In 2016, the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (the Trust) recognised that wildlife was becoming increasingly isolated on their nature reserves in the Lugg Valley with the health of the River Lugg struggling due to high pollution levels. Since then, the Trust has worked to reduce pollution entering the river, improve soil health and create wildlife corridors that are vital for wildlife to disperse throughout the landscape. Extreme weather events, caused by climate change, including flooding, have made these corridors more important than ever for the survival of wildlife.
Over the past few years, the Trust have managed extensive habitat restoration works at Bodenham Lake and purchased a new reserve just along the River Lugg at Oak Tree Farm. These works have been done with design help from The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and construction works by ecological contractors, JPR Environmental.
Bodenham Lake has long been a favourite amongst wildlife lovers and is the largest water body in Herefordshire at over 50 acres of open water. In the past, the value of the Lake as a nature reserve has been limited by the fact that the sides were steep having been formed by gravel extraction. The restoration work has included reprofiling areas of the lake’s sides, creating shallower banks and encouraging reedbeds (Phragmites) to establish. Reedbed habitat is essential for many iconic wetland species including bearded tits, bitterns and reed warblers but is becoming increasingly scarce across the UK.
Thousands of tonnes of soil were moved to reprofile three steep sided areas of the lake, creating one hectare of shallower banks, and 1,600 reeds (phragmites) planted. These reedbed areas are now doing well and attracting a variety of wildlife including great white egret and cattle egret which are new to this site.
There are five islands interspersed on the Lake and these have been improved for ground nesting and wading birds as part of the European Regional Development Funded ‘Delivering the Nutrient Management Plan’ project. Less than a year after island works were completed, two oystercatcher chicks hatched. These are the first chicks of this species to have ever hatched at Bodenham Lake. Across the UK oystercatcher are declining in number, and they are listed on the Amber list of Birds of Conservation Concern.
In 2020, the Trust purchased Oak Tree Farm, which lies in the heart of the Lugg Valley. These riverside fields have fantastic potential to become a steppingstone for wetland wildlife between Bodenham Lake nature reserve and Wellington Gravel Pits, two of the most important sites for wetland birds in the county. The Trust were awarded funding from National Highways as part of their Network for Nature programme to create a wetland at Oak Tree Farm of shallow pools, ponds, wet grassland and reedbed, enhancing the ecological corridor running through the landscape.
The new wetland will provide food and nesting habitat for some of our iconic wetland wildlife species which are becoming increasingly threatened. The site will have public access to two bird hides and form part of the Trust’s suite of Lugg Valley nature reserves, where people will be able to enjoy the babble of the curlew and watch the fuzzy lapwing chicks running around from the bird hides.
Main photo credit: Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. Aerial shots of contractors JPR Environmental re-profiling one of the areas of the Lake bank with silt curtain in place to contain the silt whilst works are underway. Images courtesy of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust.