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Avalon Marshes environmental conservation apprentices Suzie Robson and Shayl Renyard were today given a big send off by staff and volunteers at the Avalon Marshes Centre. After 18 months of hard work and practical training, the two are now well equipped to move onto the next stage of their careers.
Their employment was a new initiative funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership.  The pair have worked on a rotational basis with Somerset Wildlife Trust, the RSPB and Natural England on a variety of practical conservation projects, with Bridgwater College providing the formal qualifications.

Over 50 staff and volunteers gathered to say thank you, goodbye and good luck to Suzie and Shayl with homemade made cakes, and locally made willow baskets full of gifts.  Kevin Anderson from the Avalon Marshes team made the presentation saying that ‘They had made a real difference during their time at the Avalon Marshes, and that the training they have received should give them a fantastic opportunity to follow their chosen careers in environmental and wildlife conservation’.

Apprentice levelling a fence Apprentice levelling a fence

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A significant milestone has been achieved by local volunteers who have given over 10,000 hours to the many conservation projects being delivered as part of the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership.
The projects, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, have been designed to improve the area for wildlife and heritage as well as the thousands of people who visit the area each year.  Over the last two and a half years 400 volunteers have been involved in practical conservation work, reconstructing replicas of ancient trackways and logboats, surveying local footpaths and assisting at public events.

Volunteer Development Officer, Kevin Anderson, said “This is a fantastic achievement by our existing volunteers as well as the many local people recruited by the partner organisations to deliver these exciting projects. Their efforts have made a significant contribution to the Avalon Marshes, which I am sure will be enjoyed by visitors for many years to come.”

avalon marshes voluteers avalon marshes volunteers lunch

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Visitors to the Avalon Marshes now have four exciting leaflets to help them explore and enjoy this magical landscape.  The leaflets are:

The leaflets are available at the Avalon Marshes Centre and are being distributed to local Tourist Information Centres, Cafes, caravan sites and other visitor destinations.
The four leaflets replace the ever popular but out of date Avalon Marshes leaflet which has been in use for many years. The need for the  new leaflets reflects the ever growing popularity and importance of the Avalon Marshes.

We would like to say a big thank you to Red Kite who have designed the leaflets, the many people who have supplied images, the project partners for their contribution and the local community for their help and ideas.

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In the past the reed swamp, bogs and mires of the Avalon Marshes were difficult to cross! Neolithic man  overcame this by constructing trackways. However, in the Iron Age the marshes  became far wetter and dugout canoes replaced these trackways.

Working under the guidance of Richard Brunning of the South West Heritage Trusts, Hands on Heritage volunteers have recently completed two sections  of  replica trackway. Today saw the literal launch of their next project having completed the construction of a dugout canoe. The canoe was launched at Natural England’s Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve and the volunteers paddled it through the open water between tall reeds as people would have done all those years ago.

The canoe was carved out of a single Beech tree donated by the Forestry Commission. The tree came from the Blackdown Hills near Castle Neroche. Whilst it was not moved across Somerset by manual labour it was hard manual work that carved the canoe from the tree! Replica Iron Age tools and the sheer hard graft of the volunteers were the key to success.

The volunteers are based at the Avalon Marshes Centre and meet up each Wednesday, come rain or shine, grafting away to replicate the techniques used in past times. The Hands on Heritage project is run by the South West Heritage Trust and is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership.

To watch the BBC news report of the launch open this link and click on the play button.

To get involved as a volunteer go to our volunteering page.
To read more about the work of the Hands on Heritage volunteers go to their blog.

Custom backdrops DIY backgrounds for pictures canoe, heritage, archive photography

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The reedbeds of the Avalon Marshes are nationally important habitat for the elusive Bittern.  In the spring the first “sign” of activity is the sound of heavy breathing! This is the male Bittern starting to build up its muscles to produce a loud almost errey booms. The deep  boom sound is the way the males attract their mates.

Each spring the early morning booming of the bitterns also brings out volunteers  and staff from Natural England, RSPB and Somerset Wildlife Trust. They are there to count the number of booming males and identify their locations. The first of these early morning counts took place today . Early? Yes, really early at 5.00am the teams were out in the reedbeds. Whilst it might be cold at this time of the morning the compensation is that  reedbeds are a wonderful place to be with the sound of nature all around you.

The reward for that early start? The “grand breakfast” cooked by the reserve teams back at base! There is nothing better than a cooked breakfast and a large mug of tea or coffee after an early start.  Added to this is the joy of being part of a great team working to conserve the wildlife of the Avalon Marshes.

So what  were the results?  Here is the Ray Summers’ report:

“Thank you for helping out with our first bittern listen of 2015. We were lucky to have such a mild, still and dry morning. Throughout the Avalon Marshes it looks like the total is around 36, with the breakdown as follows:
Ham Wall and other RSPB land: 14, RSPB neighbours: 2
Shapwick Heath, Natural England: 12
Westhay Moor, Somerset Wildlife Trust: 6
Westhay Heath and Westhay Level, Godwin Peat Co: 2
There was an additional bird recorded at RSPB Greylake
I’m sure you will agree that this is a pretty healthy first count. To put it in context the UK held 140 confirmed boomers last year and yesterday’s total is virtually one quarter of this! Definitely something to be proud of! Thank you.”

If you would like to get involved in volunteering on the Avalon Marshes go to our Volunteering page. The next count is on 14 April.

Bittern bird count volunteers

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“One swallow does not make a summer” as the saying goes but the swallows have arrived and it certainly feels and sounds like summer in the Avalon Marshes. We have had warm, if not hot, Easter days with full sunshine. A trip onto the reserves will treat you to booming bitterns, busy marsh harriers, warbling warblers and singing thrushes. Not regulars here, but today saw five cranes overhead, there are reports the first hobbies have arrived, a visit to the scrape may let you see garganey who have just arrived from Africa.

Here at the Avalon Marshes Centre the café and craft shops have been busy. Cars pull up on a regular basis, bikes and binoculars and unloaded and people head off to explore our wonderful nature reserves.

Not ventured out yet? We hope to see you soon.

Photo with thanks to Lynne newton

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Apprenticeship update by Shayl Renyard

As part of my apprenticeship I received training to drive Natural England’s softrak on Shapwick NNR. The softrak was match funded through the Hertiage Lottery Fund (HLF) supported Landscape Partnership Scheme; the same scheme that funded my training placement.
It’s a great bit of kit, fun to drive and really well suited for cutting reed bed. The diesel engine powers a hydraulic system that drives the vehicles tracks and the reed cutting attachment. The tracks disperse the vehicles weight over a large area so we can access areas of the reed bed with really soft ground conditions, without getting stuck. Each year they cut different sections of the reed to create a varied age structure. This is beneficial to the wildlife and prevents the rare habitat, which many species are dependent on, from being lost through the process of succession.

Bittern birds and ducks at reeds

The softrak collects the cut material as we go so one person can cut and clear an area that would take 3 days with a whole team of volunteers, in as little as 3 hours. The saved time is extremely valuable for the reserve and has freed up both staff and volunteers to work on other projects, such as the extension of the Discovery Trail boardwalk on Shapwick Heath (also part-funded through the HLF scheme).

discovery trail boardwalk volunteers

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We have recently installed a TV screen showing wildlife images captured in the Avalon Marshes at the Tourist Information Centre (TIC) in Glastonbury. The 5 minute video has some lovely footage of our resident Great White Egrets and Kingfishers, along with other birds, reptiles and mammals to be found here.  There is also a massive map of the area showing the best places to go and recent wildlife sightings.  Upstairs in the TIC you will find the fascinating Glastonbury Lake Village Museum.

The TIC is located in The Tribunal in the High Street (post code BA6 9DP) and is open Mon-Sat, 10am – 3.15pm.

Link to location map

wholesale toupee and hair systems for men

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On the 14th of February Tanya Camberwell, Community Heritage Officer with the Avalon Marshes Landscape Partnership (AMLP), attended “café Burtle” at Burtle Village Hall.  Café Burtle is a regular event and Tanya was there to display the Images of Avalon ‘Then and Now’ photographic exhibition and to collect images for the Footprints from the Past digital archive.

The Café was bustling with people, which was not a surprise with such a wonderful collection of cakes and pastries, not to mention crumpets and bacon sandwiches! It was a wonderful opportunity to meet members of the community and spread the word about AMLP projects. One lifelong Burtle resident brought in some fascinating photographs for scanning and adding to the archive. Follow up visits will be needed as several people have kindly offered other images for scanning.

This is the first of several image collecting events within the Avalon Marshes area so keep your eyes open for the next dates on this website.

We would like say a special thank you to Café Burtle and the wider village community for your interest and support.

Two of the images collected (With thanks to Eileen Bate)

peat cutters, eileen Bate, archive photographyEileen Bate archive photography

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We have had three groups from Strode College out this week, each on SWT’s Westhay Moor NNR, and each doing different projects.

On Monday we had second year Media students working with us and Somerset Film on our Sights & Sounds of the Marshes project. They were recording the ‘unheard sounds’ of the Marshes that will be used in their magazine show about the area.

On Wednesday it was the weekly group of Strode Young Volunteers that were out cutting and burning willow from some wet woodland.  They are students from different disciplines that come together to help with practical tasks on the reserves of all our different partners. This is part of the College’s Enrichment Programme.

This morning was the turn of the first year Media students who are doing a project with ourselves and the University of the West of England called ‘Interpreting Landscape Change in the Avalon Marshes’.  They are working on disseminating messages about climate change and the landscape from research that was conducted a few years ago.

Keep an eye on our website for more news about these projects, and for the students’ films which will go online after Easter.

Thank you Strode College for your continued support and enthusiasm.