The hill has been alive with hirundines (swallows and house martins) and the similar but unrelated swift, over the last month as they feed up before flying south for the winter. We had well over a hundred house martins feeding on insects over us the other day when we were cutting rushes on the Gatten. This is one of the wider benefits of nature reserves, as they not only provide homes for their resident wildlife, but their natural habitats also provide plentiful food for other species that may only use the reserve temporarily. The hirundines can often be found feeding at the top of slopes where the up-draught of air brings the insects up to them, however in the instance of the house martins on the Gatten, it was the insects flying around the wet flushes that they were feeding upon. Many of these wet areas have been lost in the wider countryside through drainage, and along with them have gone the very insects that birds like house martins need to survive. Both the swift and house martin are on the orange list of birds of conservation concern, due to falling populations.
In these hard financial times, Natural England are continuously looking of ways to generate income to allow them to continue to manage their National Nature Reserves like the Stiperstones to the same standard. In order to continue to manage the habitats, the access paths and carpark on the reserve we have been considering the introduction of car park charges at our Knolls car park. However instead of compulsory charging we are looking to introduce a voluntary car parking charge at this car park using a cashless car parking system, with payment being made by phone or via an app using a credit or debit card. All of the income raised from the car park would go towards supporting the management of the nature reserve. Suggested costs will be £1.50/hour, £3 all day or an annual pass of £25. We would be interested to know your views about this change. Please contact us on: email@example.com or write to Natural England, Rigmoreoak, Pennerley, Minsterley, SY5 0NE.
Another way of funding the NNR that is being developed is the sale of certain products from the reserve. We started off with the sale of wool from our Hebridean sheep which has been very successful, so we have now produced some kits based on the wool and fleece. There is a crochet hat kit and a sheep needle felting kit both of which are available at the Bog visitor centre. We have also produced a set of four bone china mugs with Stiperstones wildlife on them, and we are looking for outlets for these.
The felling work at Bergam Wood was supposed to have started but has now been delayed, and we are awaiting a start date, but it will probably not be until early next year.
Simon Cooter and the Natural England staff at Rigmoreoak
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