The Wivenhoe Society

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Fingerprints on the landscape: 29 years of conserving north-east Essex

I first came to Essex in 1985 to take up the post of Conservation Officer for the then Nature Conservancy Council (now Natural England). Shortly thereafter I came to live in Wivenhoe for a few months, and when I subsequently returned to live here three years ago, I was struck by the numerous positive changes in the surroundings of the town, many of which I have played a professional part. From the waterfront developments and Barrier, to the steps which been taken towards the protection, management and enhancement of some of our key wildlife areas such as Ferry Marsh and Cockaynes Wood, it feels these are my fingerprints on the landscape. This talk, part biography, part history, will look at the successes (and failures!) of my work in local nature conservation, covering not only our immediate local picture, but also some of the other projects in Essex where I have helped to make a difference: managed realignment on our coast; the sustainable development of our nearby international ports; enhancements to Abberton Reservoir; restoration of woodland habitats at Marks Hall; and securing the future of Tiptree Heath to name a few Nature conservation can be a dispiriting topic, obsessed with the inevitable changes, losses and extinctions of our wonderful wildlife and wild places. But equally it can be uplifting and rewarding, especially with the luxury of hindsight. I hope that my experiences can demonstrate this positive side, and help lay the foundation for continued successes through all our efforts, in the face of the multitude of pressures of modern life.

Dr Chris Gibson

Friday 24th October - Talk by Dr. Chris Gibson - 'Fingerprints on the Landscape'. 7.30 at the Nottage. Members £4, non-members £5, including a glass of wine or fruit juice. Tickets 01206 825622 or 07708020842

Richard Moulson's talk to the Wivenhoe Society

A few months ago, back in May, we were privileged to listen to our local Colchester Ranger, Richard Moulson. He enlightened and entertained us with an impressive talk on his work in his designated area of Wivenhoe Woods, Lower Lodge and Ferry Marsh. The introduction to his illustrated talk showed the audience aerial maps of the land around High Woods. He compared a map of the 1970’s to one of the 2000’s, this produced gasps of amazement/horror from the audience. Were they aware of how housing and retail development had seriously encroached on the surrounding rural area? Thus Richard achieved his aim: that we must value and respect the heritage of our countryside or risk losing it forever. He proceeded to show us through beautiful photography glimpses of what we could expect to see at this time of year in the woods. This time the graphics came in the form of maps showing the different sections of the woodland. Wivenhoe Woods has a middle section that has been identified as ancient woodland with masses of bluebell, wood anemones, celandine, speedwell and enjoying status. An ancient ditch and embankment can be seen near Elm Grove entrance. This was used to stop animals and deer entering that part of the wood. Control of the woodland is brought about by rotational area coppicing. Losing the overhead canopy of the large trees then allows the growth on the woodland floor and how cutting down the invasive sycamore trees allow other specimens to grow. If the chestnut trees are coppiced the wood will be used as it was over a hundred years ago for fencing or repairing old buildings using wattle and daub. When the Wivenhoe Woods and the BTCV groups help out they only saw down the smaller trees and remove brush wood. This is either placed in a chipping machine or if space to remove the debris is limited the wood has to be burnt. The wood is home to a variety of bird, insects and other fauna. Both owl and bat boxes have been placed on the taller trees left as ’standards’ to encourage them to nest. The one protected insect is the stag beetle and to promote its existence old wood has been left to decay or special wood piles have been made to allow the beetle to lay its eggs and the larvae feed on the rotting wood. Volunteers both at High Woods and Wivenhoe have dug out and built these sites and Richard showed the evidence by photos of young volunteer rangers at High Woods and slightly older ones in Wivenhoe! The Lower Lodge part of the area is mowed with the grass being left in situ to the side of the field giving valuable accommodation for grass snakes to hibernate, whilst another area is only strimmed so that the home to the protected species of lizard remains intact. The willow trees near the children’s playground need to be coppiced approximately every six years and the pond at the end of the seepage line beyond the railway line is dredged a little so that no pond life is disturbed. Most of these tasks would be tackled by the volunteers. On the edges of Ferry Marsh invasive blackthorn are cut back to allow clearance of the ditches and in spring/summer thistle and other invasive plants need to be pulled out. About four years ago two ditches were made by a mechanical digger to help assist and manage our protected wild creatures, the water voles. No pictures of these reclusive rodents were available apart from photos showing reed shoots which had been bitten at an angle and the sight of their very small ‘tic-tac’ style droppings which showed evidence of their existence! Other pictorial evidence shown by Richard included Volunteers at work (or in the case of Brian and John at a tea break!) Monthly meetings of the Wivenhoe group include sawing, digging building, chopping, burning, clearing, raking, strimming, sweeping, pulling (e.g. thistles) and of course socialising over a cup of tea/coffee on the breaks and setting the world to rights! The other group involved are the British Trust of Conservation Volunteers (BTCV). Proving that you are never too old - Stan, an 85 year old from Chelmsford, helps in our woods. We heard that he has been awarded an MBE for his life’s work in conservation, what a tremendous achievement. Another member was aged 90 when Richard took a photograph. On other occasions different organisations or businesses may volunteer help. Such was the case when Barclays Bank offered financial and manpower support to build a wooden board-walk over our muddy pathway just through the railway tunnel. They also helped Richard build a bird hide, which can be seen across the river opposite the trail at Lower Lodge. Whilst this work is carried on to manage our woodland and marshland others of a younger age enjoy its use. The Forest School, whereby youngsters climb trees, make swing ropes, collect and draw natural objects, make and use bow and arrows and light fires under adult supervision. This learning in the outdoors surrounded by nature stand many in good stead for future life, possibly involving work with our natural environment. During Half Term and Summer holiday time the woods are also used to educate children. The Rangers from High Woods arrive for the day to teach children about flora and fauna (perhaps also their parents!).The one event that Wivenhoe sadly missed was meeting Holly, the beautiful Suffolk Punch. She only worked in the woods at High Woods pulling out the huge logs. When questioned concerning rubbish or fly tipping in our area he thought it fortunately, only to be a slight problem. His main concern was the illegal ‘Green Tipping’ whereby people threw their garden rubbish onto our open land introducing cultivated or invasive plant species. At the conclusion of Richard’s very informative talk, the appreciative large audience went away with food for thought in the knowledge that our heritage of Wivenhoe Woods, Lower Lodge and Ferry Marsh is in the capable hands of our Ranger.

Joan Sawyer

Richard and volunteers

Richard Moulson (centre) and some volunteers coppicing blackthorn on Ferry Marsh.

The Wivenhoe Society
St Mary’s Church fabric a Discussion Document.
The Parochial Church Council has commissioned a quinquennial inspection report.
The weighty document contains 40 pages of comment and advice. The most severe problem facing the PCC is the prospect of replacing the church roof. This item is in hand and the PCC is looking at ways of securing funding through a variety of sources. One of these will be through public donations.
Amongst the recommendations are repairs that could be carried out by volunteers. Examples of these are:

• Treat Cupola weather boarding and columns with preservative
• Redecorate metal components to Cupola bell
• Remove rusted dowel from South chancel side window

The PCC would like to invite support from the general community in its search for volunteers to help with this level of maintenance work.
I regard this as an ideal opportunity for Wivenhoe Society to engage with the community with a level of practical support.

PS I am more than happy to start off the list by offering my help.

Robert Needham. Chair, The Wivenhoe Society.

If any members would like to join a register of volunteer workers for St Marys Church, please contact Robert or e-mail

Last year

On Sunday 13th October 2013 the Wivenhoe Society organised the Autumn Riverbank Clean-up. Despite atrocious weather, pouring rain and high winds to begin with, 40 people, including cubs and beavers, braved the elements and met up at the railway station car park at 10am and proceeded to collect rubbish bags and trundle along the trail to start the clean-up.
The filled bags were deposited along the pathway and a council workman came along with a truck and collected the bags and tipped them into the skip, kindly provided by Eastern Waste Disposal from Brightlingsea. We are grateful to the volunteers, Wivenhoe council and of course EWD.

150th Anniversary of the Railway coming to Wivenhoe

Wivenhoe Mayor Penny Kraft with Victorian friends


Photo by Jeannie

The Wivenhoe Society’s contribution to the 150th Anniversary of the Railway coming to Wivenhoe, was held on Monday 6th May. The weather could not have been better. Our grateful thanks to Chelsea Coyle at the ‘Station’ public house for allowing the event to be held in the car park and for sponsoring the Morris Men. After an opportunity for photos on the ticket hall steps, and the unveiling of a plaque, Mayor Penny Kraft, ex-Mayor Bob Needham and Audrey judged the children in Victorian costume and awarded prizes. Prizes were also awarded to the winners of the poetry and art competitions. Our thanks to the judges. Thanks to the Victorian ladies from Dovercourt and to Penny for arranging their visit. The many visitors were able to enjoy Punch and Judy, the Colchester Morris Men, candy floss and cakes, and have an opportunity to have their faces painted. There were railway themed puzzles and games. There were prizes for catching ducks and for the winning tickets at the tombola. Many thanks to Joan Sawyer for organising the event, and to all the helpers who contributed to its success. Thanks to the Wivenhoe Quilters for their wonderful wall hanging which is on display in the library. Thanks to the Co-op and to Peter Kerr’s quiz night for sponsoring prizes.

Railway Anniversary Wall Hanging


On behalf of the Wivenhoe Quay Quilters, Peter Hill presented a Wall Hanging to Wivenhoe Society President Tom Roberts and Vice-Chairman Pat Smith that they had made to commemorate the arrival of the railway to Wivenhoe 150 years ago. Joan Sawyer is co-ordinating the Society's celebration events at the Station on Monday 6th May and it was Joan who had initially approached Quay Quilters about the idea of a small banner. Quay Quilters came up trumps with this magnificent piece of work that had been designed by Anne Wellington and made by Jane Brooks, Janice Alston and Janet Bateman. The wall hanging is now on display in the library.


At the 2013 Annual General Meeting of The Wivenhoe Society, concern was expressed over potholes in the roads. Members commented on the increasing number of potholes and the fact that they are deteriorating daily. On Wednesday 4th April, in winter-like conditions, new Chairman Christopher Thompson and new committee member Peter Hill toured Wivenhoe identifying, measuring and photographing the potholes of Wivenhoe. The completed Survey has been submitted to Essex County Council Highways Department with a request for urgent action.

Click here for Pothole Survey

Edward Lyon - Obituary - see News

Wivenhoe Quay 26 November 2009

Wivenhoe Quay 26 Nov 2009

Roman River & Colne at High Tide


Roman River at High Tide