Spring has sprung at Canvey Wick!

Tuesday 4th April 2023

…blog by Jo Loman, Buglife Canvey Wick Community Warden

Spring, what a re-juvenating time of year! The March equinox and changing of our clocks signifies the end of cold, dark winter and the long awaited arrival of light, bright and hopefully warm spring. Canvey Wick is now starting to bloom with willow catkins and early blossom as a backdrop for emerging bumblebee queens along with an array of nesting birds that offer constant chirps, trills and tweets during our regular Walk the Wick sessions (you can keep up to date with what’s going on at Canvey Wick and across other Buglife projects on our website Events Page)

As spring brings these new beginnings, it is a good time to reflect on the winter gone by and to look forward to the bursts of colour and vitality of the growing season. So, this latest Canvey Wick blog is a review of the habitat restoration works that took place over the winter, plus an overview of the plans for events and activities including the next stage of the restoration works.

Canvey Wick is an industrial brownfield gem, an ex-oil refinery site, that was left unmanaged for decades and as it does, nature moved in to reclaim the site as her own.  It has sandy, well-drained and low nutrient soils that are perfect for wildflowers and support an impressive 1,500 species of invertebrate, which earned this nature reserve a Site of Special Scientific Interest designation.

Fiona and the arisings 2022
Fiona and the arisings 2022

The habitat restoration works started in compartment 1 and 2 back in October. When most people are thinking about heading inside to stay warm and dry this is when habitat creation and management happens, over the winter whilst plants and trees are dormant.  It’s a massive job to manage 40 years of untamed growth so contractors were appointed who used an excavator to cut out the large scrub and focused on Sea Buckthorn removal. This shrub loves the coastal conditions here and has thrived to a level where it has become increasingly dominant and thus inhibits the growth and diversity of other plant species. Within these two compartments, we have improved eight hectares of land and facilitated the shredding and removal of all the cuttings to minimise the addition of nutrients to the soil. As you can see, it was a lot of material, this is Fiona from the RSPB in compartment one before and after it was shredded – then used for biomass! During this time, work parties and youth groups also helped to clear smaller more sensitive areas, such as the lichen heath, where heavy machinery could damage the habitat.

Excavator © Michelle Abel
Excavator © Michelle Abel

The next stage of the works is root removal and bare ground creation which is expected to start in April. Only once we are confident that any overwintering reptiles will have moved out to bask on our sunny paths and tarmac pads. Then in autumn, clearance work will begin again, this time in compartments 3, 4 and 5 along with ongoing Sea Buckthorn management to take out saplings as they appear.

If you want to find out more there are lots of community engagement events planned for spring and summer. You can join our Walk the Wick group, attend holiday activities, learn about our national wildlife and participate in citizen science projects like Flower-insect Timed (FIT) Count and Bugs Matter. All events are FREE and details are posted on our Canvey Wick Community Facebook Group.

I for one, am super excited to see Canvey Wick in full bloom this summer and to explore this fascinating hidden gem.  Perhaps, I’ll see you there……

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.