An up to date draft of the PBNR management plan 2 is now available. By its very nature it will be constantly up-dated to take account of advice from specific wildlife groups and the monitoring of developments within the reserve.


Spiders: David Haigh, County Spider Recorder, started carrying out a 12 month survey of spiders in the reserve in the autumn of 2012.

Birds: David Cramp, Gloucestershire RSPB, started doing a twice yearly survey of birds in the reserve in December 2012 with the aim of monitoring the improvement in numbers of bird species with the development of the reserve habitat. Members of the Friends group also monitor bird species informally and these observations are recorded by the group.

Insects: Gloucestershire Invertebrate Group (GIG) did an evening survey in specific areas of the reserve on June 12th.

Wild flowers: Members of the Friends group recorded all flowers on a weekly basis (June – October this year and July – Sept. last year). They also took photos and these are being stored by the group. The same will be done next year.

Bats: Haydn Brookes, Gloucestershire Bat Group has held 2 bat walks in the reserve this year (both with over 30 local residents attending). Next Spring we plan to do an in depth bat survey with the help of Dr Elizabeth Pimley of Gloucestershire Bat Group.

Butterflies: Gloucestershire Butterfly Conservation Group has done informal observations of butterflies with the Friends group. A survey has been talked about but not organised yet. Meanwhile they are advising on habitat improvement for butterflies.


Communication: Apart from an up-dated page on CBC website about Pilley Bridge Nature Reserve, Friends of PBNR have this
website, we also run a Facebook page and have a Twitter account. A quarterly e-newsletter is produced for the 150+ members of the Friends group plus local politicians, businesses and schools who have joined up to receive it. A hard copy is delivered to 10 elderly people who have no internet access.

Friends of Pilley Bridge Nature Reserve was first mooted in June 2012 with a constitution being adopted in July 2012. From that a Community Orchard sub –committee was formed in January 2013 and a junior group, Nature Explorers, started in October 2012.

Nature Explorers meet during school holidays and have so far done activities such as making places for animals and insects to hibernate, making bird feeders, finding tracks, pond dipping and den building.

A Conservation Work Party is held in the reserve the first Saturday of every month and these are always well attended.

Illustrated talks and discussions are held locally every 6 – 8 weeks during winter and during the past 10 months we have had speakers on birds, bees, bats and ‘gardening for wildlife’. There are talks planned for winter 2013/14 on Gloucestershire birds, butterflies and wildlife photography. These talks are preceded by a ‘community curry’ which is always very well attended and gives members a chance to socialise. Most talks have had over 40 people attending.

The Friends group has recently made a display that can be used at local fetes and shows. We have literature about the reserve, games for children, plus information about how people can help create a ‘wildlife garden’ for themselves.

There is a ‘library’ of books on wildlife, including a number of identification guides, available for use by members of Friends of PBNR, at 38 Mead Road, adjoining the reserve.


In February we were successful in getting match funding from CBC’s Community Pride Fund. This has allowed us to carry out our plan to create a Community Orchard at the western end of the reserve. On 20th October 2013 we celebrated Apple Day with the official opening of the orchard with 150 people attending. The orchard will continue to grow and develop and there is now an orchard sub-committee to help this happen.


Local residents
Dog walkers
Leckhampton Woodcraft Folk, both the younger and older groups.
Leckhampton Beaver Scouts
‘Wildish Days Out’ – a pre-school group
Teenagers sitting in groups after school
Special interest groups, eg GIG
Wildlife photographers


Funding was obtained in February to up-grade the footpaths leading to the reserve from Mead Road, Leckhampton Road and Old Bath Road. This, along with providing footpath signs saying ‘access to Pilley Bridge Nature Reserve’ are being done by Gloucestershire County Council, Public Rights of Way.

The slope into the reserve at the western end was made much gentler using a digger contractor plus volunteers. CBC provided a new, oak PILLEY BRIDGE sign for the western end of the reserve which the Friends group erected at the top of the slope in April and CBC has provided a hand rail down one side of the slope.

An interpretation board has been designed by local designer and member of the Friends group, Nibbs Smith. One has been erected at the Western end of the reserve in the Community Orchard and the other will go up in the Meadow at the December work party. A local craftsman has made an archway incorporating the name ‘PILLEY BRIDGE COMMUNITY ORCHARD’ which has been put up in the entrance to the orchard.


An education pack for use by local schools and other interested groups is being put together by CBC and should be available for use by schools and other groups shortly.

A ‘woodland classroom’ has been created within the reserve to enable teachers to bring groups of children to have outdoor lessons. Naunton Park School plan to use the reserve for lessons starting in 2014.


Funds were raised by the Friends group to have an oak bench made by a local bodger and this was put half way down the ‘Long Walk’ in the reserve. The Friends group now have two more benches in the Community Orchard.


We are waiting to get confirmation that Pilley Bridge has been successful in its application to get Local Nature Reserve status awarded by Natural England. This will then afford the Reserve a measure of protection for the future which can only be a good thing!

Apples left to rot – a shocking waste?

A few weeks ago the Friends Group needed to collect more apples than they could easily find themselves to have enough to make into juice for the opening of the Mead Road Community orchard. An SOS email caused us to have many generous offers of apples which “would otherwise go to waste”, and we easily accumulated the 300 kilos needed for a juicing run at Bensons. Without a large quantity, the juice gets lost in the machinery and the small amount you get out of it may be more of the last person’s than your own!

But back to apples going to waste – orchards should be heaving with apples in autumn, apples with all sorts of different colours, sizes, shapes and tastes. Some varieties ripen early and are sweet in late August and September. Discovery is one of these which is usually the first English apple available in the shops in August, from where they are usually hard and (for me) much too sharp. Left a bit later and/or taken from your own garden they can be wonderfully scented, softer and much sweeter. That is a characteristic of early apples, soft, even woolly, and you can keep them only a very few weeks.

In October, apples that are not yet ready to pick and are still sour are often rejected as being cookers or simply “uneatable”, and left to “go to waste”. Worse still the tree is cut down because it is “useless”. We do not cut down Oak, Beech or Hawthorn trees because their seeds are not good to eat…but let that pass.

Bramley’s Seedling is a justifiably common cooking apple, originally a chance seedling with an interesting history. It was grown from a pip by a young girl called Mary Ann Brailsford  girl in her garden in Southwell, Nottinghamshire in 1809. The property was then sold to a local butcher, Matthew Bramley in 1846. In 1856, a local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather, asked if he could take cuttings from the tree and start to sell the trees because they produced excellent fruit. Mr Bramley agreed, but he insisted that the apple trees should bear his name. So maybe the variety should really be called Brailsford, or better still Merryweather (an especially good name for a fruit tree), rather than Bramley.

Whatever the name, put the apples in a cool, mouse-free place (not always easy to find) in late October, and they will keep until the spring and you can have baked apples stuffed with sultanas and almonds all the while.

One of our favourites is Blenheim Orange, known as The Christmas Apple. Blenheims are big, vigorous trees which crop prolifically. The apples are no good at all in October, and by November most people have lost interest and have returned to the supermarkets to buy the hard, green Granny Smiths which television props departments seem to love, and which have probably come from abroad.

Leave Blenheims until late December, however, and you notice one day that they have ripened and are good both for eating straight from the shelf, or cooked in a pie. If the conditions where they are kept are cool enough, they will keep until the spring. Keeping apples through the winter is a lost skill which is well worth reviving.

The range of varieties of fruit trees is immense and only a few are grown commercially. The late-lamented Scotts Nurseries of Merriott produced a catalogue which was a great source of knowledge on fruit varieties; the catalogue (Part 1 is fruit) is sometimes available to buy on Amazon.

Still, there should be just too many apples to be able to eat them all or to store in that elusive cool, mouse-free place. A surplus makes it possible to throw some out into the garden for the birds daily in cold weather, but last year there were so few apples on the trees that we had to buy them in to feed to the birds. Thrushes especially are dependent upon soft food, and blackbirds also seem to prefer an apple to anything else in late winter.

In large gardens and orchards where there remains an abundance of fruit under the trees at Christmas and beyond, Fieldfares and Redwings may gather and join the local birds to feast on the “wasted” apples. To tempt these Arctic thrushes into the garden is a treat for both parties to that deal, and it makes no sense to think that the fruit lying under the trees is made anything other than highly valuable thereby, or that it has been put to very good use.

Graham King