These free workshops throw open many hidden aspects of countryside management
Barn owls, slurry management, soil regeneration, the importance of clean rivers and non-native invasive species.
These free workshops throw open many hidden aspects of countryside management
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
A new fund to enable students to study in Africa for a PhD at Cranfield University has been launched, marking the contribution of distinguished former Cranfield water specialist Professor Sue White.
One of the first confirmed projects under the new fund will see a student working on the UNESCO Malindi-Watamu Biosphere Reserve on the coast of Kenya. They will study how sediment run-off from the forest catchment area can be controlled to reduce the impact on coral reefs off the coast using remote surveying and mapping from Bluesky International Ltd.
Andrew Bell, Service Manager and UNESCO Biosphere Co-ordinator, said:
“Getting PhD quality research for this intergovernmental programme is really important for the Malindi Biosphere Reserve. The researcher will be helping to ensure a better future for the area through work with the local community as well as scientific study"
Professor Sue White joined Cranfield University in 2002. Throughout her career she was passionate about welfare in Africa. She became the lead hydrologist on a project looking at how the fragile ecosystem in Tanzania could be better managed, and in 2009 was awarded a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to work at Stanford and Texas A&M universities in the US.
The Sue White Fund for Africa, established with her generous bequest, provides funding to enable students to study for a PhD award with Cranfield University in topics related to her research. The fund will support students researching water and sanitation, catchment processes and water management. Students will be based in Africa for the majority of their studies.
Professor Elise Cartmell, Director of Environmental Technology at Cranfield University said:
“Professor White made a vast contribution to our understanding of water catchment management and its impact on some of the most vulnerable communities in the world, as well as being a valued colleague and inspiring tutor. It is fitting that we are able to support future researchers working in the fields she was passionate about.”
Sheila White, Professor White’s mother who attended the launch, said: “I am very proud and pleased that both Sue and the research she was so passionate about are being acknowledged, remembered and continued in this way by Cranfield University.”
Cranfield University has been awarded a Queen's Anniversary Prize for its work pioneering improved water services which benefits the quality of lives and livelihoods in the most impoverished parts of the world. Professor White’s research and legacy were a key part of this success.
Volunteers learnt the ancient skill of hedgelaying on a one-day training course led by North Devon Biosphere and supported by North Devon AONB. The course was held at Little Comfort Farm, near Braunton, and will directly benefit the colony of rare greater horseshoe bats living nearby, as Helen Parr, Community Engagement Officer for the Devon Greater Horseshoe Bat Project, explains;
“A well-managed hedge provides an excellent home to lots of insects, which in turn are vital food for the bats. Hedgerows also help bats to navigate their way around the countryside at night using echo-location, so are a vital habitat for bats. Thanks to our project partners at the Biosphere and AONB for their support in making this event such a success”.
Tom Hynes, of the North Devon Biosphere, said;
“Hedge Laying is not only an important part of the long term management cycle of a hedge, but it is also a great time to establish new hedgerow trees, which are not only an integral part of our landscape but are also p really important for bats. All the trainees learnt new skills and hopefully many of them will be inspired to continue with this wonderful country craft.”
The Project works with local communities to secure a future for greater horseshoe bats in Devon, their northern European stronghold. It is a partnership project of 19 organisations led by Devon Wildlife Trust and is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as other funders. Braunton is one of only 11 key roosts across Devon.
Greater horseshoes are one of the UK’s biggest bats with a wingspan of almost 40cm. They were once common across southern England but changes in land-use such as urban development and a move away from cattle grazed pastures and hay meadows has led to their disappearance from much of the countryside.
Anyone who wishes to help should contact the project’s Community Engagement Officer, Helen Parr on 01392 279244 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org. The Greater Horseshoe Bat Project has its own website www.devonbatproject.org where you can get lots more information including bat facts and video of the bats in their summer roosts. The project still needs to raise further funds to meet its targets for the next five years and welcomes any donations or support.
For more information about Devon Hedges visit the Devon Hedge Group's new website http://devonhedges.org
Coastwise North Devon is a volunteer organisation that champions the North Devon marine and coastal environment. They run a programme of talks to help people learn about and enjoy the natural history in and near the sea. Other activities include systematic surveys of beaches and their natural history, and practical improvements such as beach cleanups.
Their 2016 spring talks programme
Devon County Council (DCC) is in the process of removing a solar PV array from Barnstaple Civic Centre. They would like to offer the panels to community organisations in Devon (excluding Plymouth and Torbay) at no cost.
The array consists of about 300 panels in total comprised of two different panel types (details attached). The total capacity is about 54kWp. Full specifications in files below.
They could be used on village halls, community owned shops and pubs, scouts/guide huts, sports clubs, places of worship, charity premises etc.
Things to consider:
If you are interested please contact the Biosphere the 18th December 2015 with an expression of interest should be no more than 200 words and describe how you propose to use the panels for community benefit, the total power capacity of the panels you need, and your confidence that your project is financially viable.
In January 2016 those groups that have expressed an interest will be invited to submit an application to Doug Eltham, Environment and Sustainability Policy Officer at DCC as part of a competitive process.
The interpretation boards removed from the Tarka Trail last year have been replaced. They were originally removed because of rot in their supports so the replacement ones are now made of stout oak.
Funding for these replacements has come from Devon County Council's Local Sustainable Transport Fund
Only the board at Bideford station is missing from the collection below.
Today, more than 40 volunteers and local people met at the Clinton Hall in Merton to celebrate a second successful year of the volunteer bases river monitoring project called Riverfly.
Part of a national programme, the project began in the Torridge catchment area in 2014 as part of the Biosphere's Nature Improvement Area Project. Since then, 50 volunteers have sampled at nearly 50 different sites (6% of the national total) and have entered data from 290 samples onto the project database. That is 12% of the national total of 2500.
The volunteers sample the invertebrates living on the stream bed. Some are more tollerant to pollution than others so their presence or absence, and their numbers provide vital clues about what is going on beneath the water's surface. The consistent monthly counts undertaken by the volunteers provide a long term picture of stream health across the catchment.
Click images below to enlarge
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The North Devon Biosphere is offering grants and advice to farmers in North Devon around the estuary through the Taw Torridge Estuary Project, which is helping to reduce diffuse pollution from agriculture and helping to reduce flood risk. Estuary Project grants can be used alongside Countryside Stewardship Grants. More
A report called "The first three years: 2012 - 15. Progress and learning so far" published this week reveals the impact of the Nature Improvement Area in the Torridge. More
Izzy Moser has just been appointed as Fresh Water Pearl Mussel Project Officer for the Biosphere area. Over the next three years she will work with river management partners and local communities to reduce river pollution, build knowledge about this pollution sensitive species and try to safeguard its future in north Devon; some of the most important populations remaining in England.
The Pearl Mussel project part of the Biffa Rebuilding Biodiversity Partnership Scheme that is funding site-based projects to protect and enhance biodiversity across the UK, particularly those concentrating on species and habitats that have been identified as a priority in Biodiversity Action Plans.
The freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) is a long lived species with a potential lifespan of over a hundred years. It is critically endangered with experts believing that diffuse pollution and sedimentation are among the core threats to its survival in England.
Since the start of the year the North Devon Biosphere has organised habitat walkover surveys on 16km of the River Torridge. They have been conducted by 11 volunteers and a co-ordinator, walking the river bank and recording in stream and bankside features. The features are then digitally mapped; making it easy and clear to pinpoint which areas need priority for targeting to improve the river suitability for the mussels.
Two further stretches of the River Torridge will be surveyed throughout May and June.
As well as surveying for important features the volunteers have also been delighted to see and record kingfishers, dippers, wagtails, and evidence of otters as well as witness the onset of Spring and the wildflowers associated, wild garlic, bluebells, and woodland anemones to name a few.
15 new volunteers have begun invertebrate sampling at 20 new sites in the River Torridge catchment as part of the national Riverfly citizen science project.
Riverfly started on the Torridge in 2014 and during that year 32 volunteers were trained and equipped and between them took 69 samples from 30 different sites in the Torridge catchment.
The volunteers are providing a long term monitoring service for river health and provide data that will feed in to Environment Agency monitoring and act as a deterrent to potential polluters. Their efforts help conserve the river environment for a wonderful range of wildlife such as the endangered Fresh Water Pearl Mussel, Atlantic salmon, and kingfisher, and help sustain leisure activities such as fishing and watersports, both of which are big contributors to the local economy.
Riverfly in the Torridge has received support for volunteer training and sampling equipment from North Devon Fisheries Local Action Group (FLAG) and Torridge District Council. The Torridge Fisheries Association has also been very supportive.
A short film about Instow Signal Box on the Tarka Trail; the disused Barnstaple to Bideford railway line in North Devon.
Felton Vowler from Bideford Railway Heritage Centre tells us about the history of the signal box, how the single line tokens were used and what trains ran through Instow Station in the past.
Film produced by the 'North Devon Moving Image'
Local volunteers have begun surveying a 16km stretch of the Torridge river bank between Taddiport Bridge (Torrington) and Beaford Bridge. The surveying involves walking along the river bank recording features including the speed of the flow, the presence or absence of stock fencing, the degree of shading by bankside trees and the presence of any problem drains or ditches. The information will be used to understand the state of the river as a habitat for one of Europe’s ten most threatened species; the freshwater pearl mussel .
This work is part of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel Project funded by Biffa which is working in 4 areas of England, including the River Torridge, over the next three years. Devon Wildlife Trust are leading the project in the Biosphere and over the next few weeks there will be another 6 or seven community survey days, each one aiming to cover about 3Kms of river bank. Over the life of the project there will be work to ‘seed’ salmonid fish with juvenile pearl mussels in an attempt to increase their numbers in the river (they have not successfully bred during the last 50 years). There will also be work to reduce pollution and engage local people with the uncertain future of the iconic pearl mussel which is a species that is very sensitive to pollution.