Local Volunteers have helped clear bramble and scrub which had been encroaching one of the traditional meadows at Leat Meadow, part of Fremington Local Nature Reserve. This joint project between Fremington Parish Council, North Devon Council and the Biosphere has meant that next summer there should be more space for wildflowers at this nature reserve. The site was recently surveyed by Devon Biodiversity Centre and the bramble encroachment was identified as having a negative effect on the wildlife value of the site. Sophia Craddock, a local volunteer with the Biosphere, said
“When all the raking up of cut bramble was completed, we were able to put up some bat and bird boxes around the reserve, which should help provide some good nest sites for wildlife next summer.”
The next volunteer event will be in late winter. Details of when and where are still to be confirmed.
A scrape is similar to a pond except that it is shallower and may dry up in summer. The muddy margins are really important at providing insect-rich areas where birds can feed. At Fremington Local Nature Reserve the management committee ((Biosphere, North Devon Council and Fremington Parish Council) have created a new scrape to improve the wildlife value of Lovell’s Field. The funding was from a section 106 agreement from the adjacent development. Guidance from the RSPB was followed for the design of the scrape and the work was carried out by a local contractor.
The muddy margins support high densities of non-biting midge larvae, aquatic insects and, around the edges, earthworms. These are important food for wading birds, like lapwings and redshanks, and for wader chicks. Two days after the scrape was completed a dragonfly was seen investigating the perimeter of the scrape.
Last week the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Andrea Leadsom) announced, through a letter to the UK Natural Capital Committee, that Defra was committed to producing a 25 Year Environment Strategy and that it would be testing the methods to deliver it in a limited number of "Pioneer" areas
The Biosphere has been chosen as the 'Landsape" Pioneer and to be one of two sites included in the 'Marine' Pioneer. Cumbrian has been selected as the 'Catchment' Pioneer and the Greater Manchester area as the 'urban'
The Biosphere's inclusion in two of the pioneer areas is testament to our effective partnership working and success in pushing forward projects to improve this area's environment and deliver the associated economic and social benefits. It provides an exciting opportunity for the Partnership and confirms the Biosphere’ role to test and develop new national policies.
We are already working with Defra, Natural England and other partners to design how the Pioneer will work in support of our strategy and bring innovative finance and methods to deliver growth in our natural environment and the social and economic wellbeing of the area. These Pioneer projects will run over 3 to 5 years initially.
Over the weekend of the 20th and 21st August, volunteers helped the Gaia Trust harvest and spread ‘green hay’ at their Home Farm Marsh Reserve alongside the Tarka Trail between Fremington and Yelland.
Green-haying refers to the process of cutting flower-rich grassland areas on existing wildlife sites and then spreading the hay on prepared ground with a lower wildlife value nearby. It is a cost effective way of transferring the wildflower seeds to new places when they are at their freshest.
Rupert Hawley the Gaia site manager explains that it isn’t always that simple, “Before we could cut the hay and start spreading it, Phil, a local volunteer, and I had to scythe out docks so that we didn’t spread their weed seeds as well as the wildflower ones”.
Phil Metcalfe continued “We collected 4 dumpy bags of dock which as a volunteer, was very satisfying. Even better though, we saw a female merlin race across the field. If we had been using power tools we would not have seen it. Scythes might seem old fashioned but they are ideal for jobs like this”.
The hay was spread the same day by being fired out of the back of the muck spreader and the wild flower seeds should come up next spring. More wild flowers on the site will be great for insects and for many birds that feed on them. They are also a beautiful display that visitors to Home farm Marsh can see and enjoy.
Two recent bat events run by the Biosphere have proved very popular with the public. At High Bickington Community Woodland, 30 villagers attended a bat walk around the wood. Pipistrelle bats were recorded on the North Devon AONB’s i-pad bat detector which can electronically identify species heard. Excellent views of these bats were enjoyed by all, as the bats went up and down the lane adjacent to the wood.
At Fremington Local Nature Reserve, 36 people came to a Bats and Moths Evening. Many people attending had not watched bats before but the bat detectors helped identify the species flying around the open part of the reserve. 5 moth traps were set up and, with the help of some experts, many species of moth were identified including the maiden's blush moth, which is associated with oak woodland.
The next event at Fremington LNR will be a volunteer day on Saturday 22nd October, when various practical projects are planned, including putting up bat boxes.
RegenSW has published its annual review of renewable energy deployment, which for the first year covers the whole of England.
3 page summary for Devon.
The highlights are:
In the Biosphere's 2014 'Energy Report', there was 141MW of renewable energy capacity installed in the North devon Biosphere, about 20% of the entire Devon installed capacity cited in the 2016 regen SW report.
Thousands of visitors come to North Devon every year to experience the spectacular scenery and wildlife. Many take the opportunity to engage with the amazing array of marine life that can be seen both from the coastline and from on board local vessels.
North Devon skippers have long shown a keen interest in protecting the marine life which sustains their livelihoods. In recognition of this an accreditation scheme has been devised through collaboration between Lundy Island and North Devon Biosphere Reserve.
Find out more in the Exmoor Magazine
The Tarka Country Trust and Marsdens Devon Cottages have joined the Biosphere to launch a Community Wildlife Fund.
The grant scheme is currently open for applications from community groups in North Devon and Torridge Districts wanting to carry out small scale projects that both benefit wildlife and involve the community. The Maximum grant is £500
The Biosphere's Estuary Project to use on-farm wetlands to improve water quality and benefit wildlife has come to an end and has been a great success. During the 8 month project five grants were given to farmers that totalled nearly £120K and enabled them to create ditches, sediment traps, reedbeds and other 'soft' engineering measures that improve run-off water quality and help prevent the loss of valuable soil and nutrients into watercourses.
The Project is producing a YouTube film that shows how such measures benefit the environment and the farm's economic bottom line. More