Jackie Harris explores how Slimbridge 2020 and the Heritage Lottery Fund can help other volunteers with a love of the Severn landscape.

One of the great things about Slimbridge 2020 is meeting lots of other people who are working to achieve similar things. It’s amazing what a bit of sharing can do, so I popped down to Yate to meet the folk from another Heritage Lottery Fund project: A Forgotten Landscape.

A Forgotten Landscape seeks to restore the heritage of the Lower Severn Vale Levels: its wildlife, geology, history and archaeology. One of its aims is to understand more about the different wild birds that visit the Severn, their numbers, and the habitats they rely on. The team at A Forgotten Landscape have recruited a fabulous group of volunteers, all trained by the RSPB to identify important wetland species.

So when I heard about their project, I invited them to visit Slimbridge and meet Dave Paynter, our Reserve Manager. What Dave doesn’t know about the birds of the Severn Estuary isn’t worth knowing: if he spots a bird, he’ll make sure you see it too!

Twelve volunteers came along and had a “perfect day” – their words, not mine. Winter is a good time to visit. Slimbridge is packed with waders and migrating geese, and it’s when the famous Bewick’s swans arrive back from the harsh Russian tundra. Dave explained about the habitats that each species prefers, and how WWT manages the grasses, salt marshes and pools to provide places that the birds cannot resist.

Remember I said “If Dave sees it, you see it too?” Well, on the far side of the Severn, Dave spotted a peregrine. In seconds he’d set up his telescope and we were treated to the sight of two peregrines in battle – what a rush! Moments later, a marsh harrier appeared and thousands of golden plover rose in a huge black cloud to evade the predator.  It’s experiences like these that keep us coming back to this amazing living landscape.

Slimbridge 2020 and A Forgotten Landscape are each providing our wetland birds with a safe place to rest, feed and reproduce. They’re also making these incredible experiences available to the likes of you and me.  Slimbridge has been a sanctuary for over 70 years, when Sir Peter Scott set up the Wetlands Trust. But, as Dave explained: “These birds need a patchwork of wild places all along the Severn, and indeed their entire flyway”.  The more habitats we provide, the better their chances of survival, and the better the opportunities for all of us to enjoy the spectacles of the wild.