It is twenty years since, on 15 September 2003, the Blackwater Valley Countryside Trust was incorporated as a limited company. We registered as a charity in 2006.
Dave Pilkington was our founding chairman and treasurer and our initial aim was to tap into funds which public bodies such as the Partnership could not access, and use them to improve the 23-mile Blackwater Valley Path and the Valley environment more generally. Dave’s enthusiasm guided us until his death in 2014, but there have been many others who have donated their time and skills.
Raising funds and supporting projects remain among our key activities. Over the years, fuelled by the various enthusiasms of our trustees and other helpers, we have also taken a more handson approach in some areas. We have contributed over £250,000 (and over £20,000 in small grants to organisations whose aims match our own) and much time and expertise to:
• build and install roosting and nesting boxes for various birds and mammals. This includes 261 bat boxes and 3 hibernacula, 150 dormouse boxes, hedgehog boxes, around 100 swift boxes, and innumerable boxes for other birds;
• enrich the native flora along the Valley, particularly in degraded woodlands;
• improve reed beds;
• erect 50 stumperies where stag beetles can mature;
• resurface paths and install seats and signage along the Valley;
• promote wildlife-rich community gardens and churchyards.
We have organised walks and talks so people can enjoy the environment and learn more about it. Major walks have attracted over 250 participants, many of whom used the walk to raise money for charities. We have provided links between wildlife, access and local interest communities along the Valley, organising the Forum in 2017 and the Blackwater River Festival
Within the last few years, we launched a Rail to Trail campaign to encourage people not only to get out into the countryside more, but to do so using one or more of the railway stations along the Valley. (Of course it would be as beneficial to the environment to use local buses or your own pedal power, rather than drive the car.) We adopted North Camp station in 2021.
With your help we can achieve as much, maybe more, during the next twenty years.