A new site for LCG and a different type of work. Ten of us met the RSPB warden and five of the reserve's regular volunteers in the car park before walking through part of the reserve and into an area not yet open to the public.
First we loaded up a trailer with wire weld mesh panels, metal stakes and trays of small reed plants. We then followed the reserve vehicle as it pushed a path through ‘fields’ of tall melilot to the edge of one of the ponds, where we carried the materials across a causeway to the island. The job was to plant the reeds along the edges of the island, as close to the water as possible. We used wooden dibbers to create a small hole and then pushed the reed plant in ensuring the roots were covered. Similar to tree planting, but in smellier mud. And instead of grazing deer, the young reeds would have to contend with hungry geese. So we then surrounded the reeds with the weld mesh panels, hammering in stakes to hold them in place and putting cross pieces in at regular intervals so that the geese couldn’t easily glide in from above. As we worked, small skeins of geese flew overhead checking out their potential next meal.
The weather was mixed, with a good soaking first thing, but with the sun coming out just before lunch, followed by another short shower. The open space offered big skies, with the swirling black clouds and sunny intervals making for an ever changing light that made the area an enchanting place to work. By 3pm we had run out of fence panels so couldn’t plant any more reeds. Warden Jenny calculated we had planted about 2500 reeds. The annual target is 15000 but as they only plant in August and September to avoid disturbing the nesting or overwintering wildfowl, there are plenty to be planted up.
Everyone said what an enjoyable time they had and there was a good team dynamic in evidence. With another 40 years of reserve expansion on the cards, this could become a regular summer task.
The RSPB is working with the quarrying company so that once the sand and gravel has been extracted, the resulting quarry hole is handed over to the RSPB, who then use the original topsoil to create shallow islands in the flooded quarries and plant them up with reeds. So far they have around 85 acres of established reed beds with a variety of wildlife already observed, including breeding bitterns. There are another 100 acres being developed, including the third phase that we worked on and the potential for 3 times that area over the next 40 years. As coastal reed beds are threatened by rising sea levels, these inland reserves could become vital to a wide variety of birds.