Summer Leys Nature Reserve
19 Oct 2008
The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Peterborough are now the proud owners of Summer Leys Local Nature Reserve near Wellingborough, thanks to funding from Natural England through Defra’s Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund and the Department of Communities and Local Government through the River Nene Regional Park.
Previously the reserve was owned by Hanson Aggregates UK and leased to Northamptonshire County Council, who through working with the Wildlife Trust, developed the site and designated it as a local nature reserve, to help ensure that the site was accessible for future generations to enjoy. Like many other areas in the Nene Valley, the reserve was formed following gravel and sand extraction and now supports internationally important wildlife populations. The reserve is part of a larger Site of Special Scientific Interest, which is an important refuge for wintering and breeding birds, including golden plover, lapwing, wigeon and shoveler.
This significant acquisition is an integral part of The Wildlife Trust’s Vision for the Nene Valley, a landscape-scale plan for biodiversity. The Nene Valley is a wildlife artery in the landscape, providing a continuous corridor along which species of flora and fauna can migrate. Aggregate extraction, agricultural improvement and urbanisation have caused the vast proportion of this habitat to be lost. These wetland habitats are extremely valuable because they are rare and complex to recreate. [Biodiversity of the Nene Valley]
Robin Field from the River Nene Regional Park said "It’s great news helping to ensure that that this important wildlife site remains protected for wildlife for future generations to enjoy. Summer Leys Local Nature Reserve is an important component in the network of green spaces that the River Nene Regional Park is developing”.
The Nene Valley project is part of The Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts’ aim of creating Living Landscapes. The charity will create large areas of wildlife-friendly landscape across the UK, reconnecting the landscape, enabling species to adapt to climate change, restoring the natural functions of ecosystems and enhancing wild spaces, to benefit the well-being of our growing population (to view the full Living Landscapes report visit "publications” on wildlifetrusts.org)
Work has been completed to improve Summer Leys including willow removal, re-profiling of the scrape area and gull island, and the pond dipping platform has been extended and improved to allow more access for educational activities and events. In addition to these improvements, work has been carried out to allow better control of water levels throughout the year.
A hard pedestrian footpath has been installed to allow better access for all around the reserve. A new bridge has also been installed, helped by funding received from Wollaston Parish Council, making it safer for members of the public to keep on the reserve, rather than taking the footpath along the road.
Jake Ward, Voluntary Warden said "The improvements made to the reserve are marvellous. The willow removal has allowed for excellent views of the lakes and has opened up new parts of the reserve for wildfowl and waders”.
As the Local Nature Reserve is in situated on the edge of Wellingborough, it is a fantastic site for local people to visit and it is very popular with birdwatchers, dog walkers and local families. Sightings over the past month have included a little egret, peregrine falcon, in excess of 800 lapwings, up to 1500 golden plovers and over-wintering ducks such as wigeon, goldeneye and smew.
The nature reserve is grazed most of the year by rare breed sheep and cattle and therefore additional fencing and cattle pens have been installed, making it easier to manage the movement of grazing animals on the reserve. This is why it is essential that visitors to the reserve keep their dogs on leads, so as not to disturb the livestock or wildlife.
If you would like to help with the management of the reserve, a volunteer work party meets during the Winter months until March from 0900hrs – 1200hrs on the first Sunday of every month. You are sure to receive a very warm welcome from the team, get plenty of fresh air and exercise, and meet enthusiastic like-minded people.
If you would like further information concerning the Practical Conservation Tasks programme please telephone 01604 405285.