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The Osprey is a magnificent bird of prey which breeds in northern Britain. However, like many others it is not so keen on our winters, it heads off to the sun mainly in West Africa. Whilst on passage in the spring and late summer the Ospreys stop off at areas of open water to rest and feed. The lakes and pools of the Avalon Marshes provide a great service station for many passage migrants and our first Osprey of this summer arrived at Ham Wall Nature Reserve at the end of July. Steve Couch the RSPB’s Ham Wall Site Manager wrote on his blog (31st July):

“I hadn’t been well for a few days and it was great to be back at work and catch sight of an Osprey. The bird was looking rather tatty – perhaps after a busy breeding season so there’s a chance that it will hang around the local reserves for a few days. Good views were had over Waltons, Loxtons . . . . .” Link to Steve’s blog

A few weeks later another Osprey arrived and as I write this is still here. Simon Clarke, Natural England’s Senior Reserve Manager Tweeted; “Feeding up before heading south. Our annual summer Osprey visitor has arrived at Shapwick Heath NNR Somerset”.

They are magnificent birds which after a period of decline are now recovering in number thanks to the hard work of conservation organisations and volunteers who work to protect their breeding sites.

Title photo, Osprey at Shapwick Heath, with thanks to Andrew Kirby

Osprey hunting John Crispen Osprey perching John Crispen

Osprey at Ham Wall – With thanks to John Crispen

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A big day on any building project is when the structure emerges from the ground. Lots of work goes into foundations, underground services and the ground floor but little can be seen. The same is true of the Avalon Marshes Centre’s replica Romano British building. But today this all started to change; South West Heritage Trust volunteers, staff and a big machine mixed sub-soil, stone and straw to start the construction of the “Cob” walls, all in heavy summer rain!

The construction is all part of the Heritage Lottery funded Hands on Heritage project at the Avalon Marshes Centre. The cob is laid directly, rather than being formed into bricks, and is then beaten down to form the walls. There is then a gap in time to allow the material to dry out and harden before the next section is raised. Over the next few weeks the team will be back to raise the walls still further.

The completed building will be used as an educational resource and will form part of an improved Avalon Marshes Centre. It will have a working hypocaust, a mosaic floor and will reflect the history of the Roman presence just up the road in Shapwick. It even has raw materials recovered from a real Roman villa at Cannington. The remains of this villa was on the route of the new bypass, it was recorded and carefully dismantled.

Preparing the foundations for Romano Building

Getting ready

foundations stamped by volunteers     render of final Romano Building

Mixed by machine stamped by volunteers      What the final building will look like