Covid-19 – Thoughts from your Treasurer

Image by Peter Hagger

David Butterworth, the Treasurer of the Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, outlines some of the financial difficulties the Friends face thanks to the Covid-19 crisis – and shares his thanks to all of our supporters.

It will come as no surprise to learn that the pandemic has had a huge impact on the Friends of Paxton Pits’ funds in 2020. Two of our main sources of income, namely the Visitor Centre shop and the programme of events, were reduced to zero for 6 months and only now are we able to offer limited opening of the VC, while events are still cancelled for the rest of the year. In cash terms, the VC would normally average £3,000 per month in sales plus £300 for second-hand books and a significant sum in donations. The talks, guided walks, and social events would have added considerably more to the total. 

Of equal importance is that we have been unable to extend our renowned welcome to all our visitors and provide the interaction and information at events and in the VC, all of which has made people value the Reserve and come back time and time again. Our face-to-face recruitment of members has also had to halt, which means our total number of paying members has reduced, and that includes the income that comes with it. Sadly, the fire which destroyed the Kingfisher Hide and some mindless vandalism has brought some additional, unexpected bills.

But it’s not all bad news. Following the fire we have received a considerable number of donations, many of them very significant, which will allow us to replace the Hide and undertake several other restoration projects. I have tried to write to all the donors to thank them but I know there is small number who have remained firmly anonymous. To them and to all our supporters can I offer heartfelt thanks. 

I believe that our members and supporters have a real sense of ownership of “your” Nature Reserve and without the army of volunteers and the generosity of so many people we could be in real difficulty. As it is, we are able to carry on our programme of conservation, expansion and improvements to visitor facilities, albeit by also dipping into our rainy day reserves, but really because of your support. Thank you for keeping your Treasurer happy.

If you enjoy spending time on the Reserve and appreciate the work the Friends do to look after this special place, please consider joining as a member. It costs as little as £4 per year and helps provide us with financial stability, particularly through these difficult times.

Common terns thriving at Paxton Pits

A recent survey of the common terns which nest on the specially-installed rafts on the Heronry North Lake has revealed a bumper brood. Twenty-one chicks were counted this year, across four rafts anchored near Kingfisher Hide, and this is only a minimum as some may have been hiding in the tunnels as it was a very hot day. In 2017, seventeen chicks successfully fledged, so this is a good increase.

The rafts have been made possible by the direct and indirect help of almost all the volunteers involved with Paxton Pits. Whether you’re a Friend, a volunteer who helped build and install the rafts or a player of the Kingfisher Lottery, which provided the vital funds for the project – they couldn’t have happened without you.

The common tern nests on a type of habitat that has been in decline, and the rafts provide a safe, gravelled platform protected from predation from waterborne attackers such as otters by tall, clear plastic sides. It’s a joy to watch these beautiful and elegant birds over the waterways of the reserve, and brilliant that they have successfully hatched so many young this year thanks to all your help.