More upcoming events

I did mention in my last post that Milton Locks wouldn’t be going quiet beyond the end of the HLF project. There are a couple of upcoming opportunities to get involved and find out more about Milton Locks Nature Reserve.

Firstly, this Thursday, we have Milton Locks Wildlife Tots. Visit for more details and to find out how to book. The Tots sessions always have a lovely, friendly atmosphere and are all about providing under -5s and their families with opportunities and invitations to play.

171102 high tide by Martin Roberts

Secondly, we have an evening event at Swanwick Lakes Study Centre on 24th July. We will be screening the film Life on the Water’s Edge and I will be giving a talk, reflecting on some of the stories, the funny moments and the highlights of the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project and Milton Locks Nature Reserve. Find details at

171102 Milton Locks by Martin Roberts

Please get in touch to book or to find out more about either event. Hopefully see you there.



Many memories, many thanks and more to come.

As I write this post, we are one day away from the end of the Heritage Lottery Funded, Milton’s Hidden Seashore project. Some of you, I know, have followed the fortunes of Milton Locks nature reserve over the last decade and the twists and turns of the journey that has led the reserve to this point. Back in 2008 the nature reserve was a troubled, dejected place, home to fly-tipping and anti social behaviour. Nowadays it is not only a thriving miniature nature reserve, but a place for the community to explore and to learn about the natural and historical heritage of their local patch.

Having been at the helm of the community side of the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project and part of the overall story, I have been constantly collecting memories and experiences, as have many of the people I’ve worked with and met. Today seemed like a fitting moment to share some of the memories people have shared with me and also to express my heart felt thanks for all the help, support and encouragement we have received. I also wanted to let everyone know what will be happening next, as Milton Locks will certainly not be falling silent.


Let’s start with memories. Several of the Friends of Milton Locks have recently sent me some of their memories of the project.

Education, warden and practical volunteer, Carole, told me about her favourite wildlife sighting. ‘There have been lots of memorable moments at Milton but I think watching a Kingfisher fly along the water’s edge just by us and land in a bush was very special.’

Volunteer and Wildlife Tots Grandmother, Jane, told me about her granddaughter’s experiences. She really enjoyed making “lunch for Mummy” using the sand in a saucepan from the mud Kitchen! Her mother put aside her own  anti creepy crawly fears and she made some sand castles that were admired by those present for that session. ‘

Education volunteer, Mathilde, had a favourite memory. ‘Concerning the best memory of Milton Locks, I think it’s the one when we had such a foggy day whilst doing the session with Portsmouth Home Ed in February 2017, the atmosphere was truly special and mystical! If I remember well, we had to map the area on the sand through land art, and you had to draw a cross somewhere in the map afterwards for the children to find a treasure box. With such a weather and activity, I was expecting a ghost ship to come  at some point’ I was happy to be reminded of the ‘ghost ship and fog horn day’ as some of the children called it. It was one of those moments when you really understand the phrase ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather’.

PHE 2 Jess Daish-Miller

My colleague, Lianne, worked on the marketing and communications for the project. She said ‘The best I can think of is when I came down to take pics and video of Wildlife Tots, and ending up splashing about in the water with Sakina and her friend, and having a very serious conversation about the viability of being able to swim to the Isle of Wight from there.’ 

On several occasions across the project, we worked with Paul Gonella from Strong Island media. He created our film, Life on the Waters Edge, and is responsible for many of the amazing photos we have of the nature reserve and its people. Paul’s memory was simple and very touching. ‘Best memory for me is taking my then newborn son down to Milton Locks for his very first trip out of the house, only 5 days old!’

I found it hard to choose one memory from the wonderful selection I’ve been left with. I think the moment that made my laugh the most was the day we were invaded by the swan family. Curiosity got the better of them and they came up onto the grass from the beach and began rooting through the equipment.

Another memory that will stay with me for a long time was listening to people’s first hand accounts of life on the Milton Locks houseboats in the 1950s and 1960s. I loved being transported back in time by the tales of mud larks, fishing boats and the postman who new everyone’s name.

Milton Locks by Zena Henry

So now, I come to the thank yous. Thank you firstly to the Heritage Lottery Fund and to everyone who buys a lottery ticket. Without your support, so many wonderful projects, initiatives and activities would not be taking place, Milton’s Hidden Seashore included.

Thank you also to all of the staff and volunteers who have helped along the way. I worked out the other day that we have had over 132 days of volunteer time on this project alone. We’ve also had time, support and recognition from so many other organisations including Strong Island, Portsmouth Museum, Keep Milton Green, Milton Neighbourhood Forum, Milton Piece Allotments, Beddow Library, Milton Village Hall, Little Bears Pre-school, Portsmouth City Council, Portsmouth Friends of the Earth, CPRE and Southern Coop.

Outreach stand at local Library

Thank you lastly to everyone who has participated, visited, emailed or stopped for a chat. In the end, we met 4692 people across the 2 and a half years of the project. It was a pleasure to meet you all.

So what’s next? This blog will continue, particularly if people carry on sending in sightings and photographs of wildlife. The volunteer wardens will also still be volunteer wardening, so if you see a friendly, green t-shirted person on the nature reserve, please be sure to say hi. The Trust will continue to manage Milton Locks for its habitats and wildlife and for the people who enjoy it.

The Wildlife Tots groups will continue to run once a month (as I’m very much looking forward to). Keep an eye on the website for details. Also, if you would like to bring a group for a self led visit to the reserve, you still can. Email me, at and I can get you started.

After all that excitement, I think I’ve earned a cup of tea in the sunshine.




Random Acts of Wildness

The last couple of months of the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project have been a bit strange for me, as I have been in the office more than usual. This meant I was extra delighted on Friday to get out to Milton Locks for our Random Acts of Wildness event.


The idea for the event came from the Wildlife Trust’s nationwide challenge to spend at least 30 minutes with/in nature every day in June, namely 30 Days Wild. As Friday was the 1st June,  I decided to kick off my 30 Days Wild challenge in style by hosting a drop in event at Milton Locks Nature Reserve. I was aided in this joyful task by Tim Ferrero, the Trust’s Marine Specialist, Natalie Hands from Bird Aware Solent and a team of volunteers with a broad range of skills and expertise. We called the event Random Acts of Wildness because that is exactly what we would like people to partake in each for the duration of the challenge. Whether it is a scientific look at the shore animals, an artistic moment involving clay or simply a chance to walk, sit and absorb the sights, sounds and smells of nature, there really is a way for everyone to enjoy the benefits of discovering their wild side.

Despite some early mist, later clouds and exciting road works on Locksway Road, the event was a huge success and we saw over 60 people across the day, some of whom stayed for several hours. As you may have noticed, one of my favourite things is chatting to people about wildlife and the various activities on offer provided amble opportunity to start conversations. Towards the end of the afternoon, we were treated to a sail past by some members of the Locks Sailing Club, including volunteer, Hilary. We also got to watch the Club’s scheduled race in the water between Milton Locks and Eastney.


Alison Barker, one of our longest serving volunteers, is an entomologist (insect expert) and took away some homework of making a list of all of the species we found on our bug hunt in the grassland that day. When she has finished, I will share the list on this blog as we found some interesting and exciting species. We also also enjoyed learning about the intertidal life with Tim. Highlights included watching cockles bury themselves in the mud and watching crabs, worms and molluscs as they moved around in our trays. We even spotted a tiny anemone.


Safe to say, everyone had a brilliant time and learnt something new. For me personally, the day served as an important reminder. From the moment I arrived at Milton Locks at 8am until I left at about 3:30pm, I was unable to wipe the smile off my face. Spending time with nature genuinely makes me feel fantastic and it is always good to be reminded of the positive influence of nature on my own health and wellbeing. As I was driving home on Friday, I resolved make an extra effort to rise to the challenge of 30 Days Wild. Even when I’m busy and I have a hundred things on my to do list, there is always room for wildlife in my day and I rest assured that wildlife and wild places always have room for me too. Find out more about 30 Days Wild by visiting





Milton Locks on film

This is just a quick post to let you know that the film, Life on the Water’s Edge, is now being shown on the big screen in Portsmouth Guildhall Square. The film was made last year for the Trust by local media company Strong Island. It celebrates life in and around the nature reserve, both in the past and in the present.

Life on the Water's Edge

You can find out more by visiting

A kingfisher, a seal in a nest and lots of splashing toddlers equals fun times on the hidden seashore

It has been far too long since I last posted on the blog, so I thought I would share yesterday’s adventures with you all. The weather was beautiful, and just after I arrived, at about 8:30, I was finally treated to a good view of our kingfisher. I didn’t get a photo of it unfortunately. I’ll leave that to the experts. If anyone would like to send me a picture of the famous Eastney Lake kingfisher to put up here, I’m sure people would love to see it. Regular visitors and local people have mentioned seeing it for a few weeks. I’ve heard its characteristic high pitched flight call a number of times when I’ve been working at Milton Locks, but yesterday morning, I finally saw the unmistakable flash of blue and orange to go with the sound.

After that magical moment, the volunteers and I set up for our February Wildlife Tots session. Although the session was fully booked, a couple of parents called in the morning to let me know their children were unwell. It sounds as though various germs are doing the rounds again. We still had several families to join in with the fun and what we lacked in number, we made up for in enthusiasm.

Water play in the sunshine

We had a high tide which meant that wellington boots were a good style choice. I had brought out all kinds of activities for the children to take part in, but the clear favourites were water play using buckets and items from our mud kitchen and making dens for cuddly toys. Although these activities sound very simple, they are wonderful ways for little ones to build a sense of familiarity with nature and curiosity in the world around them.

Here are some of the animal homes. The rabbit’s home was made of sticks tied together with grass and the seal looked very cosy in his nest. I must say, I’ve never seen a seal in a nest before, so this one must be very special.

The element of Wildlife Tots that I’m increasingly fond of, is the sense of community that seems to be developing. The sessions are not really just for the children. They provide a space for families, including parents and grandparents, to meet up and enjoy the simple fresh air and the opportunity to play together. We also have lots of volunteer help, so for me, it hardly feels like work at all.

Our next public event is the Milton’s Hidden Seashore Open Morning on Saturday 10th March. Why not pop along to help us welcome the spring.

Winter wanderings and a big thank you or two

I went for a quick stroll down at dear old Milton Locks yesterday on my way to run some errands. As promised here is a photo of the newly positioned entrance sign and also a beautiful blackboard sign produced by my artistic colleague, Emma.

I wandered on down onto the reserve itself, which was looking beautiful in the thin, wintery light. The north wind stung my face, which after a morning in office, isn’t as unpleasant as it sounds. The tide was low and various waders and Brent Geese were busily rummaging in the mud. If you get the chance, and you need a break from the madness of the festive season, why not pop down and absorb the sights and sounds of the winter wildlife. A thriving community of plants and animals are quietly (sometimes noisily) living, unnoticed, metres from our houses, schools and businesses. Personally, I rely on peaceful, wild moments like these to see me through the mayhem of life in our urban corner of the world.



My visit wasn’t long as darkness was creeping in and a long list of other jobs calling me.

As we are fast approaching the end of another year, I felt it would be a good moment to say a big thank you to everyone who has been involved in the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project across 2017. It has been a wonderful and slightly exhausting year. This year alone, I have met over 2600 people either at Milton locks Nature Reserve or at other events across the city.

I’ve seen 641 children on formal education visits (through their school or home education group) and a staggering 877 adults through outreach visits such as talks or information stands. We also made 43 new, tiny, friends through our fledgling Wildlife Tots programme.

Thank you to all of you, whether you have volunteered, turned up at an event, picked up a bit of litter or stopped to chat to me at the reserve when I’ve been setting up for something in the teeth of a gale.

Financially, the project is being made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Since January 2016, we’ve had a whale of a time creating a sense of excitement and pride in the nature reserve and in the surrounding community. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who buys a lottery ticket. You are helping Milton’s Hidden Seashore, and all kinds of other awesome projects across the country, to enrich the lives of so many people. More information about lottery funded projects at the Trust and special events happening this weekend, can be found at

Seasons greetings everyone and see you in 2018.


Robin by Jim Craise