|1991 finally brought The Wetlands Restoration Project
which started in 1987 to a satisfactory close. To get the effort into perspective,
it should be appreciated that one person would have taken over 40 years to complete the
manual labour required, let alone the fund-raising, planning and organisation demanded.
The Project not only serves as an inspiration for others,
but it also shows good conservation practice. For example, care was taken to
establish the Wetland Area before tackling the Southern Lake, thereby ensuring that a
species reservoir was readily at hand.
Furthermore, work at the Southern Lake avoided a blitzkrieg approach
to that part of the lake which remained flooded. To have excavated all of the silt
from this area could have done irreparable harm to many species, especially plants and
aquatic invertebrates. Work was also scheduled for the winter months when aquatic
life is at its lowest and the oxygen content is at its highest.
The policy of ensuring many shallow sloping areas provides the
widest range of conditions. This has resulted in a habitat variety that encompasses
the deep areas of the lake through to pond, swamp, marsh and dry land areas.
Habitats suitable for fish, dragonflies, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals,
supported by an equally diverse and essential range of plants.
The alternative traditional course of action would have been to have
restored the two Victorian boating lakes to deep-water areas with sheer sides - a single
habitat of little diversity.
Whilst such a major task is unlikely to be undertaken lightly, we
believe that we have shown what can be done to redress fragile habitation loss and to
provide a safe, interesting and important educational facility unique to the area.
Was it all worth it?
Where rhododendron once grew, towering up to 8 metres high and
leaving the ground and streams sterile, kingfishers and herons visit. Children
study. Moorhens and ducks nest. A wide range of plants
including bog bean, yellow flag and spearwort flourishes. Dragonflies
now lay their eggs where only barren silt existed beneath the rhododendron. Toads
and frogs by the thousand now spawn at Offwell (more).