I am Jo Loman and I have just joined the team at Canvey Wick as the Community Warden for this fabulous reserve in Essex. I am super excited about the role and eager to start meeting the residents and visitors of Canvey Island to maximise the appreciation and use of this outstanding nature reserve. I have learned a great deal about the history and background of this fascinating brownfield site; designed in the 1970s to be an oil refinery, although it was never finished. You can see all the circles on the map which were the bases for the oil storage tanks.
It is due to the phenomenal range and rarity of invertebrates, and the array of habitats found at Canvey Wick, that it was designated as the first brownfield Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) specifically for invertebrates back in 2005.
This entire SSSI site of 93 hectares is owned by The Land Trust and the 19 hectares that currently forms the nature reserve is managed by RSPB and Buglife. Since 2014, when the reserve was officially opened, visitors have been invited to enjoy the beauty of this brownfield setting via a network of footpaths and the bee and orchid trails. It is remarkable to see the open mosaic habitats and wild flower rich areas, that are so important for the endangered invertebrates lifecycles, that have developed from the decommissioned and overgrown oil refinery.
So, why is Canvey Wick so special?
Well, it is a haven for invertebrates with over 1,500 species having been recorded so far! With nationally important assemblages including endangered species such as Shrill Carder Bee (Bombus sylvarum) Brown-banded Carder Bee (Bombus humilis), Canvey Island Ground Beetle (Scybalicus oblongiusculus) and Five-banded Weevil Wasp (Cercersi quinquefasciata).
The Shrill Carder Bee is one of the UK’s rarest bumblebees with a very limited distribution and isolated populations. The Thames Gateway (including Canvey Wick, Tilbury and West Thurrock) is one of the few remaining isolated populations, as these brownfield sites provide the variety of forage flowers and habitats necessary for this bumblebee to thrive.
Beyond the reserve
Canvey Wick nature reserve is the south western section of the site, the rest of the SSSI land is not part of the reserve, and therefore not readily accessible to the public. It has mostly been left to natural processes so that the bare ground and grassland habitats preferred by the invertebrates have given way to extensive areas of scrub.
This picture, taken during a meeting with The Land Trust, Natural England and RSPB, shows how the mosses and lichens have encroached on the tarmac bases and also highlights the surrounding dry vegetation. The current heatwave with extended high temperatures and lack of rainfall in South Essex, is resulting in very dry conditions with reduced levels of forage flowers available for our endangered species and other pollinators. We are actively conducting invertebrate surveys across the site to monitor these populations.
As an, “and finally” this sculpture, at the entrance to the nature reserve, was crafted from discarded materials found at Canvey Wick. It is perhaps, a prompt reminder of how beauty can re-appear from the remains of our industrial past.
If you’d like to know more about our work at Canvey Wick or would like to get involved then please do get in touch with Canvey Wick Community Warden, Jo Loman, at [email protected]