…blog by Jo Loman, Buglife Canvey Wick Community Warden
It’s a very exciting time for the team at Canvey Wick as the much anticipated habitat restoration works have finally started at this former industrial, brownfield site.
This larger section of the Site of Special Scientific Interest has been left to grow wild for the best part of 50 years, since the oil refinery closed. During that time it has become an important invertebrate area due to the favourable soils and associated mixture of habitats required for the different stages of the bugs lifecycles. However, it has now reached a point where the vegetation is becoming too dense and needs removing.
The area has been divided into compartments C1-C7 using the existing access roads to stagger the restoration works which will be a three year project. The current works for this winter/early spring, are focused on the areas marked C1 and C2 on the map, which clearly shows the extent of vegetation growth and how the tarmac bases and open areas are disappearing.
Specialist contractors are undertaking these works and an excavator is used to cut and remove the larger areas of vegetation but still leave the roots in place. This is because we have reptiles that spend the winter hibernating in these spaces. The roots will be extracted in a second phase of works in early spring to avoid disturbing any sheltering creatures. Clearing away the vegetation and creating bare ground will allow the dormant wildflowers to re-grow in spring. It should enable beautiful open vistas with an abundance of flowers, bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
There have been a number of fabulous community engagement firsts for the project with an array of activities and events.
The first was a work party with RSPB Greener Thames youth action panel and Canvey Island’s Yellow Door youth volunteers. This enthusiastic bunch spent a day clearing scrub in one of the areas that has delicate lichen heath habitat. It is, therefore, not suitable for clearance with heavy machinery like the excavator and must be done manually. With the volunteers, many hands made light work and the area has been cleared with the cuttings being used to make hibernacula, winter homes for wildlife. The group did an amazing job, were not put off by the rain and are keen to come back again soon.
Our Community Warden visited the Trustlinks REACH social group in Wintergardens, to give a brief talk about Canvey Wick, its importance for invertebrates and the habitat restoration works. The group then all made bug hotels with natural materials ready for overwintering bugs. It was a relaxed and mindful morning, the attendees took away Action for Insects wildflower seeds to support pollinators at home. Helen from Trustlinks said “I have genuinely not seen our members getting so involved into a task before, it was phenomenal!”.
The first family event was themed around spiders not being scary. It was a brilliant turnout, the weather was kind and everyone had a great time learning about spiders, playing spider games and going on a spider safari.
Look out for Jo, the Community Warden, at the Canvey Island Town Council Christmas Event on Saturday 26th November. Jo will be at the library making natural tree decorations and also has a post box for letters to Santa! Come along and say hello.
Have you read our other Canvey blogs? If not, why not take a look.
Visit our Canvey Wick webpage for more information about the reserve and its history.