NO. 69


Message from the Chairman

You may have been watching the recent TV series 'Springwatch' and be aware of the campaign 'Breathing Places' being promoted by the BBC to encourage participation in local wildlife projects.
Well look no further! Your local Breathing Place contains a variety of wildlife habitats and is only a 10 minute (downhill!) walk from the city centre.

If you're interested in lending a hand, there are always opportunities for individuals or families to enjoy the fresh air on this secluded Local Nature Reserve and to help in the maintenance of the site. No experience necessary and all contributions welcome.
If you have some time to spare, please get in touch with a committee member, or email via the website. The occasional half hour, cutting overgrowth back from the paths, is a vital part of the management plan and will be much appreciated by members and visitors alike, particularly at this time of year. Tools, protective equipment and guidance are all supplied.

On the subject of volunteers, the
management committee continues to evolve. Thanks are due to the new volunteers and to those who have had to move on over the last twelve months. The experience, enthusiasm and organisational abilities of our long standing Secretary, Val, are greatly missed. Our Treasurer and Beekeeper, Susan , has also moved out of the area and reluctantly passed on the financial baton. Their places on the committee have now been filled and we can welcome a new Secretary, Anne, a new Treasurer, Laura and two new members Sam and Aaron * . The committee would also like to thank Jean who responded to an appeal last year and has provided invaluable help in updating and developing the Association's website.

For more information on the Breathing Places campaign log on to the BBC website www.bbc.co.uk/breathingplaces

* Sam and Aaron married on July 8th and the Committee would like to send them hearty congratulations and hope they enjoy a long and happy life together.


The WWA was very pleased to receive a special Civic Award (along with the charity Earthworks) which was presented to representatives from both charities on 4th May by the Mayor Councillor Malcolm MacMillan at the Council Chambers, followed by an excellent afternoon tea in the Mayor's Parlour. The Mayor stated that "The WWA and Earthworks stand out as having done such a lot to enhance the environment in the district, thanks mainly to voluntary contributions. I applaud their energetic commitment, their vision in regenerating derelict land, and their desire to ensure local residents are able to enjoy the walks, the wildlife and the recycling projects".

Mayor Malcolm MacMillan also nominated Earthworks for the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service (which they won) and said he would like to have nominated the WWA as well, but only one group can be put forward by the Mayor each year. He hoped that we would be nominated for the 2007 Awards. He was particularly impressed by the way that the WWA has diversified in setting up the tandem cycling section 'The WaterWheelers' for taking out visually impaired people from the local community. It was wonderful that all volunteers, past and present, have been recognized for the tremendous amount of time and effort that has gone into making the WWA Reserve the haven that it is today. Thank you for that recognition.

The WaterWheelers - the WWA tandeming section for the visually impaired

Waterwheelers logo The WaterWheelers project has progressed well since the publication of the last newsletter. We have a splendid new logo (see left), designed by Sam , who wins a bottle of champagne for his efforts. The Association is hoping to purchase some polo shirts, embroidered with the new logo, to be available for members to buy. This is also a good way of promoting the facility. The first real try out of the tandems took place on the 14 May with four committee members (Howard and Sheila, and Pat and Steve) taking part in the St. Albans Charity Bike Ride. The two teams chose the 20 mile route which they finished easily. A fortnight later, Howard and Sheila transported both tandems to Sawbridgeworth to accompany Monica (a visually impaired rider) and her friend Corrinne in a 20 mile charity ride around the area which they all thoroughly enjoyed - especially the celebration meal and sangria at the local tapas bar afterwards! Monica and Corrinne have entered a 400 km. sponsored ride in Egypt, taking place in February 2007 and Monica is hoping to raise money for the RNIB. Monica sent in this short piece describing the venture.

Two bikers

My name is Monica, I'm a blind mother-of-three and I'm about to do a crazy thing...
My friend Corinne and I have signed up to take part in a bicycle ride in Egypt in 2007. I will be spending five days on the back of a tandem and we will be aiming to complete a 400km course down the banks of the Nile. I will be raising money for the RNIB (Royal National Institute of the Blind) and the BRPS (British Retinitis Pigmentosa Society) whilst Corinne who recently lost her mother to Alzheimer's, will be riding to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society. We recently were able to have a practice using a tandem lent to us by the WaterWheelers. We completed the Sawbridgeworth 20 mile cycle ride in just under two hours. It was a great day and the beginning of a 9 month training schedule. I am very much looking forward to our longer ride in Egypt. We both have to raise at least £2,500 for our chosen charities. If anyone would like to sponsor us we would be very grateful - no amount is too small!

Check out Monica's web page for more details: www.justgiving.com/monicasmith

Monica and Corrine are hoping to apply to 'Awards for All' for a grant to purchase a tandem for use around the Sawbridgeworth district, as they are finding it difficult to hire or borrow one locally. They would like to start a similar facility to the one that the WWA is developing and we wish them luck with their application. If they do not have access to a tandem by February, the WaterWheelers are happy to lend them the bike pictured above.

To date, the other main beneficiary of the tandem facility has been Roger who has been out on five rides now, the latest being 17 miles, stopping at the John Bunyan pub for welcome glasses of orange juice. Roger is a keen cyclist and has already fixed the first puncture in his new workshop. Roger was kind enough to buy a top quality bike stand to enable maintenance to be done on the bikes - a task very difficult without such a stand. Thanks Roger. If anyone has an interest in tandeming and would like to take Roger out for a spin, please contact the Editor, as Roger is always keen to get out and is obviously dependant on having a front rider available.

Alison (one of the WWA committee members) has also been out for a couple of rides with her visually impaired friend and fellow WWA member, Yvonne, so the bikes are certainly being well-used.

The Mere - July 2006

Jack at the Mere

This was the state of the Mere in July and the lake had dried out, exposing vast amounts of unpleasant smelling mud. Local resident and stalwart WWA worker, Jack , is shown taking a well-earned rest after dragging some of the accumulated mud to the lake edge to try to improve the ecology of the lake in the long-term. The area has become increasingly silted up since the last clean-up in 1992 and if nothing is done the lake will eventually become just another boggy area. This would diminish the interest of the Reserve and also reduce the number of species of wildfowl, fish and amphibians. Either an army of volunteers with wellies and shovels is needed to get in and help Jack shift the huge volume of silt to one side, or the alternative is to move it again with a mini-digger. As luck would have it, the same chap that dredged the lake in 1991 has offered to come and see if he can do the same again. At the time of writing, the WWA is awaiting a visit from the driver to see if it is feasible for him to carry out the work. The silt may be still too wet for this to be possible.

Come on Jack ůstop slacking and get stuck in, lad (not literally of course!)

Reserve news and wildlife reports

The latest section of hedging is doing well, despite the drought conditions, with barely any losses. Last year's section has thickened out after its first cut in March and looks really good. Regular mowing is gradually turning over the new public events area into grassland which will hopefully be in a reasonable condition by August, when we hold our next open day and barbeque (more about this on the back page). Most of the work done at working parties has concentrated on keeping the paths clear and the grass mown. This is becoming an increasingly onerous task and if anyone has some spare time to help out with this, the Association would be very grateful. The problem months are May, June and July as everything grows so fast at this time of year. It is not necessary to do this at our working parties as this is the sort of job that can be done at any time. If you can help, please contact the Site Manager who will show you what needs doing. We have all the machinery and tools needed for the job on site so you just have to bring yourself.

baby ducklings bullfinch

A family of nine orphaned ducklings appeared in the Reserve in June - the mother apparently having been run over in London Road. The ducklings were hand reared and then released onto the Mere (which has since dried-out) by caring local residents. Unfortunately, the ducklings seem to be seriously lacking in 'street cred' so let's hope they are not eaten by any local predators! Here they are enjoying an afternoon nap by the waterside bench. They seem quite content and untroubled by being orphaned, and swam up and down eating the green algae which was a bonus. There are also six baby moorhens this year, produced by two sets of parents. The Reserve has had a good year in terms of breeding birds and numerous fledglings have been seen, and especially heard, near the bird feeders, along with the parent birds. A pair of Bullfinches started using the bird feeders and our local photographer, Keith, managed to take a photo of the male feeding at the new bird feeder. Nearly all the bird boxes have been used again this year, with the exception of the specially designed Robin box, which has now been ignored for the last three years! Swifts were very much in evidence and a profusion of very noisy Jackdaws, waking local residents at the crack of dawn!

Note from the Editor:

I am always delighted to receive pictures, ideas, thoughts or poems about the Reserve and have pleasure in publishing these contributions from our members. Even if photos are not of a professional standard and are a bit fuzzy (including my own!), I believe it is more important to have an idea of what is on the Reserve, as recorded by our visitors, so please keep sending them in!

A Muntjac deer photographed on the 20 June by Sam

A swarm of bees suddenly arrived at the end of June and decided to settle in the old empty beehive (which had been sealed up but the bees still managed to find their way in). Peter , the beekeeper who gave such an interesting talk at the last AGM, was called out to give advice. Over a period of a week he managed to transfer the colony into a box and took them away to one of his own hives in Gaddesden Row. At present, there are no bees kept on the Reserve and the Association are keen to find someone local who might like to take over from Susan who has now moved to her new home in Letchworth.

Notable flora between May and July included Purple Loosestrife, Red Campion, Greater Stitchwort, Sweet Woodruff, Ramsons, Lilac, Cow Parsley and the Yellow Flag Iris.
There were butterfly sightings of Orange Tip, Comma, Brimstone and Speckled Wood.

bird hide
Working parties

Sunday 13 August (clearing up after the summer barbeque)
Sunday 10 September
Sunday 8 October

All are welcome and tools and gloves are provided.
The working parties begin at 11am and usually last around two hours.

Summer barbeque and picnic

The committee has agreed to hold a summer barbeque/picnic for Association members on the 12th August and all are welcome. Please bring along your own drinks, barbeque food/picnic and, if possible, an extra dish for everyone to share. This could be a salad, quiche, dessert or anything you think others will enjoy. An awning will be set up in case of inclement weather and the large barbeque will be lit around 6.00pm. Please bring your own picnic chair or a rug if you want to dine in style! It was mentioned in the last newsletter that it would be fun to have impromptu musicians/singers/storytellers doing a slot so if you have an urge to come and play in an informal setting come along and liven up the proceedings. Nothing is being formally arranged - just do your own thing when the fancy takes you! This is a great opportunity to meet your neighbours over a glass of wine (or two) and enjoy the unique atmosphere of the Reserve. At the time of writing, there have been tentative offers of help from Kathryn Holt (storyteller) and Andrew Clewlow (an excellent acoustic guitar player who occasionally plays at The Horn) to add some fun to the event. There will also be a raffle to raise funds for the WaterWheelers, so if anyone feels generous enough to donate a prize, please drop it in to the Site Manager or bring it along on the day. If you need any more information, or if you can help with setting up the awning and general preparations on the day, please contact the Editor or look out for the poster which will be displayed at the Reserve gate the week before the event for the latest news.

THE DATE: Saturday August 12th
THE TIME: 5.30pm till late
THE PLACE: WWA Nature Reserve, Riverside Road

old photo
Here are more archive pictures (taken in 1992) from the collection of WWA member, Janet. Janet has taken a series of snapshots going right back to the start of the Association and has maintained contact and remained a WWA member throughout the last 15 years. It is always a surprise when looking back to see just how much the area has changed over the years and how worthwhile it has been. It is also easy to forget just how much effort has gone into the making the Reserve the place it is today and the tremendous amount of rubbish that had to be removed.

Answers to the bird quiz
  1. Greenfinches
  2. Blue Tit
  3. Robin
  4. Goldfinches and Blue tit
  5. Great Tit
  6. Long-tailed Tits
  7. Redpoll
  8. Goldfinch
  9. Siskin
  10. Wren

WWA Website     www.watercress-net.org.uk

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