Thursday, 15 March 2018


What a month for weather – snow drifts were still in the Wolds a week ago and the rivers are flowing fast. Water is lying in the fields and our garden has the texture of a marsh. Starfish and razor shells carpet the beaches and poor old Cleethorpes has sand in too many places. Woodcock galore have been seen at Gibraltar Point whilst Nicole sent me a picture of one in her garden at North Thoresby.  But the early spring flowers are coming out in profusion, let’s hope they survive the snow and cold weather forecasted for this weekend.
Unfortunately, this Woodcock has been virtually housebound since early February, so he has not been able to clear the snow or to get to exposed places to see the variety of species swept in with the extreme weather. Nevertheless, he has handed in his crutches and looks forward to being on the move very soon.

Our next local meeting will be at 7.30 pm at the Nichol Hill Methodist Church Louth on Friday 23 March when LWT Warden James Forrester will tell us about the ‘The Management of Snipe Dales Nature Reserve.’ Entrance, including refreshments is £2.50. Children are welcome and are not charged.

The books presented to the group by Chris Robinson from his late mother Joyce's bookshelf have raised £190 for the LWT to date. Thank you for your interest and generosity and to Biff Vernon who is managing the sales. The remaining books will be on sale at the March meeting and at the April AGM.

The Annual General Meeting of Louth Area Group members will be held at Nichol Hill Church, Louth on Friday 27 April 2018 at 7.30 pm. Please note that, in accordance with the Constitution, all Committee members and Officers stand down at each AGM.  Chairman Ray Woodcock and Secretary Biff Vernon and Treasurer Rod Baddon are willing to be re-elected, as are current committee members: Colin Byatt, Avril Huke, Louise Scott, Judith John, Andy Goy and co-opted member Chris Henderson. If these members are re-elected, we will have a good representation to enable our group’s programme and other events to continue successfully.
However, if you wish to join the committee and make a commitment to carry out specific duties and attend as many of the meetings as possible please contact Ray Woodcock on to discuss the role and to obtain a nomination form.
Although the entrance is free I hope that you will buy some raffle tickets. The relatively short AGM will be followed by a quiz (bring a pencil) and the raffle together with coffee/tea and cake.

Best wishes
Ray Woodcock Chairman Louth Area Group LWT

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Talk by Nick Watts of Vine Farm - February 2018

February's talk at the Louth Area Group of the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, was given by Nicholas Watts, MBE.  Nick has farmed at Vine House Farm, near Spalding, since 1964, where he has been one of those all to rare creatures, a farmer who is also a serious conservationist with a passion for wildlife. 

Many years ago Nick realised that key to maintaining a flourishing bird population on his land was their food supply and when visitors saw the abundance of birds around his farmyard where he had scattered grain and asked if they could buy some birdseed from him, Nick put two and two together and created a new direction for the farm business. A significant part of Vine Farm now revolves around the growing ans selling of grains and seeds for bird food.

Nick showed us how many of the changes in farming practice over the past half century have conspired to produce an environment much less favourable to many bird species. This area of the fenland is almost entirely devoted to arable crops, but decades ago mixed farming was the rule with most farms having some cattle, pigs and poultry, housed in old buildings that provided nest sites and opportunities for birds to reach grain stores and wet areas where insects could breed. Away from the farmyard, changing cropping patterns have meant less food and nesting opportunities in the fields. The use of agrochemicals, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides and growth regulators have conspired to produce an environment hostile to the whole food web on which all birds depend, but those that eat insects are particularly hard hit. Even many of the birds we see eating seeds on our feeders, need insects to feed to their young in the spring. There are some winners, the herbivorous wood pigeon and the magpie that lives off roadkill.

Nick demonstrated how, often quite simple, things he has done on his farm have had a big impact, yet have fitted into the farm's need to operate commercially. Subsidies through the Stewardship scheme have allowed wildflower strips to be planted around field margins. Skylark plots, uncultivated squares within cereal fields to allow safe nesting, may help the birds but provide the farm with an income slightly greater than the value of the crop foregone! Nick has had ancient brick barns repaired, for the benefit of nesting barn owls, with help from money from the wind-farm. He has built brick tower nest-boxes for owls and other birds and his numerous nest-boxes near a pond have had a phenomenal positive impact on the tree-sparrow population. Nick has influenced the drainage board to manage dyke banks in a way that is better for wildlife and is cheaper. A win-win!

Of course buying bird seed helps the business, but Nick's case that improving the food supply is key to maintaining flourishing bird populations is unanswerable.  Asked whether he was optimistic about the future, Nick pointed out that, whatever their views, only a very small proportion of the country's population actively engage in conservation work, and farmers are no different. The vast majority of farms are not operated in a way that prioritises wildlife, so he is pessimistic about future prospects.

Vine House Farm has a wonderfully informative website. If you are not shopping, skip past the opportunities to buy the bird food and read about the history of the farm, what has been done to enhance the habitats and learn about how large scale cereal farming on a commercial fenland farm can operate alongside a thriving bird population.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Herbarium Training

Aidan Neary - LoveLincsPlants Project Officer writes: I have spaces available on 2 free plant identification and herbarium collection training sessions at Whisby Education Centre led by Fred Rumsey and Kath Costello from the Natural History Museum. 
Session 1 (over 35s): Thursday 22nd March 2018. 10am to 4pm – 4 places leftSession 2 (18-35 year olds):  Friday 23rd March. 10am to 4pm. – 7 places left
The main focus of the session will be on plant collection, pressing and drying
techniques as well plant identification tips. An excellent opportunity to get
involved with the creation of our new Lincolnshire herbarium (#LoveLincsPlants).
To book on please send an email to:
Aidan Neary

Friday, 16 February 2018


Firstly, many thanks to those of you who have wished me well with my complete knee replacement. The operation was a success and I intend to be at the LAG February meeting. The treatment that I received at Fotherby Ward, Louth was excellent.

To date I have had 13 responses to my much-publicised request for a copy of your observations. It is not too late to let me know – just do it today and let me have your list. 12 of the observations took place in Louth with one in North Somercotes.
Between us we saw 37 Blackbirds,19 Blue tits, 14 Chaffinches, 6 Coal tits, 15 Collared doves, 27 Goldfinches, 16 Dunnocks, 17 Great tits, 27 Goldfinches, 92 House sparrows, 5 Greenfinches, 5 Long-tailed tits, 3 Magpies, 48 Starlings, 29 Wood pigeons, 6 Wrens, 12 Black-headed gulls, 3 Common gulls, 2 Pheasants, 4 Curlews, 2 Jackdaws, 2 Bullfinches and a Green woodpecker.
So, it appears that Blackbirds and House sparrows particularly enjoy visiting our gardens. Already I am aware that both Blackbirds and Robins are singing strongly at dawn and dusk to establish their territories.

Biff Vernon brought the books to the last LAG meeting where sales amounted to £83. Remaining copies will be on offer again at our February and March meetings. The books cover a wide range of topics and you may like to have a memento of Joyce who was a very active and long serving member of our Group.


There will be a need for raffle prizes at the Annual General Meeting. Please bring suitable items other than alcohol to the February and March meetings.

Do go out and about. This is one of the best times of the year for dawn and dusk birdwatching – you don’t have to get up too early or stay out too late!

Best wishes

Ray Woodcock Chairman Louth Area Group LWT

Friday, 9 February 2018

Lincolnshire Plants - Past and Future

A talk by Aiden Neary, Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust Wildflower Meadow Project Officer, Friday 23rd January 2018.

Aiden's talk looked at the history of botanical recording in Lincolnshire, the creation of a historic herbarium and its recent conservation, and the project to create a new herbarium and flora for the county, with the attendant needs for training a new generation of botanists.

We were introduced to the Reverend Edward Adrian Woodruffe-Peacock, (1858-1922) Vicar of Cadney, botanist. His "The natural history of Lincolnshire; being the natural history section of Lincolnshire notes & queries, from January, 1896, to October, 1897" is a fascinating glimpse into the understanding of Lincolnshire's natural history in the late 19th century. It is available to view here.

The other key figure in the history of recording Lincolnshire's wild plants was Joan Gibbons (1902-1988), hers being "The Flora of Lincolnshire" 1975. Her remarkable life is recorded in the BSBI obituary.

We learnt a little about Joseph Burtt Davey, who, aged 20, walked from Alford to Horncastle and on to Dogdyke, making careful notes of his observations.

Liberty Gray, at Lincoln University, is researching UV patterning of the herbarium specimens, in this case a Field Scabious.

Much of Aiden's talk focussed on the work of the Joseph Banks Society, which held the historic herbarium, now transferred to the Natural History Museum and the work to create a new herbarium that will be held jointly at the NHM in London and in Horncastle. There is a small matter of collecting some 4500 plant specimens and conserving them for a permanent collection. To this end a team of volunteers are being mustered and young botanists are being trained to carry the work forward. The Love Lincolnshire Plants project has been granted significant Lottery funding to carry out the work. The Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is playing a central role in this new 'plant archive for the next generation', the other major partner being the Lincolnshire Naturalists' Union. Keep up to date with day to day progress by following #LovelLncsPlants on twitter.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Report on Louth Watch Meeting at Spout Yard Gallery

Sunday 21st January 2018

On a wet, sleety day, six children and their accompanying adults joined in the session to prepare for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch.

Whilst everyone congregated, the children completed a sheet which incorporated such questions as:
What birds do you know visit your garden?
Which bird would you most like to see in your garden?
How might birds be encouraged into the garden?

We then talked about the details of the Birdwatch and all the children were provided with a RSPB recording sheet.

They then all created a poster to display in a prominent place, to try and encourage people to join in with the Birdwatch. They included the relevant details and tried to make an eye-catching design.

Once these were complete the children made their own ‘Bird Bingo’ cards, showing nine birds of their choice from the recording sheet. They could write, draw or cut out pictures of the birds they had chosen. We then had two games of Bingo, with Colin providing a clue to each bird drawn so that the children learnt some bird facts whilst enjoying the game. One child won the first game and the second was an amazing draw between the remaining children, so they were all able to choose a sheet of stickers as a prize!

To finish there was a choice of three activities and all the children managed to complete as many of these as they wished. The activities were:

A bird feeder ‘kebab’, threading food items onto a wire kebab, which was then twisted into a hanging circular feeder.
A half coconut shell feeder, which was filled with a mixture of fat, oats and various items to tempt the birds.
A bird i-dial identifier to help with bird ID during the Big Garden Birdwatch.

All the children were encouraged to bring and share their Birdwatch results at the next meeting.

Friday, 19 January 2018


Good morning and a Happy New Year,

This year has been a record year for seal pups at Donna Nook with 2,033 births recorded. However, it is unlikely that all those who reach the sea will survive as it is reckoned that there is a 20% mortality rate in their first year of life. The LWT staff and their hardy band of volunteers have done a brilliant job again of managing the seals as well as the many thousands of visitors who come to Donna Nook marsh and dunes at this time of the year.
You may not be aware that despite several collecting boxes on the site the average contribution per visitor is only a few pence. Your committee has written to the LWT CEO to suggest ways of raising the awareness of the costs of the venue as well as making the collecting boxes more obvious.
I shall report the response at our Annual General Meeting in April when the format will change from that of the last 5 years. In response to comments from members we shall have a short AGM followed by a speaker concluding with a raffle and refreshments. There is no charge for this meeting. Costs are covered by the purchase of raffle tickets with any surplus amount going to the LWT.

During the last few months Louth members have been busy clearing scrub and undergrowth at Muckton Wood, Rigsby Woods and Hoplands Wood whilst the Watch group has held meetings at Spout Yard. You are most welcome to join the woodland work parties which are listed in the Winter Newsletter. The next one is at Hoplands Wood on Sunday 28 January.

The first of the 2018 series of illustrated talks in Louth will be, ‘Lincolnshire Plants - Past and Future’, given by Aiden Neary, the LWT Wildflower Meadow Project Officer. Everyone is welcome at 7.30pm on Friday 26 January at the Nichol Hill Methodist Church, Louth. Entrance is £2.50 which includes refreshments; children are not charged
On 27, 28 and 29 January don’t forget to join the Great Garden Birdwatch and be part of the world’s largest wildlife survey. If you are not a member of the RSPB, you will find details about how to take part in the press a few days before the event.

Chris Robinson, the son of the late David Robinson OBE has presented the Group with approximately 200 botanical and gardening books from his late mother Joyce's bookshelf. He has given us carte blanche as to their disposal. Biff Vernon kindly offered to manage the activity and it has been decided to offer them for sale at LAG and Ants & Nats meetings with the funds going to each of the organisations. The books cover a wide range of topics and you may like to have a memento of Joyce who was a very active and long serving member of our Group.

A volunteer is required to deliver a small number of the Lapwings magazine in the Brackenborough area. If you are able to assist, please contact Louise Scott on 01507601685 or by email at

Best wishes
Ray Woodcock, Chairman Louth Area Group