The AGM of the Friends group was held on the 14th July 2015.

Highlights included:

  • The outgoing co-coordinator’s report
  • Past and Future works within the nature reserve
  • Financial report – Generally pretty healthy. Also it was noted that our memberships will soon start expiring, so we will need to initiate a rolling program of reminders.
  • Election of committee – Sharon replaced Sue as group coordinator, the rest of the committee were re-elected

Reflections on, and Plans for, work in the reserve

Reflections on some of what’s been done this year:

Major improvements to the paths, especially across the Meadow and to the steps. We get a lot of appreciation from walkers and it’s encouraging how many people, young and old, are now able to experience the place.

The Board Walk – so many people go and sit on the benches and relax, and very few are anti-social. It has been a big success.

The Community Orchard – continues to develop, botanically. I cannot see any reason to intervene in natural processes other than to tame the vegetation now and then. Each year different plants dominate and this year it is False Melilot. The newly established fruit trees are doing well and still look as though they are too far apart, which is good because we can be sure that they have not been planted too close together.

Below the Travis Perkins bridge: is it too soon to conclude that the general up-grading of the area is reducing the attractiveness of the area below the bridge for those of an anti-social nature?

PBNR projects planned 2015/2016

Up-grade the path from the far steps down from the Meadow, to the ponds. The plan is to get gravel delivered (probably 10+ tons at maybe £60/ton) and to hire a tracked barrow to move it. There are also some bits between the 2 bridges that would benefit from some gravel and we may be able to do this at the same time. We may start it on the September work party day. Also finish improvements to the steps.

Raise the water level in the pond by a couple of inches by altering the level of the spillway. We had thought to do this during the summer when water levels were low, but have realised that if we raise the level now, it might take days for water to start coming over the spillway again – not good for the downstream pondlife. So it is probably best to wait until there is a bit more water, but not so much that it would prevent us doing the job.

Swift and House Martin nest boxes – swifts and martins are getting scarce partly because of shortage of nesting sites. The west side of Pilley Bridge would be a suitable place for some nest boxes – just below a ledge that is more or less at the level of the carriageway. It would need scaffolding, or a very long ladder and nerves of steel, to fix them. This would be moderately high profile because everyone would be able to see them, and this time it would be principally for wildlife. Their educational value would also be high.

Enlarge the Community Orchard: a little scrub clearance was done on the bank below the CO last winter but not as much as planned. It would be good to get one or two more trees planted to make it more of an orchard, and cut the bank more so that it becomes accessible, more grassy and open. Winter work.

Up-grade the path across the Community Orchard. It’s not straightforward because of the need to incorporate routes for surface water. We haven’t quite worked out how to do it yet but reduction of the gradient at the entrance will use-up those untidy concrete posts. Watch this space.

New glade: on the south side of the main drag up eastwards from the Community Orchard towards Pilley Bridge there is a spot on the right where a new glade to let in more sunlight could be created easily by removing the Ash saplings and a couple of Hawthorns. Winter work.

Travis Perkins bridge bat roost? Cost maybe £1000.

Group Co-ordinators report, Friends of PBNR AGM, 14th July 2015

Since the last AGM a year ago a number of events, activities and projects have happened, as well as our regular activities.

Each quarter a newsletter has been produced and sent out to our 204 members, mostly by e-newsletter but a number are still printed and taken round to each of our non-computer-owning elderly members. Photos and information are regularly put on Facebook and our Facebook members now total 175. Our website is regularly updated and a continual calendar of events is available for all to see.

Each school holiday our junior members have Nature Explorers activity group run by Marta and Davinia. This is a very popular event with sometimes 20 or more children turning up with their parents.

The first Saturday of each month sees the gathering of volunteers to do practical work in the reserve. This is improving the reserve constantly for wildlife and people alike.

Both the Woodcraft Folk and the Beaver Scouts use the reserve for their activities on a regular basis. This January the Woodcraft Folk joined forces with our members for an evening of wassailing in the community orchard.

In the Easter holidays we invited Simon Turk from Treecreepers Forest School to run a 90 minute fire making workshop for 6 – 11 year olds. This was very successful and something we may well instigate again.

Last Autumn Morgan started up an activity called Wildish Playtimes to encourage parents to bring their pre-school children to the reserve for unstructured play and a lot of getting wet and muddy. This ran until the mud on the paths got too difficult for toddlers to manoeuvre. Because of lack of helpers we were unable to start this up again in the Spring but it was felt that lots of young families were visiting the reserve by this time so its need was not so great.

In June, Naunton Park School had their Art Week with the theme of Nature. Each day classes came down to the reserve to paint, draw take photographs and be inspired by what they saw around them. Several enthusiastic youngsters were seen later showing their parents what they had done.

Last July saw our first ‘Community Summer Picnic’ with live music from David Lloyd, the Music Man’, children’s games and plenty of cake and tea. The atmosphere was one of laid back good will. On Apple Day there was another extremely well attended event in the Community Orchard. As in 2013, about 150 people came. The cakes were even more delicious this time and people were able to stock up on lots of lovely jams and pickles. Bunting, music and children’s games made this a really great community event.

The long-planned addition of boardwalks to the wetlands area came to fruition this year after some super fundraising. The money from Community Pride and GCC Active Together gave us all the money we needed to get contractors in and complete the job in January this year. The work was supervised by Friends Group members and we were pleased with the way they did the job and the response from people using the reserve has been universally positive.

The pond is now being gradually planted up using plants transplanted from other parts of the wetlands so as to improve the habitat for pond life. The work parties have built new paths that make it possible to cross the Meadow easily in all weathers and the steps are being up-graded to make it easier to get up and down. It is anticipated that the access paths will soon be improved and the funds are available for this.

During the winter we had two very interesting and well attended talks and community curry evenings at Mel’s Café; hopefully we can find more speakers to give similarly high standard talks this coming winter.

Our membership continues to increase, indicating a real keenness by the local community for their local nature reserve. Within the reserve the management of the trees and the added light due to thinning has increased the wildlife diversity and is generally popular with walkers. A wider range of plants are flowering, more butterflies, birds and wild flowers are being seen and monitoring of these changes is being undertaken by a few keen individuals. There is a project in the pipeline joining with Naunton Park and the Asquith Road Allotments to have a professional survey and comparative study done of pollinators on all three sites. The habitat piles we have built out of the cut wood are being slowly colonised with an appearance by hedgehogs this summer. The badgers are building new sets close to the ponds, obviously not at all put off by our new boardwalks and although muntjac tracks are often seen by the water they seem to keep themselves mainly hidden in the Wild Wood area.

Plans for the coming year include swift and house martin nest boxes, raising the level of the big pond, enlarging the community orchard, continuing up-grading paths and creating a bat roost.

It has been a real pleasure to have been Group Co-ordinator for the last three years and a great sense of achievement that we have done so much to make this beautiful place better in so many ways, for people and wildlife. As most of you know I am now stepping down from this role in order to spend more time caring for my mother but I will happily continue with newsletters, the social media, posters and work parties so you haven’t seen the back of me yet. I am sure that Friends of Pilley Bridge Nature Reserve will continue going from strength to strength under the leadership of Sharon Sheather, our newly elected Group Co-ordinator –

Sue King