Reed Bed: update Nov 2020

Reed beds installed by AquaScience at Hengrove Swimming Lake

It is many months since a reed bed in Bathurst Basin was last mooted and we are now very close to its installation. There are just a couple of items of paperwork outstanding.

Reed beds (and kingfisher perches) in Bathurst Basin were first suggested in Bristol City Council’s 2009 biodiversity report (PDF). In February 2020, Bristol City Council was the first council to declare an ecological emergency. So it is a good time to install a reed bed.

Position of reed bed. Click for larger image.

The Harbour Master’s Department has agreed to the installation of a small reed bed in the old lock in front of Bathurst Parade (see plan). It will be funded by Eardstapa Trust, a local charity. Avon Wildlife Trust will oversee the reed bed project on behalf of Eardstapa Trust. And finally, the project has been arranged through Friends of Bathurst Basin, who will be responsible for maintenance of the reed bed through local volunteers.

It will be an installation of four units measuring 1.25m wide by 3.9m long. This is considered the smallest area necessary to create a useful habitat for birds, fish and insects. The units will be covered in weld mesh anti-grazing cages. In addition to the cages there will be a 300mm high fence to deter swans and geese from accessing the island, but which will allow smaller wildfowl such as moorhens and ducklings to access it.

It will be planted with a mix of hardy native species, some of which will have shade tolerance as the installation will not have direct sun for more than a few hours in the mornings:

  • Pendulous sedge – Carex pendula
  • Lesser pond sedge – Career acutiformis
  • Flag Iris – Iris pseudacorus
  • Water mint – Mentha Aquatica
  • Purple Loosestrife – Lythrum salicaria.

These are strong structures which should last many years. Aquascience, who are reed bed specialists and have installed the reed beds at Hanover Quay and Hengrove Swimming Lake, have advised me that there is no need to insure them because they are very tough. Even if the weld mesh cages are damaged by people jumping onto them, that will not affect the ability of the plants to grown through the mesh. Those at the very much larger Hanover Quay reed bed are now in their 13th year and the basic structure has not needed any maintenance in that time. They have recently had a couple of stages of replanting, but did not need any for several years. Apparently they suffer from weeds crossing from the land-based bank across the path from them which is somewhat neglected. They have also had to replace some plants because of over-grazing. Hanover Quay reed bed is not totally enclosed by weld mesh cages, as ours would be. I understand that they have increased the number of weld mesh cages recently to try and deter the swans and geese from damaging the beds. We are also unlikely to have the vigorous invasive plants such as blackberry and ivy causing a problem as they have done at Hanover Quay. Their main problem, as is the case anywhere in the harbour, is litter. Unfortunately, ours will be too. Fortunately, the area under the bridge has had its access blocked so that there are far fewer people using the area under the bridge.

Maintenance will mainly involve litter-picking on a regular basis. 96 inch litter pickers should enable us to do this from the Harbour edge. It is not anticipated that there will be very much additional maintenance other than tidying up the vegetation, which should take a couple of hours in the spring. The annual plant tidy up will need to be from boats or paddle boards, which I am sure will be forthcoming from Cabot Cruising Club members.

If anyone would like more information please contact Jan Walsh.

Jan Walsh