Thursday, 31 October 2013

Focus Nature Notes. Don't Tidy up Mrs. Tiggy

Well  I was doing my bit for nature, leaving the hedge-trimming, pruning and tidying up until later so not to disturb the nesting birds. My garden, I am proud to say, is quite small, rather untidy, a tangle of climbers, overgrown shrubs and not so pristine lawns but this also makes it very wild-life friendly. Last  week I finally started cutting back the hedges, the flowering shrubs, honeysuckle and roses and generally tidying up. I started by adding an extension to my Critter Hotel  with an old up-turned wicker cat basket thinking it might be a cosy winter shelter for our resident hedgehogs. I must say I was very happy with the result, I was “Giving Nature a Home”, a veritable palace built out of cut down cable hose, logs and evergreen  branches. I was also emptying the compost bins spreading it around the flower beds and the base of the shrubs for the Blackbirds and Robins to rummage through. I eventually worked my way to the messiest corner of the garden where unused pots and trays have lain undisturbed for a couple of years. I lifted up some corrugated plastic sheeting and Noooooooo- in the far corner curled up like a hairy caterpillar was a sleeping hedgehog.  She was in the perfect place beneath the Beech trees, nestled in a leafy mattress with easy access to the path for her nightly forages in the garden. I immediately put the sheet back, sprinkled with leaves, hoping that I hadn’t disturbed her, feeling so guilty wondering if she was already hibernating or just having an afternoon nap. So the moral of the story is nature will find a home in the unlikeliest places, in messy pots, clumps of twigs and leafy litter. The beginning of November is when hedgehogs normally settle down for  the winter and as Guy Fawkes Night approaches this is a time to be extra vigilant. Devon Wildlife Trust advise leaving bonfire building as late as possible. Our hedgehogs have been in the garden for years but I have never known where their home is, I also didn’t know that they will usually wake and forage more than once through the winter so I will continue to leave a few nuts by the door on warmer nights.Article and Photo Pat Adams 1/11/2013

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Factory goes Boom

The Factory venue has teamed up with Boom Artists-a spin-off from the UK's fastest growing festival Boomtown Fair, and they have been busy programming a season of cutting edge music events that are set to change the face of live music for the local area. This first series of events is called Saturday Night Live and they run from October through to December. You are invited to experience quality live Ska, Reggae, Dub, Funk and Hip Hop through The Factory's state of the art sound and lighting rigs. Make way for headliners Babyhead, The Skints and Dr Meaker, plus legendary DJ Ed Solo is coming to play out the season's finale. Featuring alongside these established artists are handpicked rising stars from across the South West, all bringing their unique sounds and styles to The Factory. Please check out Skata Tones, The Dead Betas, Jamie Mead, Shire Roots and Blazenstein, Cut Capers, The ASBO Disco and DJ Wonka. The Factory will also be running competitions for acts who want to join some of these line-ups and news of these will be appearing on 'The Factory Petroc' Facebook page.

Monday, 7 October 2013

River restoration making a splash!

A project which aims to improve the water quality and wildlife of a Westcountry river has made a splash in East Devon. The project is a joint initiative between Devon Wildlife Trust and the Sid Vale Association. It is based on a six mile stretch (plus tributaries ) of the beautiful and popular River Sid upstream from Sidmouth. Devon Wildlife Trust's Scott West is leading the project: 'Many people know and love the River Sid. It's somewhere that local communities walk, play and live beside. It's also a key component of what brings tourists to this wonderful part of the world. What the project is aiming to do is to ensure that the river remains as a special place for and people and wildlife. That means looking after its water quality and making sure that it can continue to support a wide diversity of life.' After six months of the project Scott has certainly got to know the river intimately having achieved an impressive amount of work which has included:
  • Walking the entire length of the river and its main tributaries , not using its banks but actually in the river in waders! 
  • Taking surveys of invertebrate life (typically mayflies and waterbugs) from along the river as a means of evaluating its water quality status. 
  • Conducting a series of 'electro-fishing' surveys of the river - whereby fish are temporarily immobilised by an electric current (this is only done under consent by the Environment Agency). 
  • Consulting with and advising ten local major landowners regarding land management and its impact on the river 
Scott underlined the project's potential 'It's also an opportunity to see how positive management on the Sid can lead to healthier rivers not just here but across East Devon. We plan to take the lessons learned on this one small river catchment working with local landowners and enhancing riverside habitats and then apply them to other rivers.' The River Sid already supports an amazing amount of wildlife including such iconic species as kingfishers, otters, brown trout and damselflies, but Scott believes it could to support more. Scott said, 'This river has the potential to support other well-known but threatened species, perhaps the best example would be migrating Atlantic salmon. This river and other rivers like it would once have contained good numbers of salmon. Local people recall seeing them in years past. Our ambition is that the Sid and its neighbouring rivers might one day support species like this again.' The project is not only targeting the lives of the rivers wildlife, instead it is also engaging local communities through an ambitious education programme. Devon Wildlife Trust's Education Officer Paul Martin has been working with two local schools - Sidbury Primary and Sidmouth Primary - on a series of 'river days'. Paul explained: 'On river days we take groups of local children out to the River Sid. We assign them stretches of the river and ask them to explore them recording the wildlife that they find. The idea behind the visits is to get the children more familiar with their local river, to appreciate its beauty and to learn about the wonderful life it supports. The children certainly seemed to have enjoyed the experience!' The project's encouraging start bodes well for its next phase. Scott West explained, 'These initial months have been about understanding the river, its wildlife and the pressures upon it. It's also been about recognising the potential areas in which good local management can make a really positive impact. The next steps are threefold. First, to offer clear advice to local landowners on how they can play their part. Second, to address some of the physical barriers which face migrating fish, so for example introducing fish passes (ladders or pools) to help them overcome weirs. And lastly, to restore habitats along the river's banks - one special area we hope to tackle is the introduction of fencing to prevent cattle from entering the river.' 

Photo: Kingfishers are just one of the species being helped on the River
Sid. Copyright Chris Root