Bluebell Woods – open weekend

Both of our woodlands on the reserve (Cockaynes Wood and Villa Wood) contain remnants of ancient woodland.  One of the marker species for this are our native English bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta ).  We have enjoyed a fantastic display of bluebells in Villa Wood for several years but our management program in Cockaynes Wood has opened up new areas of bluebells to see. If you take a walk around the outer path, you can expect to see a lovely carpet of blue.

This weekend (Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd April), we will be opening up the car park in the old yard area of the reserve for car parking.  The old yard is accessed from the Wivenhoe/Alresford Road beside the railway bridge. The gates will be open between 10am and 5pm on both days.

As we’ve been enjoying a dry spell recently, all the footpaths are firm and dry.  Many of them are accessible to both wheelchairs and pushchairs.  We also have a number of picnic tables and seats around the site.  Why not come along and have a walk?

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Warden’s Blog 15/7/16

GLOW WORMS. This appears to be a good year for them, if Cockaynes Reserve is anything to go by. Last Sunday night Val, Lucy and I did a survey and found 46 glowing females (including two mating pairs). Mostly they were along the railway track side of the entrance road and yard / public path to railway crossing. There were also some in Villa Wood below the nissen hut but we will need to do a further survey to discover how far they have colonised this part of the site. The first pictures are of a mating pair and show the difference in size between male and female. The female does not fly and uses it’s glowing lower abdomen to emit a bright green light to attract the flying males. Once mated, the female stops glowing and goes away to lay her eggs before perishing in a week or so.
We will be doing a 2nd survey on Friday evening (15th July) if anyone wishes to join us. Meet at the entrance gate 9.45pm and will last up to about 11.30 (weather permitting). Suggest a torch and possibly mosquito repellant.

Glow Worms. 10-7-16 DSC_0041a Glow Worms. 10-7-16 DSC_0042a Glow Worms. 10-7-16 DSC_0043a Glow Worms. 10-7-16 DSC_0046Glow Worms. 10-7-16 DSC_0048

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Warden’s Blog. 30/4/16

It is so nice when we visit Cockaynes to talk to people who come to the site regularly as they can tell us about things they have seen that we haven’t. A gentleman yesterday told us how he had seen two stoats chasing each other around by the fishing lakes early in the morning while walking his dog. Last year he had seen the family of foxes at five in the morning by the holes in the scrape area.

This Sunday is the monthly work party so the main gate will be open from ten till about three pm, allowing vehicle access into the central yard for visitors.

The bluebells are in full flower and Villa Wood is looking especially good with a variety of other spring flowers blooming too. You might also hear the nightingale singing at the top of the wood as well as the noisy liitle chiffchaffs who are especially vocal at the moment. (Their name comes from the sound they make). Yesterday the Cetti’s warbler was singing loudly in the centre of the site and the lapwings were also defending their territory over the scrape and making their distinctive ‘peewit’ call. We also saw and heard the common Whitethroats in the central heath scrub area (little brown bird with a white throat patch). The shelducks had returned to the scrape too. The kestrel and buzzard were also very visible yesterday. (There are also patches of bluebells and anemones in Cockaynes Wood too.)
The people on the work party are always happy to chat and answer any questions about the site.  A lot more photos have been added to this web site (still more to sort and obtain), but we are always happy to accept any from visitors to the Reserve providing the photos have been taken on the Reserve (we are attempting to have this web page as a true pictorial record for the Cockaynes of all the flora and fauna found there). We have had confirmation in the last few days of a second rare bee species (Andrena Vaga), in the yard area, found by David (one of our insect experts) when he visited last week. This is another mining bee and has a grey hairy shoulder patch with shiny black body…we would like the photo!

Roger and Valerie.

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Warden’s Blog, 11/4/2016

Good news……. we have the first of our nightingales back this year. Dave D reported one singing last night at the north end (near Sunnymead Lane) of Villa Wood. He also saw a Pochard duck on the Small Pond by the bridge but reports now that it has moved over to one of the fishing lakes.
This morning Mo J has heard Willow Warblers, Cetti’s Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing. They also have Sand Martins and House Martins at the farm, so you may see them flying low around the Scrape area catching insects. The sunshine this morning has also brought out the Peacock butterflies and the Brimstone Butterfly.

Brimstone butterfly.   Photo by Glyn on 2/8/2015.

Peacock butterfly.  Photo by Glyn on 22/3/2016

Chiffchaff.   Photo by  Glyn on 22/3/2016.


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Warden’s Blog, 17/3/2016

We had a lovely morning on the reserve yesterday. We transplanted some primroses into the area we had tidied on Sunday (under the hazel coppice in Villa Wood) as most of the primroses already on the reserve are not in places where they can easily be seen. They should spread over this area in the next few years.
The scarlet elf cup is still flourishing and there are many more celandines in flower. The water saxifrage is growing along the sides of the boardwalk and should be in flower soon.
The warm sunshine had brought out various species. We saw six peacock butterflies and one brimstone butterfly; the colletes bees were busy on the sandbanks in the yard and there were lots of other small insects on the wing. I disturbed a grass snake and saw its tail end disappearing rapidly into the wood from the heath edge. We also disturbed a muntjac in the small silt pond near the yard which went bounding off towards Villa Wood.
Lots of birds were visible today. On the heath area the long tailed tits were busy in the same area where they nested last year and the Cetti’s Warbler was singing in the tree on the edge of the central pond below them. The blue tits are obviously getting ready to nest and are checking out a box in Cockaynes and also another pair are looking at the box on the weighbridge hut. Various ducks were displaying on the fishing lakes next door and we were extremely chuffed to see a pair of goosanders! The tufted ducks and grebes were showing off their crests in the sun. Our resident pair of pied wagtails were strutting their stuff in the yard; they must nest somewhere nearby.
Val Robson

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Tesco Bags of Help Initiative Funding Award

Tesco has teamed up with Groundwork to launch it’s Bags of Help Initiative across England and Wales. The scheme will see three community groups and projects awarded grants of £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 – all raised from the 5p bag charge.Bags of Help offers community groups and projects in each of Tesco’s 390 regions across the UK a share of revenue generated from the five pence charge levied on single-use carrier bags.The public will now vote in store from 27 February until 6 March on who should receive the £12,000, £10,000 and £8,000 awards.Visit for more information and do not forget to visit your local store and please vote!  Please remember, all funding we receive will be used to help improve and maintain the reserve for community use.Thank you.
Cockaynes Wood Trust

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Warden’s blog, 19th February 2016

It was a lovely day out on the reserve today. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and there were lots of people out enjoying the good weather with us.
The primroses and snowdrops are now in full flower in Villa Wood. We heard the woodpeckers drumming and calling and saw numerous tits and a chiffchaff. We also heard the song thrush giving his repetitive call from the hawthorns.
In Cockaynes Wood we heard the jay shouting. We also saw the goldcrests again plus long-tailed tits, blue tits and great tits. The youngsters have been busy in the coppiced area again and appear to have left behind a dinosaur!
Walking back to the yard, we saw a pair of mallards, a pair of tufted ducks and a dabchick on the scrape. There were also four coots noisily displaying and chasing each other around the water. A sparrowhawk flew out from Villa Wood across the yard into the small silt pond.
It looks like the deer have been nibbling some of our newly planted privets but they should survive ok. Val and Roger 19/2/16

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Warden’s Blog, November 2015

Our work party on the first Sunday of the month was very successful despite the heavy mist in the earlier part of the morning. By coffee break we were able to see parts of the meadow from the heath through the mist. There were some wonderful spiders webs seen on the gorse and other bushes. I also saw some very good examples of the red (with white spots) Fly Agaric mushrooms at the edge of the heath, these were about the size of tea plates. Two of our volunteers managed to rake up most of the remaining mown grass from the meadow. The grass piles are quite large at the moment but these will start to rot down,  heating up to provide central heating for anything which hibernates there (like grass snakes or mice or insects). We were able to use the petrol brushcutter to clear most of the remaining bracken and small birch scrub from the top of the Heath area. This was burnt straight away along with the pile of old holly cuttings so as to leave the Heath clear of debris. One of our young volunteers ably assisted in lighting the bonfire and feeding it (we always have suitable jobs for anyone interested in a bit of outdoor activity).

We also had a small work party on Wednesday (11th November) in Villa Wood. Andy used the brushcutter to clear more of the path beside the brook towards the Sunnymead lane end, this will help it to dry out a bit by letting the light down to the ground. The other three of us tackled the clearing up of the damaged trees from the damaged ‘bluebell’ area. The damaged tree stumps have been cut to a proper ‘coppiced’ level from which they will grow next year. We untangled, sawed to a moveable size and then lifted the branches hacked by the ‘diggers’ onto two nearby log piles. We noticed as we were doing this that already some ladybirds were getting ready to hibernate in the existing log pile which we made a few weeks ago. This should be the last clear up of the area now, we will have to wait until the spring to see how many of the wild flowers regrow. Even today we found some bluebell bulbs still on the surface which we pushed back into the soil to grow.
A nice surprise today was that we found a large frog in this same area, this is the first frog that I have seen on site in the five years or so that I have been involved with Cockaynes Reserve. We are always pleased when we are able to confirm that creatures or plants are actually present but may not have been spotted previously or have been absent for some reason. I’ve added some photos of the ‘cleaned’ area and the frog for interest.
We are still uploading photos to our web site ( anyone has any that are suitable and are willing to let us display them.
Roger Robson (Warden).

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Warden’s blog

‘Went to mow a meadow’. Sunshine & hard work. With the help of Alan from Essex Wildlife Trust driving (being pulled along) the mower, we have managed to mow all the intended area. I did take a turn on the mower…it is a beast to handle! We have left uncut some areas as wildlife refuges / hibernation places. Valerie & I have raked some of the grass into heaps which in turn are being made into larger heaps at the edge of the meadow. These larger heaps will form hibernaculums (places to overwinter) for the grass snakes & other small creatures. I did actually see a fieldmouse heading for one of the refuge places while I was cutting nearby.
The remainder of the raking will be done this Wednesday weather permitting) on our regular work party day. If anyone would like to come along & maybe help for a while or come for a chat, you are most welcome. It is always good to hear what others have to say about this nature reserve
Roger & Valerie R (Wardens)

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Warden’s blog, September 2015.

A late morning walk around site this morning.

The reserve is very wet after the rain with lots of puddles but most of the paths are still dry. We saw Red Darter dragonflies laying eggs in the puddles, unfortunately these eggs will not survive as they need to be laid in the main ponds. Rabbits were seen running from the Scrape into Villa Wood with Coots, Moorhen, Dabchick, pair of Mallards, female Tufted Duck, and large blue dragonflies, all on view on the water. There was a Speckled Wood butterfly on the path beside the silt ponds. In the meadow area we saw a Small Copper butterfly, an Angle Shades moth and a Small Heath butterfly all basking in the sun. We were also lucky to find a large hairy caterpillar (probably about 75mm long) among the Sweet Rushes, this is the Fox moth caterpillar (see the picture on the ‘moths photo page’). There were also lots of Crane Flies (daddy long legs) among the grasses with the grasshoppers and crickets. We saw a freshly emerged Comma butterfly and a Treble-bar moth basking on the bramble by the railway path with lots of grasshoppers among the short grass. The Green Woodpecker made its presence known by it’s ‘laughing’ call in Cockaynes Wood and a Kestrel was hovering over the edge of the fishing lake.

There are still a number of flowers on show. In the meadow we found pink flowers of Centaury, purple Self Heal, yellow of Greater Trefoil, Hawkbit, Ragwort and Agrimony, white flowers of Clover. The St Johns Wort and Fleabane were in flower nearby.  Reindeer Moss is starting to show its silvery fronds in some of the wetter parts of the meadow. Elsewhere on site there are some good displays of rose hips from the Dog Rose and some of the holly in Cockaynes Wood has produced red berries this year. A pink Campion was still in flower in Villa Wood. There are now lots of different fungi to be seen all over the reserve.

(New uploads to photo page).

Roger and Val R.


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