The Noak Bridge
Nature Reserve Society
Hello and welcome. It's summer at last and the Reserve is now in full flow. With our two new Jubilee Benches on site there is now plenty of seating in various locations to sit and enjoy the wildlife and
the peaceful surroundings. The tangled redundant fencing wire along High Ridge has now been removed, and also the unsightly metal and tyres which seemed to emerge like plant life from the undergrowth over winter.
Many of you will be aware of how the Nature Reserve and the Society came about, but many more of you, like me until recently, may not know, so here is:
A Short History of the Noak Bridge Nature Reserve and the Society
The development of new housing beyond the Medical Centre in the 1990's was traumatic for the small animals and other wildlife as their habitats were destroyed. Local residents rescued and relocated many of them led by Betty Haynes, Derek Gould, Ron Francis and many others. Basildon Council Countryside Services were contacted for their support and advice. Eventually, under the direction of Steve Prewer for Countryside Services, 20 acres at the end of Eastfield Road were secured and dedicated as a nature reserve for Noak Bridge residents. This area was once part of the Plotlands development established between 1930 and 1970 by Londoners who purchased small sites and built homes and gardens. Our Lupin Glade is a reminder of their occupation.
Steve Prewer helped the original group to form 'The Noak Bridge Nature Reserve Society' to work with Basildon Council Countryside Services to preserve and maintain the site. The first (steering) committee meeting was convened on 14 July 1999 with Steve Prewer attending for Countryside Services. Ideas and suggestions were exchanged regarding the future development of the site. Subsequent meetings in October and December decided on the positioning of the first benches and on plans to upgrade the existing pathways to provide wider trails to accommodate wheelchairs. It was also decided to add another trail, to refurbish the ponds and to provide disabled access. A grant proposal was to be submitted to Cleanaway Trust Pitsea, to fund these projects. The committee requested a notice board at the Eastfield Road entrance be provided by Countryside Services.
The Society's first Annual General Meeting was convened in Kenilworth Place on 21st June 2000 and the original steering committee were duly elected as officers and committee members in accordance with the Society's new Constitution approved at the meeting. A secretary was also elected and a computer and printer were loaned to the Society by Basildon Council until the secretary purchased her own. Luke Bennett from Countryside Services became our first Ranger.
Our first Open Day took place on 21st June 2001. The Society put up a gazebo, new display boards for our photographs, and small tables and chairs. Other local nature reserve societies were invited and Basildon Countryside Services organised a guided walk and pond dipping. An ice cream van provided refreshments. A work party from Wat Tyler Country Park cleaned and refurbished the steps. In October the trail refurbishment was accomplished and in December the annual Yuletide Ramble with mulled wine and mince pies in the Village Hall was established.
In January 2002 the committee met to give names to the ponds and other parts of the reserve. The names were taken from local farms and sites in the area: Willow and Fox ponds because of the many willow trees and foxes in the Reserve, Rosebay Pond because of the rosebay willowherb nearby, Prewers Pond because Steve Prewer was so helpful in the development of the site and the formation of the Society. Meadow Pond is sited at the edge of East Meadow, and Puckles Pond is named after a farm once situated near Gate Lodge Way. Dew Pond is a mystery as that name would normally be given to a man-made temporary pond, and ours is a natural pond. Camberwell Copse is named after the Camberwell beauty butterfly, which is quite rare but has been seen in Essex. Lupin Glade holds a grand display of lupins, probably planted by Plotlands residents. The Noak Steps are named after the village, which in turn is thought to have been named after the Oaks in the area. (Noak is thought to be an old English word for 'near the oak'). The Spanish Steps are named after a group of Spanish students on an exchange scheme who helped to build them. High Ridge is named for being the highest area in the Reserve, Dragonfly Loop for the dragonflies around the ponds, Oak Wood for the many oaks in the Reserve, Thorny Wood for the blackthorn bush within, and Kimberley Copse for Kimberley Road which was thought to be one of the original roads in the village.
A grant from Visteon financed the construction of a pond-dipping jetty at Puckles Pond just in time for Open Day 2002. A map and information leaflets were produced for the occassion. The Society continued to thrive and give pleasure to residents of Noak Bridge and visitors. The Billericay Society asked Betty Haynes to lead several evening walks in the summer and the Committee attended local open days, events and exhibitions in the area. New committee members were added and work parties benefited from their additional knowledge and dedication. The site is too small for commercial development having no parking, water or toilets, but it is convenient for visitors attending the attractions at Barleylands who might want to spend an hour in our informal setting. However, the attractions of Open Days and chilly Yuletide Rambles ceased to appeal and the crafters, woodworkers and wild life exhibitors were not willing to come after 2005. It had been disappointing to see such poor attendances. Sadly, the Yuletide Ramble was also discontinued a few years later.
The most recent housing development in Eastfield Road was reduced in size from its original plan to its present size partly due to intense lobbying by Society members, Basildon Council and other wildlife organizations to limit damage to animals and wild life in our Reserve. A grant from the developers was used to refurbish Fox Pond and other areas of the site.
The original committee members served until October 2010 when most of them retired and new members came forward to continue the work of the Society in a much simpler form. Now that all the development has been accomplished, the work party continues to monitor and assist Countryside Services in the maintenance of the site. The Constitution was amended to reflect the current needs and the Committee meets three to four times a year, with the Annual General Meeting continuing to be held in July. The support of Noak Bridge residents and members of the Society is much appreciated as is the help from our friends at Basildon Council Countryside Services.
All the work and work parties are carried out by volunteers. All are welcome to join our Work Parties at any time. Typical tasks include cutting back undergrowth beside the trails, installing and monitoring bird nesting boxes, coppicing to create woodland glades, rubbish collecting and maintaining facilities (benches, notice boards, etc). We meet at the Eastfield Road entrance on the third Tuesday of every month except December, from 1pm to 3pm. Tools are provided and notices are posted on our notice boards, in the Costcutter Store and outside the Chairman's home in Coppice Lane.
Membership is open to all and costs just £3.00 per household, and £1.50 concession, senior/unemployed. Donations are of course optional and are most gratefully received, with all proceeds go towards maintaining the Reserve being used in the purchase of materials for bird boxes, insect boxes, signage for the ponds, notice boards, hand tools, new benches, printing and print equipment.
We invite you to join us in protecting the environment and providing a pleasant place to enjoy the pleasures of the countryside by becoming members, or by joining us on work parties, or even both if you have the time. Either way you will be contributing towards a worthwhile cause.