Flourishing Freshwater Friends Group at Stow Bedon Common

In 2019 a grant from Anglian Water’s Flourishing Environment Fund was awarded to help us engage with the wider public and highlight the importance of Stow Bedon Common, as an important site for Freshwater Biodiversity, and one of our Flagship Pond sites.

Building on the success of the work carried out during the Heritage Lottery funded Flagship Ponds Project, and subsequent Biffawards Project, the aim was to establish a permanent group of volunteers to work alongside site owners, The Stow Bedon Fuel Allotment Charity. Our vision was to establish a ‘Freshwater Friends’ group who can undertake species surveys, help with practical management and take ownership – all whilst maintaining the wild, undisturbed nature of this site.

In September 2019 a Stow Bedon ‘Conservation Weekend’ Event was organised, to encourage the local community to get involved with this wonderful wetland site.

However Due to the very dry summer all of the ponds were either completely dry or inaccessible so we were unable to carry out the Pond Mud Snail Survey or Clean Water Quality survey as planned. With this in mind we condensed the event into one day, which was a great success. We engaged with 13 individuals in total including three very enthusiastic children, four members of the ‘Norfolk Conservation Corps’ and a member of staff from Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who manage Thompson Common, adjacent Stow Bedon. On the Saturday morning we met at a local village Hall and we did a presentation about the history of the site and also presentations about Pond Mud Snail and Water Quality Testing. Although we were unable to survey for Pond Mud Snail we did have some specimens to show to folk and we also demonstrated the clean water kits (N&P). Luckily we managed to obtain one water sample the previous day, so we were able to show everyone the water quality of one pond which was, as we had hoped, free from pollution.

In the afternoon we reconvened at the site and had a wonderful few hours walking around the common and although the ponds were dry, we were able to enthuse everyone about the wonderful reserve and highlight the work done previously, including the new fencing and major clearance around some of the ponds. Many interesting species were also found including several dragonfly species, common lizard and Great Crested Newt, a great bonus as many of the attendees were not familiar with these wonderful creatures.

Local Stow Bedon Volunteers by the new interpretation board

A great deal of networking took place and at the end of the day Phil, who has been looking after the site on his own for the last few years was rejuvenated with the offer of help. We had planned to carry out some management work in the afternoon, but in the event the walk around took over and at the end of the day, plans were being put in place for members of the Conservation Corps to return at a later date to carry out regular management tasks (with the aid of tools obtained for the group from the grant), and the help of the local volunteers.  Plans were also formulated with the Norfolk Wildlife Trust to get the grazing in place, now that the fencing is up. So all in all a great outcome.

Following on from the initial event in September a second event was planned and carried out in conjunction with an inaugural Stow Bedon task organised with the Norfolk Conservation Corps to carry out management work on the site.

After autumn rainfall many of the ponds on the site were beginning to fill up with water so over a weekend in Mid-November we carried out a Clean Water Blitz alongside the practical management. Again this event was publicised on social media and in total we engaged with 12 enthusiastic individuals.

All in all we sampled around 30 of the ponds on the site for Nitrate and Phosphate, with many more dry ponds mapped using GPS. Scrub was also cleared from around the pond adjacent to the interpretation board on the track, to open up the area and allow wetland plants to thrive. A really great weekend was had by all and further plans are now afoot to continue the good work, with the help of the Norfolk Conservation Corps, a smashing group of individuals! So with the help of Anglian Water this little slice of wetland paradise is set to be protected for the future.

If you’d like to help out on this site in the future click the link to the Norfolk Conservation Corps below and check out their task programme.

 

To find out more click on the image in the gallery below

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