Just days before slipping into his dancing shoes and sequined shirt, Steve Backshall did what he does best- spoke passionately about all things creepy and crawly, took children bug hunting in the dark and officially opened Canvey Wick– Britain’s first Bug Reserve in Essex.
Buglife and the RSPB manage the 17 hectare reserve on Canvey Island owned by The Land Trust. Canvey Wick is a brownfield site that was abandoned in 1973 that has been reclaimed by nature, and is now one of the top 5 sites in the UK for rare and endangered species – especially bugs. Over 1,400 species of bug live on the site including around 30 endangered species and 3 that were thought to be extinct. The Shrill carder bee, Five-banded weevil hunting wasp and Scare emerald damselfly call this site home.
It has taken nearly 10 years to secure this site as a nature reserve. The Land Trust have secured vital funding and Buglife and the RSPB have been working hard to enhance the site for wildlife and visitors, improving access, paths and signs and are delighted to finally open it up to the public.
Over 100 special guests were welcomed by a giant dragonfly sculpture created by artist Ptolemy Erlington from recycled metal from the site. The guests enjoyed guided walks, talks and bug themed cakes. Buglife ran a children’s bug art competition, the lucky winners got to go torch-light moth and bug hunting with Steve Backshall. Steve Backshall gave a passionate speech about bugs, engaging children with the natural world and the importance of brownfield sites like Canvey Wick.
Steve Backshall, Buglife Vice President said “Sites like Canvey Wick are where I started. They are great places to ignite passion for Bugs.” He went on to tell the enthralled youngsters in the crowd that “If you want a job like mine you have to start young!”
Dr Sarah Henshall, Buglife Lead Ecologist said “Canvey wick is not a ‘pristine or typical' nature reserve, it's wild, it’s different, it's rough around the edges, wildlife thrives in the untidy messiness and industrial skeletal remains of the oil refinery- that’s what make the site so unique and an ultimate bug haven.”
Steven Roach, RSPB Canvey Warden said “Our main aim for the site is for it to be about protecting all nature. It’s in a very urban area so it is important that nature is conserved and community have chance to experience it.”
Euan Hall, Chief Executive of The Land Trust said “We are really proud to have been able to secure Canvey Wick’s future, through long term investment and by working in partnership with RSPB and Buglife. Thanks to the additional funding we received from Sita Trust, we’ve also been able to carry out the important habitat restoration works to bring Canvey Wick to life and ensure it is an asset for the community, a haven for wildlife and be enjoyed by many generations to come.”