It is always great to revisit an old project and see it thriving. We worked on the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust’s visitor centre in Arundel, West Sussex in 2010 during a summer that ended up being rather wet.
The weather was challenging and we were required to work on this site whilst it was open to visitors. The project was to desilt a large area of the reserve and create habitat suitable for wading birds and other wetland species.
Visiting years later in frankly much better weather, it was wonderful to see the area teaming with wildlife and looking beautiful.
John and Liz have a long and happy association with Slimbridge, having worked for The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) at this world famous centre for many years themselves (and actually met there in 1994 and since married).
WWT is a world-leading wildlife charity which has promoted the conservation of wildfowl and the importance of wetlands since the late Sir Peter Scott started the organisation in 1946.
Phragmites australis growing at Slimbridge
When John started his company in the year 2000, it was the people at Slimbridge who made space available to grow reeds and other wetland plants for sale and later in 2002, an area to grow willow for coppicing.
The picture below shows John and his son Sam in the willow coppice in 2004 in a picture for the local paper (Sam is now 6′ 4″ and studying physics at university!).
John and Sam in the willow coppice
JPR Environmental still work closely with WWT and have been involved in many projects over the years at Slimbridge and the Arundel Centre in West Sussex. These projects have included maintaining the reedbed that treats the waste water from the visitor centre at Slimbridge, wader scrape and wet meadow creation at Arundel, opening up an old channel on the Slimbridge reserve to create habitat for wetland species and the creation of a water treatment area for the agricultural runoff from the Slimbridge reserve.
Slimbridge 5 Acre water treatment just after planting
In 2021, Slimbridge will celebrate it’s 75th anniversary, just as JPR Environmental celebrates its 21st, and we look forward to working on many more exciting projects with WWT in the future.
A paleo channel being excavated on the Slimbridge reserve before being reflooded
We are interested to read that GWT have launched a new strategy and are rationalising their collection of reserves throughout Gloucestershire.
Their aim is to have fewer, larger reserves to create a better outcome overall for wildlife habitat in the county.
The decision will not have been easy as it will mean that the Trust stops managing some of their smaller reserves – this is likely to be unpopular with some of their members and supporters. However, the Trust has assured people that they will do everything they can to find others to take on the long-term management of those smaller reserves.
The Trust are quick to point out that this new strategy is the result of a review that has occurred over 18 months and is not about cost cutting. They are looking at the £1 million they spend on managing land for wildlife each year and where best this is spent for the benefit of the greatest area of land. They argue that this new strategy significantly increases their ability to deliver the ‘Bigger, better and more joined up’ approach, highlighted as vital to nature’s recovery by the Lawton report.
We at JPR Environmental will be interested to see where this strategy leads the Trust and will watch with interest – and we’ll leave the last word to the Trust:
This move also enables us to take on new sites and do more work with other landowners, farmers and wildlife organisations, which will expand and connect existing wildlife-rich sites within Priority Landscape Areas. By the end of 2021 we will have fewer nature reserves, but the total area of land managed for wildlife may already be slightly higher than before the estate review. This not only shifts our work to a landscape-scale, but reduces paperwork so that more time can be spent doing what matters most.
The people at the Hartpury Heritage Trust who run The Hartpury Orchard Centre (home to the national collection of perry pears) had a vision in the early 2000s to expand the wetland below their perry orchards from one to 4 hectares and create a haven for wildlife. In 2021, that wetland is home to an environment where you can now see 15 Red List and 16 Amber List Birds of Conservation Concern.
The wetland was designed by an ecologist contracted by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust who worked closely with JPR staff to make the project on the ground match the vision. The works involved moving many thousands of tonnes of soil, creating channels and ditches, planting marginal aquatics and controlling water levels. As soon as the newly created ditches started flooding with water, dragonflies came skimming along the surface, looking for places to lay their eggs.
This wetland is spring fed from the slopes above and landscaped to provide differing depths of water. It consists of scrapes, marsh, deep pools and ditches and provides excellent habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, not just birds.
It was a wonderful site to work on and an enjoyable, collaborative project all those years ago (we started work in 2007 and finished in 2008) – we go back every now and again to see how it is getting on. On one such visit, we even saw otter prints!
I set up Slimbridge Wetland Plants in 2000 as a sole trader, growing and supplying native wetland plants for the landscaping industry. Quite soon I realised that there was a wider need for our landscaping services and that’s the direction the company took, developing a specialism in wetlands and ecological landscaping.
Over the years, we have grown a strong client base which continues to expand and we are often working with ecologists and developers who need mitigation works on development sites where there are protected species.
My own passion is for water and wetlands and the company is often called on for our expertise in erosion control and specialist water treatment works using reedbeds.
Slimbridge Wetland Plants became a limited company, trading as JPR Environmental in 2002. We have come a long way from our first sale of 2 reed plugs (£2, no VAT, from memory) and have weathered (literally) everything that gets thrown at landscapers from equipment failures to extreme weather plus the usual business challenges of economic slow-downs and changes in legislation.
Little did we or anyone else think that 2020 would present one of the biggest challenges in the shape of a global pandemic and we feel blessed that we have been able to carry on working and, in fact, grow our business during this time. My heart goes out to anyone affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, whether on a personal level or through a business that has felt the impact of lockdown.
We would be nowhere without our team, both past and present, and it is a pleasure to work with them. They have a wide range of skills and are prepared to get up early (sometimes very early) and come home late when it’s necessary to complete a project and, of course, go out in literally any weather. Floods and temperatures below minus 10 might give us pause but little else on the weather front does.
Over the next 12 months, we will be revisiting projects and clients from the past 21 years – do keep checking back in for the latest update.
JPR Environmental are delighted to have been involved in the construction work on a wetland treatment system at the world-famous wildlife site at Slimbridge.
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, as part of the Severn Vision Project, has designed this water treatment system to ensure that any water used in the reserve is cleaned naturally.
We were involved in the excavation of the ponds, the construction of the ditches, the installation of the pumps and finally, in the planting. It was during the wonderful, warm, summer months last year – which seem like a lifetime away in the depths of a cold January.
The pools are already creating breeding areas for frogs, toads and newts and there is now perfect habitat for wading birds and dragonflys.
The overall result is a multi-functioning wetland treatment system that includes open water, reedbed, surface flow marsh and shallow emergent swamp covering an area larger than an Olympic swimming pool. It is efficient and clean, and allows for better water controls across the whole reserve while providing habitat for a variety of wetland animals.
We have been involved in so many great projects with WWT over the years – this one has been particularly satisfying. If you would like to read more about the project on WWT’s website, please click this link. Alternatively, you can read our full case study here.
We are delighted to be sponsoring the autumn conference of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM) this December.
The title of the conference is Time to Change: Putting the Environment at the Heart of Social and Economic Wellbeing.
The conference comes at a crucial time. So many aspects of our lives have been affected by the spread of Covid-19 with huge impacts on our society, our economy and our perspectives on what the future could look like.
Of even greater significance to the world than this pandemic is the climate emergency; an emergency for which there is no vaccine. The spread of Covid-19 has put us at a crossroads with choices about whether to ‘return to normal’ or take a greener path by putting action to tackle the climate emergency and biodiversity loss at the core of political and financial instruments to aid economic recovery.
It seems that every week (sometimes every day) there are new announcements locally, nationally and internationally about how we are going to ‘build back better’ or ‘build back greener’ so this conference couldn’t be more timely.
We are looking forward to the talks and presentations and of course, to catching up with many of our colleagues and clients.
Japanese Knotweed causes developers and property owners stress and expense in the UK and there have been many discussions about the best way to manage its growth.
Most countries are very reluctant to use biological controls as these have often caused more problems than they were originally introduced to control. If you have an hour to spare, check out the often hilarious documentary about the introduction of the Hawaiian sugar-cane toads through Australia in a botched effort to introduce them as counter pests (Cane Toads: An Unnatural History).
However, the Dutch government has made an unusual decision to issue an exemption on the ban on introducing alien species in the face of spiralling costs related to controlling Japanese Knotweed.
Preliminary tests in the Netherlands have suggested that Japanese knotweed psyllids or leaf fleas, can kill young shoots and potentially stop the plant growing by sucking up their sap. Now they just need to check whether the fleas can successfully hibernate over winter and establish themselves in the new year.
Suzanne Lommen, the entomologist coordinating the trial has said: “Complete pest control is extremely difficult and very expensive. We will have to combine various methods to get the Asian knotweed under control. We know from the Japanese knotweed psyllid that it can kill young shoots and slow down or even stop the growth of the plant by sucking up sap – nutrition – from the plant. If the psyllid can establish, reproduce and spread, and do the damage we see in the breeding trials, it can hopefully inhibit the growth and spread of Asian knotweed. Then you have a very cheap and environmentally friendly solution with many years of effect that you can combine with the more expensive methods.”
It has been concluded that the psyllids do not pose a threat to native biodiversity but there is a chance the fleas will not take to the Dutch climate – hence the anxious wait to see if they successfully survive the winter. We will watch with interest.
The latest edition of Waterlife from The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust has a fascinating piece on the Paleo Channel work on their reserve at Slimbridge.
JPR have been involved in the project and we have thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck into the work.
“Forging watery corridors between our blue and green spaces creates habitat for wildlife, providing safe passageways for animals to disperse and forage”, says WWT in their article.
This new waterway, which links the nort of the reserve with the south, has been brought back to life for birds, plants, insects and mammals. Wigeon and white-fronted geese were already using this new wetland corridor last winter. This summer, wetland plants started to colonise and more than five different species of dragonflies and damselflies have been seen hovering above the water. Shoals of small fish have attracted grey herons and littel egrets and there have been signs of otters at both ends of the watercourse.
Here is the full article that appeared in The WWT magazine, 214 November 2020/February 2021:
Restoring ancient waterways
Connecting wetlands is one of WWT’s priorities for the future. Forging watery corridors between our blue and green spaces creates habitat for wildlife, providing safe passageways for animals to disperse and forage.
One new waterway – which we created from an old saltmarsh creek at WWT Slimbridge last autumn – has already become a hit with local wildlife.
Linking up the north of the reserve with the south, where the visitor centre is, this ‘palaeo-channel’ has been brought back to life for birds, plants, insects and mammals.
The word palaeo means old or ancient, particularly when referring to geological periods of time. This particular water channel has been cleared and now follows the same route it traced centuries ago, before the marshes were drained.
The new wetland corridor has already been adopted by local wildlife. Last winter, wigeon and white-fronted geese found it much to their liking. This summer, wetland plants started to colonise and more than five different species of dragonflies and damselflies have been seen hovering above the water.
Shoals of small fish have attracted grey herons and little egrets, and a sedge warbler was seen in this newly restored area of the reserve – our first sighting in many decades of recording.
Otter poo – known as spraint – has been found at either end of the watercourse, where it meets the ditches. The new corridor means these enchanting mustelids can now swim along the channel, and no longer have to cross open fields to move between one part of the reserve and another.
This palaeo-channel is part of just over three kilometres of ditches that have been restored or created across the reserve, connecting new areas of wetlands and providing more space for Slimbridge’s diverse wildlife to roam, feed and find a mate. We also hope the new ‘blue corridor’ will be popular with migratory eels and other fish species; linking up the various wetland channels will make it the perfect eel highway.
But our work doesn’t end there. We’re now linking two channels with a pond and a large nesting island intended for cranes. We have also been busy building bunds to run across low-lying areas to make access easier.
Work like this demonstrates that centuries of wetland destruction can be reversed and healthy ecosystems restored. It’s vital to link up wildlife hotspots with blue and green corridors. We continually try to create a positive working balance between farming and wildlife, and believe the two can work hand in hand. Given time, funding and continuing support from others, we can work wonders for wildlife, together.
The paleo channels at the wildlife reserve at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire are a set of old depressions that run across what is now intensively managed grasslands and mark a line of old saltmarsh drainage.
One old channel is around 700m long, a few metres wide and around half a metre deep in places. The focus in opening this channel up has been to create open water in the middle of a wide, open area of land.
The project that JPR Environmental has worked on with The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) has been designed to attract a range of species and in particular, the wildlife that WWT is famous for, the grazing wildfowl: wigeon, teal and geese including white fronted geese. Many wildfowl like an open body of water in a big, wide open area.
There are other wildlife targets for this project including glaucous club-rush which has already colonised the edge of the channel and is associated with coastal floodplains and the wildlife they support.
Other birds have already been seen in the newly opened channel including broods of shovelers and wading birds, in particular, herons and egrets.
One of the aims of WWT is to look after migratory eel and fish populations and the good, clean water is going to be really valuable for them.
The project to open the channel has been hand in hand with a project to remove some larger trees to make the site more open. The reserve is already seeing increased use by wintering wildfowl with large numbers of wigeon, a species which is declining along the Severn.
The egrets have been the greatest suprise with how much they have used the area. Three species of egret are now common including little egret, cattle egret and great white egret. As egrets colonise the UK, this will be a valuable feeding area for them.
The removal of the trees and the opening of the channel has created some wide, open views which adds something to what would be a fairly sterile area of intensively managed grassland and has created some top notch wildlife habitat.