Denso Marston Nature Reserve
Denso Marston Nature Reserve and Friends
A. J. Clark
Secretary to Friends Group
Visit the calendar on the Baildon Village website for planned walks.
In 1989 the previously IMI owned company was acquired by the Denso Corporation to extend it’s production facilities to manufacture radiators for the new Toyota Car Factory at Burnaston Derbyshire. The factory was extended onto the field next to the existing factory on Otley Road, Baildon Shipley. Between the proposed and existing factory and the river Aire was a 500 metre long strip of land prone to regular flooding when the river overflowed its banks. Unsuitable for development the Company Production manager Chris Lunnon conceived the idea of turning this grazing land into a nature reserve. Taking agricultural land out of use for grazing (which would have been a desert for wildlife) and turning it into a rich wildlife habitat was a positive piece of sustainable development.
How it began
Denso Marston held two public meetings in the Ian Clough Hall in Baildon to explain the factory extension and the creation of the nature reserve. Community representatives were requested to serve on a Consultative Group providing the opportunity of contributing specialist knowledge to the reserve design and ongoing management. The group first met on 21st April 1990 and continued until April 2006 with some of its founder members. The group then became the committee for the Friends of Denso Marston Nature Reserve. The creation and ongoing management has always been funded by Denso Marston, which perceived the reserve as positive contribution to its environmental performance.
The landscape architect David Toulson produced the basic design of the reserve. Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and Bradford Urban Wildlife were involved in initial consultations. Grace Landscapes the company that had the contract for factory grounds maintenance implemented the creation of the reserve.
The aims were to provide an optimum diversity of habitat type appropriate to the riverside location. By this means the site would be become a focal point for a wide variety of fauna and provide a stimulating and varied place for people to visit.
The consultative group added its own ideas to the scheme increasing the features in the pond, ensuring wildlife security along a section of the pond and creating a chalk meadow for anticipated introduction of Common Blue Butterfly. The design incorporated meadow, woodland and ponds providing the greatest suitable wildlife habitat within the available three-hectare area. Continual public access via the footpath leading from Otley Road was always part of the scheme. The company entered into a Section 106 Agreement with Bradford Council to ensure the security of the use of the land as a nature reserve. There were initial concerns within the Consultative Group about the conflict of the nature reserve as a public park but experience has shown that these fears were unfounded because public use and access has not unduly affected the diverse habitat of the reserve. Initially known as a Wildlife Park whilst reinforcing public access the name did not emphasise the fact that it was an area for native species of wildlife. The formation of the Friends Group emphasised public access and involvement so it was possible to designate the area as a nature reserve. Public involvement was promoted and no better starting point was with children. All the local first and second schools in the Baildon Area were invited to plant trees on the reserve in the Tree Planting weeks in 1991. It was an initial way instigating community ownership and involvement
Public awareness & involvement
The formation of the consultative group has been key to community awareness and involvement, not only in the practical management of the reserve but in the promotion of the area with events and presentations in the locality. . Involvement of all the local first and second schools with planting of trees and shrubs to create woodland and planting around the new pools was a tremendous success, which was well reported in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus. This has provided unexpected links over the years as the children and adults have returned often bringing other groups of children. Communication by the weekly presence of the Warden has formed many links and encouraged more involvement. One novel event was a children’s birthday party where pond dipping and bug hunting was a welcome change to the usual bouncy castle. A website dedicated to the reserve was created by a member of Denso Engineering section. With the formation of friends group the website is to be reconstructed. Denso Corporation has included the reserve as part of the company’s world wide environment activities website
Just after the planting was completed the expected flooding from the River Aire occurred. When the waters receded the damage was minimal, the water had just risen and receded with very little damage. Initial planting loss was expected to be more than 30% but was in fact less than 5%. The good quality farmland helped to establish very healthy and quick growing woodland. With woodland reaching its climax, thinning has been essential to allow the creation of under story. The woodland takes up the look of ancient woodland certainly older than its sixteen years of existence. The rotting wood from the thinning has brought in wonderful displays of fungi and created a good variety of habitat.
The secretary of Bradford Urban Wildlife highlighted the low value to wildlife of land used for grazing. Although there were no records of wildlife taken prior to the creation of the reserve the lists of flora and fauna do demonstrate the tremendous increase in species over the intervening years
Promotion of public engagement:
Friends of the reserve
Initially there had been concern about public disturbance of what was a nature reserve. These fears were unfounded and in fact it has been surprising how people were unaware of its existence despite the permissive access and publicity. In 2005 the initiative to form a friends group was launched to increase public involvement and provide the qualification for external funding to improve the reserve and its value to the community. Thirty people attended the inaugural meeting in October 2005. The friends group is going from strength to strength. Programmes of monthly events and work programmes were established and have been well support and appreciated.
Work has been varied covering the many aspects of the park with woodland, pools and meadow management. The removal of litter and Himalayan Balsam, the barking of footpaths has added to the variety of the work available for those who love to get out and create a very valuable natural area. One member was enthusiastically helped by her three year old granddaughter, and three members assisted by their sons. Conservation work has been seen to have universal appeal across the ages
The guided walks have been designed to follow the reserve throughout the year and seasons. From woodland in winter to looking for signs of spring and migration summer breeding and the emergence of summer insect species with particular attention to dragonflies.
Over the years there has been great interest in the area. On site guided walks and offsite talks have been given to a variety of groups. School groups with many agendas have visited the site. Uniformed children’s organizations have been enthusiastically taking advantage of the facility. Adult visits have been from naturalist groups and those with different backgrounds, church groups, women’s organisations, a photographic and a history group, some returning more than once.
Plans for the future:
The improvement and changes in biodiversity is unquestionable as can be seen from the records over the past sixteen years. There is a need for more recording of all species. Involvement is required from specialist groups to improve the records available. From that information base the Friends want see where there is room for improvement in the expected species types. The Local Biodiversity Plan is being incorporated into the planning to bring rare species into the area.
Local nature Reserve Networking
The Aire Valley has a rich natural resource due to the historical and geological development of the area. The Denso Marston Nature Reserve compliments the fauna from Shipley to Esholt, which incorporates Buck Woods and Tong Park. Buck Woods now has a Friends group and there has been active mutual support. Plans are in place to link with all similar areas in the north Bradford area and try to create a green corridor between them.
Access to the reserve is available down the footpath, which leads from Otley Road, or along the riverside footpath from Shipley and Esholt. Although appropriate gates were provided to allow wheelchairs, access into the reserve was difficult due to the rough path down to the river. The paths on the reserve require an upgrade for wheel chair access. Planning permission has been given for the development of the next field down river, which will include provision of an acceptable public footpath. Advice is being sought for access to all physically impaired members of society and allow them the joy of the area.
Denso Marston fund the employment of the part time warden Steve Warrillow. He carries out the management duties of the reserve and carries out the majority of recording. With the formation of the Friends Group the monthly works parties now support him. A management plan is in place for the area. It is designed to give a balance of mature woodland and wildflower meadow and pools. Limited funding has delayed the work that has been required, but the impetus and support of the Friends Group has improved the standing of the reserve and the importance of the work. The work programme will include the proposals, which come from the access review.
Reserve & Friends Promotion
Publicity and promotion of the reserve has been crucial to the furtherance of the reserve plans. The local newspaper (Telegraph and Argus) does give the activities good cover. The quarterly Insider, a local glossy free promotion goes through all doors in the area and features the reserve in each edition. Bradford Community Broadcasting has interviewed the Warden and the Friends’ Secretary on many occasions including a broadcast from the reserve. Radio Leeds recorded and broadcast a Dawn Chorus, which certainly extended knowledge of the reserve and its Friends activities over a greater area. The Friends and membership is promoted wherever possible to take forward its goals for the reserve.