Almost there…

…by Lucy Wiltshire (Volunteer Placement)


From earlier posts you may already know that over the past few months we have undergone many changes here at Blashford. Thanks to generous donations from local people, together with funding from the Veolia Environmental Trust (with money from the Landfill Communities Fund) and LEADER (part-funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development) we have been able to update reserve signage, create a new pond, replace the old Tern Hide and add in additional new features for visitor engagement, including the ‘Wild Walk’ sculpture trail and Welcome Hut. Today’s blog will highlight some of these new developments just as they are coming to completion, so please do venture down to the reserve to discover them for yourself along with friends and family.


The Welcome Hut


Inside the Welcome Hut

Around the Education Centre much thought has been given to making the space accessible and beneficial for all, with a safer area for visiting groups and families to congregate and enter or exit the building and more picnic benches.  The wildlife has not been forgotten, with three large planters filled with many pollinator friendly plant species. Particular favourites are the Salvia and Marjoram, both of which are regularly visited by many types of familiar insects including the bumblebee (both shown in the photograph below). When visiting next make sure you stop by to look or take a few photographs of your own.  In addition, wildflower turf had been laid next to the Welcome Hut and this is currently being frequented by a dazzling array of damselflies.


Bumblebee on Salvia


Azure blue damselfly

As some eagle eyed readers may have already spotted from the photo at the start of this blog, we have also increased our offer to our youngest visitors to the reserve. Re-surfacing the car park to improve the drainage has removed the almost permanent puddle that was so popular with our Wildlife Tots groups and other visiting toddlers, so hopefully to compensate for the loss of this water feature we have built a sandpit, with leaf stepping stones leading from this to a tunnel (which used to be uncovered and behind the Education Shelter) and then on to the boat.


Sandpit, tunnel and boat

The sandpit is now the first part of this mini adventure trail leading up the bank to the boat, and children can follow the oak leaf stepping stones through the wildflower tunnel.


Stepping stones leading to the boat

The centre lobby has also been refurbished to include a new wildlife camera screen which currently lets visitors switch between live images of the new bird feeder station in front of the Woodland Hide as well as the popular pond camera. 


Centre lobby


New feeder station & Camera by Woodland Hide

New interpretation inside the Centre encourages visitors to think about how they can work towards making a wilder future and inspire not only themselves but also friends and family to take action, no matter how big or how small. Do share your pledge for wildlife with us by filling in a feather and adding it to our egret.


One of the biggest changes has been to the Tern Hide, which was replaced in Spring with a whole new structure. The Tern Hide now offers a panoramic view of the lake, new seating and most excitingly a living roof which is looking brilliant as it becomes more established.


Tern hide


Viewing platform

From the viewing platform and the hide you can also see our newest tern raft which was just moved into place last week. Hopefully next year we will see some nesting pairs using the raft, with the aim to increase the colony numbers and to further chances of successful breeding, with the birds occupying more locations around the reserve.


Tern raft on Ibsley Water

The new pond which again was dug earlier in the year is the only project yet to reach completion. The pond, located behind the Education Centre and next to the existing pond is awaiting a new fence which hopefully will be constructed over the next few months. This however has not stopped the wildlife from taking advantage and we are looking forward to being able to dip it once it has become a little more established.


New Pond


Female Emperor dragonfly egg laying in the new pond

This Female Emperor dragonfly was spotted laying eggs upon the fringed water lily beneath the surface of the water. Moreover this stunningly vivid Common Darter also paused to land on the boardwalk by the old pond – just long enough for a beautiful photo!


Common Darter on the Boardwalk

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We also have a new donations box for visitors in the main lobby located between the office and kitchen. If you visit and enjoy all the developments to the reserve please do help us to continue improving the site by donating to the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. Without public donations the daily running and upkeep of the reserve would not be possible.





We would like to thank everyone who has helped us so far: our visitors for their support and patience during the interruptions which took place whilst the new infrastructure was being built and fitted; our lovely volunteers who have worked so hard to help us make these changes a reality; as well as to our funding partners and everyone who donated towards the Blashford Project who ultimately made these developments possible.

vet-logo eulogo New Forest LEADER





Thank You!

On Friday evening we had our annual volunteer get together, our chance to say “Thank you” to all our many, many volunteers on whom the smooth running of the reserve depends. Volunteers do practical tasks, help with education groups, lead and help with events, take photographs, carry out survey work and even do some of our admin.

The evening started with a choice of two walks or helping Tracy in her attempt to make the official Blashford coracle.corracle

As you can see they did a great job, so far at least, it will still need covering with something waterproof.

I lead one of the walks and we were lucky enough to see the bittern and a few brambling, I got no pictures, but have one sent in by Lorne Bissell (many thanks Lorne) and taken at the feeders by the Woodland hide.


Over the weekend both the black-necked grebe and Slavonian grebe remained on Ibsley Water, while the ring-billed gull was joined at the roost by a first winter Caspian gull.

Today dawned bright and cold and there was some ice around the edges of the lakes.Ivy Lake

It being Tuesday we had our smaller practical volunteer team in, the task was to try and make repairs to the roof of the Ivy North hide to stop the water coming in. For this task we have to thank not just the volunteers who carried it out but also a donation from the Marden Charitable Trust, which paid for the materials. Donations are an important part of the funding for the running of the reserve. It is an unfortunate fact that it is much easier to raise funds to buy a bit of infrastructure than to look after or replace it. So keeping a site running is much harder to fund than setting it up in the first place. Our volunteers’ work and donations play a vital role in keeping things together in the long term.

I will sign off with a picture taken from the office, somewhere I have been spending rather  a lot of time recently.long-tailed tit

The picture was taken through the rather dirty window, but is not bad for all that. There have been at least 9 long-tailed tit on this fat feeder at a time recently, in this cold weather this high energy food supply is likely to be very important for  very small birds like these.