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’.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and I can get you started.
After all that excitement, I think I’ve earned a cup of tea in the sunshine.