Sewage boosts conservation efforts

PUBLISHED: 14:06 08 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:32 25 May 2010

SEWAGE and wildlife: Not natural bedfellows, yet the building of a sewage works at Bleadon has also led to the creation of a thriving nature haven.

SEWAGE and wildlife: Not natural bedfellows, yet the creation of a sewage works at Bleadon has also led to the creation of a thriving nature haven.

Ten years ago, Wessex Water built its water treatment works on the outskirts of the North Somerset village.

Improvements to flood defences to protect the sewage works saw old seawalls breached and a stronger wall being built inland.

Trapped water has resulted in the creation of an unusual salt marsh habitat, boasting reed beds, fresh water lagoons, meadows, grassland and an area of organically farmed arable land.

Now, a decade later, the area has flourished into a wildlife sanctuary boasting inhabitants from deer and birds to plants and insects - including at least 25 different species of spider.

Ellen McDouall, biodiversity ecologist at Wessex Water, said: "As well as being a rare habitat, salt marshes also absorb wave action and provide additional space for flood water.

"They are extremely important because they provide a more sustainable flood defence which is excellent for the environment."

The site - which treats in excess of 11million cubic metres of water each year - has flourished to such a degree that over the past decade, endangered birds such as ferruginous ducks, red necked phalaropes and bittern have been spotted.

The marsh also provides an important winter home for many different species of ducks and wading birds, as the lagoons remain accessible long after many others in the area have frozen over.

Bird surveys indicate that farmland bird species such as finches are also doing well and the site is one of only two areas in North Somerset where you can find water voles.

The site's creation was recognised by the British Trust for Ornithology which gave it the Conservation Award at the Bird Challenge for Businesses in 2000.

Miss McDouall added: "We are committed to protecting the environment so when the treatment works was constructed in 1999 we took advantage of conservation opportunities.

"The area is now a showcase for sustainability and a fantastic site for biodiversity in itself which helps support species in the neighbouring Severn Estuary that is internationally renowned for waders and wildfowl.

"We are now looking at ways to enhance habitats in the conservation area to make it even better and a more rewarding experience for the public visiting the bird hides.

"Plans include opening up an area of reeds in the fresh water lagoons to make it easier for birdwatchers to spot rare species on the site.

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