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Wildlife volunteer project wins Land Trust award

Tuesday 30th May 2017

A volunteer project at the Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve near Chesterfield has won an award for enhancing the natural landscape.

The Building Walls for Wildlife project won the Project of the Year award at the Land Trust awards 2017. The £12,000 project funded by Tesco Bags of Help, has created new habitats for wildlife at the reserve, including an artificial nesting bank for sand martins ensuring they have a permanent, secure place to breed.

Sand martins breed in the UK every year after a massive 3,000 mile flight from South Africa, and would normally make nests by burrowing into soft sand on exposed river banks. However, flooding, predation and human interaction can all cause breeding failures, and numbers have crashed twice in the last fifty years as a result of drought in their wintering grounds.

Sand martins excavate new burrows every season – to mimic this Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the Land Trust will clean out the nesting chambers every season!

In addition to the sand martin bank, volunteers were trained in the traditional art of building dry stone walls on the reserve, to provide a range of wildlife habitats. Over time plants and mosses will colonise the walls, providing cover for insects and small mammals, as well as Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s flock of conservation sheep! The walls also provide an ideal nesting site for wrens and other small birds. New interpretation panels have also been placed around the reserve to help visitors learn more about the species they can encounter there.

Once the site of the Avenue Coking Works, The Land Trust now owns the former industrial location. Charles Langtree, Estates Manager (Midlands) at the Land Trust said “In its former life the site was said to be one of the most polluted in Europe, but it has undergone an amazing transformation. Now it’s a haven for wildlife with viewing platforms and paths so that people can came along and safely observe nature. The habit creation and the interpretation is a fantastic new addition to the site.”

Sam Willis, Reserves officer for Derbyshire Wildlife Trust who manage the reserve said “We would like to thank Land Trust for the accolade. We were surprised but very pleased to have won the Project of the Year Award. It’s a recognition of the hard work put in by the staff and volunteers to make the Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve an accessible sanctuary for wildlife and people.”

If you’d like to learn more about the wildlife at this award winning nature reserve, visit our Avenue Washlands Nature Reserve page.