Trust creates Hilton wildlife homes thanks to Biffa Award

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Hilton gravel pits is one of the Trust’s most important reserves for birds, fish, insects and amphibians and is being revived thanks to a generous £15,000 Biffa Award grant.

This winter, staff and volunteers coppiced the trees and reduced shading on pond edges to rejuvenate the plants. Willow had invaded the important wetland and lakeside edges, affecting the health of areas where water-loving wildlife usually lives and feeds. The unwanted willow was having a negative effect on the banksides and water quality by blocking the sunlight, causing leaf litter to smother smaller plants and algae to bloom.

Following the work, plants like water mint and flag iris are beginning to thrive again and support the colourful emperor and ruddy darter dragonflies, emerald and red eyed damselflies as well as fish, frogs, toads and newts. Oystercatchers have been seen for the first time in a number of years and reed bunting numbers seem to have increased.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscapes officer for the Trent Valley George Bird said “With the return of oystercatcher, we are already seeing results at Hilton thanks to Biffa Award and the time and effort from volunteers and colleagues working throughout the winter. The reed bed and wetland plants are bursting back into life and birds are making nests in their new homes – we hope to see kingfisher back soon too and I am excited to see the future benefits of this work in years to come.”

All activity is currently on hold due to restrictions on non-essential work and social distancing but once they have been lifted, the work can resume, including installation of bird and bat boxes and a floating raft out on the lake for common terns.

Funding from Biffa Award, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund, has helped to pay for essential material and equipment which has helped Derbyshire Wildlife Trust carry out this essential work.

Rachel Maidment, Biffa Award Grants Manager, said: “It is a privilege to be part the revival of the Hilton gravel pits. The benefits of this important biodiversity project on a variety of species are already clear to see. We can’t wait to see further benefits in the years to come.”

Hilton Gravel Pits main pool, Kelvin Lawrence

Hilton Gravel Pits main pool by Kelvin Lawrence