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CygNatures 2001

Welcome to our second newsletter, reporting on what's been going on during the last term at Canterbury (Broad Oak) Environmental Education Centre and the Reserve.

We have many news items to tell you about, which are listed below. You can click on an item to go straight to it.

If you are interested in finding out more about what goes on here, please look at our other pages; Biodiversity - Teachers' Pages - Children's Pages - Nature Trails - Friends of Broak Oak Reserve and more. If you would like to see the previous newsletter please click 2000-2001.


Click on a News item to take you straight there.

Many pictures can be enlarged by clicking once

Once Bittern Twice Shy?

Bird spotting can be like fishing, in that seeing (or catching) an unusual specimen, with no one else to corroborate it, leads to disbelief from those you tell.
So it was on 15th January 2001 when Kevin, our NGC (National Grid Company) Placement, reported his encounter on the reserve, with a bittern.
I was not present to share in his excitement, but apparently he dashed into the centre library and checked all the bird books to confirm his breathtaking observation. No one else saw it and probably no one will see one on the reserve for another 30 odd years. One thing is for sure, that particular specimen will not be back. Would you in the circumstances?
Just imagine. You are lost. Below you is a pleasant body of water, fringed with protective reeds. A superb refuge in a sea of housing and industry. You are sitting in this quiet location, with not a soul in sight, looking for a bit of breakfast in the lake shallows, when something large passes. You immediately take to the air. The last thing you see as you depart is this gibbering, wild-eyed, 6 foot 4 inch monster pointing at you. No, you put Canterbury Broad Oak Nature Reserve on your list of places never to visit again.

Flooding update
Well it's been a very trying wet Winter and Spring. The lake has been up and down like a yo-yo, seeming to enter Pond Lab whenever it felt the urge. The wettest winter in several centuries is bound to create problems for a building next to a river, only 5 metres above mean sea level. Global warming can be expected to increase the rainfall and raise the sea level significantly over the next half-century, so this may be a taste of things to come.
The greater problem has come from the loss of Kingfisher Trail between October and April (as I write this). In 2000, the same problem arose in May, so we may not be out of the woods yet. Kingfisher Trail is our lakeside walk, the most attractive and popular of our trails. With the lake level elevated by 1 to 2 metres it was impassable with waders, let alone for primary school classes.

This put added pressure on our other main trail, Sunrise Trail. Constant trampling by the massed hordes of Kentish school children, turned much of this overused and deluged path into a muddy quagmire, reminiscent of the Somme.
We now have to take a long hard look at our footpath provision, including bridges and pond dipping platforms. We will consider short-term measures, such as ritual dancing, mumbling to the heavens from a kneeling position or just permanently tying our fingers together in a crossed position.

Westminster Pier
As I write this article, the one-time ticket offices, which previously resided on the pier outside the Houses of Parliament, are being dismantled and removed from the site. We took a gamble when first offered these four large timber buildings. However health and safety considerations and related costs, have made adoption of these buildings impossible.
Fortunately the buildings will not be wasted. They are being dismantled by former Head of Centre, Tony Harman. The chances are that by the time you read this article they will have been whisked away by this high energy life force and rebuilt at a secret location somewhere in the Chilterns.
Westminster Pier bldg
Despite our sadness that we are unable to use the buildings, we are glad that they have found such a good and worthy home. Perhaps Tony and Dorothy will use them as ticket offices again, when Tony gets round to opening his butterfly sanctuary?
Sensory Garden
As we go to press the sensory garden is slowly taking shape. We now have a new entrance and pathway leading to the centre buildings. Visiting children will follow this, through the sensory garden and alongside the lake before entering the buildings by the back entrance.
There is still much to do, but the gardens will be divided into a number of areas. A giant leaf will be built under the SEEBOARD pylon, enabling us to demonstrate photosynthesis. The remainder of the gardens will be geared to the senses. There will be an area geared to touch, with lots of tactile objects.
A second area will expose visitors to a variety of sounds, including running water down a waterfall and into a large pond. The 'smell' area is already taking shape, with some strong smelling plants already in place.
Proposed waterfall
New paths
New play area

Visual stimulation will come from a variety of brightly coloured plants and other objects, including the now finished "Insulators" sculpture created by Paul Goodrick. However, it will probably be several years before the gardens are fully matured and are in a finished state.

Open Air Theatre

The open-air theatre is now completed, with just a few finishing touches to be made. Dave Edgar has worked hard on this project all winter, with the finished structure a testament to his labours. Well done Dave.

Site for New stage New Theatre Stage

Spring will now see the hard edges of the structure softened, as nature moves in around the periphery. Dave's next job will of course be fighting back the advances of nature over the coming years. A finished stage is of limited value without productions and audiences. Our next job will be to hire it out to anyone wishing to use a unique venue, with seating for up to 100 people.
Please contact us on 01227 452447 if you are interested.

The "Insulator" Sculptures
This piece of art work was commissioned by Canterbury Broad Oak Friends and can be seen rising Excalibur-like out of the lake, adjacent to the Centre buildings. It is a family of solid steel organisms, based on the shapes of insulators that can be seen on the adjacent electricity sub-stations. Strong primary colours have been used. Already they have drawn different opinions and controversy. This is in itself no bad thing and will stimulate visiting children to think about their environment and discuss what they see as being art, rather than just accepting the values that their elders may impose upon them. The Insulators
The Orchid Thinking Man Paul has created a number of other sculptures around the reserve, most of which are made out of natural materials such as wood and willow branches. However, others use man-made materials, reflecting the strange mix of natural and industrial structures to be seen on this unusual site.
Paul is now hoping to extend his vision to other NGC environmental education centres around the country, as a kind of "Grid Art". A celebration of National Grid's vision and preparedness to encourage environmental awareness on its property.
Thinking manWillow man
Kent Environmental Education Conference - 2001
David Horne and Kevin Smith represented the Centre at this conference, giving a 1 hour presentation to 30 delegates from all over Kent, entitled "Utilising ICT in Environmental Education". The presentation, which was very well received, outlined how we at Canterbury Broad Oak make use of modern communications and information technology in our teaching and information dissemination.
This includes our web site, the use of a variety of microscopes linked to computers in the laboratory and the use of ICT whilst teaching in the field. As well as sharing best practice with teachers and other centres, it was an opportunity for us to draw attention to ourselves as a centre of excellence for environmental ICT and web page design.
Society for Experimental Biology Conference 2001 - UKC
David and Kevin did their double act once again, this time at the university. The SEB invited a number of local sixth forms to attend one day of the conference dedicated to education. David and Kevin ran 2 workshops on freshwater ecology, involving delegates playing the centre's Pond Bingo game. This went down very well with the sixth formers, as well as a number of more senior SEB delegates who attended.
Head of Centres' Seminar
Despite the threat of Foot and Mouth hanging over East Kent, the March 2001 Seminar took place at Canterbury Broad Oak. It was an excellent opportunity to show off what we do at Canterbury, as well as meet fellow NGC centre staff.
The new team leader Trevor Seeley (Community Involvement Manager), was able to meet most staff for the first time since taking over at the helm. His first few weeks in post have been something of a baptism of fire, so he was delighted to be able to relax with staff from all over the country, at the dinner held at the County Hotel in Canterbury. This was also an opportunity for the centre to network with guests including Stephen Brett (Robert Brett and Sons), Trevor Sandford (KCC Assistant Director of Education, School Improvement), Professor Stuart Harrop (University of Kent(UKC)/Durrell Institute for Conservation & Ecology (DICE)) and John Bennett (Director, Kent Wildlife Trust).

The high point of the seminar involved a tour of the reserve in the centre's boat, Chestnut. It was an excellent test of the boat's stability and the electric outboard's power, squeezing so many adult staff in at one go!
As a result of the conference we have been asked to develop web sites for the Environmental Education Centre at Penwortham, to add to those to be done for West Boldon and Bishops Wood.

Arts Council Grant/Exploring through Art
Artist week
We have successfully bid for £5,000 from South East Arts and £1,000 from Pfizer UK towards our Exploring Through Art programme for 2001 - 2002.
Artist week
Art week
It is hoped this will be matched by NGC funding. This will enable local artists Paul Goodrick and Cas Holmes to deliver an Artist in Residence programme to up to 1,000 school children during this time.
Art week
Art week
Schools interested in attending one of the proposed days should contact the centre on 01227 452447.
Art week
Biodiversity Site Update
Thanks to the efforts of Rosemary Godfrey, we have been able to add plants, fungi and birds to our Biodiversity Web Site: - Rosemary has recently completed an MSc in Conservation Biology at DICE and previously worked for the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, protecting mountain gorillas. One of the highlights of the new pages is the large number of colour photographs of plants and fungi, provided by David Horne and the 'collage' style illustrations of birds created by Rosemary. We now have only a few more major groups of animals to add, before the site is complete. However, even once this is achieved we will hope to constantly update the site and add more species and information.
NGfL/QCA web work
Substantial funding has been provided by Kent NGfL(National Grid for Learning) to develop the QCA Primary Science and Geography web pages. Jo Leech and Sue Parsons have been involved in the QCA Science, whilst Kevin Smith, aided by David Horne, has been working on the QCA Geography pages, addressing rivers and the water cycle.
Comings and goings
Nothing ever stands still. The departure of Krysia Baczala as Environmental Education Advisor for KCC has meant Marcia Foley as our line manager replaces her. Krysia moves to Medway to become their general Advisor. Marcia was previously the Geography Advisor to KCC, so her dual role creates a much more environmentally focussed position, potentially of great benefit to the centre's work. Krysia will be sadly missed and we expect to see her again before too long.
BOF's Representation on Management Committee
Canterbury Broad Oak Friends (BOFs) have underlined their growing stature by gaining a position on the centre's Management Committee. This is the body, which oversees the work of the centre, to which the Head of Centre reports. It is made up of representatives from NGC, KCC, Canterbury City Council, Kent Wildlife Trust, DICE (University of Kent) and now BOFs.
BOFs have elected previous Head of Centre, Tony Harman, to represent them. BOFs main function is to support the biodiversity and welfare of the Broad Oak Nature Reserve surrounding the centre. Tony has nearly 30 years experience of the reserve as well as 20 years managing the environmental education carried out by the centre.
Wildwood Links
Anne Riddell, a BOFs committee member, has been appointed as education officer to the Wildwood Centre, Herne Common. Anne has many years of research and survey experience on the Broad Oak Nature Reserve, especially concerned with slow worms. Hopefully it will be possible to develop links between Wildwood and ourselves, to our mutual benefits.
Canterbury City Council Local Nature Reserves

We have secured a management partnership with City Council, looking after Bingley Island and Bus Company Island, Local Nature Reserves. This will provide funds to assist in the improvement of our own reserve, as well as the biodiversity of the Canterbury Stour corridor.

Barton Mill Island Nature Reserve

A new development planned for Barton Mill Island could create a further local nature reserve for Canterbury City Council. If this comes to fruition, the centre will probably take responsibility for managing this reserve also. Part of the agreement would involve access to the island by a bridge from our side of the river. This would enable us to have access to the Canterbury Riverside Walk from our back gate. It would enable schools interested in the Canterbury Stour corridor to walk from the city centre, or even from Canterbury East railway station, all the way to the Broad Oak Nature Reserve, without walking along Broad Oak Road, or crossing any other busy roads on the way.

Community Service Work
Kent Probation Service continues to provide us with an excellent labour force to carry out valuable work on the reserve. Over the last few months they have laid a new concrete path through the new Sensory Garden, maintained paths, assisted in the felling of a very large and dangerous willow tree, constructed fencing and various important but smaller jobs around the reserve.
Bee Orchids On The Move
Bee OrchidOne of the benefits of having contractors working on site, is the opportunity of using their heavy machinery for the reserve's good. The machinery being used would have destroyed the enclosures containing specimens of Bee Orchid. However the contractors were able to transport the whole of the turf to a new position on the other side of the reserve. Hopefully they will thrive in the chalky soil to be found here, as well as in other areas undisturbed by the contractors.
New Ponds

One new pond (Marsh Orchid Mere) has been created close to the NGC buildings, whilst a further one (Pebble Pond) has been created at the edge of the car park. Hopefully both will provide at least temporary water bodies in the drier areas of the reserve, away from the main lakes.

Improvements To Centre Buildings
Thanks to NGC locally, new windows and rewiring of the centre has been possible. The new windows are double-glazed and give the centre a much smarter appearance, as well as better heat retention in winter and ventilation in summer. The new wiring and power sockets were necessary for safety reasons. They are also important for the expansion of the centres ICT facilities.
Kentish Stour River Studies

One of the major developments on the curriculum front has been the extension of our work beyond the nature reserve fence. We now have a well worked river study programme, involving walking alongside the Canterbury Stour. This is supplemented by work on the water cycle carried out at the centre, as well as Kevin's new "Investigating Rivers" web site.
We have experimented with taking sixth form groups still further a field. The Little Stour can be reached by students taking a train to Bekesbourne Station. As a result of the excesses of the recent weather, we were able to study the Nailbourne in flow. A rare opportunity on this rather intermittent watercourse.

Floor map - Stour Catchment
To add to the field and web based resources, we have also created our own 'walk-on' floor map of the Kentish Stour Catchment. This has been painted on the floor of Stour Lab by a variety of work-experience placements.
Foot and Mouth
This issue has not been out of the news since February. Fortunately for us we suffered few cancellations of bookings as a result. After many hasty phone calls and consultations we were able to put in place appropriate disinfecting measures and continue to deliver our usual service.

Naturegrid Web Site -

The centre's web site is already hailed as one of the best environmental education web sites to be found anywhere. With funding from National Grid Company and Kent NGfL we have been able to develop the site as a valuable resource for teachers, children and the general public. Funding will be sought to continue this work.


We welcome your comments

If you have anything to say about our web pages or information you think might be useful to the Reserve, please contact us:
Canterbury Environmental Education Centre
Broad Oak Road, Canterbury, Kent. CT2 7PX

Tel: 01227 452447
Fax: 01227 456944
Email us your comments

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