Investigating Biodiversity in Stretton’s Wetlands
Since 2011 a small planning group has had the aim of developing the Stretton wetlands as part of the Town Plan. The group has worked with the various landowners of a little used marshy area on the edge of Church Stretton (SO451933). A detailed Phase 1 report was carried out in 2012 which made several recommendations including the building of scrapes and improvements to the footpath which crosses through the wetlands.
The 1841 tithe map shows that several fields were called Eel Pool. The Environment Agency dredges the Quinny Brook regularly to maintain the flow and new storm drains were built in 2015 when a new sewerage system was installed. However bore hole surveys in 1961 indicated a layer of peat between 6 to 12 feet thick under a thin level of topsoil (1 foot) in some parts, indicating that much of the area has been natural wetland for many centuries. Walking in certain areas, and in the brook, can prove somewhat hazardous!
Under the oversight of SACWG, a small group of expert ecologists and volunteers, coordinated by Isabel Carter, carried out a number of biodiversity surveys during 2016. These included amphibians (Phase II), reptiles, flora (Phase II), birds, mammals, dragonflies, moths and butterflies. Among all the findings were three UK notable invertebrate species – the micro moth, Prochoreutis myllerana, the ground beetle, Anthracus consputus, and the frog hopper, Aphrophora major. Camera traps for possible sightings of otter and water vole were also used but, alas, with no success to date.
Phase 2 habitat surveys are being carried out for amphibians, reptiles and flora. In addition careful observations and surveys are in process for birds, mammals (notably otter and water voles), dragonflies, moths, butterflies and bats. All expertise has been provided voluntarily and a small group of volunteers are enjoying exploring the biodiversity (with permission from the landowners for access).
On the basis of the surveys and data submitted, the central area of the wetlands was awarded Wildlife Site status in January 2017 by Shropshire Wildlife Trust. Surveying will continue during 2017 for birds and water voles in particular.
During 2017 SACWG had a major publicity and fundraising campaign to raise funds to provide a boardwalk along the footpath. Volunteers ran a wildlife quiz, a plant stall, a three-course candlelit meal and a music evening. Grant funding was sought and public donations welcomed. After several busy months, a total of nearly £14,000 was raised. In January 2018 a boardwalk was built under the supervision of Shropshire Council’s Public Access team and considerable volunteer input.
An information panel was prepared so that boardwalk users could be informed about the history of the footpath and the biodiversity of the wetlands area. Preparing the text, sourcing an artist, designer and producing a tough long lasting board proved quite a challenge, but the final product justified all the effort.
As a means of thanking the community and volunteers a public opening ceremony for the new boardwalk took place in April 2018 on a glorious warm sunny evening. The information panel was unveiled by some of the generous donors including the Shropshire Hills AONB, the Jean Jackson Memorial Trust and the Pathways Fund of HF Holidays. The ribbon to officially open the boardwalk was cut by landowner Ann Griffin with the support of the town mayor, Mike Braid, and then both led an inaugural walk along it. Since then the boardwalk has proved very popular and is well used.
In June a very successful Bioblitz Day was held. The landowners were all consulted and gave permission for their land to be surveyed.
Two moth traps were set up the previous evening and a bat detector used with interesting results. The Stretton’s flora group came and surveyed two areas. A total of 71 flowering plants was recorded, with an abundance of Skullcap, creeping Forget me not and the rare Marsh Cinquefoil. A bird survey recorded 23 species.
A detailed survey was made of water invertebrates with 17 different water beetles found including one which is nationally scarce. A beetle survey recorded 17 species with two of particular note.
It proved a very successful day and there are plans to repeat them every two years. The full report can be downloaded here.
2019 Water vole survey
Members from the Shropshire Mammal Society conducted a survey of the Wetlands on 21 June 2019. The mammal traps which they set yielded wood mouse and young bank vole, as well as two positive confirmatory signs of water vole – at last! Also, two otter spraints were found. A trail camera will be posted for a couple of weeks to gather photographic evidence of water vole activity.
For more information on this SACWG project, contact Isabel Carter.
Page updated: 23/06/2019 by JGNB