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Spring 2010

Willow Pond

   Betty Haynes, Chair

We were hoping that the refurbishment of Willow Pond would be completed during the winter months but it is so full of water that the deadline for making the improvements was missed again. At this time of year the pond is full of newts and frogs so we cannot do any work until next winter. I wish the pond could remain full of water all the year; the problem with Willow Pond is too many reeds which tend to spread very quickly and it needs more work to make it as beautiful as it was before the construction of all the houses.

At this point I would like to thank the committee/work party for their hard work and support over the year - thank you all so much!

This year we had a volunteer group from Wat Tyler Country Park come to help us with some long overdue tasks in the reserve. They did a great job and are willing to come again, but this time we will be paying them due to the fact that we are all getting a little bit too old to do the kind of work that they did this year.

Once again the vandals targeted our bird table (why?) However, we have a new bird table thanks to Gary and Mark for putting in the support post and once again to Les Sharard for providing the table top. Good job Les!

The reserve is looking really green and the blossom on the trees smells good! Please go and see for yourselves. It is free so go and enjoy it as the blossom is not there for much longer. Make the most of the lovely spring weather.

We were so disappointed to learn that our protests have been in vain and construction will soon begin on three 5-bedroomed houses and seven 3-bedroomed houses in Eastfield Road next to the reserve. Not good for the wildlife or the village.

   Membership Secretary, Weed

As the end of our 11th year approaches, there are currently 94 paid-up household memberships. 72 of these are in Noak Bridge, with most of the remainder being split evenly between other areas of Basildon and Billericay. Despite the high rate of turnover of the local population we still have 17 of our 49 original members (from 1999/2000). Anyone wishing to change from having a printed copy of the newsletter to receiving it electronically, please email info@nbnrs.org.uk

   Web Site  http://www.nbnrs.org.uk

Details of events and reports on our monthly work parties can be found in the NBNRS section of the noakbridge.net forum, as well as other local wildlife items. Everyone is encouraged to contribute sightings and photos of animals and plants seen in and around Noak Bridge, especially reports of swifts, whose UK population is thought to have declined by 50% in the last fifteen years (according to figures released by the RSPB).

[Noakbridge.net has recently announced its closure. The old forum posts have been archived on the discussion board of our Facebook page. Please join our new Noak Bridge Nature Reserve Society group! - Weed, 15 May 2010]

   Work Parties

The unusually cold weather was responsible for the cancelling of the January work party. The date was changed to the 9th in February as we were joined by the Groundwork South Essex Green Grid Task Force, a conservation group. We thank them for coppicing and stacking the cut branches near Puckles Pond.

We invite all our members to please join us every third Wednesday in the month, 1pm - 3pm. See you on Wednesday, 19 May 2010.

   Our Bird Table

Our bird table has been destroyed by vandals recently but it has been refurbished by Countryside Services and Les Sharard. Betty bravely continued feeding the birds during the bitterly cold winter.

Village Clean-up Day - Saturday, 7 August 2010

Basildon Council is organizing clean-up of rubbish, litter, etc. and graffiti will be removed. Residents may put out all unwanted items, large or small for free pick-up.

   New Homes

Unfortunately, permission has been given for the construction of three 5-bedroomed house and seven 3-bedroomed houses, adjoining the reserve in Eastfield road.


If you have been frightened or threatened by unleashed dogs in the reserve please report the date, time and details of the incident to the dog warden at 01268-294280 or to Betty Haynes at 01268-531365.

   Oh, Fair to See

Oh, fair to see
Bloom-laden cherry tree,
Arrayed in sunny white:
An April day's delight,
Oh, fair to see!

Oh, fair to see
Fruit-laden cherry tree,
With balls of shining red
Decking a leafy head,
Oh, fair to see!

- Christina Rossetti


Erinaceus europaeus is the latin name for the UK hedgehog which is the only spiny British mammal. It is nocturnal and is related to shrews and voles, but not porcupines who are rodents. They are found in mainland Britain and Ireland and have also been introduced to many islands including Orkney, Shetland, Isle of Man and some Channel Islands. They were named because like pigs, they root through undergrowth for food. Shakespeare mentions them in both The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream where he refers to them as "hedge pigs" and "urchins".

Hedgehogs vary in size depending on their age and the head/body is approximately 150-300mm (6-12 inches) and the tail - yes they do have a tail, which is10-20mm (½-1 inch approx.) The average life expectancy is 2-3 years, but about 50% die in the first year. They can live up to ten years, but this is exceptional. Their back and sides are covered with around 5000-7000, 25mm (1inch approx) long spines, which are really modified hairs, but spines are not found on their face, throat, chest, belly or legs. When threatened by predators they are able to roll up into a ball and these spines protect their spineless parts.

Hedgehogs can be found in parks, gardens, cemeteries, railway land and farmland, and prefer the edges of woodland, hedgerows and suburban habitats where there is plenty of food. They eat beetles, worms, caterpillars, slugs and anything else they can catch. They will take eggs and chicks from bird nests but very few when compared to foxes and crows. They survive well in gardens particularly if food is put out for them. Dog and cat food is fine but do not give them bread and milk as it gives them diarrhoea.

They travel about 1-2 km (0.6-1.2 miles) each night and return to the same daytime nest a few times then use another, but they sometimes do return to one used previously. They "do the rounds" and visit several gardens during one night and different individuals may visit a garden over several nights. This could mean that "your" hedgehog is in fact a number of different ones visiting at different times.

Their courting ritual is a very noisy affair with much grunting and snuffling and they will keep circling each other for hours. Females will have a litter of 4-5 young (but can have more) between April and September although those born late are unlikely to survive as they will not have gained enough weight to survive the winter hibernation. If they are less than 450g (1lb) they will not have enough fat to last them through until Spring. Hibernation usually begins around November and continues until March, but it does depend on the weather conditions. They do wake up several times during this period and often build a new winter nest called, a hibernaculum, made from leaves usually under a shrub, garden shed or log pile.

Although there is no scientific evidence that their numbers are declining (there is no way of counting them general opinion is that there are less of them around. The biggest threat is the loss of habitat due to the change in farming methods, particularly the use of pesticides as the chemicals kill off the creatures hedgehogs rely on for food or they may ingest the pesticide directly and be poisoned. Many are killed on the road, as their defence mechanism is not to flee the danger but to roll up into a ball, which might be adequate against a fox etc. but not the wheels of a heavy fast moving vehicle. In general the garden is a safe haven for them but it can be hazardous for the unsuspecting hedgehog. Strimmers are lethal as they catch them whilst they are asleep hidden in long grass or undergrowth. Bonfire heaps should always be checked prior to a match being put to them as they are another favourite bedroom. Ponds and pools can be a problem as, although hedgehogs can swim, they are unable to climb out of smooth sided ponds and pools and can drown. These should have a piece of chicken wire fixed and dangling into the water to assist in their getting out. The hedgehog is a gardener's friend so please ensure your garden is hedgehog friendly and you will be rewarded with less damage to your plants from those nasty slugs etc.

In the media recently there was a story of obese hedgehogs. Fourteen of them were put on a strict diet before they could be released into the wild. Due to the prolonged cold weather they had overindulged at the animal rescue centre in Fife that was caring for them, where they had not hibernated, and spent most of their waking hours eating and were too fat to roll into a ball, making them vulnerable to predators. They did slim down and were released into large secure gardens.

Incidentally, The Royal Mail will be issuing shortly a set of 10, 1st Class stamps depicting native mammals, one of which features a hedgehog.

Researched by Joan Fynn

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last updated - 16 August 2015
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