The Noak Bridge
Nature Reserve Society
Around the Reserve with the ChairmanHello, as I take a leisurely walk around the Reserve with my dog I'm thinking how lovely it looks now that Summer is with us. The ponds are still quite full, a sign that there could still be water sitting in the ground just below our feet, the sun is shining and the reserve is alive, the trees are now full with leaves, and wild flowers adorn the reserve, some hidden and many not so hidden. There is also much activity as well - foxes, squirrels, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, damselflies and various reptiles, but then we expect nothing less from this idyllic little retreat. At the end of May we had nine ducklings on Willow Pond and moorhens nesting on Puckles pond. I and other people have seen muntjac in the reserve, though the last reported sighting was in August 2012 and the last sighting of what was thought to be a roe deer was in July 2012.
Hopefully by the time you read this there will also be activity of a different kind with the workmen rebuilding both sets of steps. Soon we also hope to be re-surfacing the walkways as well, so please be aware as you are enjoying your walk, of any machinery that may be working in the area. Please keep an eye on the notice boards for information on the work.
Memberships are due this month. It is still only £3 per household, £1.50p concession, and is such good value. The membership fee does so much for the Nature Reserve, which in turn benefits the village. Without the efforts of those villagers back in the eighties who fought to make this area a Nature Reserve, there would be a whole lot more housing in its place. There would be nowhere to walk and enjoy the great outdoors, which is very good for your health. You can meet people, make or meet friends or just relax on one of the many rustic seats set around here, so if you haven't visited the Reserve lately, now is a very good time to do so.
A membership renewal form accompanies this newsletter. Please return the completed form to the address shown, or you can renew your membership at the AGM.
This year's Annual General Meeting is on Thursday 24th July in the Village Hall. It will include an interesting talk by local Historian, Ken Porter. He will be talking about the local area and the Laindon Plotlands which would maybe have included the site now occupied by the Nature Reserve. Although nothing is actually recorded on Noak Bridge Plotlands as such, there is still some evidence of occupation.
On the Work Party with the Treasurer
Work Parties - February to May 2014The exceptionally long period of rain over the winter has finally ended and the paths have dried out enough to no longer need wellies to walk round the reserve! The better weather and plenty of sunshine and warmth has meant that grass, bushes and trees need plenty of cutting and trimming, and that has been the main work of the recent monthly Work Parties.
A generous grant from the Parish Council allowed us to buy our own Brushcutter (strimmer), and the better weather has given our Ranger Mark the opportunity to give a group of us the appropriate training before we used it to clear grass and scrub around the benches and various paths, and also outside the Reserve along the fence in Bridge Street and by the main entrance gates. Basildon Council staff has used industrial machines to cut the main areas, usually with volunteers clearing away the cuttings.
As usual, litter has been picked up from all around the site. One of the recently installed bird boxes was seen to be loose, so that has been firmly re-attached and the others were checked and found to be ok. It was also good to welcome a new volunteer to the May Work Party.
You will obviously have come across a worm or two in your garden, but have you ever thought how important they are to the soil? This next item will give the answer if you don't already know!
The Earthworm, our Master GardenerDarwin declared that the worm was the most important animal in the world. This is not what most people would think looking at the worm casts in their lawns each year. Apart from being a nice tasty morsel for foxes, moles, shrews, frogs and birds, why is the worm on this Earth? How does this boneless, limbless creature discharge its great service to the Earth, to vegetation, and so to all animals and to ourselves who depend on them? It is a living mill, grinding up the soil day and night, reducing the mountains of other eras with the verdure and carrion of yesterday, to the fine compost from which all plant life springs and grows.
Earthworms are made up of ring-like segments called annuli. The annuli are covered in small hairs that help in moving and burrowing. It is the nature of the worm to writhe and wriggle in order to escape, a mere touch or even a puff of air is terrifying to them. It breathes through its skin, it feels heat and cold and is keenly sensitive to contact. Its body is segmented, ringed throughout, and through the interior of that long body runs an astonishing digestive system.
The worm has no eyes, but it has quick acting sense organs. It can detect the difference between light and dark. It never shows itself in bright daylight unless it is frightened from its hole, or unless it is sick and ailing, or threatened by the flooding of its dwelling. The thin pointed end of the worm is the head bearing the mouth which has neither jaws nor teeth but a lip for grasping. With no nose it can smell, and with no ears it can detect vibrations.
The worm's food is soil, dead leaves, fallen blossoms, seeds and other vegetable substances which are heavily charged with vegetable and mineral debris, and it is this which the worm extracts during the complicated process of digestion. When all the goodness which can be extracted has been obtained, the residue is expelled from the worm's body, and issues from the opening of its burrow in what we all know as worm casts. These casts, if lightly swept over the dry lawn, form the best dressing the turf can have. Here we have two valuable processes, the bringing up of old soil to the surface and the addition of leaves and other substances to the soil.
In addition to this, the worm is constantly opening out channels in the earth which allow air and moisture to enter, preventing it from caking and becoming non-porous. Moisture is received in these little canals; it penetrates through their walls and so affords a wide distribution of the dampness indispensable to plant life. All these perforations and dampings of the soil open up ways for the germination of seeds, for the spread of the tender root-hairs of plants which, in hard unbroken soil would with difficulty make their way about to find nourishment for their growth. Worm casts are blown by the wind or in other ways broken down, and so are carried through cracks and little channels down into the soil again as rain falls, and makes their way into the earth. The worm's quest for food and homes has the effect of mixing soil, vegetation and animal remains into an ever-increasing mass of vegetable mould which is the seedbed of the richest plant life.
Worms have made the soil of the world. They eat the fallen vegetation; they eat mineral fragments and reduce it to powder. They pass through their bodies the tiny mineral debris which once formed part of the mountains and add these to the soil. They tunnel and let in acid and moisture which erode the rocks lying beneath the covering of soil and so cause these to become friable and slowly resolve into soil. So when you see worm casts just remember that the heavy soil overlying the clay which is the foundation of the lawn is gradually worked over and over, the drainage is improved, sour soil sweetens, the advance of moss is checked, the rich green grass grows stronger and we have turf soft, thick and velvety and a joy to tread.
It is the worm, our master gardener, who does the work. Out of sight and out of mind, he makes soil fruitful, fine, and rich for the whole of our habitable Earth.
This article was sourced by Tina Steggles.
A Date for Your Diary
The Annual General Meeting will be