Each year the Authority undertakes a range of conservation projects across the park. These projects help to improve the existing areas for wildlife, develop new areas and inform and enthuse visitors about our amazing wildlife. These are some of the many projects that have been recently undertaken.
Cornmill Meadows Higher Level Stewardship
In December 2013 Cornmill Meadows and Tree Park were entered into a ten-year agreement Higher Level Stewardship with Natural England. This agreement will provide additional funding to the Authority to deliver significant environmental enhancements on these important sites.
Gadwall on Cornmill Meadows
Cornmill Meadows is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is of particular importance for its dragonfly assemblage, with over half the UK’s species of dragonfly recorded on the site. The site is also excellent for migrant waders and overwintering wildfowl and the planned enhancements will target these key species.
Over the coming years works including the creation of new dragonfly ponds, introduction of grazing to the northern meadow and rotational management of the historical ditch network will be undertaken.
Bat hibernacula enhancements
There are a number of pill boxes located around the Park as a legacy of the Second World War. Over the past few years they have been converted into bat hibernacula, a place where bats can hibernate over the cold winter months.
Improvement works to a bat hibernaculum
This year further enhancements were carried out to the hibernaculum at Hall Marsh Scrape. A new solid door with suitable access for bats was added and internal walls constructed to maintain a constant temperature. Bats like to crawl into small crevices to hibernate and new internal features such as specialist bat bricks and wooden panelling have been installed on the walls to provide the perfect habitat.
The hibernaculum will be monitored over the winter months to see if any bats have taken up residence. As bats are a protected species the checks will be carried out by a licenced bat worker.
Working for Wetland Mammals
The network of waterways in the Lee Valley is of huge importance for wetland mammals. Both Water Voles and Otters have strongholds in the valley however, without ongoing management waterways become overshadowed by trees and the suitability of this habitat deteriorates.
Ditch management on Silvermeade
The resulting decline in emergent vegetation and degradation of habitat can have a significant impact on the existing populations as well as their ability to move and increase their range throughout the catchment.
Using survey work carried out in the Lee Valley including the Lee Valley Wetland Mammal Assessment (2012) key hotspots for wetland mammals have been identified and habitat enhancement works undertaken.
Silvermeade which is currently in Countryside Stewardship is an area of riverside meadow intersected with a network of ditches and is a real hotspot for Water Voles. A number of these ditches had become choked with vegetation and works have been carried out to clear sections whilst maintaining a fringe of emergent vegetation for the resident Water Voles. A number of mature trees have also been pollarded alongside a section of ditch to allow light to penetrate to the water, these will need to be repollarded on a fairly short rotation to maintain this top quality habitat.
Work on hotspot areas is important however, we also need to ensure that the linking habitats are maintained and enhanced to allow populations to move and expand. The Local Wildlife Site at Thistly Marsh is bounded by the Small River Lea. In 2011 work was carried out to remove and pollard selected trees to encourage the growth of emergent vegetation in what before was a very shaded section of river with the aim of extending the range of Water Voles found in the SSSI to the south. On-going work is still needed to target the removal of non-native invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam which can out-compete native vegetation but an improvement to the marginal vegetation is becoming evident. This winter work will be undertaken on area section of river to the north of this, continuing the expansion of the suitable habitat further towards Silvermeade. This work is part-funded through the Lea Catchment Nature Improvement Area fund.
Reedbed enhancements on Seventy Acres Lake.
Work has recently been undertaken to enhance the reedbeds on Seventy Acres Lake by removing encroaching trees and scrub.
Seventy Acres Lake is part of the Turnford and Cheshunt Pits Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which in turn forms part of the Lee Valley Special Protection Area (SPA) due to its importance for the over-wintering birds Gadwall, Shoveler and Bittern.
Bittern on Seventy Acres Lake
The Bittern is a member of the heron family and were once widespread across the UK; however habitat loss and hunting saw their numbers dramatically fall to near extinction in the late 1800’s.
In an effort to reverse this decline the Regional Park joined a partnership of eight organisations to create a network of new reedbeds for Bitterns at 19 sites across England.
In early 2003 willow scrub was removed from islands and shorelines to make them accessible to heavy machinery. The work created over five kilometres of sinuous shoreline which has provided superb feeding opportunities for Bittern. Over 26,000 reeds were planted by staff and volunteers and nearly four and a half kilometres of post and wire-netting fencing installed to protect the young reeds.
Concerted conservation efforts such as this one have seen numbers start to increase in recent years and it is hoped that eventually the habitat will be suitable for the birds that currently spend the winter here to remain in the valley throughout the summer and breed successfully.
On-going management of the reedbeds is necessary to ensure that they stay in good condition. At present this involves the cyclical management of scrub which encroaches into the reedbed from adjacent areas. If the trees are not removed they will eventually shade out the reeds and dry the land as they mature into woodland. In future, areas will be cut in rotation to maintain healthy stands of reed, perfect habitat for feeding, roosting and hopefully breeding Bittern
The Bittern Information Point is a short walk from Fishers Green car park and is open daily with volunteers on hand at weekends throughout the winter to help you spot the Bittern.
Dragon Finder Project
Lee Valley Park is working closely with Froglife, a national wildlife charity committed to the conservation of amphibians and reptiles, on the 4 ½ year Dragon Finder project. This London-wide amphibian and reptile conservation programme has received funding from the Heritage lottery Fund, Biffa Award, City Bridge Trust and Cory Environmental Trust.
The main aims of the project are to:
Improve and increase suitable habitat for reptiles and amphibians at a range of sites across London.
To educate people about conservation issues and raise awareness of things they can do for wildlife in their local area.
To provide training in amphibian and reptile identification, monitoring and habitat management.
The project will take place on four Lee Valley sites, WaterWorks Nature Reserve, Rammey marsh, Tottenham Marshes and Gunpowder Park, commencing at WaterWorks Nature Reserve in Spring 2013. The works taking place this year will be:
The creation of 5 grass snake breeding mounds
The creation of 2 reptile hibernacula
Survey for presence or absence of reptiles and amphibians
Life under the Surface school and family session
A stall at ‘Countryside Live’ a fantastic countryside event for all the family taking place at Leyton Marsh on 28th and 29th August
How can you get involved?
Froglife will be running a couple of volunteer days at the WaterWorks Nature Reserve in November 2013. Please contact Vicky Ogilvy at Victoria.firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Find out more on the Froglife website or download their new iphone app to start spotting and recording any amphibians and reptiles that you see.
River Stort Catchment Plan
A plan to improve the health of one of Hertfordshire’s rivers has just been launched by the Stort Catchment Partnership.
Glen Faba Lake - part of the Stort Valley
The Stort Catchment Plan was launched 1st March. The partnership includes LVRPA, water companies, the Environment Agency, volunteer conservation groups and environmental charities. The partnership will work together to improve the health of the River Stort.
Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust brought the Catchment Partnership together in spring 2012, with financial support from Defra. It is formed of people and organisations with an interest in the River Stort and Stort Navigation. The development of the Catchment Management Plan is part of a nationwide scheme supported by Government and the Environment Agency, to harness the support of local people to improve the health of all England’s rivers .
The driver behind the Catchment Plan is the Water Framework Directive. This is a piece of European legislation which became UK law in 2003. It states that all waterbodies (including rivers, lakes, seas) in the UK must reach ‘good ecological status’ by 2027. ‘Good ecological status’ means they should be clean and healthy, and contain the ‘right’ type and number of animals and plants. The UK has a legal obligation to meet this target.
The Stort Catchment Management Plan is entirely web-based. The core of the website, stortriverpartnership.org.uk, is an interactive map showing the details of various projects in and around the river. These projects range from those still at the ‘idea’ stage, to ones currently underway. These initial project ideas were submitted by members of the partnership at a workshop held in autumn 2012.
The plan has four main aims – to increase flow, to improve water quality, to enhance wildlife habitat, and to encourage people to find out about and get involved with the river.
Because it is web-based, the plan will be live and dynamic. It will be updated regularly over the coming months and years as projects are completed and new projects added. The website will also help to support the development and growth of the partnership. By sharing problems and opportunities and celebrating achievements, the partnership will be able to do even more to improve the rivers.
Although the Catchment Plan is a new initiative, local groups have been championing the restoration of the Stort for many years. These groups have been integral to the production of the Catchment Plan and their continued involvement will be essential if the challenges are to be met.
If you would like to help, there are many opportunities to get involved. Please visit the website for more details, or contact Charlie Bell on email@example.com; 01727 858901 (ext 245).
Helping House Sparrows in London
In 2009 the RSPB and eight London partners started out on an ambitious project to find out how to boost numbers of the well-loved and sorely missed 'Cockney Sparrow'. House Sparrows have declined dramatically in London over the last few decades, and are hardly seen in the centre of the city now at all.
The SITA-funded project has seen25 trial areas of wildflowers and grasses created in 19 parks across the capital, providing an attraction for park users as well as wildlife. The idea is to boost insect numbers, providing House Sparrows and other birds with nourishment for their young chicks, which often seem to suffer from a lack of insects in their diet. Some of the trial areas also provide seed for grown birds.
The aim has been to see which of three different habitat types are used most by birds - especially sparrows. Insect numbers and diversity have also been recorded, and so has the amount of seed produced.
The trial areas have been monitored by RSPB staff, with help from an army of around 40 volunteers. The project has also provided study opportunities for five students, training opportunities for five interns, and opportunities for people to engage with wildlife in their parks through local events.
House Sparrow Plot at Tottenham Marshes
Results so far have shown that all three habitat types support much greater numbers of insects than the short grass often found in parks. Large numbers of bugs and grasshoppers have been found in some of them, with more spiders and beetles in others. Sparrows have used some of the trial areas to gather food frequently during the breeding season. Adult sparrows have been using the trial plots to collect insects, taking them back to their nests to feed their chicks. Young birds that have recently left the nest have also used them to feast on ripening seed.
The final results of the project are due out in May 2012. After that, the plan is to make sure as many parks, gardeners and local people as possible know what they can do to help this unique bird survive. Together we want to bring the missing sound of cheerful chirping back to London, where it should be.
Partners in the project are:
Sand Martin tower at the WaterWorks Nature Reserve
Sand Martins are the smallest of the European martins and swallows. They are agile flyers, catching insects over the water and can often be seen perching on overhead wires or branches.
They return to the Lee Valley every summer from their West African wintering grounds. Naturally they would excavate nesting tunnels in riverbanks and cliffs but have adapted readily to using man-made tunnels on the concrete channels of the River Lee, on sites such as Tottenham Marshes.
In 2007 an innovative Sand Martin tunnel was installed at the WaterWorks Nature Reserve in Leyton. It has proved to be a success with 14 pairs taking up residence within the first breeding season and another 20 pairs in 2009; they have even used the gaps between the pipes as nesting areas.
Sand Martin Tower at WaterWorks Nature Reserve
Over the past 50 years the European population has crashed on two occasions as a result of drought in the birds' African wintering grounds. In the Regional Park, look above the water courses and lakes to see the Sand Martins, often feeding alongside Swallows and Swifts.
A second tower was installed in 2011 and the breeding numbers are monitored by volunteers annually.