This is a question I have been asked many times. I have now posted information to answer this question at the top of the side bar, to the right of this post
Clicking the link below will also get you to this information:
The link below will take you to a map showing the southern section of the marsh and the path that Worcester Wildlife members and other people who have obtained an Access Permit, are allowed to walk:
It is possible to obtain a permit to walk on the southern marsh, but the permit would be subject to restrictions that must be observed. Anyone requiring a permit to access Wilden Marsh should contact Andy Harris on 01905754919.
For further information, contact me at:
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I am reading about the industry, the people and the families that have affected Wilden Marsh over the years.
Today, Wilden Marsh has scars and relics from some of the heavy industries that have surrounded it during the past five hundred years. Most of that heavy industry has failed the test of time. Could the marsh be an analogy for a world of excesses, with all the trials and tribulations that go with an ever-increasing demand for material wealth? Maybe the marsh has a warning for those who don’t give a damn, and hope for those who appreciate the subtleties of ecological cause and effect. The shame is that very few individuals have the opportunity, the ability, or the will to develop the necessary perception and communication skills needed to persuade the masses, and particularly those who make important decisions on our behalf, that the dangers around the corner must be taken seriously. I realise that this might appear very dramatic and a somewhat broad-brushed point of view, but we all have our ways of making sense of what we see.
Back in the fourteen and fifteen hundreds, there would have been foxes, badgers and buzzards on the marsh, just as there are today. Maybe, there were beavers too. If we protect the marsh and its fauna and flora, these might still be thriving when we have lost the local manufacturing industry that we see here today. Just as we have lost Wilden Iron Works, the British Sugar Factory, the forges, the enamellers and the chain makers. I’m not denying that change is a necessary part of progression, but consider the number of resources and amount of energy that has been expended in progressing industry from its birth to the present day. The animals are still making their living in the same way as they always have; they don’t need extra resources. The wild animals require the same amount of energy to survive today, as they always have.
Our animal predators and their prey need our protection, if a balance is to be maintained. There is a natural balance on the marsh, and I am trying to understand the interactions that exist there.
The rapid decline in our global fauna and flora is not showing any signs slowing down. Fortunately, there are people and organisations working to understand the problems and are actively protecting some of our natural environment.
I don’t believe in ‘quick fixes’ any more than I believe in a tooth fairy. I do, though, believe in well-reasoned and steady progress, the power of education, and the value of good publicity. I am not a believer in all publicity being good publicity, either.
Wilden Marsh gives me hope for the future. The application of a few well-aimed resources, a good sympathetic plan, and a decent measure of enthusiasm is a recipe for success.
I have no doubt that every county, state, country and continent has its own Wilden Marshes: islands of nature that have withstood the greed, misappropriation, corruption, and the test of time.
Back in the year 1511 a mill was built at the southern end of Wilden Marsh. As far as we know, this was a fulling mill (the pounding of cloth and wool to eliminate dirt and oils and to make it thicker). The mill was subsequently used as a corn and then a slitting mill.
In 1647, the mill was converted to a finery forge by Thomas Foley. In 1685, the ironworks was described as having a slitting mill and two forges. Wilden Ironworks was one of a number of Lower Stour Valley ironworks that used the flow of the river to drive their machinery. Pig iron was transported from the Forest of Dean and was turned into finished iron goods such as nails, hinges and chain. Stanley Baldwin, a UK Prime Minister in the 1920s and 30s, worked as a partner in the Wilden Ironworks for 20 years, before becoming Prime Minister. The ironworks closed in 1958 and the area it once covered is now The Wilden Industrial Estate.
So Wilden Marsh is surrounded by industry and domestic housing developments. This kind of environment subjects the marsh to all sorts of negative pressures that must be endured or overcome. Even though nature will always win in the end, it is important that islands of nature be preserved and protected. By definition, a nature reserve must preserve and encourage a sustainable ecology. There is not much point in a nature reserve that isn’t able to sustain varied flora and fauna.
The British Sugar Plant opened in 1925, and closed in 2002. The plant pumped its effluent into large settling ponds situated at the north end of the marsh. These settling ponds have now been filled-in.
In the days when the Wilden Ironworks was in full production, weirs were built in the River Stour to make it navigable and allow pig iron and finished good to be shipped in and out on the River Stour via Pratts Warf and the Worcestershire and Staffordshire Canal System.
During the 1970s, the weirs were removed and the River Stour dredged as part of a flood prevention project. This action resulted in the draining of the marsh. A couple of years ago, two new weirs were built to increase the marsh water table level and restore the marsh.
That’s it! I have stepped off my soapbox. I don’t know what got into me. Something in the book I was reading must have triggered this outburst.
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21st September 2011: I am at home, stretched out on my reclining chair. My thinking cap is well and truly pulled over my brow. In this condition I have made connections between the dead blackbird mentioned in my post of 19th September, and various other blackbirds and pigeons that I have found similarly afflicted. These birds were found on the mash over a three-month period, in one particularly small patch of grass . I have commented on some of these birds in earlier blog posts. I am seriously considering the validity of these connections, and I intend to get to the bottom of this bird mystery! I should have cottoned-on to this mystery ages ago. Could I be experiencing age-related brain befuddling? I don’t know! I must have stood over half-dozen dead or stunned blackbirds and pigeons, and wondered if they were ill or just tired. I have a strong suspicion that the buzzards are the culprits here. I feel that I didn’t examine the dead blackbird closely enough – the foxes will have eaten it by now. My impression is that there was one set of buzzard sized talon punctures in the blackbird’s body.
Could a kestrel have brought these birds down? I saw a kestrel hovering over the lagoon field that same day. The kestrels appear on the marsh when the undergrowth starts to thin out. Whether it was a buzzard or kestrel that brought these birds down, why didn’t they eat them? Kestrels go for small prey, like mice. I saw a sparrow hawk flying across the lagoon field that evening, too. A buzzard will not take moving prey; they are slow flyers. A buzzard will wait perched on a tree branch for its prey to land or walk below it. When the prey is stationary, the buzzard will swoop down and grab it.
Wandering the marsh is all about making connections. This is one of the main things that make the whole process so interesting. Obviously, my old noggin should translate all the available bits of visual information flowing through my eyes and flick the connection switch when it thinks I have seen something that it considers to be of particular interest me. I can then don my Sherlock Holmes hat and investigate the matter further. It has taken me three months to acknowledge these connections, and that’s too long in my book.
I am a little confused on another matter. I spotted a polecat at the bottom of fox hollow this morning – this is at the southern end of Hoo Wood. Well, my brain said polecat, and I have owned a few ferrets and polecats in my time, but I can’t help wondering if what I actually saw was a squirrel. It didn’t run like a squirrel, I can say that – all four legs seemed to be moving independently. First, I see a ferret and now a polecat? Am I hallucinating? I think I will withhold judgement on this for the time being. The solution is to photograph the darn things, but they are fast-moving critters. I am slow-moving in comparison, both mentally and physically. I don’t usually find it difficult photographing squirrels. The problem might be that, whilst I am able to see more animals, now that the undergrowth has shrunk back, it is taking me a while to get my eye in. I am seeing things that I am not expecting to see and that’s always a bit disconcerting.
Ah well! There is always tomorrow. I might find my answers tomorrow.
These are links to previous stunned bird posts.
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19th September 2011: It was busy on the marsh this evening. The sky was overcast, and the air was full of noises. The buzzards were flying about with an urgency I haven’t seen from them on any other evening. They would normally be floating lazily on the thermals, but not tonight. Squirrels were chasing each other around tree trunks like mad things: nose to tail. Acorns were falling from the trees like massive rain drops, and invisible creatures were moving about and making crackling noises in the undergrowth. It was like I had suddenly developed super hearing. Mallards were flying about in pairs, and a green woodpecker attempted to chase me away.
As I was trying to photograph a squirrel running along the pipe walkway, One-Eye, the old badger, rushed grunting and groaning across the pipes a couple of feet away from my boots. He disappearing into what was left of the Himalayan balsam. There were far more birds in the air than I would normally expect to see, and they all seemed to have somewhere to go and something to do.
I crossed the southern end of the swamp, close to the river, and a woodcock broke cover, frightening a heron into the air at the same time. As I skirted the North Pond, I heard a rustle in undergrowth along the river bank to my right. I homed in on the rustling sound and stood watching for five to ten seconds. I saw something I have not seen on the marsh before. I saw a long cream coloured body, I didn’t see the front legs or the head; a long bushy straight tail and, for want of a better expression, wallaby type back legs. The animal had leapt into the air to clear thick undergrowth. What I think I saw was a ferret. I can’t think what else it might be.I walked around to the east bank of the pond and made my way towards Poncey’s tree. Half way along the pond I found a dead black bird. Buzzard talon piercings could clearly be seen across the bird’s body, and pecking to the neck and head had killed it. I guess one of the buzzards had flown away with the kill, and had dropped it when mobbed by crows.
If a person spends a lot time in a particular environment, that person gets tuned into their surroundings. If a squawking pheasant breaks cover close by, that person hardly bats an eye lid, because this kind of thing is normal and expected. It’s the unexpected occurrence that can cause a person jump out of their skin.
Anyway, I worked my way very slowly past Poncey’s tree, when the branches began to shake and leaves began to fall. My heart missed a beat and my skin crawled as Poncey flew off towards the island, leaving a mass of leaves drifting to the ground. The one thing I didn’t expect was an encounter with Poncey. I was closer to Poncey tonight than I have been at any other time, before he took flight. I wasn’t even trying to get close to him. I shouldn’t be too ready to jump to conclusions; I really shouldn’t do it! The marsh foxes hadn’t killed Poncey the other night, it was someother unlucky bird. I have to say that I am not at all unhappy about this. My faith in Poncey is restored.
The sun had set by 7.30pm and by 8.00am it was getting dark; the marsh began to settle down.
As I made my way home, I heard the ke-wick call of a female tawny owl, but I didn’t hear a male reply.
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15th September 2011: I am hiding amongst trees at the north end of North Pond, settling down to a bit of watching and waiting – a fun thing to do, if you have the time. The evening light is beginning to fade. Something has spooked a cock pheasant at the far end of the line of trees that extend to the electricity pylon. This is where Poncey lives; he spends a lot of time close to that pylon, roosting in an oak tree. The pheasant’s squawking is getting louder as he closes in on my hiding place. He is flying low over the pond. He is turning towards an open area of ground to the east of the pond, close to the five-bar access gate to the lagoon field. This is one of Poncey’s favourite places. I watched him doing his courting there earlier in the year, and I have kept a close eye on him ever since. He could be found perched in his oak tree most evenings. He always made a hasty and noisy exit when he saw me approaching, though. Over time, I have managed to creep increasingly closer to his tree before he sees me.
Anyway, the pheasant, most likely it is Poncey, has landed in the area next to the five-bar-gate. I could see his head bobbing above the grass a few seconds ago, but I can’t see him at all now! I can hear him making a terrible noise, though. A noise I have heard many times on the marsh. Now everything is quiet. I quickly climb up the tree I was leaning against, to get a better view. I already have an inkling of what might be happening, and it’s just as I thought! Two marsh foxes are running off towards the lagoon field fence, one of them with the pheasant firmly clamped in its jaws. Poncey’s head is flopping about all over the place. The fox carrying Poncey is scrabbling under the fence. The second fox is already on the lagoon side and quickly snatches the bird from the other fox’s mouth. They are now running to Withy Wood, where they will eat poor old Poncey. The marsh foxes obviously find that hunting as a pair works well for them. The foxes carry large prey to the privacy of Withy Wood to eat it.
Poncey was a large pheasant, and I considered him a smart pheasant. Any bird has to be very careful where it lands, particularly at this time of year. Hiding-out in an oak tree was one of Poncey’s better ideas, but landing in any area close the North Pond, without checking it out first, is very definitely not recommended. The North Pond is a favourite hunting place for the marsh foxes.
I have checked Poncey’s tree on a couple of occasions since, and his absence is proof enough for me: he is dead!
This episode proves that getting too involved with a wild animal is not a good idea: it will end in disappointment. It also shows the folly of investing a lot of time studying a single wild animal: it will either drop dead, or another animal will eat it.