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
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.