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The Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership Scheme, grant aided by Heritage Lottery for the last 4 years to the tune of £1.7m, finally came to an end in November.  More than 60 projects have been delivered to conserve the unique landscape, heritage and wildlife of the Avalon Marshes and to engage people in its conservation, understanding and enjoyment.

Conservation projects have included those to restore important wetland habitats, such as the mires at Westhay Moor and Shapwick Heath, and those to protect important archaeological sites, including Glastonbury Lake Village and the Sweet Track.  Practical projects have included new hides and trails, including improved links to Shapwick Moor; a new car park and visitor facilities at Ham Wall; and two new historic reconstructions at the Avalon Marshes Centre.

Community engagement has been critical to the success of the overall scheme including:  500 volunteers, contributing more than 16,450 hours; 50 schools and colleges, providing nearly 5,000 educational experiences; 180 events, attracting more than 10,000 participants; and 49 courses, training 370 staff and volunteers.  Work has also gone on to promote the wider area to visitors, 160,000 of whom already visit the main reserves, with a new website, leaflets and interpretation panels.

Although the scheme has now finished, and the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership team disbanded, the Avalon Marshes Partnership will continue.  Many activities will carry on through joint working on conservation, education, volunteering and visitor management under the Avalon Marshes umbrella.  Of the AMLP team, Kevin will be staying on until the spring to focus on visitor management and Mike to focus on the phase 1 works at the Avalon Marshes Centre.

Finally, a thank you to all who have been involved to make the scheme such a success, including Heritage Lottery and the other funders, the partner organisations, and the thousands of volunteers, school children, teachers, parents, local people and visitors who have participated.

Tor and reeds image – Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

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Thanks to funding by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) Natural England is about to start some of the planned improvements at the Avalon Marshes Centre, significant refurbishment to hides at Shapwick Heath and construction of a biofuel storage barn. These works will replace and repair life-expired buildings and infrastructure, reduce running costs and carry out upgrades to meet modern standards.  Kier Services are the managing contractors and have already appointed local architects and engineers. Natural England will be working with them to ensure that as far as possible other local contractors and suppliers are used.

Avalon Marshes Centre

The principal work is the construction of a new office building on the end of the existing workshops to replace the “temporary” offices which house staff from the partner organisations. All three existing offices are life-expired with leaking roofs, rotting woodwork and other significant issues.

Linked with the new office construction a modern self-contained sewerage system will be built. The current one is an old cesspit which requires pumping out on a regular and costly basis. The new system will use electricity for a small pump and natural treatment with reedbeds as the final part of the process. It is being designed to accommodate the future development of a permanent café and education building (both currently temporary buildings).

The third element is the external refurbishment of the craft gallery, replacing the existing wooden windows and cladding. Once again rot is a significant problem and the thermal efficiency is poor to say the least!

The centre will remain open throughout the period the work is being carried out.  The aim will be to minimise disruption, although some will be inevitable.

Hides and other works

The other works to be carried out are nearly all on Shapwick Heath NNR including:

The last project is the refurbishment and improvement of the (very tall!) tower hide at Bridgwater Bay NNR (at Steart point).