It's taken some time but the final works for our Natural England Stewardship scheme are now completed. The rills have been opened up to the feeder ditches and filled for the winter, the result is fantastic.
Combined with the existing waterways these new rills give a comprehensive range of island types and sizes, it also allows us to maximise the water coming into the site from the River Cam, hopefully keeping the area wet well into the summer, essential for breeding waders
Many thanks again to Multi-flight for the photography.
The Rills are finally completed and are ready to be connected to the feeder ditches which run from the River Cam into the washes.
The water table in the past has been governed by the aquifers that run through the limestone and occasionally join the surface soil keeping the area wet. When the Cam floods however water flows over the surface of the soil but the clay lining of the ditches does not allow the water to flow away. By joining the new rills to the ditches and in turn the island scrapes to the rills even slight increases in River level can be used to fill the waterways. Simple non-return valves where the ditches join the River Cam stop the water flowing back out again. Hopefully this will ensure we have good areas of water well into the summer, just when breeding waders and their chicks need it to feed.
Since July our water buffalo have grazed out nearly everything green from reed bed compartment 5 where they have been fenced in. As well as continually eating the new reed growth they have stripped all of the existing reed bare and trampled the litter layer to prevent the waterways becoming choked. We have had 5 Buffalo in there this year and they've done a brilliant job again. We are expecting another calf very soon so keep watching for pics when it arrives! For more information on the grazing of the reed beds see the Management, Grazing section of the website.
Whilst we have the Bulldozer on site we have cleared the waste spoil and brash from the old peat mounds to create new habitat for Little-ringed plover. These small waders regularly visit the site and have attempted to breed in the past, however we lack the large low vegetated areas near shallow water that they favor.
By clearing the peat from the area and an area of topsoil down to the natural limestone we should have an area of sparsely vegetated dry lime with fine alkaline wildflower meadows surrounding it. One end of the limestone scrape has a small area of clay, this has been used to make a slightly lower area which is impermeable, holding rainwater and surface runoff from the rest of the area as a shallow pool.
Reserves Manager at the Kingfishers Bridge wetland creation project in Cambridgeshire.