Stour Valley Environment Fund:

A Rocha UK

One of the SVEF’s 2021 recipients was A Rocha UK who were awarded £1,250 for the purchase of equipment to help maintain the waterways and support community involvement and events at Foxearth Meadows Nature Reserve near Sudbury.

A Rocha UK is a London based charity which carries out practical nature conservation and education with local communities to motivate others to care for the environment.

They have many established working partnerships with local action groups across Essex and Suffolk, with the Dedham Vale and Stour Valley Project being one of them.A particular project they undertook in 2021 was the development of Foxearth Meadows.

This 4.18-hectare site is an area of impressive biodiversity, providing a habitat to over 50 species of birds, 20 species of dragonfly and damselfly.

Throughout the pandemic lockdowns, Foxearth remained accessible through its public footpaths, and as a result observed a 200% increase in visitors from the local community using the space for leisure and exercise. In response,

A Rocha UK worked to develop an education and community engagement programme to maintain the site for increased public access, but also to facilitate activities and events, providing opportunities for the local community to get involved and maintain an interest in environmental conservation.

The grant request was to help pay for equipment, including a boat enabling safe maintenance of the ponds on the reserve, hand tools for community involvement and a mini marque for shelter at events.Following the receiving of the grant more people have had access to the reserve and been active and enjoyed the natural environment.

It has allowed us to manage our wetland habitat and hold more events so that more people can learn how to identify wildlife, understand the importance of

biodiversity and protecting our wider environment. Since the project their activities have included:

  • Creating a Nature trail quiz for families to use throughout the year and at any time through our public access entrances.
  • A National meadows Day event on 3rd July
  • Moth identification and Dawn Chorus events
  • Foxearth was used for the filming of cBeebies Teeny Tiny Creatures Dragonfly edition. On 8th September a BBC cameraman came and filmed dragonflies at FM to use in an edition of ‘teeny tiny creatures’ on cBeebies.    
  • In September a bat walk event in memory of Sarah White, local educator & canoeist. 20 people came and learned to use bat detectors.    
  • On 29th September we had our second annual ‘source to sea’ river clean-up, in collaboration with Sudbury Canoe Club, where we cleared the river of plastic debris.
  • Taxa monitoring: Ten bird ringing sessions completed through the season. Dragonfly, Hedgehog,honey bee, butterflies, dragonflies, birds (including nest box occupancy rates), reptiles, plants and aquatic invertebrates monitoring and plant surveys continued.
  • Suffolk Wildlife Trust Watch Group (for children) visited on 21st November with activities to engage with nature at FM.
  • In October we hosted Dedham Vale AONB Youth Rangers for a practical conservation session with some teaching on mowing regimes and plant communities, soil core sampling and dipwell installation to monitor ground water levels.

Volunteer Helen writes: “My son, Jonathan and I have been volunteering at Foxearth Meadows for a while now, particularly since the autumn when Jonathan’s college hours were reduced due to covid restrictions.

Jonathan is autistic and has severe learning difficulties but loves being active and being outdoors so the volunteer mornings have been brilliant for him. Potentially boring or repetitive jobs such as picking up and moving armful after armful of cut vegetation are great for him as he can see what he needs to do and can get on with it without having to be corrected or monitored too closely. And the sensory input of wading through flooded areas all morning put him in his version of Heaven! For me as a parent, it has been great to see how much he has enjoyed doing this work and seeing him doing something genuinely constructive.

However, what has blessed me most has been to see him regarded as a valuable part of the team and treated as a regular human being. Too often, those with

disabilities are held at arms length and tolerated at best (sadly, many in fact face regular abuse) but the team at Foxearth Meadows have been brilliant in accepting Jonathan and welcoming him on board.

We were also delighted to host our first of many more Church Demonstration Days at Foxearth Meadows on 10 July. Church leaders and others from the local area were invited to explore what conservation activities their

communities could get involved in. 19 people attended from 13 churches.

Visitors had the opportunity to see the work on a tour led by Reserve Manager, Mark Prina, and learn about what can be replicated in churchyards. One attendee said “We were really encouraged and inspired by the surroundings, atmosphere and work that is going on at Foxearth Meadows. It has given us plenty to think about and share with our church family regarding our three-church parish!”

Participants, a mixture of both Eco Churches and non-Eco Churches, explored nest box building, container water gardens and mowing management. The event

enabled people to share their ideas and experience, ask questions, and reflect on what they could do in their own communities.”