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.


Late Summer 2017 Update & South West in Bloom Award

by Gill Cardy

A successful Dragonfly Day was held in July and though it was difficult to find many dragonflies, we were rewarded with several favourites. There have been reports of a Scarce Chaser though it seemed to have a short season, perhaps I was not looking at the peak activity time, which is late May to early July.  On a warm sunny day in September, I surprised a young fox sunbathing on the edge of the (dry) pond. He disappeared before I could raise my camera to get a shot.

We were delighted to find that we have been awarded a level 5 'Outstanding' award in the annual South West in Bloom award in the "It's your neighbourhood section". Credit goes to our hard working Volunteers, who mow, rake, trim, pull nettles, litter-pick and generally look after our wildlife of all sorts in Conigre Mead. Everyone is welcome to enjoy it at any time, and we would welcome some more help. Just come along on the 3rd Saturday of every month at 10am for a couple of hours (gloves, equipment and refreshments provided).

Melksham in Bloom Neighboourhood award


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4 spot Chaser

Common Blue

Common Blue

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Scarce Chaser

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White-Legged Damselfly

Above photos (c) Gill Cardy

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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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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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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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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.


Removal of duckweed from the dipping pond


Grass cutting along the path edges

photos (c) P Kearsey-Gutkowska

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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

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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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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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End of Summer Update

by Gill Cardy, Reserve Warden

We had not seen signs of the grass snakes for some time and feared that they had been drowned in the floods. An enormous amount of silt was deposited between January and May when we had several flooded days.

However all has dried out now and there has been a huge growth of everything, especially nettles. Anybody who wants a little exercise is welcome to join our working parties to help move some of these (3rd Saturday of each month, 10am-12:30pm). They do provide food for lots of butterflies and there have been substantial numbers of Peacock, Comma, Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral butterflies to be seen.

I was delighted to find a basking Grass Snake on 13 May, but there have been no other sightings. At least we know there are still snakes around.

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Banded Demoiselle

The dragonflies have been enjoying the recent warm weather. The Banded Demoiselles were the first to appear and are still flying even on a dull day. White-legged damselflies have been hard to find but here is a photo of one seen at the end of June.

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White legged Damselfly

We were delighted to see a few Scarce Chaser Dragonflies in mid July - all males, which was unusual. There were also some Azure Damselflies around the same time, and an Emperor Dragonfly was seen laying eggs in the surface vegetation of the river, just to show how important these plants are to the life of the dragonfly population in the river. Let us hope that the proposed canal project will not be allowed to damage our river wildlife.

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Scarce Chaser

Late in August came Common Darter and larger dragonflies. Southern Hawker was quite common and Migrant Hawker, often seen up to November is now patrolling his territory.

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Common Darter

On the down side we have had a spate of vandalism since late July, starting with the log seats being damaged and thrown in the small pond. Their sharp screws were projecting so we removed and destroyed the seats. Sorry folks there are no seats there now. An information board has been wrenched off its post, but it will be replaced soon. Our new notice board, recently replacing one which was destroyed last year, has had its front cover pulled off which makes it difficult to post information. At the moment we are reduced to just two at the other gates.

Recently the signs asking people to keep their dogs on a lead and another one about the reserve have been torn off. It is disappointing to see such stupid acts in a place people enjoy.

On a brighter note, a bat walk in August attracted a good crowd of young and old to see the Pipistrelles, a Serotine and Daubenton's on the river.

A family event run by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, also in August, saw some young nature detectives searching and finding a remarkable number of insects. Little people are always good at finding little things!

All above photos copyright Gill Cardy

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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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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


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.


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


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.


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

Photographs (c) P. Kearsey-Gutkowska

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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.

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Common Shrew (c) Graham Peaple

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Frog with spawn (c) Graham Peaple

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Kingfisher (c) Michael Barnes


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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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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