Foxearth Meadows Nature Reserve, A Rocha UK’s rural reserve comprises 11.5 acres of wetland on the River Stour floodplain in north Essex. It has a variety of habitats, including the river and riverbank, wetlands and woodland, an ancient field boundary, a series of ponds and marshy flower-rich grassland. Much progress has been made in improving habitats, particularly by using dipwell surveillance (to measure the water table) and protecting riverbanks from erosion by re-rooting young trees. The foot drains and silt traps were dug out to maintain control of water movement and levels, and vegetation was cleared from ponds to improve dragonfly habitat. As part of the Marine Conservation Society’s annual ‘Beach Watch and River Clean’, each year, the team try to clean the river of human rubbish on their section of the Stour and extend it as far as possible upstream and down.
Knowlands Farm (pictured below) has 300 acres in Buckinghamshire, farmed with nature in mind. There are meadows, arable farmland, a few ponds (wetland), hedgerows and a woodland of 75 acres which includes old hornbeam, oak and mixed coppice. An additional new pond in 2022 has started to get traction. An encouraging approach from the Newt Conservation Partnership offered support for creating and restoring ponds. They have subsequently advised and paid for creating a new pond in the woodland clearing and clearing and deepening another pond.
Hugh’s Meadow is a seven-acre lowland hay meadow/rush pasture site, a rare and declining habitat in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland. It is one of the best examples of a wildflower-rich meadow in the province. After identifying a lack of wetland areas, some spaces were chosen and prepared to become large ponds early in 2022. A digger was used to create one in the heart of the lowland wildflower meadow where the ground was already damp, with clay in the soil. This set-up with a pond in the centre of a meadow is ideal for nature to thrive: within weeks of creating the pond, dragonflies and damselflies moved in! By summer, it was clear this was also an excellent area for butterflies and moths, with some exciting bird sightings.
Set in a 90-acre estate in the spectacular Yorkshire Dales, Scargill House is home to a Christian community that hosts people for holidays, conferences and retreats. Their priority is to make the estate’s grassland, woodland, fresh water and hedgerows a welcoming place for plants, animals, and people. In May 2021, A Rocha UK helped create a new freshwater habitat – a pond and sensory garden, behind the chapel (pictured below). Water plants were planted in the pond in 2022, along with other plants at the water’s edge, so small mammals can drink unseen by predators. Some fruit trees were also planted, while stumpery and raised beds were built in the surrounding garden. In addition, one of the boundaries of the area has been marked by a dead hedge. Excitingly, as the pond has developed, frogs and newts have moved in!
Wolf Fields, A Rocha UK’s urban community nature reserve in Southall, West London, covers three acres and has an orchard, community allotment, beehives, braille and audio interpretation, sensory garden, meadow, art installation area, prayer labyrinth, ponds and a story-telling area for children. During 2022, there was a focus on water conservation, particularly in anticipation of the summer drought. The team tried new mulching techniques for the fruit-growing areas, plus ways of shading the pond area, to retain as much moisture as possible during the extreme drought periods. These interventions meant that the whole site did not completely dry out, enabling the dragonflies & damselflies to have a successful year, with at least seven species recorded and many ovipositing into late spring and early summer. It was also a good year for a range of UK butterflies: at least eight species were recorded in spring and summer.
Learn more about freshwater habitats and how you can help here.