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Our river of life

5 Jul

Trout on the Cliff - Sherston. Pound coin for size

Trout on the Cliff – Sherston. Pound coin for size

We are so very fortunate in Sherston to have not just one but one and half rivers (if you count the two streams that have a confluence near Stretchline as half…) and they provide so many important elements to our local wildlife. Not only does the river have habitats for animals and plants that depend on water such as crayfish and willows and herons and kingfishers, but the fact that we have a water table which is just below the surface means we have verdant plant growth around us.

Like many ecosystems the river, with the right management, can recover from all kinds of problems such as the major pollution the Sherston Avon suffered from in 1998.

Rivers can be an enormous resource and it’s something we should really look after – while we may enjoy the benefit of a vibrant and healthy river system, the people downstream also appreciate it. Wouldn’t it be great if we had otters around the village!!

and to illustrate how wildlife can re-generate the picture shows a dead trout I found about 20 yards away from the river – and the round thing beneath the fish is a pound coin!! I suspect Heron had caught it and it was so big it couldn’t swallow it (I should have taken it home for tea!)

This year, so far, has been fantastic for nature. The warm late spring and summer has allowed birds to raise large broods and insects to breed at a fantastic rate. While we don’t always appreciate the insects, the birds do. If you happen to go down to Grove Wood you may see large mixed flock of Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Great Tits and even March Tits – what a fantastic sight.

Finally a date for the diary – WildSherston in 2015 will be on the 16th May. Village Hall booked – just a few logistics to sort out now! If you have any ideas or suggestions, or want to help please let me know.


WildSherston in review

26 May

The weekend of WildSherston went with a flutter, flap, a squeak and slither (and no bangs…) due to the bats, moths, owls and snails. The children made quite a lot of noise as well!!

The weather was superb with lots of display stands outside as well as in the large marquee. We were fortunate to have a number of really good speakers including Kelvin Boot on Friday night with his stories being a well-travelled naturalist. On Saturday there were 6 speakers on a whole variety of subjects from Wild Flowers to Birds and Rivers. The two stalls most in demand were the snail racing (which brought out the competitive spirit in many people albeit in slow motion) and the bats. It was a rare chance to see bats close up and many of the children were fascinated… the adults couldn’t get close..

On Friday night a series of moth traps were put out around the village and some very large moths were caught which were a bit scary. About 50 different species were found.

The Sherston mums did a fantastic job of setting up and running a whole series of activities for children including clay models, nature walks and a special thanks to Carron Watehouse for managing this.

Sunday dawned at 4.15am with a hardy bunch out and about for the Dawn Chorus and then a bird ringing exhibition, with breakfast, at the Vineyard. A series of fascinating walks followed looking at different aspects of nature including the river, birds, wild flowers and butterflies.

I suspect some people felt it was worth going just for the fantastic food alone, provided by “The Awkward Squad”.

Many thanks to lots of people and organizations who really made this a fantastic experience and to the main organisers Martin Rea, Jo Egerton, Pete Bishop, Carron Watehouse.

And of course the brain behind the idea, and general management of the event our thanks go to Geoff Carss.

Sherston Craft Club did a fantastic job with the legacy banner, and it was clear that the children loved getting stuck in.

Thank you to Sherston Church and Sue Robinson for organising the children’s and pets service on Sunday morning. The “Living Churchyard” proved to be somewhere a bit different to discover nature and wildlife.The Living Churchyards and Cemeteries Project (LCCP) was set up nationally in the 1990s with the aim of promoting churchyards and cemeteries as a valuable source of biodiversity.

We received funding from the Parish Council, Wiltshire County Council , MVCAP and support from N3 Graphic Displays (Nick Holland), The Post Office, Wentworth Jigsaws, Highgrove, Bugs Eye View, Whatley Manor, The Ship at Luckington, Sonardyne, Jeremy Nabarro and Carole Conyngham.

People clearly enjoyed themselves with some fantastic feedback including from Miranda Krestovnikov (presenter of BBC’s Coast programme and President of RSPB) who stayed for 5 hours and insisted she is invited again and will bring more people. The BBC, who broadcast the BBC Wiltshire Radio programme ‘Wild about Wiltshire” live from the event on Sunday mentioned it was the best ever live broadcast they have ever done and interviewed lots of people over the 2 hour programme.

The overall intention was to get more people, adults and children, interested in their environment and from the feedback it certainly achieved that aim.

We also had some great coverage in local newspapers:

and there are some great photo’s on our facebook site:

WildSherston kicks off today

16 May

After some 9 months of planning the big weekend has arrived!!

We have a great weekend of nature related activities ranging from talks and walks to bugs and bats, both for adults and children.

The weekend begins on Friday 16th May begins at 7.30pm with BBC Radio 4’s “Shared Planet” presenter Kelvin Boot talking about “The trials and travails of a naturalist”. We also have a range of events where experts talk about their passion, including talks about butterflies & moths, birds, bees, mammals, rivers and bats.

On Saturday we have a really special guest – Miranda Krestovnikoff from the BBC Series Coast and also President of RSPB.

Over the Saturday and Sunday there will be a variety of walks for you to enjoy. There’s a dawn chorus walk at 4.15am on Sunday if you’re an early bird! There’s also wild flower, butterfly, river and bat walks.

There will be lots of children’s activities such as a bouncy castle, face painting, a clay corner, snail racing, trails, quizzes as well as a Forest School.

There will be live animals for you to meet, including bats, hedgehogs, owls and butterfly’s. There will also be adult and children’s photographic exhibitions.

Lots more details at

Wild Sherston’s main venue is:

Sherston Village Hall
High Street
SN16 0LQ

Second Barn Owl box installed

2 Mar

The second Barn Owl nest box was installed on a local farmers land (with permission of course) way up in an old Oak tree.

A particularly intrepid Kev Noble was up the tree installing the frame and the nest box itself and even managed to get down again! The box was built by Graham Smith.

More installations of various sorts to come……

Kev Noble and Graham Smith installing the second box

Kev Noble and Graham Smith installing the second box

Kev Noble moving the Barn Owl Box into place

Kev Noble moving the Barn Owl Box into place

Finally – the WildSherston Facebook page is now live – lots more details on

Their new homes are ready (almost)….

2 Mar

March heralds the start of mass migrations both to the village, with birds returning from Africa and southern Europe, and winter residents returning to Scandinavia.

The Redwings and Fieldfares are off while we should be hearing the call of the returning Chiff Chaff (named after the sound it makes) and the Blackcap. Interestingly we have Blackcaps who overwinter here and return to more northern climes in the spring and a different population who return from further south so, while we may have them all year round, they aren’t the same individuals you might see on your bird feeder

Some birds are already nesting such as the Stock Dove (which looks a bit like a drab Wood Pigeon) and the Rooks are starting to nest in their lofty colonies next to the Church.

Over the past couple of months a number of people have been busy building nest boxes which are going up in various places around the village. Some have been installed in Grove Wood and the first Barn Owl boxes have been put up. Four House Sparrow nest boxes, built by Sherston Scouts, have been installed around the village to provide communal nesting sites for this declining but much loved resident. Many thanks to Graham Smith and Rod Moyes for building the bigger boxes, and John Lloyd for helping install them and to the Scouts for their hard work.

Rod Moyes putting up the first barn owl box

Rod Moyes putting up the first barn owl box

John Lloyd putting up the first barn owl box

John Lloyd putting up the first barn owl box

We spend some time trying to find old building or barns to install the Barn Owl boxes and it became really clear why we have so few Owls these days – they have nowhere to nest. If you do know of an out of the way old building at least 3 metres high where we could put another Barn Owl box please do let me know.

Please have a look at the news about WildSherston on the 16th to 18th May with a range of talks, walks and events about our local wildlife.

Spring is in the air… isn’t this a fantastic time of year!!!

PS. This made the local paper – on Page 3!! –

WildSherston is underway

23 Jan

New developments… (as published in the February 2014 edition of the Sherston Cliffhanger)

Over the past couple of years a number of people have expressed an interest in knowing more about our local nature – the trees, flowers, bees, birds and how to learn more. This got me thinking about how to help people learn about our fantastic local nature in a fun and interesting way using local expertise and ensure that children have a great opportunity to really get involved.

Wild Sherston is the result and is planned for the 16th, 17th and 18th May when there will be a weekend of talks, walks, hands-on sessions for children and maybe the odd very small celebrity (maybe).

The programme is still just being finalised but it will be something like:

Friday 16th May – speaker in the evening on a wildlife topic of general interest.

Saturday 17th May – lots of activity in the Village Hall and Church with 6 – 7 talks on subjects such as identifying local birds, bats, butterflies, flowers and what to do if you find an injured animal or bird. A number of local and national societies will have stands and lots of experts including Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Avon Valley River Trust, a wildlife refuge, British Trust for Ornithology, Forest School, RSPB etc etc. There will be a programme of activities for children and maybe some wild animals to see.

Sunday 18th May – a number of walks around the village some focused on particular topics such as wild flowers, butterflies or birds as well as a nature trail for children.

The arrangements are in hand and if you would like to get involved please let me know – in particular we will need stewards over the weekend. More information in next months Cliffhanger.

The request for help building nest boxes will result in an outbreak of new homes in February but given their size they won’t need planning permission!! A number of people, as well as the Scouts, are building a variety of boxes including those for Barn Owls, Little Owls and House Sparrows. The Owl boxes will be put up in local trees and barn’s (if we can use one) and the House Sparrows, who have communal nests, will have new housing in the centre of the village. Next month should see some pictures of people up ladders trying to attach heavy bits of DIY to trees!.

Finally a picture of a local resident which you don’t often see this close – if you do see a Sparrowhawk it’s often just a blur.

Sparrowhawk Jan 2014

Wild comes to Sherston?

28 Jul
Based on quite a number of conversations with various people in the village there seems to be lots of interest in learning more about the environment around the village. People have a variety of interests such as wild flowers, bees, hedgehogs, the weather, the landscape, foraging, wildlife photography, bats etc.
There is lots of expertise in the village on a number of these subjects as well as in local wildlife/conservation groups such as Butterfly Conservation, the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
The suggestion is to run a 1 day (or maybe 2 day depending on level of interest) in May 2014 where an expert runs a 1 hour session on a topic (bats, wild flowers etc) and then leads a number of walks around the village to identify the local fauna and flora. There could lots of opportunity to get local children involved finding and identify beetles, moths, bugs etc as well as exploring the local countryside.
Overall it’s intended to use local expertise to get local people involved in better understanding our local environment.
If you have any ideas, would like to get involved or want to know more please contact me