Talk of the Trent

Discover more about the Transforming the Trent Valley Landscape Partnership Scheme. Our blog posts are written by members of the Transforming the Trent Valley Team, scheme partners and volunteers.

For all the latest news about Transforming the Trent Valley, visit our news page.

Supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund

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Protecting your Local Environment - A Guide to our Resource Pack

12th April 2021
by Mitchell Lakin, Creative Content Volunteer

Spotting wildlife - birds, butterflies or even plants - is something we all find a little joy in doing. But what if finding and snapshotting the species we see could have a big impact on how our environment is treated? Well, it does. Our upcoming wildlife resource pack tells you how to identify a variety of species from a Brown Hare to an Emperor Dragonfly, and how best to help them thrive in the Trent Valley area, and we are offering it to you for use in the Trent Valley for free!

The pack includes just two things. Your foldable Identification Guide and the Big Washlands Watch Survey Booklet.

Identification Guide: What is it?

The guide tells you everything you need to know about the 32 species Transforming the Trent Valley is trying to learn more about. One side lists all the species we're looking for, from mammals to birds to insects, with a hand drawn illustration to accompany each. The guide's flipside matches each species with helpful identification facts like their size, characteristics and where best to look for them. Say, you found an orange-tip butterfly in your garden and want to find more, the guide tells you the most common plants to start looking for their caterpillars.

Survey Booklet: What's Inside?

The booklet goes hand in hand with the guide and tells you exactly what you can do to help us understand more about these 32 species in our area. Chances are, you're probably doing most of it anyway!

Its 14 pages are split into 3 main sections:

  • A Big Washlands Watch Introduction - this tells you all about the pack and how to turn a few minutes of wildlife spotting into a data record that contributes to our valuable nature conservation work!
  • Target Species - this features colour-coded maps for all 32 species found in the Identification Guide to help you decide where to look for each species. Each has a quick note on what your photos should include when making a record, as well as showing the best areas to look in the Trent Valley.
  • Activities for Children - protecting our local environment is something everyone can get involved with, so our tree spotting guide and species hunts help with just that. If kids can find the wildlife then mum, dad, teachers or activity leaders can make and send a data record to preserve the sighting for generations to come.

The more wildlife we spot, record and upload, the more we can do to protect our wildlife and environment. Will you help us preserve our natural habitats and everything that lives within?

Created by the Field Studies Council Publications, and thanks to our funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, you can order the ID guide and survey booklets for free to use in your setting. This may be a primary or secondary school, youth group, Guides or Scouts, 'Friends of' volunteer groups, or a family group.

The resource pack can be ordered from Monday 19th April onwards by contacting Nicola Lynes at 07837 127165 or by email. Please state how many copies you would like (maximum of 50 per setting), what group you are from, and the best way to receive the packs - we can either deliver, or we can arrange pick up from our offices in Rugeley or Burton.

© 2021 Copyright Owner


I've seen some interesting wildlife - what should I do next?

30th March 2021
by Nicola Lynes

How many times have you been out on a walk and seen an interesting animal, bird or plant, and managed to take a half-decent picture on your phone? You bring it home, do a bit of research and see that you've spotted quite a rare species for your area! Then what do you do? You probably tell your family and friends, but who else wants to know?

We do - we want you to tell us about your wildlife sightings!

Let me explain.

When you tell your family or friends about that species you've seen, you'll likely tell them where you saw it, when you saw it, who you were with, and what the species was. These four facts combined create a 'biological record', and this is a recognised scientific piece of data.

There are organisations and groups who want to collect as many biological records as possible, and Transforming the Trent Valley is one of them. In the Trent Valley area, there are also groups called Staffordshire Ecological Records (SER) and Derbyshire Biological Records Centre (DBRC). These organisations collect records on a database, a hugely important resource for wildlife and nature conservation.

Why is it important to share my wildlife records?

Say a developer comes along and wants to build a lot of houses on the site you saw your rare species. If you've submitted your record to a regional database like SER, they will use this information to ensure the developer puts in proper mitigation to protect these species. Biodiversity and preserving wildlife are important things for developers to consider. If SER has a large list of rare species, it may be enough to deny building permission entirely.

It is hard to share my records?

Not at all! It is really easy to make and share a record. In fact, you've already created it if you write down the 4Ws:

  • where (post code or grid reference)
  • what (what is the species)
  • who (who saw it - this is your name!)
  • when (what date)

That's all you need!

Submitting can be done in many different ways but they all get to the same place in the end.

The more records we have, the more we understand the green spaces around us, whether this is a local park in town or the wider countryside. The more information we have, the more we can work to protect our wildlife and environment. Will you help us with this?

More information about our project to record more wildlife sightings can be found on our website or contact Nicola Lynes by email at Nicola.lynes@supportstaffordshire.org.uk or 07837 127165.

© 2021 Copyright Owner


A Home Front Mystery

29th March 2021
by Rod Whiteman

They're not in the books. I can't find anything about them on the internet. No-one who should know, appears to know. It's eighty-one years old, weighs tons (I mean literally weighs tons) and is bullet proof.

Say hello to the "Type-Unknown" Pillbox.

You see, I'm a pillbox nerd. Since being taken into an air raid shelter aged five, I've been a fan of the defensive buildings of the Second World War. I'm also really lucky because pillboxes are a big part of my job. (I know it's niche but it's my niche), so when I first saw one of these 'unknown' pillboxes I was surprised. In 1940 as Britain faced the threat of invasion, about 28,000 pillboxes were built across the country. To achieve such a monumental feat, pillboxes were designed to standard patterns or "Types" that made them quick to build and strong against enemy attack.

The most common pillbox is the Type 24, a hexagonal building that would fit seven soldiers. Across the Tame, Trent and Dove river valleys these are the backbone of Stop Line Number 5. A network of pillboxes ready to delay an invading Nazi army until reinforcements could arrive and drive them back towards the sea.

Then I met the slopey pillbox. The first one I saw was in a private garden. It had a roof like a wedge of cheese. Then I saw one in Marston-on-Dove, a few yards from the road bridge. I found more of these pillboxes that I hadn't seen before.

Pillbox geekery is not unique to me. There is a band of fellow geeks across the country and through the magic of Facebook I have asked the internet to tell me what Type these were. No one has answered yet. I have been through the books I have and old pictures. No other pillboxes like these appear to exist.

So why does a stretch of the Dove Valley in Staffordshire and Derbyshire have this unique type of pillbox? They are often situated by railway bridges or by roads near railways. Is there a connection between these small rectangular pillboxes and the wartime railway network? Were some strategically weak places under defended when the first batch of pillboxes were built along the network? Were these smaller pillboxes an attempt to fix this and plug the gaps in the stop line?

And why the sloping roof? Mono-pitched roofs like this are a good way to build a shed roof. Were these pillboxes designed to look like a shed? I have found one which bears the stump of a dummy chimney on its roof. That was certainly an attempt at camouflage and subterfuge but was it the reason for the design or an opportunistic/artistic addition by the builders.

The pitched roofs are solid concrete. That's a very thick piece of masonry at the high end. Could the roofs have been an attempt to deflect bomb blasts? TTTV Military Heritage Researchers are volunteers investigating the things we don't know about the pillboxes. Are you interested in these small forts across the landscape? Would you like to help us with our research and become one of our volunteers?

The Second World War ended only seventy-six years ago. Yet there is still a great deal about it that we do not know.

© 2021 Copyright Owner


A morning birding at Croxall Lakes Nature Reserve

13th March 2021
by Wildlife Recording Volunteer

Our Wildlife Recording Volunteers are an enthusiastic bunch, using their local nature reserves for daily exercise and letting us know what they see. One of our group visited Croxall Lakes recently, a Staffordshire Wildlife Trust reserve, and despite the weather, had a successful morning birding!

We set off from the carpark at 08:00 in light rain but by the time we got half way to the first hide were soaked to the skin! Fortunately the rain eased - after an hour! The wind dried us and the sun came out. Sadly not good conditions for birding. There were the usual assortment of Canada Geese and Mallard on the lake, at the car park end, and several Great Crested Grebes further out. Along with the Canadas there were two Oystercatchers on the island (which I managed to get a photograph of on the way back). The rain made it difficult to see much until we got to the river although we spotted a couple of Herons and a few Teal on the Arboretum bank. The Tame was quiet, a couple of Mute swans, more Canadas and Mallard.

In the winter, when doing a Webs survey, we would normally walk diagonally across the meadow to try and flush and get a count of Snipe. But instead, with the onset of the breeding season, we followed the path by the railway bank then along the fence line toward the second hide.

There were Shelduck on the lake, a single Little Grebe and a small group of Redshank on the edge. Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails were busy in the field. The Redshank spotted us early on and quickly disappeared. The Rooks were very active in the Rookery, we reckoned there were at least twenty active nests. We followed the Mease around the back of the wood, hoping to hear Chiffchaffs but no luck! However the Redshank, five of them had returned and landed on one of the little islands in the lake, they weren't spooked and gave a good view.

Back to the cars under cloudless blue skies (for a while!) Not a huge volume of birds but with thirty-six different species a good morning's birding.

This is what we saw:

  • Canada Goose - 64 (normally in the hundreds)
  • Mallard - 18
  • Oystercatcher - 2
  • Great Crested Grebe - 5
  • Grey Heron - 2
  • Carrion Crow - 5
  • Wood Pigeon - 3
  • Cormorant - 4 (have seen over 60)
  • Blackbird - 4
  • Teal - 9
  • Chaffinch - 3
  • Dunnock - 2
  • Robin - 4
  • Pied Wagtail - 2
  • Greenfinch - 1
  • Song Thrush - 1
  • Wren - 2
  • Blue Tit - 1
  • Coot - 4
  • Great Tit - 2
  • Black Headed Gull - 3 (again a very low count)
  • Pheasant - 2
  • Greylag Goose - 4
  • Shelduck - 3
  • Meadow Pipit - 5
  • Rook - c60
  • Magpie - 2
  • Reed Bunting - 1
  • Redshank - 5
  • Tufted Duck - 4
  • Little Grebe - 1
  • Mute Swan - 2
  • Stock Dove - 2
  • Jackdaw - 2
  • Lesser Black Backed Gull - 1
  • Bullfinch - 2

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