Foxglove Covert celebrates 25th anniversary

rom left to right are Mr Barry Dodd (HM Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire), Mr Rishi Sunak (MP for Richmond), Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Jordan (Catterick Garrison Commander), and Lord Zetland (Patron of Foxglove Covert). Photo: Colin Lyne, Foxglove Covert.

Visitors from far and wide arrived at Foxglove Covert in Catterick Garrison at the weekend to celebrate 25 years of this special local nature reserve.

Foxglove Covert is situated behind Cambrai Lines in Catterick Garrison and was the first Local Nature Reserve on Ministry of Defence land and the first in Richmondshire.

Guests at the weekend celebrations included Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mr Barry Dodd, Mr Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond, and Patron of Foxglove Covert, Lord Zetland who planted trees to mark the occasion.

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Visitors to the reserve enjoyed a range of activities including guided walks and talks, listening to the woodland storyteller, meeting the Dexter cows and calves, watching working horses, chainsaw carving and tree climbing demonstrations.

They were also able to take part in wormery weaving, pond dipping and mini-beast hunting.

Foxglove Covert is recognised nationally for its unique mosaic of wildlife habitats.

Major (retired) Tony Crease, who has been instrumental in developing the site over the years, said: “The evolution of this amazing reserve in terms of habitats, species, community engagement and children’s education, has been nothing short of remarkable.

“It has been achieved only with the support, hard work, dedication and selfless commitment of many from the local area, both military and civilian. It is a peaceful place for all to enjoy and be proud of.”

Over the past 25 years the reserve has gone from one achievement to another and has benefitted from £2 million being invested in the site, including funding from the MOD, Natural England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Richmondshire District Council.

The reserve has nationally important wetlands and is part of the Natural England Flagship Ponds project.

The reserve’s Patron, Lord Zetland said: “Twenty five years ago, Foxglove Covert was inaugurated in this most unlikely setting.

“Since then, the reserve has gone from strength to strength and now has a hugely enthusiastic team of staff and volunteers who give up their free time to dig, build, weed and coppice along with numerous other tasks.”

Foxglove Covert is a Centre of Excellence for bird ringers and has been part of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Constant Effort Sites Scheme (CES) for 25 years, giving one of the best data sets for the UK.

Over 218,000 birds have been processed by the team of licensed bird ringers, including 47,000 birds caught on CES alone.

Conservation work is also supported in other areas including Cape Wrath Ranges in Scotland, where over 50,000 seabirds have been ringed, contributing to a variety of research projects.

The reserve has a hugely enthusiastic team of staff and volunteers who give up their free time to maintain and develop the amazing habitats found here for the fantastic range of wildlife.

Since 2013, over 50,000 hours of volunteer time from local civilian and military communities, have been contributed to the reserve.

Long-serving volunteer, Ann Luxmoore said that the Foxglove Covert of 2004 when she joined was so different from the one of today, as it only had one manager and a few volunteers.

“Over the years it’s gone from strength to strength and I’ve spent many happy hours here,” said Ann.

“Everyone is extremely welcoming and kind and I’ve enjoyed the variety of jobs, learnt a lot and made many new friends.

“I know people say it is a special place and I thoroughly agree – I look forward to going every week.”

The 100-acre site is a source of important biological records for the county, including birds, moths, butterflies and flowers; to date, 2606 species of plants and animals have been recorded here.

The reserve has been chosen as the location for several television news reports and programmes demonstrating the important conservation work being undertaken here. It has twice been the winner of the MOD’s prestigious annual conservation Sanctuary Award.

Since 1992 more than 730,000 people have visited Foxglove Covert, including over 40,000 school children and 1,800 community groups.

The reserve and award-winning Field Centre provide superb educational facilities serving local schools, including children with severe and complex learning needs, community groups and general visitors, giving everyone the opportunity to get closer to nature.

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Foxglove Covert history:

•           September 1992: A small conservation area was established behind Cambrai Lines, Catterick Garrison with financial assistance and personnel from The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The Regiment had recently returned from active service in the First Gulf War.  Original field centre cost £300 and is now the bird seed shed.

•           1994: The scrapes were dug.

•           1997: The weir was located and repaired and work on the lake was completed

•           2001: The area now known as Foxglove Covert was declared a Site of Local Nature Conservation Importance (SLNCI) appearing in Richmondshire District Council Local Plan.  It was the first Local Nature Reserve in Richmondshire and the first on Ministry of Defence land in the UK.  It is still the only one on MOD land.

•           2001: The current field centre was built and opened in 2002.  Cost £350,000

•           2005: The lake tower hide was built.  The moor was added to the reserve

•           2008: The wetland was dug.  Now in the top 100 ponds in the country.

•           2010: The environmental value of the reserve was further recognised with the signing of an Environmental Stewardship Agreement between the Management Group and Natural England.

•           2010: The new workshop was constructed.  Extension of the lake began.  Easy access boardwalks were installed and an easy access hide for the lake.

•           2011: The bridge over the lake was constructed and the outdoor classroom opened

•           2014: The Cascading ponds built and the interactive touch screen installed in the field centre

•           2016: Stone Circle was constructed

•           2016: Plovers Pool was created

•           2016: The Watervole feeding platforms were installed through the scrapes, giving visitors regular and excellent views of them.

•           2016: A large tree is felled into the lake to create a haven for wildlife as part of Tony Robinsons TV show ‘Coast to Coast’

•           2017:  Foxglove Covert celebrates 25 years!