Wildlife and Habitats

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!cid_ii_14d29d4258d752d6The Wildlife and Habitats Group is a voluntary group supported by the parish council and advised by the Dorset Wildlife Trust. If you would be interested in joining our small team helping to conserve and enhance our wildlife habitats, then we would like to hear from you.
 Please email – bourtonhabitat@gmail.com or call 01747 841307

Owl Calls logo

Wild Bourton “Which Owl have You Heard? ” – click on Owl Calls                                                                                                                                                              Email us your  Bourton wildlife photos. View Wild Bourton   


August Update  2017 – There is lots going on, so come and join us! 

Himalayan Balsam. This is our second year working with Dorset Wildlife Trust and all the parishes between Bourton and Gillingham to eradicate the Himalayan Balsam, the pernicious plant that causes erosion of our river banks and harms our native plants. Next effort Friday 1st September.

Yellow Rattle. It is now Yellow Rattle sowing time so work will now commence on the protected verge opposite the war memorial and our woodland edge environment. This parasitic plant reduces grass vigour and allows more wild flowers to flourish.

Forty Pond. Thanks to local landowner, Mary Taylor, we had a fantastic team effort at Forty Pond this week clearing fallen trees and overhanging foliage to create a wide vista and attract a greater variety of wildlife. It was quite a challenge reaching some of the branches, but compensated for by superb entertainment value from Paul Curry, one of our team who stepped into rather deep mud and almost became a pond fixture! Check out those trousers!  We have now cleared a great area in preparation for our next giant bonfire which will precede the construction of a bird hide.

Lots of collected wood means we now have a great opportunity to create several additional rotting log piles and a bug hotel. We are looking forward to adding a few nest boxes. Things are really beginning to take shape, so enjoy the photos!





November 2016 Update

This month was a busy one for the group.
  • Bourton Mill site. Thanks to our alerting the developers, the Japanese Knotweed has been safely disposed of from the mill site. 109 Slow Worms on the site were relocoated to the IOWA in Bridge Street.The official ecologist will be meeting us during his next site visit.
  • Good News for Barn Owls. Our winter Barn Owl box checks revealed the presence of Barn owl pellets in the Whistley Farm box. Check HERE.
  • Woodland Edge Bank. Overhanging vegetation near the pavement on the woodland edge environment has been completed along the bank. Signage updated. More plants ordered.


  • Cooperation with Wildlife Trusts. Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts have agreed to attend a joint meeting in Bourton with our group to discuss possibilities for a new greenfield creation – a shared wildlife educational facility on amenity land in the village.
  • Bourton School have requested our assistance in providing suggestions for educational walks for wildlife in the parish to take place in the spring.
  • Forty Pond This is a former stone quarry and it is hoped to revive it as a wildlife haven. Further clearing and conservation work will be taking place soon to allow more light access the water.
  • New Members needed. Why not come and join us? You do not need to commit more time than you can manage so please make contact.



September  Update

  • This month, the group continued its work clearing Himalayan Balsam from the Upper Stour in conjunction with neighbouring parishes and Dorset Wildlife Trust. Concerned for our highly endangered Water Vole population on Bridge Street, we have made enquiries concerning monitoring and elimination of the mink and are awaiting further information from DWT. We very much hope to have the support of local landowners in this endeavour.
  • Two queries were put to Dorset planners concerning the Bourton Mill development, one in connection with the presence of Japanese Knotweed on the site, and the other concerning details of the relocation of Slow Worms and the possibility of damage being done to the IOWA in Bridge Street. We are awaiting replies but local councillor Jenny Webb is following this up on our behalf.
  • Both our woodland edge village bank and the protected verge which we manage opposite the war memorial have been cut closely, raked and Yellow Rattle sown to reduce the vigour of the grass. We are now in the process of adding further native perennial plants such as Marjoram, Ox-eye Daisy and Mullein, and further encouraging the spread of Evening Primrose. Please let us know if you have any of these or others to add. Have you seen our amazing Ivy Bees? Do go along and check the new signage and thriving population!
  • Our initial work on the restoration of Forty Pond is going well and the Lesser Spearwort, Yellow Flag iris, Fringed water lily and Water Forget-me-not are all flourishing. This has produced a notable increase in invertebrates and dragonflies. During the winter, we hope to do additional clearing of overhanging foliage to bring more light to the waterside.
  • At the end of October, we will be clearing and cleaning our four Barn Owl boxes in preparation for next year. No Barn Owls have taken up residence yet although Tawnies did nest in one of the boxes.
  • You may have noticed the addition of stone blocks behind the village “gates”. These are mark out an area for the planting of additional native shrubs and to protect the area from strimming.
  • Ongoing, we are developing our group’s proposal for a locally managed nature reserve on whichever village hall site is chosen, subsequent to acceptance of the Neigbourhood Plan. To this end, we are actively seeking the support of Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire Wildlife Trusts as we feel that Bourton’s uniquely central geographical position could benefit all three populations.

July Update

 Bee Orchid
 Bee Orchid
Good News! A complete surprise and cause for a little celebratory drink! Bourton Wildlife and Habitats Group have just been awarded the Tom Mitchell Salver by the parish council for its work in the parish. A great group effort!
  • The Woodland Edge Wildflower bank and protected verge – Hugely successful this year with three different species of orchids in flower, plus masses of the near extinct Corncockle, as well as a noticeable increase in other wild flowers. Nearly time for our carefully managed cutting.
  • Himalayan Balsam – Great work by the team earlier in June to remove all the obvious invasive plant from the parish> We will be checking again in July along with a complete survey of the river upstream to its source. Time to be decided during next working party.
  • The overgrown trees along the footpath will be cut back by Phil Cowell and his team.
  • Barn owl boxes. Chris Sperring MBE made a flying visit and we checked all our owl boxes. No Barn Owls yet, but Tawny Owls nesting in our box on the FP opposite Bulpitts. Jackdaws nesting in the Whistley Farm box, The Ox Stall internal box has not yet been visited by birds. Pen Mill Farm box shows signs of visiting birds but no nest yet. Chris offered to revisit village with his Barn Owl for another talk, possibly at Bourton School together with Dorset Wildlife Trust. Headmaster Mike Salisbury to be contacted. Not a good year for Barn Owls due to this wet weather. Their feathers are not water resistant.
  • Next working party – Tuesday 12th July 9 am to 1 pm, meeting at Old Penny Cottage. We will be selectively cutting and removing grass and sumach while leaving many wild flowers to seed. Full cut and remove in a few weeks.
  • Village Fete – Plan to set up our own stall with information and fun ideas, and sell our own draught “Barn Owl Bitter” and “Bee Line Golden”.


April Update

It has been another busy month, clearing excess bramble, cleavers and bindweed, plus additional wildflower planting on the woodland edge environment running through the village. Along the river, the water voles are now active and very appreciative of the supply of apples provided on the river bank in Bridge Street. These snub-nosed short-tailed rodents are the most endangered of UK mammals and must bBramble Burninge protected. Conservation work has also begun on Forty Pond, thanks to the encouragement and support of Mary Taylor the landowner. ThiForty Ponds sizeable pond lies within our parish on a lovely public footpath across fields leading from West Bourton to Silton with a branch that leads back via Westfield dairy and Feltham Farm across the A303, to emerge on West Bourton Road near Adcroft House. Completely hidden by overgrowth, it was almost lifeless with no sunlight entering the water. It is now beginning to show signs of rejuvenation, now that excessive vegetation has been cleared and native wild plants added. The dreaded Himalayan Balsam is about to be hit again as our group teams up with Gillingham Town Council and Dorset Wildlife Trust in a concerted effort to clear the Upper Stour of Himalayan Balsam.

View more Photos at Forty Pond    HERE

March Update

The Wild Bunch on the Bank 10-3-2016This month the group and new some members were working hard to increase biodiversity along the main road through the village by continuing its expansion of this delightful “Woodland Edge” environment. With the addition of native shrubs and small trees – Hazel, Gueldar Rose, Elder, Gorse, Alder Buckthorn, Buckthorn, Broom, Wayfaring tree, Rowan, Crab apple and a range of honeysuckles, the aim is to create more colour, fruit and evening scents throughout the season. This will attract moths, and other pollinating insects, and support an increased variety of bird and bat species. A number of drilled logs, designed as the egg-laying habitats for leaf-cutter bees, have also been set up. Higher up the road, opposite the war memorial, Yellow Rattle has been sown in the verge, and some cutting back of bramble has been undertaken to reveal hidden daffodils, snowdrops and bluebells.

Anyone interested in supporting their work with plant donations, or becoming a volunteer, is invited to call 01747840307 or email bourtonhabitat@gmail.com

January 2016  Update

Along the village wildflower bank, the invasive, non-native Stags Horn Sumach is gradually being replaced by native hedgerow trees and shrubs. Meanwhile, our P1030456P1030457efforts to encourage Barn Owls back to Bourton saw the placement of a fourth box in the area, this being on the public footpath opposite Bulpitts Golf Course. Landowners are encouraged to create areas of rough grassland for the benefit of Field Voles, the principal food source of these iconic British Owls, the lack of which is one of the main causes of their decline.
News from the R. Stour – In an effort to eliminate Himalayan Balsam from the Upper Stour, the group undertook bramble clearing just below the river bridge. This will assist the pulling of the Balsam as soon as it appears. Meanwhile, water voles living along the river in Bridge Street need our protection and encouragement.
Finally, A Special Request for volunteers to assist with our twice yearly litter pick which covers the entire parish. The next session takes place over a two-week period at the end of March. Please contact us

October 2015 Update.

Work Party 19-10-2015 We had three work parties this month. In the first, we removed much of the invasive Himalayan Balsam below the road bridge. This is a serious Group of Volunteers 31-10-2015pest on the Upper Stour, decreasing biodiversity and aiding bank erosion. We shall continue this work next year, when we also hope to encourage the spread of our delightful native Water Vole which now is present in the parish. Secondly, the group undertook an Autumn tidy of the village wild flower bank, involving grass strimming and removal, plus the planting up of additional wild flower plants, native tree and shrub species. These included the Spindle tree, Holly, Guelder Rose, and Mountain Ash. We felled and disposed of an invasive Sumach trunk that was in danger of falling onto the pavement. Passers by will see a new log pile in the bank opposite the garage. This will provide a habitat for various invertebrates, and as it eventually breaks down, will hopefully see several varieties of fungi colonising it. On the last day of October, the group planted 100 bluebells and 25 native daffodils along the village wild flower bank, and filled two protected grass areas opposite the war memorial with Yellow Rattle seed. Having begun with a short cut, this was followed by a strong raking, followed by the sowing 150g of Yellow Rattle seed (a grass parasite), and a final roll to ensure the seed makes good contact with the soil. With luck and by keeping the grass kept short until germination time in Feb/Mar, the rattle will begin to colonise the verge, reducing the vigour of the grass and allowing wild flowers to come to dominate

 September 2015 Update

_DSC7585 This month saw the results of a collaborative venture between our wildlife group, together with Chris Sperring MBE, well-known broadcaster and Barn Owl expert, Keith Harris, a local landowner and wildlife enthusiast, and “Lightsource” the operators of the Silton Manor Solar Farm. A meeting arranged at the site instigated by our group resulted in a productive discussion which should result in improved management of solar farms to increase biodiversity. Thanks to “Lightsource” and Keith Harris, we were able to install a brand new Barn Owl nest box in a 200 yr old Ox stall. Chris surveyed the barn and surrounding wide field margins and discovered a number of Barn Owl pellets which was very encouraging. Photographs of visit –  click here


May 2015 Update

Dormouse in Penselwood Garden 2 Planting at the BankThis month, we continued to grow on a large number of plug plants for the wildflower bank, and by the end of the month set about installing them in the wildflower bank. Species included, Evening Primrose, Bladder Campion, Lady’s Bedstraw, Wild Marjoram, Field Scabious, Red Campion, and many others. Group members will monitor and water the plantlets throughout June. We were also delighted to be contacted by a resident of Penselwood parish on account of our volunteer work at Moldrams Ground Nature Reserve. Living 75 m from the reserve, she was amazed to see a Hazel Dormouse happliy eating peanuts from her squirrel-proof garden bird feeder. Having eaten its fill, it curled up between the inner and outer sections and dozed off the sleep. Fearing for its safety, the resident struggled to wake the sleeping creature, which then scampered up the tree. This is a very rare event for three reasons – Dormice are nocturnal, they rarely use bird feeders, and there was no arboreal route to the reserve. Somerset and Dorset Wildlife Trusts were contacted and showed great interest.  

 April Update

Grass Clearing Gates Plugs and Bulbs
This month, the group took delivery of several native trees and shrubs. These have been placed behind each of the village gates where they will become a perfect backdrop, attracting birds and insects and announcing to all that Bourton is a Wildlife-Friendly parish. We also cleared some of the excess grass from the wild flower bank, and planted 120 Wild Daffodil, Snowdrop and English Bluebell bulbs. Having just received 410 wild flower plug plants from our own local supplier Really Wild Flowers, we potted them all on and will soon be ready to plant them out in the next few weeks


Recent Activities

Photographs of work being undertaken by the W&H group throughout the Village Ox eye daisies sm  Wild flowers 1 sm  Grass Banks 1  Grass Banks 4  Grass Banks 3  Grass Banks 2  Grass Banks 1  Beeline in garden 2  Beeline in garden  various and tree trunk slices 17 May 2014 024  various and tree trunk slices 17 May 2014 032

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