The exciting progress we’ve made at Broomhill over a challenging few years

Now that the pandemic restrictions have eased, it’s a good time to update everybody. In this blog we’ll concentrate on Broomhill Flash.

If you are visiting the reserve please note that the hide and car-park at Broomhill Flash are now open again to the public between dawn and dusk but we would like to remind everyone to keep safe and follow the national guidelines such as the social distancing measures when in the hide.

During the last 18 months our local volunteers have been keeping a close watch on the reserve to ensure a presence and prevent any vandalism. We’ve had no incidents so many thanks for their efforts!

A special designation makes Broomhill nationally important

We were really pleased to have all of the 40 hectares of our land at Broomhill notified as part of the new Dearne Valley Wetlands Site of Special Scientific Interest in May 2021. It is one of 22 areas in the Dearne Valley totalling 652 hectares designated for its special wetland wildlife, and for the Willow Tit, the UK’s fastest declining resident bird.

This means it is specially protected by law for its wildlife. It’s a real accolade for the site – for many years it was regarded just as site of local interest and now it’s been elevated to national importance. Great work by the trustees and volunteers!

We will be working with Natural England to continue protect and manage it even better for its special wildlife. See the DEFRA website for further details.

A new green roof brings benefits

A green roof was installed on the hide by the Sheffield-based Green Estate Community Interest Company in May 2021. This solved the problem of the leaking roof and will provide extra insulation for the building as well as some new habitat.

We designed it to provide 50% vegetation especially for plants adapted to thin soils and which provide good niches for pollinators, and 50% gravel and shells to see if it might be attractive to nesting birds such as Oystercatchers. We will see!

The photo below shows the roof before the scaffolding was removed. An added bonus is that we have connected the drainage to the car-park pond so that the pond will benefit from a steady top-up.

Speaking of the pond, this is developing nicely. We were delighted to welcome staff and volunteers in November 2020 from the Lower Derwent Valley National Nature Reserve near York who kindly donated a range of native marginal plants for the pond including the nationally scarce Greater Water Parsnip which we hope will establish a strong population.

A rare visitor to the pond was this Small Red-eyed Damselfly in July 2021. This is a species which, like some other dragonflies and damselflies, is rapidly colonising the country northwards in line with climate change predictions.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly, car park pond, August 2021

A new viewpoint completed…

We also completed a new viewpoint at the west of the reserve next to Park Hill in April 2020 just after the first lockdown. The stone-built viewpoint has a recycled plastic floor and bench and gives magnificent views over the Flash and Chirl Hill. Informal access is via the Park Hill site next to the Park Hill Local Nature Reserve in Wombwell. Thanks to Wildscapes Ltd for their efforts.

…and new interpretation boards too

Next to the viewpoint and in the main car park are two new interpretation boards giving information about the reserve including the new land at Chirl Hill and the Fleet. With some lovely artwork by Tim Wootton we hope that visitors new and old will find something of interest to read about.

Despite the closures, 2020 was eventful in other ways too, both for wildlife and getting some essential work done.  

Wildlife progress

In 2020 we had our first breeding record of Herring Gulls. A pair ousted the usual 10 pairs of Black-headed Gulls and raised one young on one of the floating islands.

Herring Gulls are familiar birds on our coasts and can be a nuisance when they try and steal your chips at the seaside but they are actually of conservation concern due to breeding declines in this country. There are a few inland breeding records in Yorkshire. The pair returned in 2021 and attempted to breed but were unsuccessful.

Summer 2020. The Mute Swan family swims past the nesting Herring Gulls. A Black-headed Gull (foreground) looks on.

Chill Hill and The Fleet

At Chirl Hill and the Fleet we have installed new fencing so that the grazing cattle can have a full circular walk of the Flash but not stray onto the arable field, and have fenced off the arable from the newly developing grassland.

Mr Richmond, our farmer, sowed the arable with Spring Barley in 2021 together with a plot of winter bird food to help small birds such as finches and buntings through the winter period, and a pollinator strip to help our pollinating insects. We will wait and see how they develop.

Chirl Hill and The Fleet 2021. Spring Barley in the arable field, a nicely developing grassland and the Fleet itself attracting a wide range of waterbirds.
New fencing on the Fleet helps to manage the cattle around the Flash

One of our floating islands at Broomhill lost its anchor but was successful re-floated and re-positioned in April this year. Thanks to the River Stewardship Company for their efforts!

The beached island re-floated and positioned. And with a new blue buoy.

The River Stewardship Company also carried out some spot-spraying work on the new grassland on the Fleet (best seen from the public footpath along the adjacent Wombwell Ings). This is to prevent aggressive species like Spear and Creeping Thistle from getting a hold and dominating the new meadow grassland.

More pictures of the car park pond

The pond at Broomhill full with the winter rains, March 2020
The pond in August 2021 developing nicely
The Mute Swan family from over the road trying it out on an ‘away-day’!

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