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Fire Damage at Skylarks Nature Reserve

Friday 4th November

Fire Damage at Skylarks Nature Reserve

Staff and volunteers from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust were left feeling annoyed, upset and horrified to discover that their newly improved pond dipping platform providing enhanced accessibility at their Skylarks Nature Reserve near Holme Pierrepont was burnt to the ground on Halloween.

The platform, used by local groups, many of which find it difficult to access most platforms, was recently improved after much consultation so the Trust could expand the number of people able to easily join in activities and cost in excess of £10,000. The platform was part of an extensive Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) project to encourage a more diverse group of the local community use of the site providing an opportunity to get close to nature. The dipping platform was unusual in the fact that it projected out over the water and included a T-bar at the end allowing more room to manoeuvre. It is one of the few places that there is access direct to the water and can be used by wheelchair users and children in prams.

The vandalism was not only costly to the Trust but also involved a Nottinghamshire fire crew,who attended on Monday evening, and the Police who are investigating the crime. Due to the amount of damage and the fact that there was nothing left of the platform, it is thought that an accelerant must have been used which produced an acrid smell still noticeable days later in the area.

There is no monetary cost able to be put to the effect on the wildlife that would have been impacted as well as the damage to the quality of the water. There are vast amounts of invertebrates including dragonfly larvae at the site, which is reported by staff and volunteers as one of the best to pond dip at. Kingfishers used the platform as a perch and Michael Walker of Nottinghamshire Bat Group said, “The platform was perfect for viewing bats feeding across the water of an evening. It will be much missed.”

The nature reserve was one of the first to have wheelchair accessible paths when it first opened and the HLF project delivered enhanced facilities enabling the site to be accessible for all. Dementia sufferers and their carers, school groups and local faith groups all use the site. It was a popular venue for school groups from deprived areas of Nottingham, able to experience wildlife on their doorstep for the first time with the Education and Community Team from Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust such as Nottingham Children, Young People and Families group from St Anns.

Kate Last, Skylarks Assistant Reserve Officer said “It’s just mindless vandalism. Even the rocks had cracked from the heat from the fire. I doubt whoever was responsible realise the impact it has had on the staff, volunteers and the wide variety of local community groups that have enjoyed the facilities here.” She continued, “The area has had to be cordoned off as the surrounding damaged mature trees are now dangerous and will need to be felled. The Trust just doesn’t have the resources to take on this extra management work.”

Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust would like anyone with information about the incident to contact the Police on 101 citing the crime reference number 160 003 517 13.

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