Apocalypse Rhody

13th June 2021, Ravenden Clough, Smithills Hall

We wanted a mission, so they gave us one. Clear the jungle trails of the insidious invader, rhododendron. The Victorians brought rhody across as a bit of exotic colour, their strange love of alien species would be their undoing. Soon it had set up a beachhead and was storming across the our green and pleasant land like a magenta menace. It had to be stopped.

Our platoon set out on its dawn patrol, but Dawn had nothing to do with it so we apologised and carried on to Ravenden Clough. We were horrified at what we found, rhodys to the right of us, rhodys to the left of us, the way ahead was buried under rhody. Captain Francis cried “For Harry.. and maybe William”, and our dirty three-quarter dozen went on the attack.

We forced rhody back a metre at a time, uncovering the paths of glory, but the heat, the smell, the sweat, the ground soaked in sap, it was a nightmare; the horror, the horror. We had to dig a trench to drain away the spoils of war, it all felt like our longest day, but finally it was all quiet on the rhody front. We cleared down to the crossing over the brook and stopped, we didn’t want to go a bridge too far.

The day was ours and it was time for the great escape to the pub lead by the our beer hunter. It all happened, we know because, we were there.

BCV News Snippets

June 2021

2015: Fan Pit Cottage pond building.
2015: Fan Pit Cottage pond building.

Fan Pit Cottages
We had an email from Anne at Fan Pit Cottages, I’ve shortened it slightly but the full version has been sent to Rick.

Just wanted to update you about my little project to attract more wildlife to our area. You might remember laying a hedge and clearing some of the land adjacent to our house at Fan Pit cottages. We were fighting a battle with Japanese Knotweed, which we have almost won!

In 2015 you created a pond for us, which has been very successful, attracting newts and toads almost immediately. Unfortunately this year a pair of mallards have decided to trash it, ripping weed out and feeding on the occupants of the pond, so I have covered it. I would love to create more ponds! We have planted a variety of trees, wild cherry and Rowan, with a few others. Sadly some of our mature trees have been affected by ash die back, so I did quite a lot of research to find trees that were suited to our clay soil and resistant to diseases.

We have a lot of marsh orchids this year and I am slowly adding more wild plants that survive the conditions. We still have hares living near the big pond, at the bottom of the field and deer have been spotted there too. Please pass on our good wishes to Rick and all the volunteers who remember coming to us. I can’t thank you enough for all your help and wish you could come again. Kindest Regards, Anne.

The Old Normal?
Good news, from July BCV will be returning to it original format of having tasks every two weeks. In addition there will be no need to book ahead for a place on task, just turn up on the day. Tasks will be starting a 10:00am until further notice and the meeting point for each task will be noted on task calendar. Transportation is still an issue though, any one needing transport to the site should contact Tom well before the task date so that arrangements can be made. Although it’s a big step towards business as usual, we still need to take care and maintain appropriate safety measures in the interests of protecting our volunteers.

May 2021


Return of the Hipster
Good news, Rick has had his hip operation and is recovering. He dropped in on our Moses Gate reedbed task to say hello, after a chat he carried on to Rock Hall to see how things were going over there with our second team. More details of the task will appear in a post shortly. Hopefully Rick will be back out on task as his usual self soon.


Going Bananas
BCV has joined forces with Banana Enterprises to help restore the grounds of Moses Gate Country Park as part of their Rock Hall restoration project. We have a number of tasks planned throughout the year so keep an eye on the task calendar.

Get Well Soon
Best wishes to Lynn from everyone, we all hope you recover soon and can join us on task when you’re better.


April 2021

We have Returned
Well we’re back at work again with our recent tasks at Firwood, but there have been a few other activities that you might not know about.

Blackleach Hibernaculum
We’ve finally got a digger in to finish the ponds and the hibernaculum. See the Blackleach Hibernaculum post for more info.

John Franklin
The Wildlife trust has created a memorial woodland to John at Seven Acres. See the John Franklin post for words and pictures.

Hip Dude
Rick is scheduled for a second hip replacement (sorry no pictures) in a few weeks, but tasks will continue with guest task leaders taking up the whip. Best wishes to Rick from everyone.


Going Bananas at Rock Hall

Banana Enterprises’ Restoration of Rock Hall, Moses Gate Country Park

Rock Hall was built in 1807 by Bolton’s premier industrialist’s the Cromptons whose paper mill, one of the earliest in Lancashire, already stood on the site. The paper mill closed in 1883 and reopened in 1894 as a bleach and dye works but was soon abandoned. The mill was demolished in 1972 and the site was turned over to recreation. Rock Hall itself was used for many years as the base for the Croal Irwell Ranger Service until cut backs forced it to close in 2014. Since then the Hall has fallen into disrepair.

In January 2021 Bolton Council gave Banana Enterprises the key to Rock Hall to renovate and expand it for use by the local community and as a training centre. Click the link to find out more about Banana Enterprises and the work they do.

Bolton Conservation Volunteers have signed up to Banana Enterprises to improve the site for wildlife and nature. BCV’s journey on this project will be documented on this post over the coming months.

23rd & 30th May 2021
Our first job at Rock Hall was to clear out the old flower beds that had become overgrown with weeds and bramble. The job was done by both BCV and Rock Hall volunteers, including Banana Enterprises founder Jayne Allman. The week after the team returned to plant up the beds with a mix of wild flowers. When in bloom they’ll provide a nectar source for a range of pollinating species from bees to moths.

Parting The Waters at Moses Gate

23rd May 2021 – Moses Gate Country Park, Reedbed Management

(Text and photos updated 31st May 2021)

Reedbeds are a disappearing habitat in the UK, there are only 900 sites around the country and only around 50 are greater than 20 hectares. Many reedbeds have been lost to agriculture either through drainage or pollution, and climate change is now posing a threat to coastal sites as sea levels rise. But all is not lost, there has been a resurgence of interest in reedbeds in recent years as sources of biofuel, water treatment, and as an alternative source of compost.

Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting


BCV has been planting reedbeds since its early years, and for us it’s about wildlife. Reedbeds can support over 700 species from invertebrates to bittern, many of these species can be found nowhere else and are dependent on reedbeds for their survival. While urban environments don’t make ideal sites for large reedbeds small ones can still be very valuable to birds such as reed warbler and reed bunting.

23rd May – Today’s task was to continue the work started last year when we diverted a stream to re-wet an area to the north of the park, see the Hidden in the Reeds post for more info. Before we can plant any reeds we first need to create an area of open water, this we did by clearing the willow and creating a dam. The line of the dam was marked out by stakes and tree trunks, other trunks were cut into logs and driven down into the mud to create a palisade, gaps were filled in with mud. Once the dam was built we dug a channel to redirect the pooled water to another area. It was a bit of a learning experience and we were making it up as we went along but it turned out to be pretty effective. Additional dams will be needed to further manage water levels, then we can start planting. More info on creating phragmites reedbeds can be found in the download below (click the link to view or button to download), photos of today’s work can be found below that. Today’s task was funded by Bolton Council’s Climate Change Fund.

30th May – A week later we returned to the reedbed. The dam was still working, although the overall water levels has dropped a bit it was still retaining water as planned. The next step was to establish the reedbed itself. After moving some of the previous week’s brash out of the way we tried 2 techniques of reedbed creation. The first was to dig up some of the reed’s rhizomes from another area and plant them in the soft mud behind the dam. This is usually the most successful way of creating a new reedbed. The second technique was to use cuttings which we gathered from an established reedbed and push them into the mud. Although a bit early in the year for trying this it was worth a try, if the weather stays warm it has a good chance of working. More info on reedbed creation can be found in the download further down the page.

So now we wait to see what happens. Well done to everyone involved. The day’s photos have been added to the gallery below.

In another area of Moses Gate another team was working with Banana Enterprises on a different project, more about this will appear in a separate post shortly.

Digging Up the Future at The Barlow

Sunday 2nd, 9th & 16 May 2021

Updated 19/05/21

The Barlow Institute was opened in 1909, in Edgworth, for the health and well being of the local community. It was dedicated to the memory of James and Alice Barlow by their children, one of whom was Sir Thomas Barlow, Professor of Clinical Medicine at University College London and the Royal Physician to Queen Victoria, Edward VII, and George V.

One hundred years later BCV arrived

2009: Barlow Institute, paths.
2009: Barlow Institute, paths.

In 2009 we held one of our residential weekends on the site and over 48 hours cleared blocked drains, cleaned out silted up ponds and installed new drainage near the river. Although the site had huge potential for wildlife we didn’t get to go back to do any further work. The grounds contain numerous trees and wild flowers including wood sorrel, wood anemone, lesser celandine, marsh marigold, bluebell, and a range of wildlife.

Wood Sorrel
Wood Sorrel

2nd May
Fast forward to 2021 and the Barlow Institute has been re-branded as The Barlow, and they have plans to develop and improve the site. The original 10 acre site contained an open air swimming pool and a boating lake. It’s at the site of the old boating lake that most of our new work is being done with one team there, and another team working on de-silting the pond we worked at in 2009.

The boating lake had silted up and was completely overrun by a dense patch of willow carr, this needed to be removed before the new ponds could be dug out. The new ponds will create habitat for amphibians and dragonfly when finished. Everything we took down was used to create a dead hedge along the footpath which will create temporary habitat for wildlife. The down side of dead hedges is that because the material isn’t living it decays over time, but it’ll work for now.

9th May
Our second task at The Barlow continued the work we started the week before with the rest of the old boating lake being cleared and the duck pond also being de-silted. Paul shot a short video of the work which can found HERE.

16th May
A slight change to activities today. We were joined by the Barlow Legends to tidy up the hedges and prepare them for a planting session with the local kids, who’ll be filling in the gaps. Also, today’s work also prepares the hedges for laying later in the year. As usual all of the brash was used to create a dead hedge, this provides additional habitat for wildlife. We’ll be back at The Barlow later in the year to continue the work.

Many thanks to Paul Allen, and the other Barlow Trustees for inviting us to work on the site. Also well done to the BCV crew for doing the work, Tom & Caroline for organising, and Francis for stepping in as a team leader while Rick is out of action. If you want to know more about The Barlow visit their website at thebarlow.co.uk.

Doffcocker’s Eleven

Doffcocker Lodge 18th & 25 April 2021 (updated 26th April)

Once Doffcocker was the biggest Local Nature Reserve in Bolton, it was the only game in town and we had things sewn up like a cheap pair of task pants. But things change, new LNR’s were muscling in, but it didn’t matter, Doffcocker would always be number one. And we had a plan, a Management Plan. Stick to the plan and you can’t go wrong, said the Boss, this is an opportunity for great things, he said. How could anything go wrong? So, we stuck to the plan and everything went just fine.

Cherry Laurel and her mob had been moving in on our action, she’d travelled from south-west Europe to take over Bluebells patch, but we soon cut her down to size and strung her out like a dead hedge. Just to make sure the message got around we cleaned up the rest of our turf. It was a massacre, there were tree limbs everywhere, those wise guys won’t be coming back any time soon. But remember, no body saw nothin’, we were too far away from each other to see, that’s the alibi.

Willow tit. Chick: Paul T, Adult: Colin M
Willow tit. Chick: Paul T, Adult: Colin M
Common Tern
Common Tern

Now, we wanted to keep some other of our ‘activities’ quiet too but someone was starting to sing, mostly birds. We had Common Tern and his crew flying in, see? They’d been away, now they’re back, and no one says ‘stool pigeon’ (cha-cha-cha-chaa). They wanted somewhere to roost until the heat was off, so we spruced a place up for them to lay low in, like Alcatraz but with fewer visitors. In return they’d slip us a little nest egg, ‘course if they don’t deliver we’ll be very unhappy.

All in all it was a sweet deal, and it was gonna get sweeter. After doing the job the gang holed up for a spell in a local speakeasy were they didn’t mind mud on your boots as long as you took it outside. First in was the guy they call The Barrister; some say beer’s beer, but if it ain’t cask then you’ve got some explainin’ to do.

So, what’s next? The Boss made us an offer we couldn’t refuse, we were getting the gang back together for another job, it was gonna be a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it. Capiche?

25th April 2021
This new job was the same as the old job, which was no bad thing, the only difference being it was also the Boss’s last stand. Word was he took a hit to the hip and had to find a sawbones for some repairs, personally I think he was just out for a free meal. But anyways, we humbly show our respects to the Boss, the original goodfella, and look forward to his magnificent return. In the meantime Franky the Hat and the Bruce Clan will be running the show, so don’t give them no lip.