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Otters, kingfishers and the rare bittern are set to benefit from an innovative project to introduce a tidal sluice gate to a nationally important wetland habitat.
Siddick Ponds is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a popular Local Nature Reserve (LNR) in West Cumbria. The large reedbeds and extensive open waters, including a brackish lagoon, attract and support at least 35 species of nesting birds.
But until recently birds were not returning during the winter, food levels seemed to be dropping and fish were fast disappearing. The once brackish ponds had been become congested and the food that the tidal waters brought in to replenish and feed the wildlife had significantly decreased.
Bill Bacon who is the Chair of the Friends of Siddick Ponds Group said: ““We discovered that a heavy steel flap had been put over an outlet linking the site to the estuary of the River Derwent, which had remained closed for over 12 months.”
The discovery kick started a pioneering project between Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Friends of Siddick Ponds to come up with an solution to regulate the water flow in the Ponds. The outcome was the installation of a self regulating tidal gate (SRT), only the third ever of its kind used in the country.
The sluice has an innovative float operated rotary valve which means the lid remains open, floating above water, most of the time. This makes the tide gate design different from all others whose default position is closed, and also makes it ‘fish friendly’ as they have unobstructed passage through the gate, except at times when there is a risk of local flooding when the float closes the sluice automatically.
Bill said: “With the new device in place, the future of the ponds is secured thanks to Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Friends of Siddick Ponds who are developing this wonderful local wildlife habitat even further. Our volunteers and key and are helping with conservation tasks including wetland planting, scrub coppicing, reed cutting, meadow cutting and footpath/step construction.”
Bart Donato from Natural England said: “It’s great to be involved in this project which is enabling this 22 hectare nationally important wildlife site to be fully restored in its glory for both people and wildlife.
“The combination of works on the SSSI and the sluice along with the strength of the local community will ensure that a site that hosted five bitterns last winter and booming bitterns this spring will continue on the restoration path. The summer will see an influx of migratory birds travelling north from Africa. Warblers and swifts together with sand and house martins make the most of aquatic invertebrates emerging from the ponds’ waters.”
The project is funded by the Water Framework Directive. The Environment Agency receives money from the government to implement this directive, which is European legislation designed to improve and protect all waters – on the surface and underground.
About Natural England
Natural England is the government’s independent adviser on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.
We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.
We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and advising widely on their conservation.
We run Environmental Stewardship and other green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.
We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.
We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.
About Friends of Siddick Pond
In 2002 the friends of Siddick Ponds were formed from a group of enthusiasts who cared about their local environment. Working with Allerdale Borough Council and ISS Landscaping the group have transformed this SSSI site into a vibrant and attractive place to visit.
The Friends of Siddick Ponds have been an integral part of the success so far achieved at the ponds. The group, consisting of local residents, meets regularly, and has so far raised funds and promoted the reserve to a much wider audience.
The Friends of Siddick Pond are always looking for new volunteers. If you are interested in helping, please contact us at email@example.com or phone 01900 702 702 and ask to be put through to the Parks and Open Spaces Team
About Siddick Pond Local Nature Reserve
Siddick Ponds SSSI is managed by Allerdale Borough Council in conjunction with Natural England, The Environment Agency and the Friends of Siddick Ponds.
Located between Iggesund Paper Board and Dunmail Park, Workington, the main entrance to the reserve is through the Dunmail Park car park (on the right hand side of Edgars car dealership) with access to the bird hide through the Iggesund customer car park. National Route 71 and 72 Cycleways traverse the site, providing walking and cycling access from Northside and Seaton and offering viewpoints of the reserve.
For further information (media enquiries only) please contact: David Hirst on 0300 060 1720 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow us on Twitter: @NaturalEngland
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