CHARWELL WETLANDS LOCAL NATURE RESERVE

Charwell Wetlands is Bradninch's very own Nature Reserve, a special place close to Bradninch town, providing valuable opportunities for the local community to enjoy nature and educational facilities.

The area of the reserve is 1.21 hectares (about 3 acres). It is fed by natural springs which rise on the site and feed a small stream feeding the River Culm. The site supports a diverse range of plant and animal species as the site changes from very wet and marshy conditions to drier grassland and hedgerow habitats.

In the central and southern parts peat has formed, resulting in plants characteristic of a fen meadow such as rushes, sedges and the Southern Marsh Orchid late May into June. Other flowers in the wet areas include Ragged Robin with delicate ragged pink flowers, Figwort, Sorrel, Marsh Marigold, Water Mint, Common Marsh Bedstraw, Meadowsweet, Birds Foot Trefoil and at the moment swathes of the pale and delicate Cuckoo Flower. There are many more.

The site was designated a Local Nature Reserve, the first in the Mid Devon District Council area, at the time when the Charwell Meadow houses were built. Thanks to the Duchy of Cornwall, who owns the land, it was possible to arrange a tri-partite agreement, between the Duchy of Cornwall, Mid Devon District Council and Bradninch Town Council, such that the site was officially designated a Local Nature Reserve, and forms part of the Local Plans. The Duchy of Cornwall supports the work to maintain the Nature Reserve, charges a small rent to the Town Council, and has contributed to the costs, as does our Town Council and District/County Councillor through the Locality Budget.

The management of the wetland site is done by a keen group of volunteers, The Charwell Wetland Group, among whom there are some very experienced and knowledgeable people, who employ not only great expertise and background knowledge, but also hands-on energies – a most interesting group to meet! To date, much work has been done managing the hedges, defining pathways through the site (difficult, in fast growing conditions), creation of a dipping-pond, little bridges over the stream and to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012 a new wild fruiting hedge was planted against the Charwell Lane Public Footpath fence; also a Jubilee Oak Tree, which we hope will endure over the next century. Lucy has prepared a superb updated Management Plan, which has been approved by the Duchy of Cornwall, who have agreed to the renewal of the Agreement for another similar period.

The dynamic nature of ecology means that the site is constantly trying to become a woodland, which would mean that the distinctive springtime flowers would be lost, to be replaced by brambles and scrub, and eventually returning to oak woodland. To this end active management is needed to allow the marshland flora to continue to exist.

However: The members of the group have many commitments, and they really enjoy the work involved in managing the site; they are appealing for more members to take part in the project to ensure its success for many more years. There is no firm commitment necessary; simply take an interest, come along and see what is involved, and believe me, you will love it! Any of the following would love to hear from you: Alison (881825), Lucy (881190), Ruth (881675).

I have just walked through the Reserve, and the damp warmth from the herbage, the buzzing bees, the swooping birds, the glowing Marsh Marigolds (Kingcups to me), the fluttering Orange Tip and Green Veined White butterflies and the haze of the Cuckoo Flowers and Ragged Robin took me back to my childhood – it is truly gorgeous!! Jane Webber. May 2014