Mammal survey at Colebrook lake

Mammals and moths enthrall the children

Thanks to all our friends at Tice’s and Moor Green who supported us with these events, and contributed material to this write up.

“Nice to get a waved black, nationally scarce“

Mammal walk at Colebrook lake

Mammal survey at Colebrook lake

Mammal survey at Colebrook lake

45 traps were put out on Thursday and our wildlife expert, Bernard, returned on Friday to add more bait to the traps and then set them.

A glorious day, with wall to wall sunshine, heralded the first event of the Festival – a walk along the north shore of Colebrook lake to check the traps and see which rodents had been found.

Bernard had lots of enthusiastic young helpers to locate the traps, retrieve them and the marker stakes, and then clean out the traps.

14 mice were found, regretfully no voles or shrews.

Then came the exciting process of extracting the mice, sexing them, before releasing them back into the wild.

Moth survey at Tice’s Meadow

Moth survey at Tice's Meadow

Moth survey at Tice’s Meadow

This moth survey was a huge success – a great evening’s mothing.

We were delighted to be joined by new visitors and well as some familiar faces, including the amazing Ben, who despite being a young lad, outshone all our experts with his ID skills and 700+ moth list. He amazed everyone with his knowledge and enthusiasm.

We found 3 new moth species for the site, including a Waved Black, which was a lifer for all present. An interesting selection of birds were also observed, including – Arctic Tern, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Snipe and Hobby.

We ended the evening by Len using his telescope to show Jupiter, its moons and Saturn with its rings on a bright evening.

Moth survey at Rowhill

Unfortunately this last event of the Festival was cancelled due to bad weather.

Enjoying a well-earned cuppa at Tice's Meadow

Shout out to our amazing volunteers

Everyone had fun getting their hands dirty doing practical conservation work.

Restoration at Claycart Woods

Restoration at Claycart Woods

Many thanks to all the hard working teams – a more friendly and cheerful bunch you could not wish to meet.

Read more about our volunteering opportunities.

“You are all amazing well done xxx“

Creating a canal-side habitat at Claycart Woods

Our Festival event at Claycart Woods was to create a canal-side habitat for the wildlife.

We built a grass snake egg laying heap and cleared overhanging trees to open up an area suitable for ground flora.

Read the full report from the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership

River clearance at Tice’s Meadow

Enjoying a well-earned cuppa!

Enjoying a well-earned cuppa!

River clearance day and it was raining cats and dogs!

Nevertheless, a fantastic amount of work was achieved with the Partnership volunteers, as part of the Festival.
Vegetation was cut back to let light into the river and to prepare the site for a new path surface.

Volunteer day at Rowhill

The Reserve Field Centre was open from 10 am and people were welcome to come and experience a day with the volunteers.

A warm welcome on our walks

A warm welcome on our nature walks

Interesting guided and self-guided nature walks occurred during the Festival and attracted a lot of interest. A huge thank you to our friends at Tice’s and Moor Green Lakes Group for organising these events.

“The bat walk was excellent. I learned a lot and met some lovely people”

“I was amazed how many bats we have at Shepherd Meadows”

“Thanks for a fabulous insight into the amazing work being done here, was great to meet you today”

Signage for Moor Green

Self-guided signage, © Angus McDonald

Self-guided walk at Moor Green Lakes

A self-guided walk around the perimeter of the reserve was available every day of the Festival.

Information posters describing conservation activities were placed near public footpaths from Grove Hide along the River Blackwater to the Moor Green Lakes car park.

Bat walk at Shepherd Meadows

Of all the Trust’s regular specialist walks, our bat walks are always the first to fill up, and this was no exception.

Maybe it’s the combination of the expert knowledge of BVC Partnership Manager Steve Bailey and the specialist bat detector equipment, or maybe it’s just the strange fascination these creatures of the night have for us.

Birdwatching at Tice's Meadow

Birds at Tice’s Meadow

This was a great evening for all the family. We met in Shepherd Meadows car park, wrapped up warm, and explored for about two hours.

Guided birdwatching walk at Tice’s Meadow

This event was an introduction to the birds and other wildlife found at Tice’s Meadow. It was run in conjunction with the Surrey Bird Club, a walk of 1.5 miles, lasting around three hours.

Volunteers explained the site’s history and helped visitors spot some of the 191 species seen on the site. It was a lovely morning until the heavens opened!

Open day at Moor Green

Open day at Moor Green

Open Walks Day at Moor Green Lakes

With the nesting season over, Moor Green Lakes was open to the public at the birdfeeder paddock next to Colebrook Hide. Volunteers were there to talk about the reserve, its conservation and its wildlife. The hides were manned, allowing visitors to hear more about the reserve and its role in the Blackwater Valley.

In addition, hourly guided walks took place on the private paths within the reserve. The weather was perfect for walking and we were treated to the most amazing insight, by the MGLG team into the variety of wildlife and habitat that this reserve has to offer. We skirted Colebrook Lake, viewing Tern Island and Plover Island around to the tip of Long Island before exiting the area not normally open to the public.

Festival first – a new initiative

BVCT trustee Chris has been negotiating the Trust’s involvement with the Community Rail Partnership (CRP) to find ways to encourage the use of railways as a sustainable way to explore our Valley.

Rail to trail initiative

Rail to trail initiative

We are very lucky to have such wonderful countryside on our doorstep but have you considered exploring further along the 23 miles of wildlife corridor by train?

This is the principle behind our new and exciting Rail to Trail project – to show just how accessible the Blackwater Valley is by train and how easy it is for people to explore by combining the Blackwater path and the rail network.

What better way to get to know the Valley – all the health benefits but no car and no stress.

The Festival gave us a great opportunity to test out the idea – as part of a partnership project with CRP, we ran 3 Rail to Trail walks. The walk reports are below, from our leaders Colin and Chris.

We hope to share more news soon about our partnership with CRP and our new Rail to Trail signage project.

“We enjoyed joining the walk today, the weather held apart from a brief shower”

“A fantastic walk – we can’t wait for the next time”

“I enjoyed the walk at Wildmoor Heath from Sandhurst station and met a lovely group of people”

Rail to Trail: walk North Camp to Crowthorne, return by train

Rail to trail: North Camp to Crowthorne

Waterproof boots were advisable!

This was a super valley walk of just under 9.5 miles between the 2 stations. It was led by David Daniels of CRP and Colin Wilson from BVCT, and the route ran through some of the most striking scenery on the Blackwater Valley path.

Despite the enthusiasm of our newsletter editor, who, when bathed in sunshine before the Festival, predicted the same for the Festival, the weather deteriorated quite severely such that only a small party of walkers was bold enough to join us.

As it turned out, the weather was not so bad! Lunch was had in the dry at Sandhurst and only a few showers blotted the day.

For the two previous nights torrential rain had affected our route through Hawley Meadows where a solid multi user path is proposed to help in future but as you can see, wearing waterproof boots was definitely advisable!

The walk ended in good time, the train ride back to North Camp was exactly on time and on this occasion, free to our walkers due to CRP funding.

We all made some new friends, learnt new things, enjoyed good company and added to our fitness, exactly what walking is about!

Our thanks go to David Daniels of CRP for joining us.

Rail to Trail: a nature trail around Sandhurst

Fly Agaric mushrooms

Fly Agaric mushrooms

We set off from Sandhurst station, a brave small group having spotted that the rain would stop just as we started!

Passing through some very pleasant suburban streets we joined Wildmoor Heath for a circular route enjoying the heath and some good views from a carefully placed but tucked away seat overlooking the Valley.

Autumn colours were beginning to show and Trudi from Thames Basin Heaths Partnership gave us a short explanation about the valuable nature we could find there.

We failed to see any dartford warblers but we did find a rather unfortunate common lizard with a damaged tail and some nice fly agaric mushrooms. Chiffchaffs and nuthatches were heard as well as some of the expected tit flocks in the birch trees.

The walk route returned by the hidden gem of Snaprails Park before continuing south across Sandhurst Memorial Park to the River then followed the Blackwater Valley path back to the station.

This was a super, varied walk with lots to interest us. Our thanks again go to David Daniels of CRP and Trudi from TBH Partnership for joining us on such an unpromising day!

Rail to Trail: a circular walk from Ash

Chris hopped onto the 13.25 from Blackwater, 15 minutes and three stations later he arrived at Ash and joined up with seven fellow travellers wanting to see more of what the Valley had to offer.

This walk was led by David Daniels from CRP, ably assisted by our own guide and Valley expert Steve Bailey (Manager of the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership).

The walk took us from Ash Station to Ash Green Meadows, onto Tongham Woods via the Old Railway Path. We then picked up the Blackwater River footpath and along the Basingstoke Canal returning back to the station.

A fantastic walk of around 4.5 miles and it took us 2 hours 30 mins.

Time to talk - 3 aspects of our Valley

Time to talk – three aspects of our Valley

During the Festival, we ran a varied programme of free talks, which were all well attended.

Walk and talk at Shepherd Meadows

Our support team

Managing meadows for wildlife

This walk and talk at Shepherd Meadows was a rare chance to get a look at some of the issues involved in managing the land along the river and a little bit of rain didn’t deter the small group of intrepid conservation enthusiasts who attended.

Shepherd Meadows is a 34-hectare site on the Berkshire and Hampshire border situated along the River Blackwater. It’s an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) because of its unimproved grassland and ancient woodland interest, and is managed through a combination of cattle grazing and cutting hay.

The walk included a discussion about managing grassland for its wildlife interest in general, as well as the different methods employed at Shepherd Meadows. It also explored issues specific to the site such as changes in the study of water, and the challenges of conservation management of valuable wildlife sites where there is a lot of of public access.

Many thanks to Rob (Biodiversity Officer) and Alex (Site Ranger) from Bracknell Forest Borough Council for a most interesting and informative session.

Evening talk at Rowhill Field Centre

Evening talk at Rowhill Field Centre

The revival of the Blackwater Valley: 40 years and counting

The Trust’s Vice-chair and long term Valley resident, Colin Wilson gave a varied talk including the history of the Valley, a world boxing championship, highway robbery, gravel digging, road building, river diversion and habitats and wildlife!

We finished on climate change, invasive species and the work of the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust.

This talk was very well attended and the refreshments were much appreciated by all.

Many thanks to our friends at the Rowhill Nature Reserve Society who hosted this event.

Walk and talk from Darby Green

Our intrepid walkers

BVCT past, present and Festival

This walk started and ended at the Darby Green Centre and took in the scenic delights of Swan Lake.

One of many former gravel pits in the area, Swan Lake Park is now a picturesque walk through a wildflower meadow and around a fishing lake. This area is managed by the Blackwater Valley Countryside Partnership.

The walk lasted an hour and was just under three miles long, along well-worn paths.

10 intrepid walkers from the Walking Club braved the weather and joined us. They all enjoyed the walk despite a period of heavy rain.

Refreshments were served afterwards in the Darby Green Centre, followed by a short talk by Mike Swaddling, former Chair of the Trust entitled “BVCT – Past, Present and Festival”.

Many thanks to our friends at the Walking Club for taking care of us.

Army structure

Monthly walk in September 2019

This Festival week walk was in bright sunshine starting at Southwood Woodlands, passing many buildings of interesting history including the old wind tunnel, the Basingstoke Canal and returned via some strange concrete army structures with unexplained purpose.

“Thoroughly enjoyable and lead by Paul Sanders in his popular, interesting style”

“Fabulous walk, thank you Paul for leading and those lovely people who supplied tea and cake halfway round – a really pleasant surprise”

Paul’s walk report

Monthly walk: September 2019

For the second time in two months I had set everyone the challenge of finding a recently created car park in a new SANG (Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace) area. This time we were meeting at the Kennels Lane entrance to the new Southwood Country park. This 30 hectare area of acid grassland with 2.4km of new paths has been created on the old golf course site which will now allow Farnborough town centre developments to proceed.

Pleasingly the car park started to fill up with a good crowd of walkers as 10:00 approached and we set off following the newly mown paths through the now long grass of the former tees and bunkers and fairways and over streams feeding into the Cove Brook. We noted the wildflowers now re-colonising the site.

We crossed Ively road with the help of some very patient motorists and continued past the rather sad looking former club house awaiting development into a cafe or information centre. We crossed the road to enter the airfield site. This is the fourth time I have led this walk, albeit slightly different every time, but each time we see more of the old historically interesting buildings have been demolished and new bland grey ones take their place. This year it was noted that the old control tower was no longer there.

Balloon sheds

Balloon sheds

We passed under the recreated outline structure of the balloon sheds. The scale of this is impressive but the originals housed balloons such as the 122ft long Nulli Secundus, or more formally British Army Dirigible No 1. First flown on 10 September 1907, it was Britain’s first powered military aircraft and designed by Colonel James Templer who originally brought the balloon factory to this site and whose name is remembered by the name of the road we had been using since Meadow Gate roundabout. Its engine later being used to power Cody’s British Army Aeroplane No. 1. We briefly discussed this plane and the Cody tree as we passed by one of Farnborough’s most famous landmarks, the Grade II listed Black Shed hangers.

The sun was shining and we had good views across the airfield. I didn’t let on that our refreshments waited for us at exactly the far end of the main runway. It looked so far away.

Exiting the airfield at the Queens gate we discussed the history of the old days of pilot training as remembered by ETPS road and the old hostel and its most famous resident Laurence of Arabia before his adventures began.

Army structure

Army structure

As we walked down Shoe Lane we stopped to view the large grave of five famous army horses just on the edge of the army golf course and then carried on down the quiet road to the Basingstoke Canal. We walked a couple of miles along the towpath before climbing up some steps recently installed by the Blackwater Valley volunteers to meet up with Angus and Marilyn who were dispensing teas and cakes from their “yellow wheelbarrow cafe”.

We stood on the mound, or sat on the benches, enjoying our drinks as several aircraft gave us a close look at their departures. We had covered 5.3 miles out of our 9.3 mile route.

Continuing along the towpath we now got some shade from the very welcome, but hot sun as we turned off to follow the Gelvert stream as it heads north through Pondtail into Fleet Pond. Turning to the east we could see the developments on the old Pyestock site with just one of the old buildings still standing. We crossed into the next wooded area which is slated to be the SANG for Hartland Park. We stopped to look at the curious bullet riddled concrete structures in the wood then crossed Kennels Lane to walk across the football pitches before entering Southwood Woodland and returning to the car park.

I hope everyone enjoyed the walk and found something interesting or new and thank you for keeping me company. Hope to see you in October!