Blackleach Hibernaculum

Blackleach Country Park 29th November and 27th December 2020

This task falls under the category of pond work even though there was no pond to work on. Instead we were both clearing an area to create a pond and building a hibernaculum. A hibernaculum is a structure in which amphibians can safely hibernate. The word comes from the Latin phrase meaning a winter camp, originally used by Roman soldiers but now the word has been re-purposed for conservation.

This particular hibernaculum is made from a linear habitat pile made from brash with logs at either end. Ultimately the structure will be covered in yew branches (removed from a nearby hedge where it was causing problems), and finally covered in the soil that will be dug out to create the ponds.

Great Crested Newt
Great Crested Newt

29/11/20 – Today’s work involved our chainsaw operator cutting down some big old willow trees before the rest of the volunteers arrived. By mid-morning our chainsaw guy had finished work and left, leaving the site open for the safe six to come in and begin their work. This was mostly cutting up the brash for the habitat pile and stacking the logs for the hibernaculum’s entrance structure. The gaps between the logs will let the amphibians in but keep everything else out.

27/12/20 – Another team returned today to finish off moving the pile of brash and covering the the structure in yew branches. The structure had been widened a little to accommodate the remaining brash, well done Clayton.

The digger will come in sometime in January to dig out the ponds and dump the soil on the hibernaculum. The last photo below is an impression of how it might look when finished. When it is finished it will provide habitat for great crested newts and other amphibs in Greater Manchester’s great crested newt capital – Blackleach.

National Tree Week

Longsight Park, Bolton, 6th December 2020

The Tree Council Logo

The Tree Council first established National Tree Week in March 1975 to support national replanting of trees after the outbreak of Dutch Elm disease. Each year over 250,000 people join in and plant trees across the country. National Tree Week is the UK’s largest tree celebration, annually launching the start of the winter planting season.

This year BCV has gotten involved with an event at Longsight Park, Bolton. Kids of all ages took part and planted over 300 trees in a neglected corner of the park. Using the tried and tested ‘T’ cut planting technique a mix of field maple, silver birch and sessile oak were planted along pre-prepared lanes. The trees were then protected using a first for us, cardboard tree shelters. The shelter seem a lot more durable that you’d expect and will protect the trees from grazing by deer and short-tailed field voles.

All photos were taken with parents’ permission. Family groups arrived at pre-arranged times to maintain social distancing and Tools were sanitised between uses. Thanks to T&C for organising and all the families for participating. Don’t forget to check Norman’s Christmas Cheer after viewing the photos, no captions this time, the photos speak for themselves. Happy Tree Week.

John Franklin

December 17th 2020

No year should end with sad news but this year continues to take more than it gives.

Our friend John Franklin has passed away due to covid complications.

John wasn’t just a volunteer, he was a shoulder anyone could lean on. You didn’t even need to ask, he’d just be there ready to listen to any problem you had. He’d encourage and support, and not judge. You couldn’t know John and not like him, John found many friends in BCV.

He volunteered not only with BCV but also The Wildlife Trust, and the Trust’s Men in Sheds group, a group that helps isolated men find a place and a purpose in the community. John’s ability to connect with people helped these lost individuals open up and find themselves, he probably saved many men from lives of misery and despair with just a few simple words.

John was someone whose friendship and humanity should be aspired to by everyone. His loss is a tragedy for his family, friends, the community and all who knew him. Love and condolences to John’s family, we are all thinking of you.

I’m sure many people have memories of John, if you send them to me I’ll add them to this post.

UPDATE – 08/01/21
John’s funeral was on 7th January, at 12:00 noon at the west chapel, Overdale Cemetery. Only a limited number of people was allowed to attend, 10 family and 9 from the volunteer groups John was part of.

The family has asked for donations to be made to the British Lung Foundation in John’s memory, if that is something you would like to do. If you would like to send a card to John’s wife Evelyn and his family then the Wildlife Trusts’ Steven Cartwright can take these up to them on your behalf. Please send them to ‘Evelyn Franklin, c/o Stephen Cartwright, 499-511 Bury Road, Bolton, BL2 6DH’. Please can I ask that these arrive no later than 18th January to avoid unnecessary disturbance to the family.

The Friends of Seven Acres are planning on holding a tree planting session on site in memory of John at some point in the future so if you feel that is a more appropriate way to pay your respects then please await news of that.

Comments are also being posted in the comments box beneath the photo gallery, many thanks to everyone who has contributed. Comments that are left won’t appear immediately but will appear after approval.

Norman’s Christmas Cheer

Never has mid-winter been so bleak, never have days been so un-jolly. The pandemic, political chaos, environment in crisis, have made 2020 a year to remember for the wrong reasons. We have fallen on dark days but as winter nights start to get longer the light of hope begins to shine again.

BCV faced it’s own crises in 2020, we closed down in March with no idea if the group still had a future, but returned in June with fewer volunteers on task but more tasks per month. Many of our members stayed away as covid fears took their toll, but new volunteers have join us. Indoor meetings at the Sweet Green have had to stop, but now we have Zoom meetings. Without tasks or walks or meetings our members were isolated, but the WhatsApp group brought people together. Our old website was forced to shut down, but was rebuilt into something new and better. Our beloved old beer-glass-newt logo was replaced with a new, more inclusive and forward looking image.

Despite all the tragedy, heartbreak, loneliness, anxiety, and isolation we have endured and found new purpose to drive us forward, and new horizons to set our compass to. After every nightfall there is a sunrise, after every winter there is a spring. The furture is finally looking up. We will continue to meet the challenges and look forward to a time when all of our members will be able to put on their wellies and meet on task again as one big BCV family. Hope to see you all in 2021.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Norman’s jolly Christmas cheers, so, the cheers for 2020 go to: Rick, Tom and Caroline for keeping the tasks running under difficult circumstances (BIG CHEER); to Colin for building, and running, the new website, and putting together the new calendar (CHEESY CHEERS); to Jane for hosting the Zoom meetings (CHEERY CHEERS); to Gill for keeping people occupied on WhatsApp (CHIRPY CHIRPY CHEER CHEER); to all of our clients for continuing to have faith in BCV (WILD CHEERS); finally to the BCV family of volunteers who have been their for each other in time of need and continue to go above and beyond being just mere volunteers (BIG BIG CHEERS and WILD APPLAUS).

And now, as is traditional, Norman T. Newt would like to sing a couple of jolly Christmas ditties for your amusement, feel free to join in, you know the tunes.

Norman’s Christmas Cheer

Dashing through the snow
Trying to ‘walk this way’
O’er the fields we go,
Tripping all the way.

Shiny bill hooks ring,
Hedges are our pride,
Oh! What fun it is to sing
A hedgerow song outside.

Oh, Jingle newts, wearing masks,
Not mingling all the day.
Oh! what fun it is to,
Social distance on Sunday.

Oh, Jingle newts, rule of six,
Sanitise the saws.
Everyone is squeaky clean,
So we break no laws.

Walking ‘cross the mud,
Rain is in the sky.
Looking for a pub,
Are they still locked down?

Rain coats, hats and gloves,
Keeping workers dry.
Oh! What fun it is to sing
A tasking song hoo-rah!

Jingle newts, wearing masks,
No mingling all the day.
Oh! what fun it is to,
Keep our distance on Sunday.

Oh, Jingle newts, rule of six,
Sanitise the gloves.
Everyone is peachy keen,
Doing what we love.

The BCV Christmas Song

Rhodys burning on an open fire
Cold mud dripping from your nose,
Caroline and Tom working without tire,
And Francis dressed in Sunday clothes

Everybody knows a bow saw and some loppers so,
Help to make the task day right.
Jane with her cheeks all aglow,
Won’t find it hard to sleep tonight.

Hedge laying season’s on its way;
Rick has saws and stakes in his ‘sleigh’.
And every volunteer will try,
To see if wildlife they can spy.

And so we’re offering these outdoor days,
To kids from eight to eighty-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
A very BCV Christmas to you.

Merry Christmas Everyone

November and December task blogs will appear below.

Tidying Up Prestolee

Prestolee Pocket Park 22nd November 2020

Prestolee Pocket Park, or Stoneclough Community Woodland to its friends, is a small patch of land between a housing estate, Trinity Church, and Prestolee Primary School that had been forgotten and ignored for years. That was until the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Society (MBBCS) decided to do something with it.

See the Hey,Presto-lee blog for more info.

This is our last visit to Prestolee Pocket Park for this year. Autumn and winter are the best times for tidying up woodlands as birds have finished nesting and most of the leaves are off the trees. Most of today’s work involved cutting branches that were overhanging the footpath, or were unsafe, we also cleared the paths of fallen leaves and trimmed back the hedges to improve access.

Although not the best of conservation tasks it was still good to get out and do something positive. Here’s some photos.

If I Had A Hammer

St. Michael’s School, Green Lane, Bolton 15th November 2020

It has been announced that a new GCSE in natural history is to be launched in 2022. Brilliant news, but one commentator claimed that it kids would choose it as an easy option as all it would involve would be going out and walking around fields. They need a proper science like geography. Hmmm…..

Any GSCE that would need to cover, at the very least, biology, ecology, geology, geography and human impacts on the environment is not an easy option, it is a multi-disciplinary science. Any one who has done an Environmental Science degree will tell you just how complex natural environments and our relationship with them are. So, thumbs up to the kids who will take up this challenge for a better planet. Having said that, many schools in Bolton have already embraced nature within their curriculum.

St Michaels Wildlife Garden 2000
St Michael’s wildlife garden 2000
St Michael’s outdoor classroom 2014

St Michael’s School, Green Lane, Bolton first started to develop their outdoor classroom before the term existed, in those days they were just called school gardens. In 1990 the school asked the newly formed Bolton Wildlife Project for help with designs and costings to improve their grounds. In 2000 extensive boardwalks and ponds were installed in joint tasks by The Wildlife Trust and Bolton Conservation Volunteers. BCV returned in 2014 to restore the pond and some of the boardwalks. In 2016 the school won a Platinum Green Tree School Award from the Woodland Trust after pupils planted hundreds of trees throughout the grounds. Which brings us to November 2020 and BCV have returned again to do a bit of a tidy up.

Over the course of the lockdowns outdoor classrooms have suffered from lack of maintenance. On today’s task one of the boardwalks had netting nailed into place to prevent slipping on the wet and slippery wood, and the pond was dredged of leaves. Part of the boardwalk was so unsafe it needed to be replaced, but that’s for another time. The biggest problem on today’s task was working in such a confined area, everybody who could wear a mask wore one, with exceptions on medical grounds. Still, the job got done and there’s plenty more left to do here and at other schools.

A Cut Above

Coppicing at Doffcocker Lodge, 8th November 2020

At the start of Lockdown 2.0 looked like BCV would be locking away the tools and hanging up our gloves for the duration but at the eleventh hour Bolton Council said we were good to go.. so we went. This time it was Doffcocker Lodge Local Nature Reserve, Bolton’s first, and for many years only LNR. The lodge was originally built to supply water for Bolton’s industry and made use of the site’s elevation and plentiful water supply from the numerous springs and streams running into the valley. Today it is a haven for bird life including kingfisher, reed bunting, willow tit, and an occasional stop over for bittern.

Doffcocker 2015
Doffcocker 2015

Our task today was harvesting osier stems from one of the 3 compartments on the northern shore. Coppicing, as it’s called is an age old woodland management technique that exploits our native trees’ ability to regrow after being damaged. Cutting these trees down causes them to regrow new shoots and stems which can be cut for firewood, charcoal making, or craft materials. In this case we’re coppicing a type of willow called osier to harvest stems for use in hurdle weaving projects at local schools. All of the willow that was cut will regrow and in doing so create habitat for birds and invertebrates. To prove it, we found a number of nests nestling between the willow stems.

Doffcocker Nest
Birds nest in willow coppice

So our super six set to work, only stopping to take a 2 minute break at 11 o’clock for Remembrance Day. In previous years our mass turnouts would have cleared the whole compartment in an afternoon but with our numbers limited to six we only managed to cut about two thirds- but we also created a dead hedge, harvested masses of stems, planted some sticks that should grow into more willow trees, and tidy up some rubbish. In three year’s time we can harvest here again. So, not just a win-win, but a win-win-win.

Incidentally, Doffcocker is derived from the site’s Celtic name meaning The Black Winding Stream. I bet you really wanted to know that, so now some photos.

Hey, Presto-lee

Prestolee 25th October 2020

Prestolee Pocket Park, or Stoneclough Community Woodland to its friends, is a small patch of land between a housing estate, Trinity Church, and Prestolee Primary School that had been forgotten and ignored for years. That was until the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal Society (MBBCS) decided to do something with it.

Their goal was to create a green space for use by the local community, school, church and groups for events, community food growing, and other great stuff.

Raising additional cash from Kearsley Area Forum, Bolton at Home, Prestolee Academy Trust and central government funding the MBBCS approached numerous volunteer to groups to help with the heavy lifting.

In 2019 BCV began the work of constructing dead hedges and removing brash and trash from the site, this year we continue with some new plantings.

This task was supposed to have been part of our Halloween fun task but nobody (dead or alive) wore their hats. Maybe the hats were socially distancing. See the Halloween Hall of Horrors for how things used to be including Tom’s team at Moses Gate this year.

Halloween Hall of Horrors

‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on.


For the last few years BCV has held Halloween themed tasks to celebrate the season of the witch, but with this year’s real global horror story limiting our undead lives, our ghoul fest has had to be chopped down in size. So, to remind us all how zombies danced and werewolves howled here’s a few creepy pics from previous years. Here’s to raising spirits.

Our Back Field of Dreams

Our Back Field, Hunger Hill
4th & 11th October 2020

The work of small local groups often goes unnoticed. In 2009 the Hunger Hill Action Group established itself to develop a patch of land behind Knutshaw Crescent for local amenity. The housing estate sits on the busy A58 where there were no safe areas for children or families to play and relax, and so the Action Group was born.

The land is jointly owned by Bolton at Home and Peel Holdings who were happy to let the group use it. With the help of Councilor Bernadette Eckersley-Fallon the group set about gaining grant funding, and then began the hard work of building paths, play areas, community art, and other stuff. The project was named Our Back Field. We think that the Wildlife Trust may have been involved in the original heavy work but that’s still to be confirmed.

Art work

Fast forward to 2020 and the site’s numerous paths, open green spaces and pond had become over grown and in need of help. Chris, the original founder of the Action Group, approached Bolton Green Umbrella, who introduced her to Bolton Conservation Volunteers, and like the A Team, we love it when a plan comes together.

After delays and set backs caused by the ever changing lockdown rules, and after extensive risk assessments, we finally got to start work on the site. BCV has been following the Rule of Six since before it had a name and the work on this site was no different. The task was split into two teams of six spread over two weekends.

Reed Mace
Reed Mace
Great Crested Newt
Great Crested Newt

On 4th October the target was pond and path work, the pond, which may originally have been an old farm pond, was choked with typha (reedmace). This was dug out and pulled out to create some open water for amphibians. A nearby path also received some attention. Future work could include replacing boardwalks. Although originally meant for amenity the site has good potential for wildlife which we hope we can build on over time.

11th October. With a fresh set of six, including a new volunteer, we started the next stage of our Hunger Hill task which involved improving access through the woodland. We cut back over hanging and encroaching branches to create more room and also cut away branches behind the path to let more light through to the path and the woodland understorey. This will make the walk more pleasant, safer, and also encourage the regrowth and regeneration of woodland flora.

Most of the residents were appreciative of the work we’ve done, although one gentleman took issue with the coppicing of the big willow in the pond the previous week. This tree was cut back to allow more light to get to the pond and reduce leaf litter, improving the oxygen saturation of the pond water and so improving conditions for pond life. Historically the pond contained great crested newt and is the reason why the pond hadn’t been filled in or the site developed for housing. Rick is planning to carry out a pond survey at a later date.

The same gentleman also took issue with the drainage of the path. The pre-existing drain had been cleaned out but he believed that this act had caused the pond to backflow onto the path causing flooding. This does highlight one of the problems of volunteer work: a group of volunteers, working in their own time to benefit a community they don’t live in, can’t please everyone.

Many thanks to Christine for inviting us to help her with her plans for the site, it’s a great site and deserves to flourish. We look forward to helping out again in the future.