Conigre Mead Nature Reserve Melksham

 How it started.

The reserve in 1989 was just a field of Cocksfoot grass, occasionally grazed by cattle. There was just one Willow tree in the centre, which marks the original course of the River Avon.  It was decide to try to create a Nature Reserve here on the banks of the river for all to enjoy and to be a resource for local schools. 

Money was raised from various local organisations, councils and individuals.  The reserve was then taken over by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, who with a team of volunteers manage it.Over the course of 20 years, ponds have been dug, trees and shrubs planted.

 Local Primary school children planted wildflowers.

Please note that all photos on this website are copyright protected and must not be used without permission of the site owners.

28February

National Bird Box Week

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust's project, 'Wild Connections', held the second of its Conigre Mead events on Thursday 18th February, where nearly 40 people including lots of enthusiastic children came along to make bird boxes during National Bird Box Week.

The children, with the help of the adults, enjoyed a morning in the chilly sunshine building bird houses, some of which were put up in the churchyard and Conigre Mead Nature Reserve, and some they took home for their own gardens.

We will be monitoring the bird boxes on the reserve during the coming weeks.

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Making a bird box

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Making a bird box and seed ball

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Marcelline and clay models.

Photographs (c) Gill Cardy

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14January

Verco Volunteers

A team of volunteers from Verco spent a day in September pulling nettles. We can now see the river again! It's amazing what a few hours by a lot of people can achieve.

We would love to have some more volunteers on a regular basis - anybody is welcome to join us on the third Saturday each month at 10am for 2-3 hours. Tools, gloves and refreshments provided. Watch the noticeboards (new one now installed after vandalism - again) for dates.

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Oct 15 291

Photographs (c) Adam Smith, Verco Global

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27July

July Working Party

18th July 2015

The volunteers met on the 18th July for another productive working party. Some willow trees were taken down as there were likely to drop branches or fall. The hogweed was pruned and some nettle patches were cleared. As usual, the paths were mowed and litter picked up.

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The dipping pond has been improved significantly. The leaks in the pond lining have been fixed and the edges lined with hessian. A solar powered pump has been installed to oxygenate the water, improving conditions for the aquatic wildlife.

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The next working party is on the 15th August, starting at 10am. New volunteers are always welcome (sturdy footwear recommended, refreshments provided).

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11May

April Working Party

The volunteers enjoyed working on the reserve in the warm Spring sunshine at the last working party in April. The work focussed on keeping the vigorous plant growth in check to allow wildflowers and wildlife to flourish. Tasks included grass cutting, removing duckweed from the dipping pond, pruning plants and weeding out brambles.

The next working party is Saturday 16th May, from 10am -12:30pm. Anyone is welcome to come along and join in the fun! Sturdy footwear and weather proof clothing are advised.

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Removal of duckweed from the dipping pond

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Grass cutting along the path edges

photos (c) P Kearsey-Gutkowska

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02January

2015 Winter - Spring Working Parties

The volunteer working parties for Winter-Spring 2015 will be taking place on:

Saturday 17th January

Saturday 21st February

Saturday 21st March

Saturday 18th April

Working parties start at 10am and finish approximately at 12:30pm. Anyone is welcome to come along and join in the fun.

Please wear weatherproof clothing and sturdy footwear.

Tools, gloves, hot drinks and biscuits are provided.

Tasks include pruning, grass cutting, raking up, pond maintenance and litter picking.

For further details please contact Wiltshire Wildlife Trust:

01380 725670

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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12September

Volunteer Working Parties: Autumn 2014

This Autumn the volunteer working parties will be held on:

Saturday 20th September

Saturday 18th October

Saturday 15th November

Working parties are from 10am - 12:30pm, anyone is welcome to come along and join in.

Please wear weatherproof clothing and sturdy footwear.

Tools, gloves, hot drinks and biscuits are provided.

Tasks include pruning, grass cutting, raking up, pond maintenance and litter picking.

For further details please contact Wiltshire Wildlife Trust:

01380 725670

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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22April

Summer Wildlife ID Workshops

Wildlife Identification Workshop Dates for Summer 2014

After the success of last summer's wildlife ID workshops, the volunteers are organising more  workshops at the reserve this summer. Each workshop will be led by an wildlife expert.

The following workshops are planned:

Spiders - Sunday 6th July

Dragonflies and other insects - Sunday 20th July

Plant identification - Saturday 26th July

All workshops start at 10am and finish at 4pm, and are open to the public. Cost £7 for adults and free to children (over 8 years). All children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Drinks and biscuits supplied.

 

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09February

Rare Bug found on Reserve

A Bioblitz and several workshops held last summer on the reserve have revealed the high levels of biodiversity of Conigre Mead, including the discovery of a rare bug.

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Photograph of mystery bug found at Conigre Mead

In searching through the many photographs taken at the summer events, Reserve Warden Gill Cardy spotted a shield bug that was difficult to identify. After consulting the British Bugs website*, Gill suspected it might be the rare Box Bug. She sent photos of the unusual bug to British Bugs and 2 experts confirmed her identification. The Box Bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus) is quite a rarity, having been found only at Box Hill until the 1990s. It is known to feed on Box trees, but more recently it has been found on other plants. This is the first confirmed sighting of this bug in Wiltshire.

 

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Other wildlife found at the Bioblitz and summer workshops include:

15 species of butterfly, 10 moth species, 7 dragonfly and damselfly species, at least 4 different species of bee, 3 grasshopper and cricket species, 5 fly species, 5 spider species and 3 snail species, 3 small mammal species and a wide range of plants.

*www.britishbugs.org.uk provides an online identification guide to UK Hemiptera (an order of insects usually referred to as the ‘true bugs’).

 

14January

Birds' Eye View

The Reserve Wardens, Gill and Ian, recently enjoyed a flight in a small plane over Melksham and the surrounding area, giving them a wonderful opportunity to take this photo of the reserve as its avian visitors would normally view it!

Conigre mead from above

Photographs (c) Gill Cardy

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31October

Poetry Corner

We have just come across this lovely poem by an 18th century poet, and as Conigre Mead has so many interesting insects we thought it so wonderfully describes this fascinating part of its natural history.

Insects  -  by John Clare (1793-1864)

Thou tiny loiterer on the barley's beard
And happy unit of a numerous herd
Of playfellows the laughing summer brings
Mocking the sunshine in their glittering wings.
How merrily they creep and run and fly;
No kin they bear to labour's drudgery,
Smoothing the velvet of the pale hedge rose,
And where they fly for dinner no one knows;
The dewdrops feed them not - they love the shine
Of noon, whose sun may bring them golden wine.
All day they're playing in their Sunday dress
Till night goes sleep and they can do no less,
Then in the heath bell's silken hood they fly
And like to princes in their slumber lie
From coming night and dropping dews and all,
In silken beds and roomy painted hall.
So happily they spend their summer day
Now in the cornfields, now the new mown hay
One almost fancies that such happy things
In coloured hoods and richly burnished wings
Are fairy folk in splendid masquerade
Disguised through fear, of mortal folk afraid,
Keeping their merry pranks a mystery still
Lest glaring day should do their secrets ill.

Migrant Hawker October

18May

May Working Party

This month's working party was another pleasant morning for the volunteers with warm sunny weather. The usual tasks were carried out - mowing, strimming, pruning etc - though Ian took to using a more traditional tool, a scythe.

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The pond was filled to check for leaks in the lining.

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One of the benches had almost disappeared in the undergrowth. After some strimming around it, and mowing of the paths leading to it, it is now back in use for visitors to enjoy a secluded spot in the reserve.

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 The next working party is on Saturday 20th June, 10am - 12:30pm.

Photographs (c) P. Kearsey-Gutkowska

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16April

Spring on the Reserve

Our volunteers and visitors to the Reserve have been enjoying Spring wildlife. Frog spawn, common shrews and kingfishers have all been spotted recently at Conigre Mead.

Common Shrew Blog 006a Graham Peaple

Common Shrew (c) Graham Peaple

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Frog with spawn (c) Graham Peaple

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Kingfisher (c) Michael Barnes

24October

Reserve wins South West In Bloom Award

Conigre Mead has done it again! We were awarded a Level 4 Award “Thriving” in the South West in Bloom competition and helped the town towards its Silver-Gilt award. The judges were apparently impressed with the multitude of dragonflies and butterflies flying in the warm sunshine of mid July

The reserve now, in October, is settling down for its winter rest – or is it?

In late September it was visited by over 200 children from the first year of their Oak School experience and they seem to have enjoyed it thoroughly.

They were given various experiments and tasks to complete and some enjoyed dipping in our new pond which, in spite of being at a somewhat lower level than we hoped, provided a wealth of aquatic invertebrates, such as water boatmen and damselfly nymphs, which bodes well for next season. There were lots of snails and a few small fish.

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The summer’s warmth and intermittent storms have encourage a larger than usual growth of everything and we have a lot of winter work to do. Anyone is very welcome to join our volunteer group – third Saturday of each month – at 10am to 12 30. Tools, gloves, coffee and biscuits provided. The next ones are 25th October and 15th November.

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25July

Spider Workshop

by Gill Cardy

Conigre Mead is looking its best just now with banks of blue Meadow Cranesbill, plumes of meadowsweet, which seems to have spread quite a bit, and increasing musk mallow. On 6th July a pristine Scarce Chaser, newly emerged, was patrolling the river and pausing occasionally to pose for a photo among the reeds in the north west corner. A Southern Hawker was also seen, and many damselflies, including several white-legged damselflies which were very hard to find last year.

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Photo: Scarce Chaser (Gill Cardy)

Spider Workshop: Our day in the reserve was planned to study Spiders and Bill Blumsom regaled us with some surprising information about these fascinating creatures. The commonest of our spiders is the group known as money spiders and there is estimated to be about a million per acre. Conigre Mead should have about 3 million - and we should be in funds!

Another group of spiders has large palps which the male uses to semaphore to his mate. If she waves back he knows that she will accept him. I must look out for that spider next year - apparently May is the best month to watch this display.

Another spider wraps up a food parcel to give to his chosen mate. While she is busy eating he nips off to have his wicked way with her and then back to the front end to steal whatever she has left of her meal - quite an enterprising character!

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photo: Spider (Gill Cardy)

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22April

Working Party Dates

The volunteers meet at the reserve every month on the third Saturday at 10am for a working party. The working party dates for the next few months are:

24th May

21st June

19th July

New volunteers are very welcome!

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