The Green Heart of Poringland


Tree Replacement Programme Begins 

Work is well underway to replace some of the trees lost in the recent gales. 

Lead trustee for conservation, Peter Aspinall, took advantage of the mild weather to strategically plant several Scots pines around the site. 

“The new trees will give some much needed all year greenery as well as providing cover for birds” said Peter.  “Once they develop they will be a spectacular addition to the landscape” he added. 

The replacement trees were funded largely from donations from the Association’s patrons as well as voluntary contributions. 

Wildflower Meadow Bursts into Colour

The newly created wildflower meadow has burst into colour. 

The news will come as manna from heaven to lakes’ conservationist Peter Aspinall who, together with our partners Norfolk Homes, has been instrumental in developing the site at the heart of the lakes complex. 

Previously to area was just a gravel ‘wasteland’ but now after tonnes of top soil have been imported and close on £300, funded by Friends and neighbours, has been invested in wildflower seed, the site really is as pretty as a picture.        

“It looks wonderful” said Peter.  “I know it cost a lot of money but it really looks amazing and is already attracting a wide range of butterflies and insects.  It’s a great investment for the future” added Peter.

Wildflower Meadow Takes Shape 

The last addition to Poringland Lakes landscape, a wildflower meadow, is rapidly taking shape.

After contractors Norfolk Homes profiled the site and imported tonnes of top soil, lakes conservation officer Peter Aspinall has been busily preparing and seeding the area. 

Costing over £300, the seeding programme has been largely funded by voluntary donations, primarily from Friends and local supporters. 

"The new flower meadow should look magnificent" said Peter enthusiastically. "It's been a lot of hard work but in the long term it will be all worthwhile." 

Plans for Wildflower Meadow Well Advanced 

Plans to create a colourful wildflower meadow at Poringland Lakes are well advanced. 

Contractors have been on site this week levelling the ground and grading the top soil ready for seeding. 

The Association plans to spend several hundred pounds developing the area and also the aprons around the conservation ponds. 

Naturalist and lakes trustee Peter Aspinall was excited about the project.          

“This is a wonderful opportunity” he explained.  “Norfolk Homes’ team have spread silt from the lakes over the entire area and topped it with good quality soil.  We are going to buy a substantial amount of wildflower mix which will be seeded in the next few days.  It should be a wonderful sight come the Spring. 

Shed Give More Support

Poringland Lakes have taken delivery of an impressive tawny owl box – compliments of Poringland and District Men’s Shed. 

Shed chairman Henry Gowman presented the state-of- the-art box to lakes’ trustee Ray Noble who was thrilled with the new acquisition. 

“The Men’s Shed have been wonderfully supportive of the lakes” said Ray.  “We are really indebted to them for their help and practical support.” 

The Men’s Shed is a wellbeing project aimed specifically at men who do not tend to have the social networks of women, so when they are made redundant, retire or are bereaved, they do not have the friendship support network to lean on through difficult times. 

The Poringland branch, formed late in 2014, is a place for men to meet and share the tools and resources they need to work on projects of their own. Typical activities may involve making things out of wood, including bird boxes and bug hotels, metalworking, bike repair or just drinking tea and mardling! 

For more about Poringland Men’s Shed, click on https://pdmensshed.org/. 

Living in Luxury

The Lakes have taken delivery of a state of the art bug hotel, compliments of Poringland and District Men’s Shed. 

Hearing of the lakes desire to have a proper bug hotel in preference to the ad hoc wood piles dotted around the site, Shed chairman Henry Gowman, sped into action. 

After discussing this with his colleagues, the Men Shed team quickly built the hotel which has now been installed at the lakes. 

Everyone have been impressed with the new unit, not least conservation expert Peter Aspinall who took delivery. 

“Poringland bugs will now be living in the height of luxury” smiled Peter.  “The attention to detail is remarkable.  Not only does the hotel have its name engraved at the top but there are fish logos dotted around too.  The new bug hotel really is five star luxury!” 

For more information about Poringland and District Men’s Shed click on https://pdmensshed.org/. 

Scouts Donate Bird Boxes

Poringland Lakes has taken delivery of eight refurbished bird boxes, compliments of Brooke and Poringland Scout Group. 

Lakes’conservationist Peter Aspinall was delighted with the gift – and so too were the local bird population.  Literally less than 30 seconds after installing one of the boxes, a blue tit immediately popped into the box to inspect what could become a new home! 

“It was remarkable to see” said head bailiff Ray Noble.  “Peter hardly had time to put down his screwdriver than the blue tit was in there!” 

“We are really grateful to the Scouts” said Peter Aspinall.  “The boxes all have metal collars around the entry holes which will safeguard them from woodpeckers.” 

Tree Planting Programme Heralded a Great Success

A working party of fifteen plus volunteers turned out in the glorious winter sunshine planting close on 400 hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) whips along the southern perimeter of the lakes and at other locations around the site.

Remedial work was also carried out on the 80 or so whips that were planted in the Spring on the bank on the north side of the lakes below the Mill Close development.

Trustee and tree warden Peter Aspinall, who oversaw the operation, was thrilled with the result.  

“What a fabulous morning in more ways than one” he exclaimed.  “We had a great turnout and everyone really mucked in.  Planting 400 trees often in tricky locations was no mean feat” said Peter.  “But everyone rose to the challenge and did a marvelous job.  

"It was particularly pleasing to see so many of our neighbours from Hillside and Mill Close giving up their Sunday morning to help. Please pass on my personal thanks to all the volunteers” enthused Peter.

But it appears the hard work doesn’t stop there.  Enjoying a well earned cuppa at the end of the morning, Peter explained that he would like to see more evergreens planted including some mature trees like Scots pine and holly.  Watch this space!

400 Trees to be Planted at Lakes

Poringland Lakes has unveiled its most ambitious tree planting programme yet.

On Sunday 4 December, volunteers plan to plant over 400 small trees at the lakes.  The hedging, comprising hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), to be planted on the southern boundary, will be one of the biggest tree planting operations carried out in South Norfolk this year.

“This will provide much needed habitat for birds and insects as well as improving site security” explained trustee and conservationist Peter Aspinall.

Costing in excess of £325, the programme is funded by Busseys, who since 2007 have planted a tree for every customer who buys a car.

“We are really grateful to Busseys for funding this work” added Peter Aspinall.  “Also we would like to thank Poringland tree warden Henry Gowman, not only for all the advice and support his gives us but for all his enthusiasm and hard work as chairman of the South Norfolk tree wardens group.”

Busseys too were keen to offer their support

“Busseys are proud to be associated with these projects, not only helping to care for the environment, but to also preserve our local heritage and help educate and inspire the next generation” said a company spokesperson.

The planting programme, to take place between 9am and midday on Sunday 4 December, will require a considerable amount of volunteer effort support.

“We are confident our wonderful volunteers will again step up to the mark and enable the work to be done in one morning” said Peter Aspinall confidentially.  “If you could spare just an hour, that would be a great help” he added.    

84 Trees Planted at Lakes 

The biggest tree planting programme ever undertaken at Poringland Lakes was completed earlier today when ten volunteers took advantage of the Spring sunshine to plant 84 trees on the bank neighbouring Mill Close development.

Under the watchful eye of Poringland tree warden Henry Gowman, the small team scaled the steep slope to plant a wide range of native British trees including guelder rose, cherry plum, bird cherry, way faring, elderberry, spindle, common dogwood, hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose, hazel, goat willow and rowan. 

"It was a superb effort" said trustee and wildlife warden Peter Aspinall. "Everyone mucked in and we did the work in record time." 

As part of the ongoing planting programme, tree warden Henry Gowman is considering planting a wide range of native wildflowers 'plugs' on the slope to stabilise the banking as well as providing food and cover for birds and insects. 

Before planting began, warden Peter Aspinall, took the opportunity to install another half dozen bird boxes. 

"To my amazement, literally with minutes, a blue tit was investigating one box as a potential nest site" said Peter enthusiastically. 

Six of the Best 

The lakes’ maintenance team enjoyed a productive morning, filling in holes in the car park access lane, raking up brash, cutting down dead trees and clearing the banking. 

Among the items discovered in the undergrowth were three old bikes and a sledge! 

Fishery manager ray Noble was delighted with the team’s efforts         

“It was really a good day and we got a lot done.  Unfortunately the tonne of gravel mix we laid on the access road was not enough for the job, so we’ll need to order some more and finish the job off” explained Ray. 

BTO Donates Bat Boxes 

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)  has kindly gifted Poringland Lakes three specially designed bat boxes for use in the conservation area. 

The boxes are specifically designed for small crevice dwelling bats which are common at Poringland Lakes.  Each unit has a black external surface to absorb heat.  They also incorporate internal ceramic tiles to retain and stabilise box temperatures and have special grooved landing ladders to allow bats easy access.

 “We’d like to thank the BTO’s senior research ecologist Dr Stuart Newson, not only for donating the bat boxes but for his ongoing support for the PCFLA” said warden Peter Aspinall. 

“Stuart kindly undertook a bat survey at the lakes last summer when an astonishing 134 recordings were registered over a two hour period, primarily by Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Daubenton's bats.  We are hoping Stuart will carry out a similar survey later in the year” added Peter.        

The BTO is an independent charitable research institute combining professional and citizen science aimed at using evidence of change in wildlife populations to inform policy-makers and the general public.  The bat surveys at Poringland Lakes contribute to that vital information base. 

Wardens Unveil Tree Planting Scheme

Poringland tree warden Henry Gowman (pictured left above) has unveiled his plans for a comprehensive tree planting scheme at Poringland Lakes. 

Explaining his proposals Henry said “I had a walk and talk with Peter Aspinall around the lakes and we have worked up a planting scheme which will give cover to birds and insects as well as provide food for wildlife. 

“The lakes is a large area and I think it best that we tackle it in sections over a few winter planting seasons, so we propose that we start with planting the steep bank with about 50 flowering and fruiting trees such as Hazel, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Guelder Rose, Spindle, Wild rose, Wild plum” added Henry.

“This is partly to see how the planting develops over the years and partly to make the labour of planting them more manageable.  Planting 50 trees on that slope will take some physical effort, so you may have to call upon the support of your Friends” said Henry smiling!  

Having accepted Henry’s proposals in full, the next step is to cost out the initial phase and try to obtain some funding in order for planting to begin in the New Year. 

Busy Winter Planned 

Poringland Lakes small but dedicated maintenance team is facing a busy winter.

The four man group of Peter Aspinall, Peter Carman, David Garrod and Ryan Westgarth have drafted up an ambitious programme which includes a considerable amount of tree maintenance, gorse clearing and weed control, especially in the car park area.

The team also plan to salvage the magnificent white water lilies from the conservation ponds before contractors move in to line the ponds.

Just recently the team cleared vegetation from the sandy cliff face bordering the Duffield lake in an attempt to encourage kingfishers to breed. Judging by recent sightings of a male and two female birds, this project looks positively encouraging.

Early Start for Volunteers 

Volunteers took advantage of today’s wonderful  weather to further enhance Poringland Lakes. 

Led by warden Peter Aspinall and bailiff Ryan Westgarth (pictured above), the team stripped out gorse from the sandy bank behind the Duffield lake; removed weed from the conservation pond and transported brash to the bonfire area. In addition, Peter made the most of a 6am start by filling holes in the car park. 

Earlier in the week, maintenance officer Peter Carman and right-hand man David Garrod, cleared the ground in readiness for the new secure storage unit and cut overhanging gorse from the surrounds of Noble lake. 

Inspired by the return of kingfishers, it is hoped the extended sand face will encourage the birds to breed at Poringland Lakes. 

Survey Reveals Healthy Bat Population 

A recent survey at Poringland Conservation Lakes has revealed a healthy bat population. 

The survey, conducted by Dr Stuart Newson, senior research ecologist at the British Trust for Ornithology, revealed three species Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Daubenton's bat, the latter seen foraging over the water. 

“Daubenton’s bat has a particularly strong association with water where there is abundant invertebrate prey, particularly chironimids” explained Dr Newson. 

“Common and Soprano Pipistrelle are both widespread in the county, although of the two species, Soprano Pipistrelle has the strongest association with water” he added. 

A passive detector was left out to automatically record any bats that passed close by, and a walk around the lakes recorded any additional bats.  134 recording were registered over a two hour period. 

Pipistrelles are the commonest British bats.  Weighing just five grams (less than a £1 coin), a single pipistrelle can eat 3,000 tiny insects in just one night! 

The Daubenton's bat (pictured), known as the 'water bat', take insects from the water's surface with their large feet or tail, which is quite a spectacular sight. 

In addition to the bat survey, Dr Newson noted the abundance of Dark and Speckled Bush-Crickets that evening. 

A comprehensive report detailing the findings has been presented to the lakes’ management committee who plan to monitor the bat population in the coming years. 

Kingfishers Take Up Residency 

Hopes that kingfishers can be encouraged to return to Poringland Lakes look to have been successful. 

The brightly coloured bird has been spotted every day for the past week, raising the spirits of local conservationists.  And no one was more delighted than warden Peter Aspinall who spotted the bird for the first time today. 

“Initially I heard its distinctive call and then saw it perched on a waterside willow where is stayed for several minutes before darting over the Duffield lake.  It was wonderful to see” enthused Peter who managed to capture this beautiful bird on camera.

Further work is planned in the coming days to clear more scrub from the cliff sand face, to encourage kingfishers and sandmartins to nest and breed. 

Kingfishers pairing usually starts in February. Both birds excavate the nest burrow into stone-free sandy bank, usually about 0.5m from the top. The birds choose a vertical bank clear of vegetation, since this provides a reasonable degree of protection from predators. 

The first clutch of six or so eggs is laid late in March or early in April. Both adults incubate the eggs and the chicks hatch 19-21 days later. Each chick can eat 12-18 fish a day, and they are fed in rotation once a chick is fed, it moves to the back of the nest to digest its meal, causing the others to move forward. 

The chicks are normally ready to leave the nest when they are 24-25 days old, but if the fish supply is poor, they can take up to 37 days.  Once out of the nest, the young are fed for only four days before the adults drive them out of the territory and start the next brood.

(see also article below)

Never-ending Job

 Maintaining Poringland Lakes is a never-ending job.  Here one of our wonderful volunteers clears weed from the large conservation pond. 

Project Kingfisher Boost 

Hopes that kingfishers can be encouraged to return and nest at Poringland Lakes have received a major boost after several sightings of the beautiful bird have been recorded in recent days. 

The exciting news comes just days after the European Commission sponsored Birds at Risk report was published warning that the colourful kingfisher, once a common sight on our riverbanks, is now among the 37 species in danger of dying out.  Others include the herring gull, lapwing, curlew and red grouse. 

It is believed there are less than 5,000 breeding pairs of kingfishers are left in the UK.  They are a vulnerable to hard winters and habitat degradation caused by pollution or unsympathetic management of watercourses. Kingfishers are amber listed because of their unfavourable conservation status in Europe.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the UK partner of BirdLife International who carried out the study, believes the publication will set the base for more conservation work to be done in the coming years.         

In recent months volunteers at Poringland Lakes have cut back vegetation to expose a sand faced cliff in the hope that kingfishers will nest there in the future. 

Boxing Day

Seven new bird boxes have been installed at Poringland Lakes – courtesy of Brooke and Poringland Scout Group.  Using redundant pallets, the Scouts made the boxes as part of a practical woodwork exercise linked to the environment. 

“We were more than happy to donate the boxes” said Scouts’ treasurer Andy Miller following a chance encounter with the Poringland Lakes bailiff. 

“The boxes are great” said warden Peter Aspinall.  “They are really well made and should attract tits and robins.”

Peter spent this morning positioning the boxes in a variety of locations across the conservation area. 

He also installed a camera post next to the small conservation pond.  This provides a permanent fixed position which will allow photographers to capture the lakes throughout the season from one static location.

Peter completed a good day’s work by cutting back the gorse adjacent to the Glen Dufflield memorial lake, exposing the sand face which it is hoped will encourage kingfishers and sand martins to nest.

Tree Planting Progresses

Poringland tree warden Henry Gowman, together with his assistant Steve, returned to the lakes today to plant a blackthorn and hawthorn coppice next to the small conservation pond. They also placed a wild cherry close to the large conservation pond. 

“Once established, the blackthorn and hawthorn should provide good cover for birds” said Henry.

Braving the Elements


While many of us were enjoying the Christmas break in the warmth and comfort of our own homes, the lakes’ resident naturalist Nick Elsey was braving icy conditions, cutting back and burning vegetation in readiness for the car park extension programme which is expected to get underway shortly. 

Christmas Boxes

Now that we are in the festive season and most the trees have shed their leaves, the plethora of bird and bat boxes strategically positioned around the site can easily be seen.

Many of the boxes were originally made by local scouts as part of a nature environment project.  The boxes have been regularly maintained by long-serving volunteer Peter Smith. 

In addition a couple of hedgehog ‘houses ‘have be secreted in the undergrowth to help our little friends survive the winter months. 

If you have a bird, bat or hedgehog box you no longer use or would like to make or donate one, please contact our secretary at friends@poringlandlakes.co.uk or give us a call on 01508 493353.

Collection could be possible within a reasonable distance.

Conservation Work Continues Apace 

Operation Kingfisher, an exciting initiative to encourage one of Britain’s most beautiful birds to return to Poringland Lakes, continues apace.

Volunteers took a break from what seems like days of continual rain, to strip out the Russian Vine on the northern boundary adjacent to the Mill Close development.  Russian Vine is a non-native species and very invasive. 

Once the undergrowth is removed, the sand walls will be exposed in the hope that kingfishers and sand martins, once common sightings at the Lakes, will return.

It is planned that the summit of this banking will be planted with native shrubs, such as holly, hazel, hawthorn and wild rose species. This management technique should help to stabilise the banking and continue the committee's aim of principally having native flora on the site.  

Planting Gathers Pace 

The lakes planting programme is continuing apace.  Already several marginal and wetland species have been planted in the lake edges and aprons. 

Last evening, Peter Aspinall (pictured below) who is the warden of Flordon Common, planted some Norfolk Reed and Yellow Flag Iris in the Glen Duffield Memorial Lake and conservation ponds.

Peter also took the opportunity to sow a variety of wildflower seeds around the site.  Among those distributed were Evening Primrose, Hemp Agrimony, Meadow Vetchling, Meadowsweet and along with a species of Knapweed and Figwort. 

It is hoped that once the seed germinate and grow, they will attract a wide range of insects including bumblebees, butterflies and moths. 

Top Naturalists Propose Wildflower Meadow 

Two leading naturalists have recommended that part of the Lake's conservation area be transformed into a wildflower meadow, using exclusively native species. 

David Nobbs, warden of the acclaimed Wheatfen nature reserve, home of the Ted Ellis Trust, and Peter Aspinall, warden of Flordon Common have suggested that the central area be transformed into a colourful wildflower haven. 

It is hoped that careful management will not only attract butterflies and moths but will also encourage bumblebees which are rapidly becoming an endangered species in Great Britain as many native wildflower landscapes have partly been lost due to farming practices and building development. 

The Association’s management committee is expected to discuss the proposals at its next meeting.

Picture Perfect

 This superb photograph of a Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) was taken by our resident naturalist Nick Elsey earlier this week.  Many of Nick’s wonderful nature pics appear on our sister Facebook page.

Operation Kingfisher Gains Momentum

 Operation Kingfisher, an exciting new initiative to encourage one of Britain’s best loved birds to return to Poringland Lakes, gained momentum today as volunteers continued to clear the undergrowth around Lake Duffield.

Under the watchful eye of maintenance officer Peter Carman, the team cleared away scrub to reveal the sand walls, so critical as nesting sites for brilliantly coloured kingfishers and the agile sand martins.  Several waterside perches have also been installed.

 Maintenance officer Peter Carman (right) and David Garrod take a break from thinning out the bankside vegetation in an effort to encourage kingfishers back to Poringland Lakes. 

Kingfishers were regularly seen at the lakes before the water level dropped dramatically.  Now levels have been restored it is hoped the magnificently coloured bird will return and breed at the lakes. 

Kingfishers excavate the nest burrow into the stone-free sandy bank, usually about 0.5m from the top. The birds choose a vertical bank clear of vegetation, since this provides a reasonable degree of protection from predators. 

Kingfishers, with their unmistakeably bright blue and orange plumage, fly rapidly low over water and hunt fish from waterside perches, occasionally hovering above the water's surface. They are a vulnerable to hard winters and habitat degradation through pollution or unsympathetic management of watercourses. Kingfishers are amber listed as an endangered species.  It is estimated there are only 4,000 breeding pairs left in the UK. 

“That’s why is is so important that we try to restore their natural habitat” said warden Ray Noble.  “it would be wonderful if we could encourage kingfishers to breed again in Poringland” he added. 

While work progressed on clearing the sandy cliff faces, another small team continued to cut back gorse to improve public access to the mount viewing area.