The Newlands Reedbed at Brandon Marsh nature reserve is a sanctuary for wildlife which need wetlands for food, shelter and breeding. Its expansion was crucial to the long term future of several species potentially facing extinction.

Newlands History: how it all began 

Back in the 1990’s the first exciting stage of reedbed enhancement began. A second phase followed, transforming scrubland where little was living into a rich wetland habitat attracting threatened species, including otter and bittern.

This spurred us on to seek funding for an ambitious third phase. In 2010 we successfully applied to the Wren Biodiversity Action Fund for precisely £107,493 to enhance 18 hectares of reedbed at Brandon Marsh. Our vision is to have the most extensive mosaic of wetland habitat in the West Midlands.

Our vision is to create the most extensive mosaic of wetland habitat in the West Midlands, forming an area large enough to support water vole, otter, bittern and marsh harrier.

Breaking Ground

In 2011, over 20,000 cubic metres of soil was excavated creating 4 hectares of channels and pools. 2012 saw 20,000 reed stems planted by the Brandon Marsh Voluntary Conservation Team (BMVCT), turning the moonscape into a thriving wetland habitat. Planting continued up to 2015 and encroaching scrub was kept at bay – attempting to stop the wetland turning into woodland as succession wants.

Watching the wildlife 

Keen to know which elusive and rare species were making the reedbed their home the enthusiastic team of BMVCT volunteers monitored birds and other wildlife. Anything spotted by other people visiting the reedbed was added to the count. You can check out this data in the BMVCT annual report and all records are submitted to the country records office.

The Project’s Key Aims – how did we do? 

Newlands reedbed is now a stronghold for Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) species. These are the most threatened species needing conservation action according to the UK BAP. Snipe, otter and bittern are regular visitors – come and see for yourself! 

Water voles were released here in 2012 but remain elusive. The tell-tail ‘plop’ as they enter the water has been heard on several occasions but the site now being so extensive it’s tricky to track them down. Please let us know if you spot one when visiting! 

We wanted to add links to the chain of existing wetlands in Warwickshire. The expanded reedbed is now a great buffer of habitat beside the River Avon. Wetland bird counts have gone up and you can regularly view visiting ospreys, marsh harriers and different warblers and waders. 

Various organisations worked together to achieve this large-scale project over the years. Natural England and the Environment Agency provided supportive advice throughout and we’ll keep in touch with them over the future management of the reserve.

Vital volunteers

Over the five year project BMVCT have notched up an incredible 634 hours volunteering just on the Newlands phase III site alone. This is a generous contribution but is only a small part of what time is donated by the group each year. Heartfelt appreciation goes to them all and, in particular, to the late Alban Wincott who took such a lead in the project and demonstrated an enthusiasm like no other. The design for the reedbed was created with another volunteer Norman Sills, who has developed wetland and reedbed schemes around the country. Happily links between the Trust and BMVCT have been strengthened as a result of the project.

Key stats

1. Over £107,000 funding received from Wren
2. 634 BMVCT volunteer hours
3. 20,000 cubic metres of soil excavated in phase III
4. Species spotted include bittern, otter, osprey, marsh harrier and snipe
5. 21,200 reeds planted 

2016 and beyond

13,000 square metres was ‘ploughed’ so in 2016 we planted it up with reeds! We ordered in 19,000 reeds and members and volunteers grew on an additional 2,200. 

It has been extraordinary how quickly over 21,000 reed plugs have been planted in such a short space of time by a dedicated team of volunteers. Volunteers gave an amazing total of 1862 hours of their time in the year from October 2015 onwards.

For more information please contact
 Karl Curtis, Reserves and Community Engagement Manager
 024 7630 2912