Hill Hook - Reserve Officer's Reports

November 2015 - Our Reserve Officer, Paul Stephenson, reports on what we have achieved this summer.

Regular mid monthly Saturday volunteer days see much activity and other events have included the annual dawn chorus event and a bat and moth night where literally hundreds of bats were seen over and around the mill pool.

Over the summer much effort has been put in by the Friends of Hill Hook to manage the reserve to maintain access and enhance the habitats. The Millstone garden area is very well kept by the volunteers with the garden becoming ever more established with plants that encourage butterflies, bees ( and all sorts of other invertebrates) and birds. The weir, outflow stream and waterfall all require keeping clear. Several waterfowl use this area and a lovely grey wagtail has been seen here.

The focus in the summer is to keep the paths clear and carry on meadow management to control invasive species such as creeping thistles, docks and brambles which encroach over the grassland and would quickly make the meadow smaller and smaller. This year we have seen an increasing spread of both cowslips and common spotted orchids in the meadow near Blake Street and yellow rattle is becoming well established which helps control the growth of grass helping the smaller flowers. A good area of bugle also made a lovely show.

Along with path side “weeding” the recently planted young trees in the woodland are growing and these need care and weeding around until they become established. The five young native black poplar trees we planted around the reserve are growing well.

Recently work has also been undertaken to clear bramble growing alongside the dam wall so that the marginal wetland species such as the rare greater tussock sedge and lesser reedmace survive.

A new lectern style woodland birds identification sign has been put in by the volunteers at the entrance to the ride which leads to Hill Hook Road from the dam which is a great help for visitors. Over the summer the mill pool is a focus for water birds and the swans have bred as usual and on one memorable volunteer day went on a walk about around the neighbouring roads, much to our dismay. The volunteers ended up forming a cordon to chaperone them across roads stopping the traffic and guiding them along the roads eventually back onto the reserve because they knew where they wanted to go! At the end of the summer four cygnets have survived from six hatched.