Nature: Looking after Lavells

Nature: Looking after Lavells
RG10 Mag

Since last autumn I’ve become interested in the work of Lavell’s Wetlands Trust, which local wildlife lovers may have previously known as the Friends of Lavell’s Lake. The nature reserve is adjacent to the Dinton Pastures Country Park in Hurst.

We’ve so far published two articles in RG10 magazine by its chairman, or rather ‘Chief Visionary Officer’, Fraser Cottington. The title is apt: he is a force of nature himself, an avid bird watcher and passionate about the nature reserve he and many other volunteers have cared for over the years.

Mindful that a lot of work was due to be taking place to create the ideal conditions for the influx of migrating birds, I was wondering what effect the Coronavirus restrictions were having on plans. Also the charity had just recently received Wokingham Borough Council approval for a project to expand reed beds and marshes at Lea Farm Lake later in the summer, funded by a £42k grant from Network Rail. And they are still running a bit fundraising drive for a new state-of-the-art bird hide in 2021.

I had a virtual catch-up with Fraser in the run-up to Easter and this is what he had to say…

Good news

“The migrating birds are arriving: Sand Martins are starting to use the artificial wall, the first Swallows are coming through, lots of Chiffchaff and Blackcap are here, just 1-2 Willow Warbler came and went, and we had our first Wheatear yesterday. Lots of butterflies are out due to the lovely sunshine. Sandford Lane is much quieter and even though the hides are closed we can all enjoy the bird song even more.”

Bad news

“When the local authority started closing car parks, many more people began cramming into the limited spaces available. Sadly we also saw an increase in the amount of poo bags, litter, fly tipping, and even poaching incidents. Unfortunately, and presumably to head off the possibility of people congregating over the sunny Easter weekend, the council has now closed all access – even pedestrian – into the Sandford Lake area. Public footpaths remain open around Dinton Pastures, but the only access I am aware of is either on the public footpath parallel with the old golf course behind the Dinton Activity Centre, or along the Loddon from beside the Aviation Museum in Woodley. Anyone attempting access from the north along the Loddon will be met with huge fences at Sandford and therefore need to walk west to east through Lavell’s. We would ask anyone planning this route to please keep any dogs on leads all the way along past Lea Farm and through Lavell’s.”

How people can help

“Take your litter home and whether you are walking or cycling, bring a bag and just pick up one item of rubbish: in no time we’ll have none, and won’t that be a wonderful thing?

“If anyone reading this has expertise in capturing webcam video and sending it over sim based data services, we want to hear from them. We are chomping at the bit to put up a new Barn Owl box and get a camera going, powered by a solar panel. We have no wires anywhere near, so the sim based route to getting data to a YouTube channel is the big challenge.”

Bird watching from home

Even if you can’t get out at all, Fraser is recording videos from his bird watching outings which you can enjoy on his YouTube channel.

For more information about Lavell’s Wetlands Trust, visit the website

Click here to see the LWT article in the Jan/Feb 2020 edition of RG10 magazine.

Click here to see the LWT article in the Mar/Apr 2020 edition of RG10 magazine.