Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Half Term 2009

Visitor Centre Extension
Work on the extension to the visitors’ centre is proceeding on time. The old end wall will be removed next week and the contractors will be putting skylights into the old building too. For this reason, the centre will be closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of Half Term (28th-39th October.)
The reserve and toilets will be open as normal.

Forest Schools
We are always keen to try new ideas in Environmental Education. Most of the Rangers had a taster day with the Wildlife Trust last year, but Matt Hall has just returned from a residential course in Somerset and is taking the lead on Forest Schools at Paxton. The concept comes from Scandinavia where even pre-school children are taught outdoors much more than here. It’s less about wildlife than about teaching life skills.

Ranger Training Day
Every year Hunts District Rangers go together on a training day. This year we visited Stanwick Lakes and Sywell Country Parks in Northants.

We had a very useful day comparing notes.

Stanwick Lakes is run by the Rockingham Forest Trust and is physically like Paxton Pits, consisting of 4 miles of old gravel workings along the River Nene. The most obvious difference is that they have a huge play facility that can attract 500 cars on a Sunday. The saving grace for wildlife is that the site is big and divided in two by the river. We saw thousands of golden plover and lapwings there.

Sywell is an old reservoir, now managed by Northants District Council. It has a small arboretum and a pleasant walk with hazel woods where badgers were much in evidence.

Progress at Pumphouse.
It could be a year or more before Pumphouse and Diddington Pits come into our hands but we are already getting the site ready for visitors and for the birds. Last month the Friends paid for the erection of two sections of fox proof fence across the bund between Pumphouse East and West. The bund has since become a favourite loafing area for wildfowl. We have been removing willows from the shore to make it difficult for carrion crows to hunt and we have made a new footpath along the north shore, giving two spots where you can view the lake.

There’s a lot more to do; we have to put in stock fencing so that our cattle can graze the open areas and prepare more access, ready for the day that it’s ours.

In the mean time, it is very important to minimise disturbance. The lakes are nationally important for wintering wildfowl. Record numbers of Tufted ducks were counted last week and goldeneyes arrived this week.

Our events leaflet for 2010 is almost ready for printing. Meanwhile, our next event is a Star Party on Saturday 24th October, run by The Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve with staff from “Green Witch”; a local company that sells optical equipment. Please book on 01480 451568. The event starts at 7.30 pm and costs £5.00.