October 21, 2022 12.13 pm This story is over 17 months old

Volunteers needed for Sleaford improvements tipped to help wildlife thrive

There’s more which still needs your help

A raft of works to ensure wildlife can flourish along the River Slea and at Lollycocks Field in Sleaford have successfully taken place – but there’s more which still needs your help.

In-channel works in the Slea between the Hub and the Nettles have seen features installed to improve biodiversity within the river and its verges, under the £1.29 million Witham/Slea Blue Green Corridor Project. There’s still a chance to take part, with volunteers needed by Lions Environmental Contractors for the remaining in-channel works in the river.

Meanwhile a detailed programme of improvements at Lollycocks Field in Sleaford, also under the Witham/Slea Blue Green Corridor Project, continues to make strides with a kingfisher nesting bank almost complete there. Volunteers are needed for a number of activities going forward at Lollycocks including traditional coppicing, hedgerow and bulb planting, and more.

Five new berms have been installed near the Hub as part of the in-channel works by Lions Environmental Contractors, along with some bankside improvements. Lions began their work in August with help from volunteers, including the public and corporate team building and environmental away days. The works have been done with natural materials.

Berms are low-level shelves constructed in a river channel which help recreate the natural meander and processes of the water, especially where rivers are otherwise hard-lined with brick or concrete such as the Slea around the Hub. They help narrow the river in low flows, so even in summer water can still move downstream and keep the riverbed clear for fish which need silt-free gravel to lay eggs.

The berms will become vibrant pockets of greenery with flowering plants such as marsh marigold and water forget-me-not adding colour and food sources for wildlife. The small crevices within the berms also provide refuge for small fish, amphibians and invertebrates.

Bankside improvements include removing a material called Nicospan downstream and replacing it with pre-planted coir roll. This will improve the riverbank for species which need to burrow, such as the water vole, and these works which will continue until the end of November.

“I’m very pleased to see the berms successfully installed and the vital new space they provide for insects and fish, which when boosted in variety and numbers will hopefully attract other key species. With more fish to predate on, kingfishers for example could become a more common sight along the Slea. High-quality and accessible riverbank and wetland is also exactly what Britain’s fastest- declining mammal the water vole so desperately needs, if it is to survive.

“By taking action like this through the Witham/Slea Blue Green Corridor Project and our wider plan on climate, we can protect the wildlife we have and increase the chances of it flourishing.”
Councillor Mervyn Head, North Kesteven District Council Executive Board Member

Along parts of the River Witham in Grantham where similar work has been undertaken, vegetation from the pre-planted coir matting has sprung up and water flow has been improved for wildlife.

“We have now completed three out of four projects for the in-channel Witham/Slea Blue Green Corridor project, in Sleaford and Grantham. They’ve been extremely successful and have had a tremendous amount of positive feedback from the public and local communities. We are creating habitats that will last for generations. The in-channel works will help form a diverse habitat for a vast range of species, some of which are protected, and by doing these works we are hopefully securing the lifeline of these for years to come.

“We have one project still to complete in Sleaford which involves lowering and levelling an existing berm, and then topping it with pre-planted coir matting. The works involved in this will include digging and levelling the spoil already in place, as well as removing historic Nicospan which fronts the berm. We’d welcome any volunteers who’d like to help support this work.”
Laura Brooks, Lions Environmental Contractors Business Owner & Project Co-ordinator

The Environment Agency have been helping fund the project and giving advice and guidance as a partner in it, along with taking part in some of the works.

“We are proud to support the Witham/Slea Blue Green Corridor Project to help improve the Slea in Sleaford and Witham in Grantham for wildlife and local communities. Both these rivers are important to the towns as being beautiful, accessible, green spaces to enjoy, with our teams helping with the delivery of this project this summer. We hope that this will lead to more partnership working in future.”
David Hutchinson, Environment Programme Officer at the Environment Agency

At Lollycocks Field in Sleaford a whole range of improvements can now be seen, including construction of a new kingfisher nesting bank. It’s a milestone element of the Looking After Lollycocks works being undertaken by contractor Hill Holt Wood under the Witham/Slea Blue Green Corridor Project.

It’s been created using gabion cages filled with rocks to provide a secure foundation and soil excavated onsite while creating two new scrapes. The tunnel and nesting boxes sit safely within the structure, and the gaps between the rocks create a great habitat for insects and wildlife. Breeding kingfishers have been recorded along the Slea and visiting Lollycocks Field for feeding, and some have recently even been seen inspecting the new nesting bank this week.

“So far, the boardwalk and fishing platforms are in and are starting to lessen the disturbance to the pond edge. The meadow has also been cut and cleared ready for next year’s flowering plants to come through, two new benches are in place giving members of the public extra spaces to stop, rest and enjoy their surroundings and two new scrapes have been created providing more diversity in habitat and helping improve biodiversity in the area. The kingfisher nesting bank is designed to aid the local kingfisher population by providing them with extra sites where they can nest in the area, helping to grow their numbers.

“I would like to thank all the volunteers that have helped on the project so far. If anyone is interested in volunteering on the later stages of the project, please contact us as we still have planting to carry out, coppicing works to be completed and hazel hurdles to make from the materials harvested from the coppicing. It is very rewarding to be involved in a project where the natural world is a winner and long may it continue.”
Ben Wilson, Head Ranger at Hill Holt Wood – Looking After Lollycocks Project Lead

Want to volunteer and support wildlife in Sleaford? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Volunteers are still needed to carry out in-channel work on the Slea between the lifting bridge and The Nettles in autumn. To register interest in this contact Lions on [email protected] or call Laura on 07539 636945. You can also look out for updates on social media, via Lions on Facebook or @northkestevendc and @WithamSlea
  • Everyone is welcome to help on volunteer days held every fortnight on a Wednesday at Lollycocks Field. The most recent day was yesterday, Wednesday 19 October, and further works in need of volunteers as the project progresses will include:
    Hedgerow planting: providing habitats for birds and insects
    Pond marginal works: better access for wildlife and to maintain nature plant species
    Spreading wildflower seeds: to grow more food sources for pollinators
    Coppicing (out of bird nesting season): a traditional practice which also allows
    sunlight to reach more ground-growing plants
    Wildlflower bulb planting

To register your interest, contact [email protected] or call 01636 892836. There’s also more information at hillholtwood.co.uk/looking-after-lollycocks and @hillholtwood on social media, as well as @northkestevendc and @WithamSlea

The Blue Green Witham/Slea Corridor Project could help any schools locally with students working towards accolades such as Blue Peter green badges and in need of projects to assist on. It also presents opportunities for group activities including corporate away days.

To discuss opportunities for school or group activities, contact [email protected] You can also visit withamsleabluegreencorridor.co.uk where there’s a wealth of information and resources.