Volunteering for Wildlife and Water in Cambridgeshire

To celebrate Volunteers Week here are a selection of ways you could get involved in our fantastic Cambridgeshire landscape and wildlife:

WWT Welney Wetland Centre

Family Engagement Volunteer

At WWT we shape unforgettable experiences for our visitors. We believe the best way for people to understand and connect to wetlands is to experience them, so we bring awe-inspiring nature up close and let it do the talking. As a family engagement volunteer, you will:
• Work as part of a small team to engage our family visitors with fun and entertaining days out, focussing on informal activities and seasonal events throughout the year: from pond dipping and bug hunting, to bird watching and owl pellet dissection!
• Help to prepare and run seasonal holiday events and WWT national events such as Puddle Jumping, GIANT Duck Trail, and Lego Trail
• Support staff with delivering other special events, such as bats and barn owl evening walks, and guided walks
• Assist staff and volunteers with occasional media related activities and placing prepared self-led seasonal interpretation around the reserve
• Keep up to date with the latest news and events at the centre and talking to visitors about forthcoming events and activities that may be of interest
• Have an overview of the basic centre knowledge to be able to assist any visitors who ask for guidance whilst you are active in the centre and on the reserve
• Take due care for the safety, welfare and enjoyment of the visiting public, especially children

Welney Wetland Centre, Nr Wisbech, PE14 9TN

Contact: Holly Ridd
Volunteer.welney@wwt.org.uk
07879 664753

This role is for those aged 18+. There are limited public transport routes directly to the Welney Wetland Centre and so use of your own vehicle or lift sharing would be helpful. Please see our webpage for further details. We regret that we are not in a position to reimburse travel expenses, however pre-agreed out of pocket expenses incurred in the course of your volunteering activities will be reimbursed.

Middle Level Commissioners – volunteering with watery wildlife

 

Sometimes it is very helpful to have an extra pair of hands when carrying out biodiversity work around the waterways and IDB districts of the Middle Level. It might be holding a ladder when checking barn owl or bat boxes, planting black poplar cuttings, or searching for signs of water voles. If you would be interested in helping out on the occasional day, please get in touch. All that is required is an interest in wildlife, a back in good working order and an enthusiastic outlook. With luck, amongst the practical work, there should be a chance of seeing some of the wildlife of the waterways. If you are interested please contact:

Cliff Carson, Environmental Officer, MLC Offices, 85 Whittlesey Road, March. PE15 0AH
Phone: 1354 653232,    Email: cliff.carson@middlelevel.gov.uk

(photos courtesy of Cliff Carson)

River Care and other river based groups

River Care groups are local volunteers funded by Anglian  Water and Keep Britain Tidy – they have a local group leader and are supported by their local River Care representative. Activities vary based on the need of the location – litter picks, river clean ups and improvements for wildlife can all feature.There are groups at:

  • Werrington Brook RiverCare: https://www.pect.org.uk/event/werrington-brook-rivercare-2/
  • Ramsey River Care: contact Rachel Brown rachael.brown@cambsacre.org.uk (01353 865037) or John Palmer: jpbiggles@hotmail.com
  • Friends of Cherry Hinton Brook: http://www.friendsofcherryhintonbrook.org.uk/

Cam Valley Forum: The Cam Valley Forum is a voluntary group, established in 2001. We work with our extensive network of partners to protect and improve the environment of the River Cam and its tributaries. More information on volunteering or joining at: https://camvalleyforum.uk/  or contact: info@camvalleyforum.uk

The River Mel Restoration Group

The River Mel Restoration Group consists of community volunteers, whose aims are to restore and enhance the characteristic habitats, plants and wildlife of the River Mel.

For further information telephone Maureen Brierley on (01763) 262752 or visit : www.rivermel.com.

The Wildlife Trust

Lots of opportunities exist with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust – from bird monitoring to working with children and families. The Great Fen website lists them all – take a look:  https://www.wildlifebcn.org/volunteer-opportunities

 WWT Welney Wetland Centre: Reserves Support Team Volunteer (Sundays)

As a Reserves Support Team volunteer, you will be part of a team meeting every 3rd Sunday each month to complete scheduled tasks, including:

  • assisting with all practical reserve management activities including scrub clearance, pruning, pollarding and fencing
  • supporting staff and other volunteers with the construction and maintenance of ponds, scrapes, ditches and reed beds thus helping to ensure that the reserve water bodies are maintained and managed appropriately
  • assisting with the management of grazing livestock
  • assisting with the construction and maintenance of access routes to the bird hides including the maintenance of fences, footpaths and hides
  • working with a variety of hand tools safely and correctly, observing and applying health and safety regulations at all times
  • taking due care for the safety, welfare and enjoyment of the visiting public

Welney Wetland Centre, Nr Wisbech, PE14 9TN

Contact: Holly Ridd
Volunteer.welney@wwt.org.uk
07879 664753

This role is for those aged 18+. There are limited public transport routes directly to the Welney Wetland Centre and so use of your own vehicle or lift sharing would be helpful. Please see our webpage for further details. We regret that we are not in a position to reimburse travel expenses, however pre-agreed out of pocket expenses incurred in the course of your volunteering activities will be reimbursed.

 

 

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Water Envronment Grant (WEG)

The new Water Environment Grant scheme  is now live.  Follow this link to find the Handbook and Application Forms https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/water-environment-grant-weg-handbooks-guidance-and-forms

Grant Workshop 

 If you have a project which you think could be funded  through this grant scheme you can attend a workshop on Monday 26 26 March, from 10am – 3pm at Red Lodge Millennium Centre, Lavender Cl, Bury St. Edmunds, Red Lodge, Bury Saint Edmunds IP28 8TT . To register email CAAWFDDELIVERY@environment-agency.gov.uk

Below is a summary of all that I have gathered over the last few months about this new grant fund and a link here to a presentation from the Environment Agency.

Water Environment Grant: summary of fund to date (end Feb 2018)

 Fund

  • Multi million fund over three years , 100% grant, no match required, no minimum or maximum limits set yet .
  • EA/NE responsible for administering and advising upon who should receive the grant and monitoring project progress  – RPA is granting body
  • Most likely this will be the only call for applications
  • Claims will be retrospective, can claim up to 4 times a year

Likely timetable:

  • Workshop for this area 26 March
  • Unsure when open for applications
  • Eligibility assessment: June
  • Prioritisation: July-Aug
  • Grant issue: Aug 18

Projects must:

  • Either improve SSI/SAC etc. or address a WFD issue for NAG
  • Be in channel work, have a schedule of works in place, clear outputs/outcomes
  • Be in catchment plan
  • Be value for money
  • Be deliverable straight away
  • Be able to state km of river improved and/or elements improved
  • Have permissions in place(or at least partly processed)
  • Have full cost details (evidence will need to be supplied) & payment milestones in place

Other info:

  • Revenue funding: unclear but did say that there is no cap on funding for staff time
  • Projects will be looked favourable if they are building on previous work on tying in with existing projects and provide multiple benefits
  • Feeling at CABA conference was that larger projects with a big spend will be favoured
  • IDBs can apply

 

Floating Pennywort: Part 2 – Spread and control in Cambridgeshire

pennywort2

Cam Valley Forum Volunteer clearing Floating Pennywort, photo courtesy of Cam Valley Forum

Spread

Floating Pennywort can be found on the Cam, Gt .Ouse, Lark, Bourne Brook and the Old West. Fragments of plant detach from existing rafts of the weed and float downstream to catch on overhanging trees and vegetation and where they will start to growth. Boats definitely play a role in spreading plant fragments but the case against water birds is less certain. Interestingly it is not as widespread on the Cam as it flows though the centre of Cambridge. This is thought to be because the plant fragments appear to prefer “sticking to” natural vegetation or obstructions – the banks of the Cam in the city centre are hard piled and smooth and don’t seem to be very attractive to the plant.  This may have serious implications about how banks and overhanging trees are to be managed – some tough choices ahead perhaps?

Control measures

Responsibility

The riparian  owner is ultimately responsible for the control of the plant if it is not on a main river. Environment Agency permissive powers allow the Agency to gain access for removal to other watercourses if it poses a risk to flooding or navigation on main rivers.

Control methods in Cambridgeshire so far…

  1. Rakes : Cam Valley Forum Volunteers have been holding regular working parties to clear the weed from the Cam. They have found the type of rake used to be important – the tines needing to be curved and close together. Booms are put in place to prevent small fragments floating downstream. The main problem with this approach has been accessing the plant where there are overgrown and steep banks. Disposal has also proved tricky due to its bulk and weight. It can be composted under a tarpaulin but can live up to a month like this before it dies. There have been varying reports about whether cattle will eat it or not, some do, some don’t!
  2. Mechanical weed cutting: used by the Environment Agency and Cam Conservators. The latter have been clearing Floating Pennywort for about 8 years when it first became a menace. Again, the use of a boom to prevent fragment dispersal is important.

    weedcutter

    Weedcutter

  3. Herbicide: varying levels of success have been experienced using the herbicide glyphosate as the chemical appears to have little/no effect on submerged plant parts. Best results have been achieved by spraying when the plant is young in early spring and adding Topfilm  –  a naturally based aquatic adjuvant approved for the use in the control of aquatic weeds. This improves the way the herbicide “sticks” to the leaves. It has been found that the plant needs to be sprayed every 3 weeks when it is growing strongly and when temperatures are above 6⁰C with control taking up to 8 weeks. Problems arise when the weed has got into the natural bank vegetation – spraying to kill the weed will also kill the bank vegetation, winter spraying when the native vegetation is dormant but the Pennywort is still growing is an option.  Cam Conservators have found an integrated regime of mechanical removal, followed by hand picking and then herbicide use has given  the best control so far.

The future – harnessing the power of weevil…

CABI  (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) have identified a South American weevil (Listronotus elongatus) which may have potential for biological control of the weed. The weevil larvae mine into the stems and the adults eat the leaves of the Pennywort. At present, indications are that it is specific to Floating Pennywort and can survive colder temperatures. Extensive tests have been carried out to ascertain its effectiveness and safety which have been submitted to the UK regulators who are now considering its suitability for release.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Listronotus weevil , photo courtesy of CABI

Floating Pennywort: Part 1: why is it so invasive?

Earlier the year I attended an excellent workshop about Floating Pennywort hosted by Cam Valley Forum & Cambridge Conservation Forum. Below are some of the facts I gathered about this menace which is plaguing the Cam, Ouse and various Lodes in the area. Part 2 will be about the control methods currently in use and what may be available in the future.

Why is it such a pest?

All down to biology ….

  1. The plant has an amazing ability to reproduce itself, not by making seeds but by shedding parts of its stems which contain growth points called nodes – these nodes have the ability to start growing roots and shoots all over again. It is estimated that a square metre mat of the plant contains approximately 2,300 nodes, all of which are capable of regenerating new plants. The broken off plant parts can float pwort node
You can see the roots starting to grow at the nodes along the stem.

Photo credit: GB NNSS

2.It was bred by the aquatic nursery trade to be a vigorous spreader – which they successfully achieved. It can easily out-compete most native plant species.

3. It is not fussy about nutrient requirement and has no limiting nutrient level. Whatever nutrient it can find it tends to scoop up and high levels of toxic elements such as mercury have been found in plants in the Netherlands

4. It is frost tolerant and needs a good hard spell of freezing weather to stop growth. Frost will kill the top growth but the growth underwater may survive.

5. It doesn’t move (translocate) herbicides well to its leaves and stems and to really kill it off the apical (end) bud needs to be sprayed. A plant will survive a spray if the apical bud is under the water or is “hiding” on a non sprayed bank side. It can take up to three weeks for glyphosate (the herbicide used in control) to take effect.

6. In the south of the country it has started to set seeds; this could be due to warmer weather or more worryingly, species adaptation.

Next week: how it spreads and how it is currently being controlled in Cambridgeshire

Free Community Flood Group Training

marchfloods2

Community flood volunteers and flood groups are key in helping their community to be prepared for flooding and other emergencies. They play a vital role in a community’s response before,during, and after a flood.
Working in partnership the Environment Agency, Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue, Cambridgeshire County Council, Peterborough City Council and Anglian Water are offering 2 free training sessions for all new flood volunteers and those communities who are interested in setting up flood volunteers in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
You don’t need any previous experience. You just need to be willing to learn how to help your community.

By attending the training, you’ll gain an insight into the work of the Environment Agency and its partners. During the day you will cover modules in:
– Role profile: what do community volunteers do?
– Introduction to emergency services: what they do and don’t do.
– Understanding flood risk: an introduction to flooding, responsibilities of organisations
and flood warnings.
– Flood risk awareness: personal safety and dangers of flood water
– Equipment: how to use hydrosacks and the correct use, maintenance and storage of
high visibility clothing and equipment.

The dates of the 2 training sessions are: (Please note you only need to attend one of these dates)
Wednesday 29th November
10:00 – 16:00
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Headquarters
Brampton Road
Huntingdon
PE29 2NA
Friday 1st December
10:00 – 16:00
Environment Agency Office
Bromholme Lane
Brampton
PE28 4NE
To get the most out of the training course places are limited to 30 attendees for each day. Places will be allocated on a first come first serve basis and a maximum of two representatives only from each community can attend.

If you would like to book your place please email Tamsyn.Ellway@environment-agency.gov.uk or call 020 302 51949 with your 1st and 2nd preference for which training session you would like to attend.

Ramsey River Litter Pick

 Calling all Ramsey Litter Heroes, your local river needs you!

On October 17 there will be a litter pick behind the George Hotel in Ramsey – anyone with enthusiasm for wildlife, nature and improving the environment is welcome. We will start at 10.30 am and will be finished by midday. All equipment will be provided. The morning will be run by RiverCare and Cambridgeshire ACRE.

RiverCare supports volunteer groups to adopt and look after a stretch of river near to them.  The looking after bit begins with holding litter picks;  litter is a real threat to our wildlife in and around our rivers and contributes to the spiralling pollution of our oceans.

If you are interested in coming along please contact Rachael Brown on rachael.brown@cambsacre.org.uk ,  01353 865037 or  visit the Events on Cambridgeshire ACRE’ s Facebook page. We need to know numbers to make sure we have enough equipment on the day.

Looking forward to seeing you there!