Tom Watson MP and local councillors Richard Marshall and Simon Hackett visited the RSPB Sandwell Valley nature reserve today (Friday 25 November). Guided by Site Manager Cathy Taylor, they were impressed with the new visitor centre and nature reserve improvements, and enjoyed hearing how these are having a positive impact in the local community.
Armed with binoculars, the visitors were taken to Sandwell's hide, which overlooks a large lake. Volunteer Graham Vernon, the hide's guide, was able to show them the lapwings that come to the water's edge to feed. Lapwings are endangered in the UK, making the conservation work at Sandwell all the more crucial.
They also met with Kevin Herbert, the Friday practical work party team leader, and watched some of the work being done by the volunteers. This dedicated team of volunteers come to Sandwell every week to help with the practical work on the reserve. This includes habitat maintenance - keeping meadows full of flowers and butterflies, cutting sections of the reedbeds for birds such as snipe - and maintaining visitor infrastructure, including paths. In total, there are 127 volunteers from the local area at Sandwell, carrying out a wide variety of roles.
This support enables more than 1,000 school children to visit Sandwell every year, where they can take part in curriculum-linked nature activities. Through watching birds from the hide, pond dipping and mini-beast hunting, they learn about the importance of protecting our natural habitats, and the amazing variety of wildlife on their doorstep.
Cathy said: "We are thrilled that Tom Watson and our local councillors have been able to visit Sandwell so that we can show them all the brilliant work being done on the reserve. We had a brilliant day and they were lucky enough to get up close and personal with lapwings and goosanders from our hide!"