Wild Warley is Putting the Water back into the Wilderness The Wilderness is one of the most important parts of Warley Woods for Nature. Despite its chequered past (being created through illegal flytipping), it has become a favoured spot for nature lovers. Whether you seek the smaller birds that refuge in its hedgerows or its interesting botanical mix; which attracts cool invertebrates in the summer months (such as this hoverfly above, but more on him later). Blimey and we haven't even mentioned the water yet; a resource that up until a few years ago was not found elsewhere on site. There is water in the Wilderness, so what is the fuss all about? At present, the Wilderness only holds water intermittently. It previously held water more readily, retaining it providing a valuable resource to wildlife and giving a home to wildlife that depends on wet conditions that are rare on our free-draining soils (seems crazy to be saying this now during this wet Winter but wait until Summer and you will see!). The dumped soils settled over the years and the 'plug' was removed, water is now never retained for long in our wonderful Wilderness, and we are losing the plant life that relies on wet conditions, along with the other species that depend on them. What is going on in the Wilderness? Thanks to funding by Ibstock Enovert Trust, Wild Warley has the budget to install a permanent water feature in the Wilderness. This means there will be some changes happening and disruptions to the use of this part of the site. We will be digging a large pond in the Wilderness along with other tweaks of the area to maximise its potential for Wildlife. We have now completed the first stage, removing the bulk of the material from the pond and installing small intermittently wet ditches across the Wilderness. Once the area has had a chance to dry out we will be going back in to form the pond ready for liner installation which will make this water feature in the Wilderness permanent What does this mean for me? We will be requesting all dog owners to act responsibly in this area by keeping their dogs on their lead. This minimises disturbance to this area which will help give our wildlife some space in Warley Woods. Whilst work is ongoing the Wilderness will be closed. Why now? You would be right in thinking that Winter does throw in complications (we have shifted the start date once for snow and ice for instance) however, we are working with nature, getting the work done during a period of relative dormancy, this should mean that the Wilderness should start bouncing back and still be as productive for our wildlife in the summer, and hopefully, we can catch some of the new species we are hoping to attract within the first year! What are we trying to achieve? This is the big one. Water is essential to all life and it's presence or absence is felt by far more than just the species we would normally associate with water. For example, imagine a long hot dry summer, a source of clean rainwater on-site will allow all animals big and small to be able to get a much-needed drink. Birds use water for bathing in (I often have a blackbird visit my pond at home to have a good splash). So who is missing? which species do we hope to encourage that we do not already have? Amphibians: Although we almost certainly have some on-site, it seems clear they are not in any great numbers. This is probably owing to the fact that we do not have a permanent water feature currently, this is essential as Frogs, Toads and Newts all require water to complete their reproductive lifecycle. Dragonflies & Damselflies: These beautiful 'living fossils' from the order Odonata have not changed much (apart from size) since pre-historic times, combining striking colours with amazing aerial agility these are truly a wonder to behold. These species also require water to complete their lifecycle, their nymphs feed on tadpoles and other invertebrates that live in ponds. Hoverflies: Like our aforementioned buddy up top, the Tapered Dronefly (Eristalis pertinax) which relies on wet ditches with low oxygen levels to lay its rat-tailed maggots, these feed predominantly on decaying vegetation. these species will make use of the wet ditches within the wilderness area to make young, the adults feed on the abundant nectar providing flowers present in the Wilderness. Plantlife: There will be space for a myriad of aquatic plantlife from species such as Starwort (an oxygenating floating plant), to sedges and rushes, stunning plants such as yellow flag iris to aromatic flowering plants such as water mint, which will delight our senses whilst providing great foraging for pollinators. Other species: There are far too many to mention them all, but other invertebrate species such as diving beetles will be supported. Along with habitat for molluscs such as Ramshorn Snails. It will be truly fascinating to watch the colonisation of the pond as it goes on its journey from being newly installed to becoming our own fully functioning ecosystem, I look forward to exploring and sharing with you the new wildlife this will bring to our amazing site! If you would like to learn more about wildlife ponds why not read Pondlife - A Newt's Tale.