Caring for our Wetlands

The freshwater pond and reedbed opposite Kempt Tower in St Ouen’s Bay is an important site for wildlife. Improving and restoring the site is one of the hopes for this year.

For the past five years, “team national park” has endeavoured to help restore, enhance and improve the quality of life for those who mentally gain so much from the Frances Le Sueur Centre and from the open scrub and grasslands at La Mielle de Morville.

This continues to be achieved through a variety of events such as yoga, Wim Hof ice-bath sessions and from the Earth Kids eco-adventuring activities held during the schools’ summer holidays.

Needless to say, the success of each of these events would not be possible without enthusiastic input from the dedicated individual organisers.

For those who prefer more of an “up close and hands-on dirty” approach, a regular programme of conservation volunteering tasks is also arranged during selected times of the year.

Generously leading the way on these nature conservation sessions are the Rotary Club of Jersey, who have recently been ably assisted by team members from the Royals Rugby Football Club.

Although this particularly cherished west coast area of public land falls within the protected boundaries of the Jersey National Park, land management ultimately comes under the remit of the government’s natural resources team of rangers.

In order to assist the rangers in their heavy workload, the JNP acts as a helpful conduit by acquiring extra voluntary support and sponsorship, as and when required.

As with all such initiatives, however, a wider and far more ambitious picture often emerges, especially when much-needed assistance on behalf of a fragile biodiversity is seen to be required.

One such ambitious aspiration, appropriately aligned to World Wetlands Day on Friday 2nd February, centres on the National Trust’s freshwater pond and reedbed immediately opposite Kempt Tower in St Ouen’s Bay.

The arrival of this small area of fresh water emerged following the revelatory restoration of the once landfill-and-sand extraction activities in the late 1970s.

Despite the original enthusiastic endeavours to construct and erect two bird hides and a somewhat frail “natural screen”, the entire site has sadly failed to receive any purposeful management. This is primarily due to the usual suspects: a total lack of resources, both manual and financial.

In August 2023, however, a valiant start on resurrecting the overgrown entrance track to one of the old original bird hides was gamely tackled by a team of volunteers from Affinity Wealth.

Although improvements were immediately gained and recognisably carried out, it was soon affirmed that a great deal of hands-on work and future planning would be necessary should a determined programme of systematic restoration ever be achieved.

The freshwater pond, which holds both deep and shallow extremes, can be regarded as an extremely significant satellite to the National Trust’s nearby wetland of La Mare au Seigneur (St Ouen’s Pond.

With global wetlands currently facing major declines, opportunities to either extend or improve individual areas of freshwater, however modest in size, should be seized upon and regarded as well-worthy of implementing.

In fact, the smallness of this particular reed-enclosed pond has the ability of offering first-class protection to all or any of its wildlife occupants.

Taking full advantage of the evidently available food source, and the “safety net” provided by the surrounding phragmites reedbed, are little grebe, shoveler, teal and tufted duck.

While neither species can be regarded as rare or endangered, their presence nevertheless endorses the future enhanced potential of this small but active freshwater pond. In order to progress with this proposed initiative, a great deal of discussion will be necessary, not least between the JNP’s own board of directors, the Environment Department, the National Trust for Jersey and with any potential corporate sponsor and groups of willing conservation volunteers.

Although this might appear to be a difficult uphill challenge, especially in such financially difficult times, any eventual collaborative success in creating a much needed and vitally important area of prime wetland within the very heart of our national park should be welcomed as a most timely opportunity.

Also, as a significant statement within the JNP’s “strapline”; “conserving and enhancing the natural and cultural heritage, addressing climate change and promoting public enjoyment and understanding of nature and of heritage” can only be achieved in direct partnership with other like-minded visionary organisations.

The JNP considers this to be especially relevant if, collectively, we are to take the Island’s environmental responsibilities seriously.

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