Sunday, September 16, 2007

Reevy Mill Dam, 14/09/07

Three new recent volunteer recruits were a massive help on Friday. Thanks guys! This site used to provide power for a water wheel for a now long gone mill. Now it is a little oasis in the middle of Buttershaw with a large pond which is home to a small family of coots.

It is also where the adjacent school's litter all blows and once again we removed bags and bags of it which the Clean Team from the council kindly took away. Boys like to fish in the pond and the ones we have spoken to seem to bemoan the litter and have a healthy respect for the site. One problem though is that a lot of fishing wire is left on site causing a hazard to wildlife. One teenager told us of a magpie he had saved the life of which had become completely entangled in it.

There was also a lot of mowing and scything to be done to maintain the areas of wildflower meadow. The cut grass is removed so that the fertility of the soil doesn't increase. This gives the wildflowers an advantage by discouraging the grass.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Balsam bashing & knotweed... gnashing? Boars Well, 10 Aug '07

Only a handfull of people joined the fight on Friday. Our BCEP trainee division was down from five to just two committed men and volunteer numbers were mysteriously low. However this elite band made huge dents in the Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam. I dunno! These foreigners! Coming over here, taking all our land and spreading their seed... Well, of course we don't try and eradicate them just 'cos they're foreign but because nothing on these shores has evolved around these plants so they are just not on the menu. With no natural control there is only us to stem their advance. Today, the discovery that pulled Himalayan Balsam makes for great javelins meant we were really on our guard. From the dense cover of the forests of balsam, huge, long stems were shooting past our ears.

BTW, message to volunteers today: Yes, the exploding seed heads of Himalyan Balsam are fun but this is considered collaboration with the enemy. I only exploded one. And it was a controlled demonstration event.

Apple Juice! Orchard, Wedn 8 Aug, 07

An open day at our West Bowling Community Orchard saw plenty of activity. A group of teenagers from the YMCA (BEES is part of YMCA Bradford) got stuck into re-woodchipping the path and a few participated in craft activities. We made bottle cap shakers and decorated them. We also helped a couple of the teenagers to produce drinks-can alcohol-stoves which was a big achievement. Once the stoves were finished they boiled a kettle over one and enjoyed a well earned cup of coffee. Lunch was a BBQ with BEES' charcoal that we made last Summer. The veggie burgers and sausages were cause for much protestation until the teenagers actually tasted them and they seemed to be converted!

The most exciting thing about the day was the inaugral outing of BEES' new apple press. It crushes apples then squeezes them so that most of the juice flows into a container. It's a fantastic olde-worldey machine and I'm sure it will have a nickname soon enough. This was a practice run for our bigger apple day event on Sat 13th October. Our apples will be ripe by then so this time round we bought in some boxes of English apples and made litres and litres of sweet and refreshing apple juice. It was very popular with our visitors from the West Bowling Youth Initiative. Come along to Apple Day in October and you'll be able to pick your own apple juice!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Boars Well Nature Reserve

We manage a long tract of land known as Boars Well. It was at this site, long ago, where the incident occurred that gave the Bradford Coat of Arm's it's tongueless Boars Head. A bounty had been put on the head of a boar that had been terrorising the peace loving folk of little Bradford village. One man who came across the boar drinking at the well on this site killed it, cut off it's tongue and set off for the town hall to claim his bounty. Another man who had been watching this, let the first man leave then cut off the boars head, put it on his cart and took it double-speed to the town hall. When he got there he couldn't explain why the head was tongueless until the real boar-killer turned up and claimed the bounty that was rightfully his!

On Friday we were eradicating different pests: Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed. Both these invasive species left unchecked would take over the entire site, crowding out our native species and leading to a decline in biodiversity along the food chain. Because they don't originate from these shores there is very little natural control because the wildlife hasn't evolved to eat them. The elephant hawk-moth has been found to eat himalayan balsam. They do their best, bless 'em but really we are the only thing between these invasive species and a blanket mono-culture of our whole island.

The knotweed grows massive blocking out all light beneath for the gentler folk of the plant world. One patch on our site was literally a forest. We cut the knotweed down in swathes and the council will spray the remaining stalks to really give us the advantage. Luckily himalayan balsam is easily plucked from the ground, roots and all but it is horrendously abundant.

Luckily we had an army of volunteers to join the fight. There were 6 new short term European volunteers, a handfull of people from the student's union, our BCEP trainee division and the usual Friday crew.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Urban Nature Reserve

Last Friday we cleared the already trodden paths of weeds and laid down woodchip. This was on a nature reserve that we manage, tucked away at the back of the Laisteridge Lane University of Bradford Campus.

The most exciting thing for me was when I hit stone under the soil with my fork along a few metres of the path. It was buried under a thick mulch of woodland matter but I scraped it back and voila!: there was one ready made section paved with stone! I have yet to find the extent of it but it seems quite wide. It could even turn out to be a sort of patio rather than just a narrow path. More digging next time!

The site has been through different uses. Long ago it was farmed and before we started managing it as a nature reserve it had been run as a garden. This has sparked my interest in it's history and I will try and find out more.

The Robins on the site are always completely unflustered by our presence. One landed at my feet as I was talking. It paused a while and then hopped into the undergrowth. We also saw a red damselfly and an azure blue damselfly. We can identify these after we invited an expert down to our open day last week. Children who turned up from the local community had a great time. One family was literally the nearest flat which was part of the university halls of residence. They particularly seemed to enjoy the pond dipping and they also made bird feeders and lacewing hotels. They didn't want to touch the huge and rather alien looking dragonfly nymphs though!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pond Platform part 2.

On Friday we finished off the dipping platform in fantastic weather. It was hard work but we are really pleased with the results. The platform juts out into the pond so that the edge is already in quite deep water. Once we stopped concentrating on work and began to look into the water at the edge of the platform we were immediately amazed at the amount of extra wildlife activity you can see. Newts pop up regularly to grab air and there are loads of pond snails which crawl over the pond weed. Previously, children had to scoop the snails out with nets to see them at which point the creatures would hide in their shells and stay there. Now you can see them in the clear water as they move about.

We were helped by University of Bradford students who were taking part in national volunteers week. They got loads of vegetation cleared so that access to the wooded area is massively improved. Hope to see you next week too, guys! For the second week running the Telegraph and Argus photographed our efforts. If anyone spots us in the paper, please let us know and keep us a copy!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Urban Nature Reserve pond platform pt.1

Great task yesterday! We embarked on a dipping platform at the BEES Urban Nature Reserve on the Laisteridge Lane University Campus. We got 6 solid posts in ready to take the joists and tread boards. We hope to finish it next week and the result will enable children to pond dip more safely. We saw newts which I always find exciting!

Others worked at eradicating the invasive species Giant Hogweed from the site. Due to our efforts in the past, the amount coming up this year has been greatly reduced.

The press turned up to photograph the work going on and I'll be rushing out to see ourselves in the T&A today!

I have recently been on a bushcraft course and Guille, from Spain on a European volunteer scheme requested a fire by friction tutorial. We made a bow drill set and back at home, managed to produce fire with it!