Churring in the sedges: the amazing worlds of YACWAG
at Blagdon Lake Visitor Centre Every Sunday May 5 – June 30, 12noon-5pm
Watch the mighty beam engine • Climb to the top of the beam engine hall • Have a go on the WaterAid pump • Try the computer demos • Explore the nature trail • Feed the trout
The visitor centre and grounds are open each Sunday for just two months this year, but longer opening hours, so why not bring a picnic. Refreshments are also on sale. There’s free entry and parking. It’s an afternoon of fun and discovery for kids and grown ups.
The Visitor Centre is next to Blagdon Lake, off the A368, through Blagdon village.
For more details call 0117 953 6470 or visit www.bristolwater.co.uk/leisure
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The Yatton and Congresbury Wildlife Action Group is one of the Strawberry Line District’s most pro-active organisations. Wellies on, Harry Mottram spoke to Faith Moulin about their work
Right on our doorstep is an amazing world of tiny creatures, rare birdlife, dazzling reptiles, secretive harvest mice and exquisite butterflies. Otters and voles and slithering eels. A fabulous reserve of nature that in part is cared for by the strangely named YACWAG. The Yatton and Congresbury Wildlife Action Group as it is known in full is a community organisation dedicated to preserving, enhancing and recording the flora and fauna of the Strawberry Line District around the two parishes.
Faith Moulin from the voluntary group was keen to point out that recent work carried out by YACWAG should not be confused with the somewhat hamfisted drainage work carried out by farmers this spring.
She said: “We have created new ‘pondlings’ on the section from Yatton to Congresbury, to provide more watery habitat. But our nice neat work should
not be confused with the work done by local farmers (with no permission) who have smashed down trees and made a terrible mess on the nature reserve while trying to improve drainage of their fields adjacent to the line. Annoyingly, if they had asked, we would have had our contractor do the work for them and it would have not caused any damage and we would have paid.”
The work of YACWAG is unwittingly appreciated by thousands of visitors who use the cycle and walk way on sunny days - and of course by the wild creatures of the land. Faith said: “On Congresbury Moor last year, adjacent to the Strawberry Line between Yatton and Congresbury, a pair of barn owls set up residence in one of YACWAG’s nestboxes for the eleventh year. In spite of the weather they eventually managed to rear two chicks.”
Faith said: “The management of the Strawberry Line along the Yatton to Congresbury section looks drastic this spring but it will benefit breeding birds as it will provide rich feeding areas. The aim is to provide a mosaic of habitats, with some open areas and some dense scrub and bramble for birds to nest in. Some new little ponds have been created along this section of the Strawberry Line. These increase the water available to the rare aquatic insects and snails which live on the Biddle Street Site of Special Scientific Interest, as well as frogs, toads and the grass
snakes which hunt them.”
YACWAG works with Natural England and North Somerset Council under a ten year agreement to ensure that the margins of the path are managed in a way that benefits wildlife. Apart from the path and a metre verge, the Strawberry Line between Yatton station and the River Yeo at Congresbury is managed by them under a 10-year Higher Level Stewardship agreement with DEFRA in accordance with a management plan agreed with Natural England and North Somerset Council who own it. The Strawberry Line forms the boundary of the nationally important wetland Biddle Street Site of Special Scientific Interest.
One of the issues faced by YACWAG is the public’s perception of what a nature reserve should look like. Some believe it should be like a manicured park - in reality a nature reserve should be a bit wild - that’s the way the animals, birds and insects like it. Last summer the lush vegetation gave rise to a number of complaints about this section being ’untidy’ but YACWAG aims to manage it for biodiversity not tidiness. The Strawberry Line was created as a Local Nature Reserve and legislation requires that the interest of users should not jeopardise the nature conservation interest. (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981).
Faith said: “The Strawberry Line is a public amenity which is appreciated by many people for the very reason that others complain. However, the vegetation must be cut back sometimes and this is done every year sensitively in the close season and, although not responsible for it, YACWAG is included in discussions about issues concerning the state of the path. YACWAG will continue to try to inform people about the reasons for our lack of concern about ’untidy’ long vegetation in the summer months when it is harbouring so much wildlife. If the ditch banks were cut short during the summer we would very soon lose much of the wildlife pleasure of the site - including the hum of bees and flies, the marvellous songs of the Cetti’s warbler, the churring of the sedge warbler and the winter squeals of the water rail. And life is just that bit richer for a bit of churring on a summer evening.”
YACWAG membership is £4 a year. For details contact Win Lowman on 01934 833596, or visit www.yacwag.org.uk
Images: work in creating pondlets along the path’s side; a noticeboard set up at Congresbury station by the group and below images taken by members of YACWAG showing a mysterious creature - can you name it? (email strawberryline firstname.lastname@example.org
with your guess) plus a butterfly and the nest of the elusive harvest mice
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