Our East Anglian coast – Open meeting Thursday 29th June 7pm

coastal erosionEast Anglia has suffered from coastal erosion for many centuries. Gary Watson of the Environment Agency is directly responsible for the protection of all our East Anglian coastline and will tell us what the current challenges are and how they are being met.

 

What changes might we expect of the next 50 years?
Climate change,rising sea levels as well as coastal erosion?

Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk approved shore plans firmly lay down an approach for the next four generations!

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn about change to the coast that we all love!

Little egret

Most walks along the Lark valley in Bury are now rewarded with a sighting of a little egret in, or close to, the water, brilliant white.  The RSPB says the little egret is a small white heron with attractive white plumes on crest, back and chest, black legs and bill and yellow feet. It first appeared in the UK in significant numbers in 1989 and first bred in Dorset in 1996. Its colonization followed naturally from a range expansion into western and northern France in previous decades. It is now at home on numerous south coast sites, both as a breeding species and as a winter visitor.

Little egret is not to be mistaken with the much rarer great white heron, although they look similar from a distance. This BTO video explains the differences, but look out for the yellow feet and black bill of little egret.

This video was taken from the Lark bridge at the Crankles (facing the Abbey gardens) in February 2017.

Reptile survey

This Sunday 7th May from 1.00pm for an hour or so, The Bury Water Meadows Group is carrying out a reptile survey with the help of a local ecologist, Nick Sibbett. We will learn how to set up the survey, how to record the wildlife we find and what to do with the data. The survey needs to last about 7 weeks so that creatures get used to finding the mats to hide under. We will need to come back to the mats during the summer but I will set up a rota so that no more than one return per person will be expected and it will be at your convenience!

Common_Lizard_cpt_Neil_AldridgeIf you want to take part please let me know in the first instance that you want to come. All you have to do is bring gardening gloves and suitable clothing as I think it will still take place if it rains. Amphibians and reptiles like the rain!

Jillian Macready

 

River restoration & litter pick 19th March – report

On March 19th teams from Bury Water Meadows Group (BWMG) and the River Lark Catchment Partnership (RLCP) undertook a range of restoration and litter picking activities.

Five different work parties went in different directions on the Sunday morning, from their Base Camp in the Crankles. The Bury Water Meadows Group was on a mission to get three litter picking operations, one turf laying project on the river bank by Abbot’s bridge and one river restoration project underneath the foot bridge in the Abbey gardens carried out by the end of March, or vital funding from the Environment Agency via the RLCP would be lost.

River restoration project at Abbey Gardens March 17 (27)First out at 9am was the river restoration group. Not content with his very successful restoration of the River Lark at West Stow, Glenn Smithson, a River Lark angler and RLCP member, was the obvious choice of man to get the job done. Armed with a £2500 grant from the Environment Agency, Glenn was able to buy all the materials needed for softening up the concrete side. This includes coir matting impregnated with marginal plants held in position by posts rammed into the river bed. Faggots made of willow have also been put in place to create habitat for waders and water creatures to live.

River restoration project at Abbey Gardens March 17 (28)Narrowing of the channel needs to take place so that the water flow increases and moves the sediment down river. The Lark is a chalk stream and should be good for spawning trout and salmon but the water is sluggish so sediment builds up and there are too many man-made structures on the bank to benefit wildlife in that stretch. Volunteers from the Bury Water Meadows Group who had been specially trained to work safely in the river were guided with Glenn’s expertise to get the first part of the job done

A further work session will be needed to carry out a similar action on the opposite bank.

turf laying in Abbey Gardens March 17 (7)

Turf laying

Bank erosion on the Abbey Garden side was also a problem since dredging and bank modification had been carried out last year, so Glenn suggested this side be stabilised with planting and for this operation he teamed up with Jillian Macready, founder member of Bury Water Meadows Group and BWMG representative on the RLCP. She suggested wildflower turf would knit the soil together as well as providing valuable nectar plants for our beleaguered bees.

turf laying in Abbey Gardens March 17 (13)Thanks to Simon Collin and Council colleagues, who prepared the site for the turf to be laid and another team of Bury Water Meadows group volunteers, 60 sq metres of turf was laid at the same time on Sunday morning. The turf mats are made up of a mixture of 50% native wildflowers and 50% native grasses all beneficial to insects, these are sown into a substrate which is knitted onto biodegradable netting. This makes for easy handling of the turf. Will Cranstoun of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust volunteered his expertise and Simon Collin of St Edmundsbury Council was on hand to help with perfect turf laying. Welcome rain followed on Tuesday!

As if this wasn’t enough, three different litter picking teams were dispatched from the Crankles.

litter picking team March 17 (1)

For the first time BWMG organised a group for the Butts and one for Holywater Meadows.

Ditches full of cans and litter were attacked with energy – hopefully now many people will choose to not drop their litter –that has been our experience on No Mans Meadows!

Afterwards, BWMG chairman Andrew Hinchley thanked everyone involved and said:

It’s been a great day and moving up to five groups working has taken us up a huge level in capability for BWMG and the River Lark Catchment Partnership.

Special thanks to our professional volunteers: Will Cranstoun (Suffolk Wildlife Trust), Sam Hurst (Environment Agency) and volunteers Jillian Macready and Glenn Smithson who worked on all the advance preparation, as well as today. Thanks to Rob Clapham (Environment Agency) who worked on delivering the grant and advance planning including the permits needed. BWMG members paid £400 for insurance,new waders and angling “catch” nets.

See also the Bury Free Press article about the day.

River restoration project at Abbey Gardens March 17 (12)

Tree planting in the Water Meadows

Wednesday 1st March, meeting in the Crankles 9.30am to 12 noon

crankles treelessWe have a number of elms to plant in No Mans Meadow and along the Lark banks. These are European White Elms which hopefully will replace the job done by native English elms which don’t get to maturity anymore. The White Letter Hairstreak butterfly is now a rare sight as a result of the devastation caused by Dutch Elm disease on native elm. However the beetle that causes the disease seems unable to wreak the same havoc on European White elms. This work party is taking place on a Wednesday to be able to take advantage of Borough staff on hand.

Please register your interest even if it’s only to say you can only do weekends!
Contact us to REGISTER YOUR INTEREST WITH JILLIAN

The next litter pick

Sunday 19th March at the Crankles 

litter pickersLitter picking has now become a regular feature and we aim for two a year; one that coincides with Keep Britain Tidy big clean up (more or less) and one on World Rivers Day at the end of September. March is a good time as the vegetation is still low and hasn’t started growing.

A word about the difference between the in-channel pickers and the on-land pickers. A few of our members were trained in water safety so that when work is eventually carried out to restore the river these people can operate safely.

Please contact us if you want to join in.

2017 Speaker Meetings

example of clean river for next meeting - landscape

All meetings take place at the Quaker/Friends Meeting House, St John’s Street,Bury St Edmunds:

Tuesday 7pm 7th March 2017

Picture courtesy of Glenda Cole

Picture courtesy of Glenda Cole

Glenda Cole has proved herself an expert photographer of the Rivers Lark and Linnet and its wildlife and she regularly posts her pictures on Facebook and Instagram. She will present a collection of photos taken on the Water Meadows associated with our rivers and talks about how she goes about trying to capture the best shot of her subject each time​​​​​​​.

7pm Thursday 29th June 2017

Gary Watson, responsible for coastal protection for East Anglia, Environment Agency. East Anglia has suffered from coastal erosion for many centuries. What are the current challenges and how are they being met! What changes might we expect over the next 50 years?

7pm Wednesday 20th September 2017

Mike Dean Vice-Chairman, Butterfly Conservation, the national organisation to support butterfly conservation. Suffolk is an important county for butterflies, many of which can be seen near our rivers and streams. Mike is well qualified to talk on Suffolk’s butterflies having chaired the county group for 10 years

Wednesday 29th November 7pm

(preceded by AGM)
Martyn Taylor, Chair of Bury Society and local professional guide and author
“Two Birds” is the title of the talk which will range over the many interesting things Martyn has discovered on the Lark and Linnet

Importance of UK Wetlands

Why are wetlands important to our ecosystem?

 

A wetland can be areas of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six metres. Wetlands play a number of roles in the environment, principally water purification, flood control, carbon sink and shoreline stability. Some wetlands are naturally occurring, others have been created over the centuries, primarily for efficient irrigation and to ensure a regular water supply.

What makes wetlands so ecologically important is their biodiversity. Their unique and wide ranging combination of plant and animal life plays a crucial role in the balance of nature. Wetlands have a number of functions that directly impact human life, the importance of which is now being properly understood. Whereas they have previously been seen as economically unproductive pieces of land and therefore have been drained and developed; the impact of such interference is now being felt.

Wetlands are vital for human survival. They are among the world’s most productive environments; cradles of biological diversity that provide the water and productivity upon which countless species of plants and animals depend for survival.

http://www.ramsar.org/

wetlands

© Copyright Richard Humphrey and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Wetlands as flood control

wetlands and flooding

Infographic courtesy of the RSPB at http://www.rspb.org.uk/forprofessionals/policy/water/flooding.aspx

We know that we have a potential flood crisis on our hands in the UK and the irony is that nature has the solution and in many cases we have created the problem! Water is our very lifeblood and managed properly we need not experience the swings of drought and flood. Yes, the climate is changing, and yes we do need to tackle that too. However, in the short to medium term we can do much to help nature restore the balance between necessary rainwater and damaging floods.

Habitats such as upland bogs and moors, woodlands, wetlands and species-rich grasslands act as giant sponges, absorbing and holding water and slowing down water run-off into rivers.

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/tacklingflooding#Make the land

Rather than drain wetlands to build housing and then have to build in drainage ditches and watch them flood- we need to preserve our wetlands and let them do their job! We need to revise our view of the economic worth of these crucial natural reserves in terms of how much it costs us NOT having them! There have been a number of studies on this – some more impenetrable than others to understand! A report from the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is summed up in a readable way by this Guardian article http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jun/02/uk-green-spaces-value

It is not just the bogs, marches, peat fens that help with flood control, but the habitats that thrive on them.

When peat becomes completely saturated and unable to absorb any more water, surface pools and peatland vegetation – including sedge meadows and some types of forest – help to slow and reduce runoff. Similarly, floodplains alongside the lower reaches of major rivers, such as the Nile, Yangtze and Danube allow heavy rainfall or spring snowmelt to spread out slowly. When the peat bogs are drained or the floodplains reduced, the risk of flash floods is increased.

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/intro/value/

Wetlands and clean water supply

You have probably seen many pictures of under developed countries and their polluted water supplies. You may well be extremely thankful that here in the UK we are able to take clean water for granted- turn on the tap and out it comes. Around the world, water treatment plants work 24/7 to ensure clean water is available to the world’s population. Nature knows how to do this without complex technology! Wetlands act as the Earth’s filters, cleaning up water in a number of ways. For example, nitrogen in water is transformed to harmless nitrogen gas, nutrients are taken up by wetland plants in the water. Wetlands remove pollutants such as phosphorous, heavy metals and toxins which are trapped in the sediments of the wetlands. In addition, nitrogen and heavy metals are incorporated into peat during its formation.

Here’s a fascinating example of the economic benefit of wetlands,

New York City found that it could avoid spending USD $3-8 billion on new waste water treatment plants by investing USD $1.5 billion in the purchase of land around the reservoirs upstate. This land purifies the water supply for free.

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/intro/value/

10 wetland facts to knock your wellies off: great article!  http://www.wwt.org.uk/conservation/wetlands/

I shall be writing about different wetlands and sites of specific environmental interest throughout Suffolk/Norfolk in follow up posts, starting with Redgrave and South Lopham Fens, near Diss.

Please share this post to raise awareness of the importance of UK wetlands.

Why Water Meadows Are Important

What is a water meadow?water meadow

The Rivers Trust explains it well….  http://www.theriverstrust.org/newsletter/winter_06/issue_10/newsletter.html

Water meadows are quite distinct from other forms of wet grassland. Engineered topography, weirs, channels, sluices and sloping ‘panes’ of grass enabled a management regime that maximised productivity. The operation of water meadows required considerable skill from the ‘drowners’ who used to tend them and control the flows, sequentially flooding (or ‘drowning’) and draining the meadows throughout the year to maximise early growth of grass and the production of hay and summer grazing. The control of flows harnessed the warmth and nutrient-bearing silt from river water, using it to irrigate and control some weeds. This method of controlled water flow, critically maintaining a thin film of moving and oxygenated water that is not allowed to stand and waterlog the soil, distinguishes water meadows from other forms of wet grassland.

Water meadows were very much a feature of agriculture from the 16th to early 19th century. They helped overcome the gap during March/April when livestock feed was scarce; winter feed used up and new grass yet to emerge. The grass produced by water meadows was rich in nutrients and grew earlier so allowing farmers to keep their cattle fed all year round. Changes in agricultural methods, mechanisation and the use of chemicals gradually made the labour intensive practice of maintaining water meadows largely redundant.

However, water meadows were not just there to feed cattle! They created a vibrant and diverse wetland habitat and were home to many important wildlife species. Continue reading

Protecting Britain’s Chalk Streams

Why are Chalk Streams Important?

Did you know that the River Lark and the River Linnet are chalk streams under threat unless we make sure they are protected? Chalk streams provide water to households and industry by way of an aquifier – an underground source of water. However, unless we take care of them this valuable source of water will, literally, dry up! See the video below for more information

“Protecting England’s Chalk Streams” – a Video from the World Wildlife Fund

Over three quarters of England’s unique chalk streams are failing to meet the required ‘good ecological status’ threatening some of the country’s most precious and irreplaceable countryside according to a report by WWF-UK.  

To read more on this report, go here… http://www.wwf.org.uk/about_wwf/press_centre/?unewsid=7378

Download the full report here

A legacy of over abstraction and neglect has left chalk streams in Great Britain in a poor state!

There are only around 200 chalk streams in the world, and 85% of these are found in England, so we have a special responsibility to look after them. A combination of geology and climate means that our chalk streams have characteristic features that support special wildlife habitats and species.

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife/habitats/chalk-streams

Why bother worrying about chalk streams?

Continue reading