Wilden Marsh and Meadows Lagoon Field 20 Years Ago

Twenty years ago this month, Mike Averill took these photographs of Wilden Marsh and Meadows Lagoon Field; sandwiched between the north marsh to the west and WildenLane to the east, then owned by British Sugar Plc and now by Associated British Foods plc. How I wish this wetland resource, as it was 20 years ago, was part of Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. If this were so, the Lagoon Field might be home to an even greater quantity and variety of rare fauna and flora than is the case now, particularly with regard to water birds. If the Lagoon Field is turned over to residential and industrial development, it will be a sad loss for nature and the local environment. Of course, Wyre Forest District Council has a statutory duty to promote, enhance and protect nature reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Today, the largest lagoon in this field has degraded to a flooded wood and is now sanctuary to many birds including ducks, redshank, water rail, snipe, woodcock and curlew, and a frequent haunt of animals predating them. The smaller lagoons were filled in when the sugar processing factory closed in 2004; the ground here is still very wet and boggy and covered with willow and alder scrub. What a waste of a potentially excellent wetland environment within a true urban setting if this field is developed for industrial and residential use. The beneficial effects of the Lagoon Field and Wilden Covert on Wilden Marsh, as feeders and protectors of the north marsh and SSSI, should not be understated or taken lightly.



If the Lagoon Field were to become part of Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve, an increase in size of the marsh herd of Shetland and Galloway rare breed cattle would be necessary for successful ground management. Also, the flooded wood growing in the large lagoon could be reduced in area to provide an improved species-rich open and part wooded wetland habitat.

Until very recently, the Lagoon Field and Wilden Covert were classified “Green Belt“, presumably because someone in power previously considered them essential, or at least beneficial to the health and wellbeing of the North Marsh and its SSSI status. It seems to me that an edict from Central Government, ordering the building of new houses and industrial estates to provide work and homes for our burgeoning populace, has the potential to change the minds of those charged with making decisions and promoting local nature on our behalf, or at least it can cause them to revert to a default state of flux.

The importance and true value of the Lower Stour Valley and its wildlife corridor, for both nature and people, should be fully realised and appreciated for its rich and vibrant fauna and flora. I don’t agree with the philosophy of some, that “the wildlife will move on somewhere else”. I don’t want the wildlife to move on somewhere else! How many times do we hear people comment on the loss of species in urban settings? Is wildlife prejudice on the increase in towns and cities? Do people feel that towns and cities are for people and their domesticated two and four-legged and slithering friends only, and that all others should be banshished to the countryside, zoos and country parks? Tweety birds would have to stay, of course, there would be a general outcry if the morning chorus were to be banished, but there are people who would like to see it outlawed. People with such views do exist – I’ve met some of them. All joking aside, though, people are fully entitled to their views and, if they feel strongly enough, they should air them without fear or prejudice.

Showing the the North Marsh, Lagoon Field and Wilden Covert

There are 1945, 1999 and 2007 aerial images of Wilden Marsh, the Lagoon Field, and Wilden Covert here.

Approximately half of the Lagoon Field has been flailed in preparation for bore hole drilling to facilitate hydrology testing. The water levels are low on the marsh at the moment, but sap will soon stop rising with the onset of autmn and the marsh water levels will quickly rise. So now is the best time to achieve low water level readings in the Lagoon Field, depending on rainfall of course.

Ecological features are protected under various United Kingdom (UK) and European legislative instruments. These are described below. European legislation is not included as it is incorporated in UK legislation by domestic provisions.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000      

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 primarily extends to England and Wales. It provides a new statutory right of access to the countryside and modernises the rights of way system, bringing into force stronger protection for both wildlife and countryside.

The Act is divided into five distinct sections, Part III is of relevance to ecology

Part IIINature Conservation and Wildlife Protection: The Act details a number of measures to promote and enhance wildlife conservation. These measures include improving protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and increasing penalties for deliberate damage to SSSIs. Furthermore, the Act affords statutory protection to Ramsar Sites which are wetlands designated under the International Convention on Wetlands.

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as Amended in Quinquennial Review and by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 forms the basis of much of the statutory wildlife protection in the UK. Part I deals with the protection of plants, birds and other animals and Part II deals with the designation of SSSIs.

This Act covers the following broad areas:

 Wildlife – listing endangered or rare species in need of protection and creating offences for killing, disturbing or injuring such species. Additionally, the disturbance of any nesting bird during breeding season is also noted as an offence

 Nature Conservation – protecting those Sites which are National Nature Reserves (NNR) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest;

 Public Rights of Way – placing a duty on the local authority (normally the County Council) to maintain a definitive map of footpaths and rights of way. It also requires that landowners ensure that footpaths and rights of way are continually accessible; and Miscellaneous General Provisions.

The Act also makes it an offence to cause to grow in the wild certain plant species. The Act is enforced by Local Authorities.

The Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) Regulations 2012

The Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC ) came into force in 1992 and provides for the creation of a network of protected wildlife areas across the European Union, known as ‘Natura 2000’. The Natura 2000 network consists of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated under the Habitats Directive and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated under the Birds Directive (Council Directive 2009/147/EC) .

The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 commonly known as ‘The Habitats Regulations’ transpose the Habitats Directive into national law and set out the provisions for the protection and management of species and habitats of European importance, including Natura 2000 sites.

The Conservation of Habitats and Species (Amendment) Regulations 2012 came into force in August 2012. Article 2 of the Wild Birds Directive requires Member States to take requisite measures to maintain wild bird populations at a level which corresponds in particular to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, while taking account of economic and recreational requirements, or to adapt the population of these species to that level. Articles 3 and 4(4) (second sentence) of the Directive are designed to ensure Member States preserve, maintain or re-establish a sufficient diversity and area of habitats for wild birds and to ensure that outside those areas which are specifically designated as important bird habitats, efforts are taken to avoid pollution or deterioration of habitats.



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North Marsh vixen

Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest
is destined to forever struggle for its survival. As an urban nature site, it has to react to a range of small and sometimes relatively large natural and manmade stimuli. It is true that many things are forced to adjust to environmental change and the demands of human activity and expansion, albeit at differing rates and to varying degrees, but not all are as closely managed, monitored, recorded, or as important locally for rare fauna and flora, as is Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Effective management is perhaps the most positive means of affecting both the vitality and vibrancy of the SSSI. Left to its own devices, the marsh will very quickly favour its fastest growing and more invasive species. Left unmanaged for only a few years, willow, alder, thistles, brambles, rape, common and giant hogweed, Himalayan balsam and Japanese knotweed will takeover to the detriment of its valuable rare species. Fast growing willow and alder scrub will spread in as little as a year, requiring removal or coppicing within three years. Neglecting marsh management means harder work and greater expense later; more importantly, neglect can easily result in the loss of rare fauna and flora. Himalayan balsam readily survives and thrives in wooded environments and on open ground, so attacking it during the growing season has a high priority. Our most effective Himalayan balsam control tool is the marsh cattle. Within ten years the area would be almost completely wooded if nothing is done to prevent it. Any undermanaged, underused and uncared for green urban area, even when floodplain designated, is likely to become a target for Property Development, as is the case with the Lagoon Field adjoining the northern end of Wilden Marsh and Meadows. 

Currently, Wilden Marsh is separated from the urban sprawl surrounding it by the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal and River Stour to the west, and the Lagoon Field and Wilden Lane to the east. If the Lagoon Field is to become a housing and industrial estate it will be, to all intent and purposes, built on the marsh.

In bygone days, Wilden Marsh and other wetland areas were considered a resource that supported various cottage industries by growing reeds and withies for baskets weaving, timber for building and furniture, poles for broom handles, hurdles, garden support frames, firewood, and fencing materials, to be sold locally and in neighbouring towns and villages. Also, certain marsh plants, herbs and fungi were gathered for food and medicinal use. Much of the marsh produce was cultivated. Animals living on and passing through the marsh would have been hunted and trapped for the table and for sale or barter. Now we have supermarkets that supply such things.

Whether politician, county council officer, or planning official, it is possible that none will realise or care about an area for which they have little regard, understanding or depth of knowledge, particularly when under pressure from Central Government to find additional development land. I understand that development decisions are primarily based on cost, availability and the extent of negative reactions to any proposed plans, but consideration must also be given to other ways of assessing true value, legitimate use, sustainability and suitability of purpose. One man’s derelict and worthless land could be another man’s nature oasis. We are told it is indeed a matter of priorities and available resources, and that someone has to pay the cost. This may well be true in the general nature of Government, but whose priority is my first question and at what eventual cost if a wrong decision is made is my is my second. Back in the 1970s a historic weir was removed from the marsh section River Stour flowing through the Lower Stour Valley. The river was also dredged in a misguided attempt to control flooding. As a direct result of this flood alleviation project, Wilden Marsh was damaged to a point where it almost completely dried out; the culprits were fined. It was 2010 before the historic weir was replaced with two new rock weirs. So let’s not make the mistake of damaging Wilden Marsh again, it is an improving premier nature reserve after all.

One man’s belief that a parcel of land (whether derelict, polluted, or prime green space) is a nature oasis will never be enough to slow, let alone stop the powerful train named “Progress”. It is for those with a mandate to act legitimately on our behalf, to ensure that the RIGHT decisions are made. My function is to comment and make my feeling known, or rant and rave if I have a mind to.

Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve is not derelict land, but it is a nature oasis that has been associated with industry since 1511, when a fulling mill was built at Wilden Village. The mill used the fast flowing River Stour to power its machinery. The fulling mill eventually became the Wilden Iron and Tinplate Works, latterly owned by the Baldwin Family; three times UK prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, worked there. At the northern end of the marsh, where the sewage pumping station is now, was the Falling Sands Iron Works and Rolling Mill – neither mill exists now.

Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the marsh has some degree of protection; however, it can be declassified at the drop of the right official’s hat, judging by what happened a few years ago when a scrap yard was established at the southern marsh entrance, which defeats the purpose of official protection. However, we can only move forward with positives if we are to make the best of our prime nature assets and integrate them, as best we can, within our local urban communities.

Managing this 100 acre urban site is not an easy task, with its many different large (relatively), mini and micro wet and dry nature habitats and ecosystems that are home to a wide variety of common and rare fauna and flora. Much of the day-to-day on-site management is carried out by volunteers and a herd of fifteen rare breed cattle. The larger jobs are donation funded, so we do the best we can with the resources at our disposal.

The marsh herd, thirteen Shetland and two belted Galloway cattle, supplied by the Wyre Forest Grazing Animals Project at a cost, live on the marsh all year round. The cattle are well capable of handling the worst of the Kidderminster weather. Galloway cattle, bred in the Scottish Highlands, have such well-insulated coats that they have only a thin layer of fat covering their body to keep them warm during the coldest of winters: being so lean, their meat is much sought after. The Shetland cattle, as their name suggests, originate from the Shetland Isles at the far north of the Uk. Living on small islands, as crofters’ cattle, they feast during the growing season and fast in winter. The herd exist on the marsh as they would on the Shetland Isles and in theScotish Highlands. They survive winter with little supplementary feeding: a few hay bales and a couple of bags of cattle nuts. So the cattle are thin in Spring and fat in Autumn. During winter they live off their fat and whatever nutrition they glean from the depleated marsh vegetation. The reason we use cattle to graze the marsh is weed control: primarily Himalayan balsam control, but they eat thistles and willow, too – they will eat most green plants apart from ragwort. They might well eat anything green, but they graze the tastiest titbits first; fortunately, they love Himalayan balsam and are usually quick to devour it. I think of Himalayan balsam as cattle ice cream. The least palatable vegetation, such as rush and reeds, they eat when tastier plants have been grazed out; so rush, reed and bare willow scrub are winter fodder .

The marsh cattle eat willow stems up to 20mm in diameter. Willow bark’s pain relieving potential has been recognized throughout history and was commonly used during the time of Hippocrates, when people were advised to chew on the bark to relieve pain and fever, and as an appetite suppressor to aid weight loss. Willow bark contains a chemical called salicin that is similar to aspirin; people are said to have died from chewing too much willow bark.

The plan is to eradicate Himalayan balsam, Japanese knotweedgiant hogweed, and other truly invasive species and to control plants like ragwort and thistles. We won’t be able to eradicate Himalayan balsam whilst it flourishes in areas surrounding the Reserve. Around 30 insect species rely solely on ragwort.

Whilst Wilden Marsh is fairly safe from property development, for the time being at least, its surrounding green land, in particular the Lagoon Field, is imminently threatened. I have written many times that the marsh doesn’t exist as a single entity; it is fed and supported by the green and wooded areas around it. The River Stour and Hoo Brook flowing through it are fundamental to maintaining water levels. Without its support systems, Wilden Marsh, one of Worcestershire Wildlife Trust’s Flagship Reserves, will die at worst or become very poor at best. The death of the marsh or it degrading to a poor condition, will mean the property developers will win. So, at a time when nature conservation seems to be gaining power and influence, and urban green spaces are declining, what are we to do and what should our priorities be… ?

NB  Of course, planning permission  to build on the Lagoon Field might be turned down, but is it worth leaving to chance? You have until 14th August to register your objections, with Wyre Forest District Council, to the proposed Lagoon Field Development here.


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Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and SSSI NEED the Lagoon Field and its Surrounding Green Areas

Hoo Wood Fox

Hoo Wood Fox

Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and SSSI is again under threat from developers. At the southern end of the Reserve, close to Wilden Village, permission was granted a few years ago to use a small area immediately adjacent to the SSSI as a scrapyard, and to facilitate this decision the SSSI status of the marsh entrance section was removed. Wilden Marsh is not an entity existing on its own, it is fed from outside by the River Stour, Hoo Brook and the surrounding green areas that provide a steady supply of the insects sucked into the valley by its rising thermals; it is part of a vibrant wildlife corridor. Removing its surrounding green areas will, in effect, throttle the marsh to the point where it will not thrive. Insects, birds, polecats, badgers, foxes, stoats and weasels move down from the sloping sides of the Lower Stour Valley to forage, feed and generally live their lives on the marsh and Lagoon Field.

This is Cullum the badger foraging in the Lagoon Field.

polecat Polecat at the north end of the Lagoon Field[/caption]



North marsh vixen crossing the south end of the Northern Corridor, taking a magpie to her cubs in the Lagoon Field

As I have mentioned in previous posts, there are thousands of toads and frogs living in the Lagoon Field. The toads leave the Lagoon Field every year around 9th March; they walk across the Northern Corridor to mate in North Pond at the southern end of the Swamp. The Northern Corridor and North Pond Pasture are covered with them – I have to be very careful where I place my feet to avoid squashing them. After a couple of weeks of vigorous mating, they return to the Lagoon Field for rest and recuperation until the same time next year.

The toads are a food source for heron and otters, I guess mink take advantage of the glut too. The herons snip off the toads’ heads with their beaks, and turn them inside out to eat: the toad’s skin tastes horrible. Otters launch themselves into North Pond after dark, making tremendous splashes: they grab a toad and leave the pond to eat it.

The Lagoon Field is a productive hunting ground for buzzards, kestrels, sparrowhawks, and even an occasional Harris hawkBuzzards are often seen circling on thermals above the Lagoon Field.

The middle lagoon is boggy with a few pools full of willow scrub surrounded by tall thick grass, reeds, sedges, brambles, etc. The southern lagoon is now a flooded wood, albeit packed full with tall, spindly willow, birch and alder trees. Many scary noises float from there on moonlit nights: growls, grunts, shrieks and screams, as well as bird and animal calls I recognise. I’ve heard all manner of ducks arguing and squabbling in the south lagoon wood; woodcock and snipe hide there and I hear the occasional curlew, redshank and various owls. Foxes, badgers and otters hunt in there. Muntjac deer lie up in the long grass both sides of the wood.


Otter making its way to south lagoon wood



Hoo Brook Pasture fox cub

I could drone on and on about many more positive nature benefits of the Lagoon Field, but I think I will end this post here. The Lagoon Field hasn’t any negative aspects as far as I’m concerned.





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Further Important Information Relating To The Proposed Lagoon Field Planning Application.



Lagoon Field Toads

Here is further IMPORTANT INFORMATION regarding the PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT OF THE LAGOON FIELD ALONGSIDE WILDEN MARSH NATURE RESERVE AND SSSI:  http://wyreforestdc-consult.limehouse.co.uk/file/875494   

This document was submitted by the owner’s agent in support of their proposal to build industrial units and residential housing on the Lagoon Field.

You can make a straw poll vote here: Lagoon Field Development Straw poll. Here!


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There is still time to OBJECT to the Proposed Development of the Lagoon Field alongside Wilden Marsh


Walking through a sunny Falling Sands Nature Area this morning, I looked up at the new houses along the top of the high Lower Stour Valley bank and realised what a marvellous view some of the residents have of Wilden Marsh. I am thankful that the River Stour and Worcestershire and Staffordshire canal act as a barrier between the marsh and the industrial and residential estates along the west bank. The site of the old sugar factory is a new combined residential and industrial estate in the final stages of completion.

We are now faced with the threat of the Lagoon Field also being turned over to residential/industrial use. The thought is terrifying! It would be a huge mistake and very bad news for Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and the south to north wildlife corridor it is part of. I am unable to come to terms with the fact that this development is even being considered as a viable option by the powers that control many of our lives.

Anyway, I shrugged off this depressing thought and considered the next positive step towards changing the minds of decision makers behind the Proposed Development of the Lagoon Field alongside Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The straw pole is now closed, but there is still time (until 14th August) to register your comments and objections, with Wyre Forest District Planning Derartment, to the Proposed Development of the Lagoon Field alongside Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest: Here!


Thank you.

Mike Griffiths

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Proposed Development of the Lagoon Field alongside Wilden Marsh


I’ve just read consultation documents and the local planning review relating to the proposed development of the former Lagoon Field (Settling Ponds) alongside Wilden Lane and Wilden Marsh. It’s proposed that the site be developed for either a) industrial or b) residential use, depleting existing resources and adding further pressure to the current and future success of Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. Here is the planning review and a pdf of the relevant section:



Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment for Kidderminster: Here


You can comment on WFDC’s proposal here:   http://wyreforestdc-consult.limehouse.co.uk/portal/lppo?pointId=s1465479479553#section-s1465479479553 , or email your objections and comments here: LPR@wyreforestdc.gov.uk

Download WFDC’s Response Forms : Here  (Click on the “How Can I Comment Section”.


If you are local and interested in how the proposed development affects you or Wilden Marsh, you might want to make your voices heard. Comments are taken seriously, so it may be worth you as individuals officially lodging your comments and views with the local planning authority. This can be done online or by letter.

I am personally against any development of the former Lagoon Field on the basis of the land being an important and valuable local urban wildlife asset, and home to many toads, frogs and polecats, and protected species such as otter and great crested newt. Thousands of common toads walk through the Lagoon Field each year to mate in North Pond. Also, the Lagoon Field borders an improving SSSI, is a buffer between protected ground and a main road and other developments, is essentially a floodplain, and a valuable urban nature oasis.

The north end development would cut off part of the SSSI, making it very poor.

Generally there would be an increase in light and noise pollution, and disturbance from cats, dogs, and people. I am certain that both the vibrancy and vitality of Wilden Marsh will be greatly negatively affected if such a development goes ahead.

The Wilden Lane traffic would be horrendous – it is already horrendous.

If you need further information or help, please contact me.

This post reflects my personal view.

WWT will object to development of the Lagoon Field.




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Spot The Otter On OtterCam 20092017

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Spot The Otter Again

Time to move OtterCam to other duties I think.

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A New Addition To The Wilden Marsh Herd

A new addition the marsh herd arrived today. He’s called TWB, or TW for short.

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The new addition to the Wilden Marsh Herd: TWB

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Spot The Otter!

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Terry Bull

Familiarity breeds contempt, and Terry Bull has a look about him that says he has his eye on me. He will test me before too long.

Earlier in the week I followed a vixen through the South Riverside Pasture. I could only move when the fox had its back to me. I was wearing a green cagoule with its spacious hood pulled tightly over my head and my hands deep in its pockets. The herd stood behind and dogged my every step, in extended line. The lead beast nudged me with its nose many times. I looked behind regularly to make sure that it wasn’t Terry. I bet not many people can claim to have followed a fox for an hour through long grass, with a herd of fifteen cattle on their heels.


Terry Bull

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Otters Are As Common As Mud On Wilden Marsh Nature Reserve

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