Roving at Rowhill – a transformed boardwalk

Today I popped down to Rowhill to see the newly-installed replacement boardwalk, and took some comparison photos to show the dramatic transformation.

The earlier wooden boardwalk through an area of wet woodland, was showing it’s age and had become uneven and slippery. So it was replaced with a more accessible & longer-lasting recycled plastic design. It was a great opportunity to work with our partners, with our Blackwater Valley Ranger Team led by Stu installing the main section, and then working with the Rowhill Nature Reserve Volunteers and Christian on the second length.

Eastern end of boardwalk – before and after

Middle of boardwalk – before and after

Western end of boardwalk – before and after

A huge thank you to everyone involved for all their hard work. The new boardwalk is a fantastic addition to Rowhill Nature Reserve and is attracting lots of positive comments from visitors.

Senior Ranger Stuart


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Rowhill Boardwalk

This week the Blackwater Valley Rangers went to Rowhill Nature Reserve to install the long awaited Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is made of recycled plastic which in the very wet condition will last for many  years, opposed to the wooden version which in time would rot and need replacing.

The section pictured is 27 meters long and will have ramps leading up to it at either end. The 27 meters was completed by the Blackwater Valley Ranger team in just 4 days. There is going to be a second section installed which will be 9 meters long. The Rowhill Nature Reserve Volunteers have kindly offered to install this section within the next few weeks.

I would like to thank all of the Blackwater Valley Rangers who have come along this week to help and support on this great project. I managed to have a catch up with Christian from the Rowhill Volunteers on Thursday and he gave a hand to move the remaining  tread boards to the work location. I think this boardwalk is a great addition to the site and many visitors will enjoy having not so wet and muddy feet in the winter months.

Cheers Stu.

Posted in Access, Bridges, Conservation, Rowhill, Volunteers | Tagged | 1 Comment


I spotted this tame Goldfinch harvesting seeds from Forget-me-nots.


Senior Ranger Stuart

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Stu’s Back.

Good Morning All,

Tuesday was my first day back at Ash lock. For me and my family it has been a very long lockdown. Working from home for me was interesting, as you know I am a practical go out and get it done, not an desk worker. That being said it has not been quiet as I have been home schooling my 4 young children (I do not envy teacher’s). I am currently now working on a Tuesday and Thursday then back to full time in August.

Tuesday was very exciting for me to start and get back to work and some type of normality. Blackwater Valley currently have the Massey tractor and hired the Amazone cut and collect.  I headed over to Shawfield and got the rotational cut of the meadows there done. It was great being back on site after a long time away. Thursday I avoided the rain and went to Snaky lane nature reserve, Rushmoor bottom to do their meadow cuts. In the damp conditions the Amazone has been working well this year.

I hope to see and work with you all in the not too distant future.

Ranger Stu.

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A gripping saga!

It all started during lockdown!

When restrictions were lifted slightly and we were classed as keyworkers, I was able to visit some of our sites to carry out inspections, which included looking at everything such as the fences, gates, bins, noticeboards and bridges.

Whilst out in Wellesley Woodlands, I thought it would be a good idea to make the bridges a little more practical for wet and icy times, by adding anti-slip grips. Once approval was granted and the bridges at Claycart, Puckridge and Rushmoor Bottom were measured, it was time get shopping.

The order was placed for 135 bridge grips to be sent to my home, as we couldn’t always guarantee someone would be at Ash Lock, as we were still working in cells and usually out, busy path cutting.

It started well and the delivery arrived a day earlier than expected, but unfortunately only 72 of the grips. It was time to call the supplier, who deeply apologised and promised the next delivery to be with me soon. A few days later, I was messaged that it had been left at my house. As I was at work when it was delivered, I had to wait until I got home to check. To my dismay, rather than the missing 63 anti-slip grips, I had 2 anti-slip marine decking grids measuring almost 1.8m x 1.2m and extremely heavy! The despatch note attached to these were for my grips, and certainly not what had actually arrived!

After several more calls, more apologies and a wait of a further 6 days my delivery finally arrived but the courier wasn’t informed about taking away the incorrect order, so these are still leaning up against the side of my house! (Interestingly the delivery note with my correct order was for the marine grids that should have been delivered to Anglian Water in Ipswich…)

Finally, Laura and I were able to install the anti-slip grips on the Wellesley Woodland bridges. 966 screws later and this saga was over. I hope you appreciate the new look bridges when out on your next walk in Wellesley. Now I just need to get the courier to come and get these grids to Suffolk…

Claycart - Before Claycart - AfterRushmoor Bottom - Before Rushmoor Bottom - AfterPuckridge - After

Assistant Ranger Matt






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Common Carder Bee

This fluffy bumblebee looks like a Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum), with the ginger top of the thorax and cream & black hairs in the abdomen. ID can be a challenge as colouring varies a lot between individuals, location and castes (queen, worker, done). Look out for the nests of these social bees amongst dense vegetation under bushes, in tree holes or nest boxes.

Senior Ranger Stuart

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Is it a Podgy Hoverfly?

There’s been a bizarre black buzzing insect in the garden. It zips speedily around flowers then loiters with expert hovering, like a podgy Hoverfly. In a few lucky photos, I managed to identify it as a Hairy-footed Flower Bee (Anthophora plumipes). 

It is the largest species of Flower Bee, with this entirely black female looking  distinctly unlike a bee. The orange blobs on her hind legs are where pollen is trapped in the long hairs of her pollen brushes.

They are common in gardens and parks in most parts of southern England, so keep a eye out for a ‘podgy hoverfly’.

Senior Ranger Stuart

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Reopening Ash Green Meadows and Wellesley Woodlands Car Parks

In line with the new government guidance today we are reopening the car parks at Wellesley Woodlands and Ash Green Meadows. Enjoy the fresh air but please keep your 2m distance from other users.

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Enjoying the outdoors and being tick aware

Now we’re into the warm spring, it’s useful to know how to keep safe from ticks and reduce the possibility of catching Lyme Disease when you’re exploring the countryside, local park or your garden. Only a small number of ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. But it’s still important to be aware of ticks and to safely remove them as soon as possible.

Preventing tick bites

  • Take extra care in the summer when ticks are most active, in areas with lots of deer or livestock and long grass or bracken.
  • Reduce the risk of tick bites by covering up, tucking your trousers into your socks in true Monty Python style, walking on clearly defined paths, using insect repellent and performing regular tick checks.
  • The safest way to remove a tick is by using a pair of fine-tipped tweezers or specialist tick remover tools.
  • Clean the bite with antiseptic or soap and water, then dispose of the tick.
  • Check your pets after their walk so they don’t bring in ticks

If you are bitten by tick there is a small chance you’ll develop Lyme Disease, so it’s useful to be aware of the following symptoms.

  • Most bites from an infected tick develop into a distinctive raised pink or red rash usually after 3 to 30 days, and up to 3 months.  The skin will be red and the edges may feel slightly raised. The ‘bull’s eye’ pattern below can appear as more uniform in colour. It’s usually around 15cm across, but can vary in size.
  • Lyme Disease Rash (NHS)

  • Around a third of people with early stage Lyme Disease don’t develop a rash.
  • Further symptoms may develop 3 to 30 days after being bitten by an infected ticks, which can include flu-like symptoms such as: fatigue (tiredness), muscle and joint pain, headaches, fever or neck stiffness. If untreated some people can develop more serious problems affecting the joints, nerves and heart.

Treatment –  See your GP, if following a tick bite, you find the a circular red rash from an infected bite or develop the other symptoms of the disease. Remember to tell them you were bitten by a tick or have recently spent time outdoors.

For more information please visit NHS Direct Website.

Senior Ranger Stuart

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Unlikely place to find Bees #1

I’m now attracting strange looks from the neighbours as I stare at the patio in my back garden, – not the first place you’d think of to discover wildlife. An insect was darting around the holes dug between the patio slabs.  I eventually identified this surprisingly well-camouflaged little insect as a Fabricius’ Nomad Bee (Nomada fabriciana).

It’s tiny and easily missed, with a forewing length of only 5.5-8mm. The orange and black banding on the antennae make this a female.  The abdomen is a striking red with a pair of yellow spots, which are just visible under the folded wings (above). I managed to get a couple more photos showing off the bright abdomen, when she was flying close to the ground.

Despite looking more like a wasp, this is indeed a species of bee, which if you’re ever bored you can ‘easily’ differentiate as bees have branched body hairs. Nomad Bees are often confused as they are relatively hairless with bold wasp-like markings. Nomad Bees are cleptoparasites, laying an egg in an unsealed nest cell of another bee species, which then hatches and eats the host egg or grub and their food store.

The Fabricius’ Nomad Bee is a cleptoparasite to Mining Bees (which probably dug the nest holes between the patio slabs). The next challenge is to identify the illusive Mining Bees……

Senior Ranger Stuart


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