Blake Marsh Local Nature Reserve
Blake Marsh is located at grid reference SO 81689 77300 (DY11 5NT). With parking within White Wickets Park SO 81929 77371, which can be accessed from the Franche Road (DY11 5AW).
The site's habitats include marshland and wet woodland.
The site is approximately 5 hectares (12 acres). Lack of management (prior to us taking on the site) and a change in water levels on the site over the years, has had a large impact upon the site's habitats and diversity.
Many trees that were either dead or dangerous have now been removed or pollarded over the last 5 years, resulting in many mature pollards and the creation of good wetland habitat. Since the tree work was completed the site has begun to recover well as a wetland with yellow flag iris, marsh marigold and a variety of rushes dominating. Wetland areas have been split up into manageable compartments using fencing for cattle grazing, and willow, coppiced on rotation.
The site has suffered in the past from erosion to footpaths when wet, this now has been rectified by means of board walks and repeated wood chip replacement at necessary access points.
The area of meadow was until fairly recently used as a football pitch, but due to the poor drainage of the area its use as a sport amenity was limited and so has now also come under the management strategy for the reserve. Since removal of football goal posts the new meadow has had pathways mown into it and a cut and collect regime appointed for each coming year in the hope for a good hay cut. The diversity and density of flowers on the field is getting better each year with many more cow slip, oxeye daisy and knapweed. A small orchard was planted in 2005 by Franche 1st School, this is now starting to take well with reasonable success in growth.
Brash piles that were originally left on the site from the vast tree work are now well established and are now requiring follow up coppice work to maintain height structure.
The sites ecology also benefits from a large badger sett. Southern marsh orchids have been found growing around the edge of the wetland.
Reptiles and amphibians are fairly common on Blake Marsh, with grass snake, slow worm, common frog, toad and smooth newt seen fairly regularly. There are records of wetland birds nesting and rearing young on site, including snipe and water rail.