunting, pond dipping, orienteering, butterfly or bird watching or just chilling by the water we have it all and all right on your doorstep. 

Although we have had our fair share of cancellations – work days, birthday cakes, Earth Hour and walks to name a few – we have managed to get some things done. Some of the gates have either been removed or have been propped open, some paths were widened and bridges were cleared of encroaching vegetation. And although a group is required for a newt survey (traipsing around ponds in the dark on your own is not recommended!) it is easy to monitor our burgeoning slowworm population on your own. Our refugia have also given us an unexpected bonus as they are often used by small mammals and we have at times found up to 3 field voles and a shrew all huddled together beneath one of them, suggesting that we have a much higher population than we previously thought. Sponsored by SGC, eight leaves from each of our apple trees have been sent off for analysis to have their provenance determined and we hope to soon be able to replace like for like some of the lost trees in the Community Orchard.  A big Thank You too, to Michael Hunt who nipped out one morning to dig over Colin’s Allotment just in time for what would have been his birthday. 

We aren’t the only ones who have been busy on the reserve, David Neale spotted Red Kites (although I can’t print what was said when he wasn’t able to get a photo!) and also a Ring Necked Parakeet was seen although we’ve yet to find out if this is an escapee or a wild one. And our lakes duckling population has increased by 1 – a couple rescued an ‘abandoned’ duckling from some overly attentive cats but as it was almost fully grown I took it down to the lake in the hope that our only resident mum (Matilda) will add him to her small family.  If you see her with 3 ducklings you’ll know she did. 

We’ve also had reports of pollution in the water, caused we think by heavy rain washing oil from the roads into the storm drains.  Please do be aware that what goes down the street drains ends up in our brooks. 

During lockdown the woodland school area was trashed and we’ve also had a surprisingly large number of reports of fires and BBQ’s (neither of which are ever allowed on the reserve without prior permission) the seating area in Savages Wood is designed as an Outdoor Classroom not a campfire pit. Several areas have been turned into ‘outdoor pubs’ (notably the ‘scrape’ on the tump that was cordoned off for the Grizzled Skipper butterfly). Thank you to our army of unsung hero’s who clean up after them but we’d prefer that if you’re going to use the reserve for drinking alcohol you didn’t leave behind broken bottles and empty cans (both are dangerous to people and animals) and if you’re going to pee in a public place please try and be discreet, as there are some photo’s I really don’t want on my computer!

For anyone still searching for orienteering post number 9, my apologies, it’s on my driveway awaiting repair, shortly I think to be followed by number 4 (thank you Richard). If you know of any others that are in need of attention please do let us know either via email: [email protected] or on our Facebook page. 

Even though we are unsure how many walks we will be able to run this year we are very grateful to Bradley Stoke Town Council for again granting us £2000 for our SLA (Service Level Agreement). The reserve is ‘owned’ by SGC but it is BSTC who give us the grant. Before the lockdown Green Gym had also applied for a British Science Week grant to install a permanent Star Gazing bed with a compass and planisphere but as that grant has now been closed,  I personally am hoping that any under spend we have this year can be used for this project. 

Our Lake: If you’ve spotted something that looks like a Cormorant or a Shag at the lake you could be right, although they are both usually sea birds no one seems to have told them!  The water level at the moment is very variable but until it is de-silted there is not much we can do about it. As you may know SGC has agreed to cover the cost of de-silting the lake this winter and there will be a small pot of money left over for other ‘improvements’ and an additional grant application has also been made to improve the paths. 

Local architectural designer Jake Richardson has generously drawn us some plans for a very posh bird hide and I would like to see more educational boards and bird / bat boxes, a boardwalk enclosing a shallow ‘pond dipping area’ along with a hand operated water wheel and a solar fountain. Maybe I should find out just how ‘small’ the pot is before I add any more suggestions! 

Green Gym started up again at the end of June with a proposed ‘away day’ at the Viaduct Exotic Animal Sanctuary to sort out their gardens. After that, with a few tweaks, careful choosing of tasks and possibly staggered start times we are confident that we can again safely run. 

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