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.




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

Hair cut time for nature reserves


As winter tightens its grip on our beautiful British landscapes, the practical conservation management season begins for nature reserves up and down the country. Milton Locks nature reserve is no different, and the main job that needs to take place is to give the place a good cut back. Every year, my colleagues and our wonderful volunteers go in with brushcutters, loppers and saws to push back the scrub and ensure the patchwork of habitats remains intact. What looks like a rather harsh operation is in fact a carefully calculated effort to ensure that the balance of open grassland, scrub and woodland is allowing as much wildlife as possible to use the nature reserve. If we left the reserve to its own devices, the likelihood is that most of Milton Locks  would be covered in scrubby bramble and baby poplar trees. Whilst we do want some bramble, many of the insects, reptiles and our lovely Kestrel rely on the open sunny grassland habitat.

The volunteer team were down there this morning. I popped in to deliver them some cake and catch up with Reserves Officer, Chris. I took a couple of photos whilst I was there.

In addition to the ‘scrub bashing’ as its called and some litter picking, the volunteers are also moving the entrance sign of the reserve. It has long been a mystery to us as to why the entrance sign wasn’t actually at the entrance of the reserve. Instead, it has always been set back a few metres from the beginning of the footpath. As I left this morning, the volunteers were just preparing to move it to a more proud and prominent position. I’m excited to see it when I’m at Milton again later in the week.

November 17 Sign moving

I will share photos of the results of the tidy up as soon as I have them.


The A Team!

It has been another lovely couple of days in Milton Locks-land. Despite having to cancel our planned Wildlife tots session yesterday, I went along to the Langstone Harbour Board Advisory Committee Open Forum in the evening. I gave a short talk about the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project and I had time to chat to lots of people who love the area and Langstone Harbour even more than I do.

I was then back in Milton at 8am this morning, getting ready to see third class of Year 4 children from Copnor Primary School. Copnor Primary are frequent visitors to the reserve and the children are always enthusiastic and curious. As those local to Milton may know, there is currently a lot of work taking place on Locksway Road and the nature reserve car park is a temporary staging area for the Colas machinery. The chaps working on the road were very helpful and accommodating to us and we managed to carefully and successfully work around each other’s operations. I’ve certainly learnt a bit about pavers and tarmac over the last couple of days.

We had a lovely morning, exploring habitats, identifying invertebrates and discussing man-made changes to the nature reserve. It was exciting to see and hear  the waders and the brent geese which are putting in more appearances as the season marches on.

In addition to the school adults, I was very lucky to be assisted by two very experienced and super fun volunteers. In the midst of wondering how we were going to park minibuses on a building site, I was reminded of the introduction to an 1980s TV show. ‘If you have a problem…if no-one else can help…and if you can find them…maybe you can hire… the A Team; or in our case, Carole and Pam!


Thank you Carole and Pam!


Volunteers make the Milton Locks world go round. Carole and Pam are both retired teachers with a huge amount of experience working with children in Portsmouth. They are among the many wonderful people who give us their time and their knowledge for free. I’m always glad of their support and we do get to have a few giggles.

We also have education volunteers at the beginning of their careers, volunteers who litter pick and keep a general eye on things, volunteers who record wildlife and volunteers who help us tackle ‘scrub bashing’ in the winter. There are many and varied ways to lend us your support. If you are interested in volunteering or if you would like to get involved in the project in some other way, please do get in touch.

Secrets of the Solent need our help

Cuttlefish waiting

Cuttlefish © Paul Naylor

I have been asked by my colleagues on another Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust project to spread the word about our Secrets of the Solent crowdfunder appeal, which is in its final few days. Secrets of the Solent has many aims in common with Milton’s Hidden Seashore but is taking place on a far grander scale. This project is all about protecting the fabulous marine wildlife and habitats of the Solent, including seagrass meadows, chalk reefs and rocky sponge gardens, which are home to seahorses and sea bass, seals, colourful anemones, sea squirts and cuttlefish. We hope to inspire and inform people about the wonders of the local seas which are such a strong part of the identify of our area.


Every £1 we raise gives us the chance to unlock an extra £9.85 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will allow us to work with local people and partners to keep the Solent special.

The crowdfunder page closes at 11.59pm on the 12th October, find out more using the link below and please support the sea life of the Solent if you can.

Velvet swimming crab & snakelocks, Dev 1

Velvet Swimming Crab and Snakelocks © Paul Naylor


Exciting times for Milton Locks

Back in June, one of my colleagues suggested that we should enter the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project into the CPRE Hampshire Countryside Awards. At the time, I thought this was a slightly bizarre idea, as Milton Locks is definitely not in the countryside. However, I read the criteria for the Community and Voluntary category and decided it was worth a very long shot. I sent in photos and details of the various activities and sessions we have been delivering. CPREAwards20172-1

To cut a long story short, I was repeatedly astonished to get through each selection process and end up at the final awards ceremony, just over a week ago. There were a total of five project finalists in the Community and Voluntary category, as well as many others in different categories. The evening was a great opportunity to meet and chat to people running exciting and innovative projects all over the county. Towards the end of the event, the winners were announced and Milton’s Hidden Seashore was awarded a High Commendation, one of three awards given in the category. The deserving winner of our category was the wonderful Community Roots project in Southampton –

CPREAwards2017333Large-1[1]If you have followed the story of Milton Locks Nature Reserve over the last decade, you may know a little of the challenges and problems in its past and of the twists and turns of its journey back towards the heart of the community. This makes the recognition of being highly commended at the CPRE awards all the more meaningful; recognition which belongs to everyone who has funded our work, volunteered, attended an event, put up a poster, stopped to chat to me on the reserve, read this blog or supported the project in any other way. Thank you, to all of you.

I have a busy month of school visits and other events ahead, so I’ll keep everyone posted on wildlife sightings and interesting happenings.