The week beginning the 28th June saw daily biodiversity events take place around the valley. It was the first time many of our supporters were able to participate in live events due to Covid. It was an opportunity to get to know each other better, to explore topics and habitats and be able to share the wealth of expertise available.
Mutter’s Moor was the host to the first event on Monday when Kate Ponting of Clinton Devon Estates brilliantly illustrated the importance of this lowland heath, its wildlife and its recent designation as a National Nature Reserve. Nightjars and Dartford Warblers are special to this location. How lucky we are to have this habitat on our doorstep.
The next day saw a move to a private garden. Farthings Wood, near The Knowle, is of exceptional botanical and ecological importance with large damp areas of meadow growing hundreds of common and marsh orchids. John Twibell also cultivates over 200 varieties of artemisia that make up the National Collection of this group of plants. Many thanks to John and Jean for opening their garden.
Anyone who took part in these events would probably find themselves discovering important new areas of the Sid Valley that they were completely unaware of before. For me one of these was the ‘grass’ bank at the top of the lane down to Jacob’s Ladder. Ed Dolphin led an enlightening exploration of this area which is rich in plant and invertebrate life. In a nearby habitat John Twibell described how a rare shingle habitat was adapting to the vagaries of the tidal erosion on the beach.
The River Sid is central to our environment. On Thursday in a Zoom meeting Simon Browning of the West Country Rivers Trust discussed the health of the river. He revealed that at present the condition of The Sid is rated only moderate to poor. A team of volunteers are regularly testing the river quality and this data will enable the West Country Rivers Trust to provide us with a Catchment Score for the River Sid in 2021. With this information we should be able to improve the health of the river.
Jon Ball and Ed Dolphin led the ever-popular Arboretum Tree Walk on Friday, weaving the group up through the Parish Church graveyard with its magnificent collection of yew trees, into Blackmore Gardens highlighting the pleached limes and on into The Byes where specimen trees from around the world are nurtured through all stages of their life.
Ed Dolphin ran a wildflower spotting activity in Alma Meadow on Saturday designed to engage children. Up on the hillside to the East of the town Alma Meadow is evolving into a superb wildflower meadow; the original seed mix gave a stunning display of colour in its first year and quickly established the richness that is characteristic of meadows. As the years have progressed so the balance of species has become more established providing food for a large collection of insects. Alma Meadow is a wonderful location to observe butterflies on a hot summer’s day.
The final activity of the week was on The Knapp, a small nature reserve near the old station. Here was another jewel, nestled amongst the human habitation in Sidmouth. A mixed site of orchard, pond, woodland and meadow run by the Sid Vale Association; it is a perfect place to picnic while enjoying splendid views of Sidmouth and the wildlife it supports.
Kate Tobin and Mick Street shared with us their expertise about this environment and its inhabitants.
This week of events has demonstrated the unique characteristics of the biodiversity in the valley alongside the expertise aiding its recovery. With their leadership and the passion of the population of the Sid Valley, nature thrives alongside us. Many thanks to all the groups and individuals involved in supporting our environment.