The ever improving activity at the Fold with new crop growing areas and poultry farming as well as the increasing popularity of fishing (as the size of the carp in the reservoirs gets larger), does practically mean that there is now less time when wildlife can do its thing – finding a place to establish a territory to feed in, find a mate and breed successfully.

The increasing popularity of the nature trail as a place to bring your dog and let it run around off the lead, also presents difficulties for many ground nesting birds as well as wild mammals like rabbits and badgers. So whilst one major task is to observe and monitor what wild animals, insects, birds and plants are living in the Fold’s estate, another must be to protect and conserve those species sharing the space with ever increasing numbers of visitors.

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Azure damselflies mating (1) Common club-tailed dragonfly emerging (2)  Southern Hawker dragonfly (3) 

Tracy Sutton and Keith Falconer have plenty to do, every time they visit as volunteers. Recently Keith has met with the team that keep the grassy areas open by mowing and agreed with them that mowing should be restricted in some areas to later in the year. This allows wild flowers to set seed after flowering and also benefits the many insects that not only pollinate the wild plants but also often the crop plants that later produce fruit and vegetables for sale. The wild birds then benefit from an increased food supply and more birds help to control some insects that are pests. In fact, a simple thing like reducing mowing and allowing areas to revert to wild flower meadows can alter the environment for the better within one or two years.

Other plans now coming to fruition are the start of a program to install nest boxes and bat refuges with the installation of a kestrel nest box. A number of reptile refuges have also been installed to help the slow worm and grass snake population. A number of ponds are planned to help the amphibians and freshwater living species, but this is subject like a lot of the work to funds being found to purchase equipment hire and materials.

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Keith putting up Kestrel box (4)  A slow worm from one of the new reptile refuges (5) White legged damselfly (6) Tracy cutting back Himalayan Balsam along the river before it seeds (main photo)

Conservation does take time to demonstrate its benefits but one thing is very clear, there is a bright display of ox-eye daisies around the top reservoir along with several spotted orchids not seen before last year. And this only means one thing – loads more flowers next year!

This article was written by Fold Nature Trail volunteer and local wildlife expert and photographer Keith Falconer