Moses Gate: Parting The Waters

23rd May 2021 – 5th May 2024 Reedbed Management

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.

5th May 2024 – Moving on a couple of years and were back again, May 5th 2024. The dam continues to work but not as well as it could, even though last year we cut numerous channels to move water to other parts of the site. So this year we continued that work. We cut additional channels to re-wet the areas further away from the dam and used the mud to shore up the the dam itself and make it water tight. By the time we left it pond behind the dam was pooling up nicely. Well done to everyone; special thanks to Jayne from Banana Enterprises and Rock Halls Volunteers.

Photos below are from this task and also the initial 2021 task.

Doffcocker: Reeds and Trees

Doffcocker LNR 11th March 2024 – Reedbed Management

Doffcocker Lodge Reedbed

Redbeds have been one of the UK’s fastest declining habitats. Historically reeds were used for thatching, which because it was a widespread practice helped to maintain the health and extent of reedbeds, but as slate and other materials replaced reeds the maintenance of the beds lapsed and they began to decline. Some beds are still managed for thatch but it is only on a small scale.

In recent years reedbeds have had a renaissance for both commercial and conservation purposes. Reedbeds are excellent water filters and can be used in sewage treatment, but they only have a lifespan of 5-15 years depending on the effluent load that flows through them. For us the value in reedbeds lies in their importance to conservation.

Reedbeds support around 700 species of invertebrate plus many species of bird, amphibian, mammal and fish; bittern, water rail, reed bunting, reed warbler, water shrew, otter, to name a few. Not all of these are found in Bolton but Doffcocker does have a fine collection of warblers and has been visited by bittern.

Reed Warbler
Reed Warbler
Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting

Forty years ago BCV planted a few square metres of phragmites rhizomes, today we have one of the largest reedbeds in Greater Manchester, but reedbeds need to be managed to continue to thrive. At Doffcocker willow has been encroaching on the edges of the reedbed. Trees damage reedbeds in a number of ways, they can dry out the boggy areas reeds grow in by sucking up the moisture, and also silt up water bodies by depositing leaf litter. Over time the reeds are driven back and the reedbeds become dominated by willow.

Bolton Conservation Volunteers spent this Sunday removing willow trees to stop the decline of one of Bolton’s most wildlife rich habitats.

For more information on reedbeds and how to create them read the downloadable file below.

Doffcocker: Rafts and Reeds

Habitat Management Doffcocker Lodge LNR 23rd April 2023

Common Tern
Common Tern at Doffcocker Lodge

Tern Rafts – Doffcocker Lodge already has 3 rafts for common tern and today we completed and installed raft number 4. Common tern winter in West Africa before returning to Europe to breed. They usually nest on shingle beaches along the coast but disturbance by humans has forced these agile and elegant sea birds to look further in land for suitable habitat.

Tern rafts are floating wooden frames, surrounded by a fence and covered in cockleshells, they also have short pieces of terracotta pipe for shelter. The population at Doffcocker varies but in 2022 we had around 10 breeding pairs which successfully hatched several chicks.

The rafts were completed on the shore then floating out into position and secured in place with 4 concrete anchors. The grouping of 4 rafts will allow the terns to breed away from predators, as we were leaving the site 2 common tern arrived and landed on one of the rafts.

Phragmites Reedbed
Phragmites Reedbed

Reedbeds – Doffcocker Lodge is an old industrial lodge consisting of 2 water bodies divided by a causeway. The reedbeds at Doffcocker were planted around 30 years ago by BCV, at that time they were just a few square metres of rhizome planted in straw bales. The bed now covers the shoreline of the small lodge from one end of the causeway to the other part part of the larger lodge. Our reedbed work today involved finishing a line of dams in along the compartment in the main lodge to raise the water level locally, and also pushing back the tree line on the north side of the small lodge to the allow the reeds to spread further, a continuation of work we started last year.

Reedbeds can support around 700 species of invertebrates, amphibians, birds, mammals and fish.

Moses (Gate) Hidden in the Reeds

Moses Gate Country Park, Reedbed Management, 23rd August

Phragmites australis, or common reed, reedbeds are a declining habitat, this is a shame as they support over 700 species of invertebrate, at least 6 red listed bird species, 4 reedbed dependent bird species, as well as amphibians, fish and the several mammals. They are hugely important for maintaining water quality and can also provide some degree of flood defence. The pressures created by land drainage, water abstraction and poor management are just a few of the reason why many reedbeds have been lost. If they are lost then we also lose the species that depend on them.

Reed Bunting
Reed Bunting
Reed Warbler
Reed Warbler

Many thanks to John Loder for the reed warbler photo.

Samuel Crompton’s old workshop became the promised land of reedbeds thanks to BCV. Over the last couple of decades we have planted reeds at different points around Crompton Lodges. Starting from a few square metres the reeds have expanded and spread to cover a large portion of the top lodge. But it isn’t enough, we want more. We have the space but there’s not enough water, so, what can we do to fix it?

With the permission of Bolton Council, the plan is to alter the flow of a small stream running into the candidate area by digging ditches across the site to re-wet the not-so-wet swamp. We will also need to do some planting, the good thing is that planting new reedbeds is fairly straight forward, read BCV’s own guide by clicking the button below.

Some of our soggy six believe this was the wettest task ever, but I can remember tasks at Blackleach, Cox Green, Wigan Flashes and several Anderton weekends which were at least as bad. Not to mention last year’s Bolton to Darwen walk.

So, what did our mud monkeys do? Around the perimeter of the site there’s a ditch that intercepts water entering the proposed reedbed which isn’t ideal as we want more water not less. The plan was to cut irrigation channels and allow more water to access the reedbed area from the ditch. Using a digger would have been more convenient but volunteers are easier to replace when they get damaged. Well done to all on an impressive piece of digging.

Photos: 23rd August – Tom Bruce/Francis Williams