By Richard Michette.
This enchanting walk (the old railway track) a Local Nature Reserve, was surveyed by George Millins in 2013 when he found an alarming reduction in the reptile population from surveys he carried out some years previously. In fact only one slowworm and one common lizard were seen. That autumn and winter he began work, with a few volunteers including Julia Mowbray, Carole and Richard Michette, with advice from Leonie Washington (Suffolk Wildlife Trust) and Sue Hooton (Senior Ecologist of Suffolk County Council), and began clearing scrub areas that were likely to support reptiles. Roofing felt mats for basking and shelter were put down and habitat piles made from logs and twigs to assist in surveying and assessing the remaining populations.
2014 results were encouraging as slowworms were discovered in a number of new areas, and as the year progressed common lizards were found at three locations, also the odd grass snake was seen. Using the information gleaned during the spring and summer further areas, mainly of Blackthorn and Hawthorn scrub were opened up that autumn and winter and the survey mats increased to cover further areas of the walk.
This year to date a noticeable increase in the slowworm population has been seen, particularly encouraging the number of animals that would have been born in October/November of 2014. The lizard numbers have been quite low, possibly due to the cool spring, but as the weather warmed in May more are being seen. Also this year there has been a small increase in grass snakes.
As the Melford Walk is over a mile long, to date we have only been able to cover about half the length. Each year we hope to be able to place survey mats in new areas, and to re-create suitable habitat for reptiles eventually over its total length.
The Melford Walk is a haven for wildlife, we have observed large populations of butterflies, moths, insects, bird life, foxes, deer, wood mice, shrews and moles have been seen, and there is a large badger sett. Diverse flora to be found throughout the year, including some rare or unusual plants for Suffolk.
This walk can be recommended to anyone who enjoys wildlife.
This and many of the projects featured in this column have received support from the Heritage Lottery Funded Networking Nature initiative.
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