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Castle Rock's Lewis Townsend writes a few words about his recent visit to Attenborough Nature Reserve. Its namesake beer (a pilsner-style pale ale) is now available.

As our last Wildlife Reserve beer of this year, I visited Attenborough Reserve in early December because I wanted to see it first-hand. Throughout 2016, I’ll be visiting four Nottinghamshires wildlife reserves which are looked after by the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

Graham with his hand-made broom.

Graham with his hand-made broom.

It was an exceptionally rainy and miserable day; never had there been such nice weather for ducks. I took the train to

Why do ducks like the rain so much? Answers on a postcard...

Why do ducks like the rain so much? Answers on a postcard…

Attenborough and walked to the Nature Centre from the station and met Graham Bowden, the Reserve Manager – and it wasn’t long before his passion for conservation and wildlife came out. He started out as a volunteer and has been with the Trust for several years now and knows the 140 acre reserve inside out.

We took the buggy on a short tour of the reserve, including a wonderful bird hide overlooking the reed beds and gravel roads past expanses of water, full of wading birds. As I suspected, looking after a reserve of this size is not an easy task, and sometimes a very frustrating one. The team have to carefully plan which tasks to carry out depending on the season to ensure that the space is as rich and as friendly to wildlife as possible with as much consideration taken as possible to ensure a balance of wildlife: predators and prey.

One particularly thankless task Graham told me about was the weeks and weeks spent pulling willow shoots out of the reed beds every year. The willow is and fast growing tree when it starts out and spreads rapidly. It presents a big danger to the wildlife havens that are the reed beds, stealing vital nutrients and without control it would take over. Every year, volunteers don their wellies and painstakingly remove every last dreg of willow, only for it all to grow back again in spades the next year!

The reed bed "fingers"

The reed bed “fingers”

What amazed me was the attention to detail when landscaping and conserving the site; for example the DSC_1071 1reed beds which sit at the edge of one of the lakes were deliberately planted in ‘fingers’ so as to provide adequate protection for the wading and diving birds when they are chicks. Everything is so carefully considered.

Graham also told me that for the first time at the reserve, young Bitterns hatched this year. Just an hour at the reserve and I could tell that it was a haven for a wide range of birds and waterfowl from coots, black-headed gulls and great crested grebes to the swans, geese, mallards and moorhens. It was a treat to visit the reserve and I can’t wait to visit the next three to celebrate the brewing of Idle Valley, Skylarks and Trent Vale Reserve beers next year.

Thank you to Graham Bowden for being a kind host, and Erin McDaid for arranging it, both of the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust – and thanks to all the volunteers for their hard work all year round to maintain these beautiful, natural spaces.

Lewis Townsend

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It was a miserable day weather wise – but an enlightening one!