7th December 2021: A run of bad luck…

A warning of possible reserve closures tomorrow.

The stalwart Tuesday volunteers arrived at Blashford ready to work this morning despite the heavy rain and strong winds. I think probably much against his better judgement Bob took them out on site to continue work on the removal of the old dilapidated boardwalk, clearing way for the construction of the new replacement one. They soldiered on as the rain grew heavier and the wind grew stronger only giving in (to what some sat in a nice warm & dry office – well dry anyway – would say was just plain old fashioned common sense!) when the wheel came off Bobs trailer…

With the volunteers headed home to dry off and warm up, and Bob trying to dry off his second coat of the day, we settled down to lunch only to be plunged into darkness when the power went off. Hot on the heels of Arwen Storm Barra had hit Blashford and toppled a large sycamore tree near the entrance to the nature reserve taking out an entire length of power cable…

Fortunately (there was some good luck today!) the horrible weather meant that the few visitors we had earlier in the day had all gone home so it was a simple matter to close up the site. Not so simple was letting everyone know who needed to know that the power was down, but we got there in the end and Scottish & Southern Electric were on site relatively quickly.

By the time I left shortly after 4pm we were properly in the “eye of the storm” with evening sunshine and just a gentle breeze and there were any number of power lines men, tree surgeons, cars, vans, trucks and cherry pickers on site with a promise that power would be restored by morning…

However the weather forecast has the worst of Storm Barra not actually coming through until the early hours of tomorrow morning so just a heads up to everyone that if that is the case although we may have electricity back up & running in the office & centre, if more tree’s come down it may become necessary to temporarily close footpaths &/or hides until they can be cleared so if you are planning on visiting tomorrow (8th December) maybe hold off arriving until later in the day?

Tomorrows another day…!

Hides re-opening this Monday!

These views will be yours again!

Tern Hide looking north-east
Ivy South Hide looking north-east

Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has maintained the stance that our hides would re-open again in line with step 4 of the transition out of lockdown, ever since the Government revealed its roadmap in the Spring of this year.

That day has, finally, arrived, and as such the hides at both Blashford and Testwood Lakes will be open daily from Monday 19th July.

Clearly this transition out of COVID-19 restrictions is not without risk as the number of cases and hospital admittance continues to accelerate both nationally and, critically,  locally, and for this reason, and in order to give ALL of our visitors the confidence to use our facilities we will be asking that everyone wears a face covering while using a Hide, that they open sufficient windows to ensure a reasonable air circulation and that everyone observes a 1m+ social distancing between themselves and others not of their party.

We know of course that our hides can be very popular with photographers as well as birdwatchers and respectfully remind EVERYONE that with the number of people able to safely use the hides limited, if the nature reserve is busy with lots people wishing to view the wildlife from the hides it will not be appropriate for any individual to “set up camp” in a hide, but rather they should leave and allow other visitors to enjoy the views after a reasonable length of time.

We will be reviewing how the reopening goes in light of visitor feedback and, of course, as circumstances and/or government guidance changes, and will amend the way we ask visitors to use the hides, or close them again, accordingly.

Since the pandemic started our income has plummeted – both that which we normally generate through our educational visits and events, but also that which we normally receive from our visitors in-lieu of a reserve entry fee.

Even on those days when the site has been busy, which has been often, our visitor contributions have been well down on what we would normally expect.

This may, or may not, be a perceived reduction in benefit which some visitors may have been feeling for as long as the hides have been closed, not appreciating the costs that are involved with our maintaining the excellent footpaths around the site, providing toilet facilities, wardening it in light of antisocial behaviour, particularly last Summer, and continuing to manage the site for nature conservation.

Regardless of the reasons for the reduction in donations that we have seen, we are very much hoping that with the hides open again visitors will dip their hands into their wallets again. We absolutely do rely on your donations to continue our work at Blashford Lakes so thank you in advance and anticipation of your future generosity!

Please bear in mind that we will always endeavour to open our nature reserves but that, with our limited staff numbers against an ever increasing number of people being required to self-isolate, that it is becoming an increasingly likely possibility that there will be times when with very little, if any, notice, we will be unable to open on occasion.

Should this situation arise we will always let people know via Twitter (https://twitter.com/bobservablelife?lang=en,https://twitter.com/jimday22857614?lang=en or https://twitter.com/HantsIWWildlife), the website (https://www.hiwwt.org.uk/nature-reserves/blashford-lakes-nature-reserve) and, of course, this blog, just as soon as we are able to do so, so do keep an eye on all of these channels, especially before planning a visit from any distance away. And if you do arrive and find that we have been paralysed do take advantage of the fact that there is a very beautiful part of the New Forest just down the road and over the cattle-grid!

A Big Chill

It looks as though the week ahead is going to be a cold one. A freeze at the very end of winter like this can be particularly problematic, wild food such as seeds are almost exhausted and a cold snap will bring a halt to any early spring flush of new foods.

It will also stop any early nesting attempts. I have known lapwing to be settled on eggs in the first week of March, but I am sure they will be much later this year.

frosty lapwing

frosty lapwing

Birds are well adapted to deal with cold weather, despite maintaining a higher body temperature than we do their feathers do a fantastic job of insulation. The lapwing in the picture has a layer of frost on its back, showing just how good this insulation is.

We are predicted to get snow this week, and we will certainly get ice. The reserve is obviously more dangerous when it is icy, as are the roads on the way and the car parks. We are intending to stay open all week, but this might change if either staff cannot safely travel or the conditions on the reserve become dangerous. I will try and keep information up to date here on the blog.