In 1994 the committee agreed that a wildlife area should be established and maintained on three plots (21 to 23) which had been abandoned in the 1980’s due to frequent flooding in the winter months.  Jim Mansbridge and Jean Galsworthy (both no longer with us) were the leaders of the project.

Some of plot 23 (the section by the current main entrance to the now called Nature Reserve was reworked to include a pond and an area seeded with wild flowers and grasses.  New plants and trees were added to the boundary of the area next to plots 20 and 24.  The rest was left to nature, the area mainly being the ash trees that are self-seeded with brambles growing at ground level – the intention was that this undisturbed area would be a haven for wildlife.

Following Jim’s death in 2007 (age 90) the maintenance of the area was mainly carried out by Jean until about 2015 when her health declined and she was no longer able to carry on looking after the it.  The area was left to nature until …

Nature Reserve early 2018
Nature Reserve brambles 2018
Nature Reserve ash trees and brambles 2018
Nature Reserve overgrown in 2018

In May 2019 we were contacted by Catherine Shaw (via the RHS) who was looking to take part in a community gardening project.  The area had become overgrown with brambles and didn’t seem to be appreciated by the wildlife, so it seemed like an ideal opportunity to start making things better.

The initial session of cutting back some of the brambles (Catherine and John Packham (treasurer)) was followed by a number of work parties with other members lending a hand, cutting back more brambles, digging out the roots, digging a new pond, creating paths etc.  Some of the excess living and dead trees were cut down to reduce tree overcrowding. By Oct 2019 the main clearances had been completed and the Reserve was beginning to take shape.  Then the rains came and work came to a halt for the winter.

Working Party April 2019
Working Party April 2019
March 2020

In late February 2020 work re-commenced and then the first Covid lockdown began.  Since working on allotments was specifically allowed the renewal of the area continued with everyone being very careful to keep at least 2m apart.  The digging out of the pond was completed and a lining put in place, the pavilion was built (mostly by Peter Woods and Kim Robinson) with a paved floor being laid and general improvements to the area continued.

Lining the Big Pond March 2020
Big Pond and Paths Woodchipped April 2020
Pavilion Construction April 2020

Since then we’ve just been gradually making things a little better.  One example is installing tanks to collect rainwater from the pavilion roof, the water being used during summer months to top up the two ponds.

The project continues to slowly evolve and we have decisions yet to be made.  We’ve achieved a lot and the wildlife seems to appreciate the changes.  And we’ve introduced some native plants which are threatened in the wild.  But, for example, what should we do about the many very tall, self-seeded ash trees which cover about half of the area?  It would be nice to have a variety of other trees instead.  However the disease known as Ash Die Back is killing thousands of ash trees a year and we have a healthy group of them.  Should we leave them alone or gradually replace them?

The video below is a walk through of the area in June ’21, the first summer of the mostly finished Nature Reserve.

Panorama of Nature Reserve – West via North to East
Panorama of Nature Reserve – East via South to West