• Wildlife Conservation work by Friends of Stephens Pond and Berryfields Orchard

    Meet the Friends of Stephens Pond & Berryfields Orchard (FoSPBO), a dedicated volunteer group that recently stepped up to protect local wildlife. Despite recent challenges like vandalism to a local Moorhen nest, this team took swift action by building a dead hedge to shield the nest site and deter further disturbances. Learn about their inspiring efforts in our Q&A below.

    Join us as we celebrate their commitment to safeguarding precious creatures and preserving our local habitat. Special thanks to Tom Rees, Chair of FoSPBO, for sharing their journey and these great photos with us.


    Can you please give a brief introduction to the Friends of Stephens Pond and Berryfields Orchard and any conservation volunteering projects you currently have on the go?

    FoSPBO group was reconstituted in August 2023 from the original FoSPBO group formed in 2022 following major committee changes. The main aim of the group is to look after, nurture and improve the areas surrounding our beautiful pond, adjacent wood and an area known as Berryfields Orchard a short distance from the pond. These areas are enjoyed by the local community, including children and numerous dog walkers. We had really bad news in September 2023 from Birmingham City Council Tree officer that several Aspen trees in the wood had to be felled because of spreading Honey Fungus killing the trees or putting them into decline and susceptible to wind throw.


    Not to put off by this disaster we have recently planted in the wood, pond and orchard areas 120 mixed species tree saplings to replace the 90% Aspen tree wood. We have also planted 100 Hawthorn and Blackthorn hedging plants.


    Can you tell us a bit about the river clean up, what was the process your group went through, any difficulties you found or any more help that your volunteers needed that would have made the cleaning easier?

    We have a resident pair of Moorhen that have been with us for approx 2 years. Last year they built 2 nests adjacent to each other and produced two broods of 5 chicks. So we had the pleasure and delight to the small children to watch 10 chicks grow, survive, fledge and make their way to other ponds elsewhere. 

    The news of the destruction of this year’s nest was a bitter blow to everyone in our group and lots of the community who had enjoyed the chicks last year. So we set about to build a dead hedge at the top of the bank that was the access point to nest area. The process of dead hedging was fairly straightforward. We had previously been instructed by Danny Squire, Senior Ranger Sutton Coldfield and Erdington Constituencies Hub, in the building of dead hedges. We purchased the main wooden supports from The Wood Shack a Jericho Social Enterprise set up to reclaim re-use and recycle wood, they are based close to Sutton Coldfield town centre. The logs and branches used to infill were the pieces from the recently felled trees. Some of the larger logs have been used to form edging to the paths in the wood. We also planted a row of Hawthorn hedging along the front of the dead hedge to add an additional deterrent.



    Any support that you received that helped the process?

    The whole process of building the hedge was carried out solely by FoSPBO


    How many volunteers were involved, how long did it take to clear? Any other info you would like to share about it?

    A total of 11 volunteers took part in building this hedge, ages ranging from 5 year old twins to 78 years old. This work party was called at very short notice and took place on a Tuesday afternoon rather than our usual Saturday morning sessions, we spent approx 5 hours building the hedge and we were all delighted with the finished product.  


    Any advice you can give other Friends Groups that might have similar issues with rubbish in ponds or rivers in their local parks / open spaces?

    You last question as to advice any other groups dealing with similar issues is the most difficult to answer.  We are not sure that the work we have  carried out will eliminate the problem. We are hoping that by making a very visual barrier that the message will get through to the offenders that we have taken action to deter them and are on their case. We have also been in touch with Birmingham City Police to ask for regular patrols by our local PCSO. We are waiting a follow up to this contact. 



    If there is anything else you would like to mention about the Friends of Stephens Pond and Berryfields Orchard, including any regular volunteering sessions or events/activities you would like to promote?

    The group have work parties every 4 weeks on a Saturday morning starting 10:30am. The next one is May 4th. and every subsequent 4weeks until November. 

    We don’t have any events planned yet, but we will almost certainly organising a summer event, tombola, face painting, etc.

     Last year we had a successful Christmas event, attended by John Perks SC Deputy Major and BC Councillors Ken Wood and David Barry. In addition to a Mega Raffle, children could make Christmas cards from supplied blanks. The highlight of this event was carol singing backed by Sutton Coldfield Wind Orchestra. We hope to repeat this event again in December. 


    Posted on 23rd April 2024