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“Does he take sugar?” is an old cliché but it did help Avalon Marshes staff think more about visitors, volunteers and staff who are disabled in one way or another. This was all part of a disability awareness training session organised by the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It was led by Martyn Sibley who says of himself: “I am a regular guy who happens to have a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy; this means I cannot walk, lift anything heavier than a book or shower myself. My aim is to inspire, inform and change the world around disability issues, by sharing my individual experiences and personal journey.”

After a morning session in the classroom, with lots of interaction, we ventured out to test our improved awareness and for Martyn to test out the Avalon Marshes. First, a visit to the Craft Gallery, then out onto Shapwick Heath. Both were reasonably good but with improvements that can be made and lots of ideas; for example, making more of the Sweet Track trail as a sensory experience for those with impaired vision. Then, using his powered wheelchair, Martyn decided to see how far he could get off the sections of the reserve promoted as being accessible for all! He led the way and we headed off towards Decoy Hide – no, we didn’t make it, it’s too boggy, but Martyn’s energy and positive attitude has invigorated us all to be more aware and to do more. A great day – thank you Martyn.

Some facts and figures Martyn gave us:

Want some more food for thought? Read this

disability education avalon marshes tour disability talk Martyn Sibley

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The Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership team were delighted to meet lots of budding wildlife enthusiasts at the annual Houndwood Summer Fete in July.  The team ran pond dipping, butterfly-friendly planting and wildlife picture colouring.  We have been kept busy over the past few months helping the residents to keep the wildlife pond clear, and the amount of species the children found at the event suggest we must be doing something right.  Many thanks to Knightstone Housing for inviting us along, Butterfly Conservation for the donation of plants,  and to all those people who dragged themselves away from the Morris Dancing, BBQ and coconut shy to come over to say ‘hello’.

Knightstone and Houndwood

Knightstone Housing Association is a leading housing provider in the South West. It says: “We build vibrant, stable and safe communities where people can make their homes”. They own and manage over 11,000 homes across Somerset and the West of England, developing affordable homes and providing a range of supported housing. The Houndstone development is in Street and the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership has been working with the residents and Knightstone to develop a wildlife friendly area which is also relaxing and attractive for residents.

wildlife enthusiasts sumer fete summer fete butterfly conservation

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A project to enhance children’s awareness of their local environment was showcased with storytelling and poetry at an event at the Red Brick Building in Glastonbury on 22 July.  Pupils from West Pennard and Walton schools read a number of poems written by children from local primary schools.
For twelve months Somerset storyteller Jane Flood has been working with local school children on behalf of the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership, in a project called Wetland Stories and Drama.  Jane has taken twelve groups of children to outdoor sites in the Avalon Marshes, leading sensory activities to help them experience their local landscape.   The project, made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, has seen those 330 children respond creatively to their environment, its history and wildlife, acting out characters, creating stories, and writing poetry.  Local primary schools that have taken part are Baltonsborough, Catcott, Mark, Millfield Prep, St Benedict’s, St Cuthbert’s Infants, Shapwick Prep, Walton, West Pennard and Wookey. Jane also worked with a group of families from the Wells Home Education Network.
Jane and the AMLP have also been working closely with Dan Shaw of Strode College to put together a CD of stories, poetry, and also music by Strode students who have been inspired by the landscape.

The CD, ‘Tales from the Marshes’, is now on sale at the Avalon Marshes Centre for £3.00.  Or you can download for free via this link.

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A vital piece of wildlife habitat in the Avalon Marshes is to be saved for future generations thanks to a successful Somerset Wildlife Trust fundraising appeal.

The trust took on the challenge of raising £55,000 in six weeks in order to take up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to purchase the land, which represents the last crucial piece in a jigsaw of important wildlife habitat in the area. The 12 acre site, which immediately adjoins the Trust’s Westhay Heath Nature Reserve, is a haven for key species such as otters, bittern, kingfishers and marsh harriers.

Thanks to kind donations amounting to £43,000 from Trust members and supporters, and a generous legacy left to the charity with instructions for it to be spent in and around the Westhay area, Somerset Wildlife Trust can today announce that it is able to proceed with the land purchase.

Head of Land Management for Somerset Wildlife Trust, Tim Youngs, says:

“We are thrilled that we are able to purchase this land, and wish to extend a huge thank you to all who have supported our Jigsaw Appeal. We are always overwhelmed by the generosity of our members and supporters, and it is thanks to them that we will be able to save this important wildlife habitat for the future. The land adjoins our Westhay Heath Nature Reserve in the Avalon Marshes, a vital area for migratory and resident water birds. This last piece in the jigsaw will provide a vital extension to the area of reed bed and pools of open water upon which bittern, bearded tit, kingfisher, otter and marsh harrier depend. Thanks to the success of the appeal, we will now be able to create a larger, more resilient expanse of wetland habitat that enables wildlife to move across the landscape and provides greater protection against localised extinction.”

The Trust hopes to complete the purchase of the land within the next few months.


A community connection

Messages left on the Trust’s fundraising page demonstrate just how much the appeal has captured the hearts of many of the charity’s members and supporters:

Panoramic landscape Westhay Heath