During the Milton’s Hidden Seashore project so far, I have become increasingly intrigued by the history and cultural heritage of our little nature reserve. Portsmouth is such a history-rich city and it has been fascinating to begin to peel back the layers of days gone by, unpicking stories, meeting local legends and imagining what the landscape must have looked like before our time. For me, Milton Locks has always held whispers of its previous incarnations, from a newly constructed but then quickly derelict sea lock, to a thriving houseboat community with a strong cultural identity.
From the canal lock, looking back to towards Eastney Lake, by Zena Henry
Over the past few weeks particularly, we have begun in earnest to scratch at the surface of the history of this unique area. Above all, it has been wonderful meeting people who are so eager to share their stories and memories. We have been working in partnership with Portsmouth Museum, who are currently exhibiting the work of Edward King, an extraordinary artist who lived in Portsmouth during the first half of the 20th Century and who I’ve discussed several times on this blog. We have also had expert input from Paul Gonella at Strong Island, who has been helping us piece together the jigsaw of Milton Locks past and present, and is producing a film, capturing some of the memories and narratives that have shaped the character of our little patch of wild in the heart of city.
We are now all very excited to announce that there will be a preview of first version of the film, Life on the Water’s Edge at Portsmouth Museum on Saturday. Later in the summer, a final version of the film will be available online, as a resource for schools and community groups and will also hopefully make an appearance on the big screen in Portsmouth Guildhall Square. This is an exhilarating moment in the lifetime of a much-loved and occasionally overlooked nature reserve. I hope we can share it with as many Portsmouth people as possible. Details of the Museum screening can be found by clicking the Upcoming Events button on the blog.
I came back to work this week after some rare time away. I’ve had the following message from volunteer warden and Friend of Milton Locks, Martin Roberts about sightings while I was away.
‘Nice walk around the reserve this morning, bright sunshine, blue sky, gentle breeze coming over the rising tide. Not a lot of birdlife around, starlings, crows, blackbirds and black -headed gulls. Last week we watched a green woodpecker flying around, the first time we have seen one at Milton. There were a few butterflies fluttering around today and I managed to get a picture of this one in the dappled shade near the entrance, I think it’s a Speckled Wood but no doubt an expert will correct me if I’m wrong.’
Martin, you are absolutely right! Thank you for sharing.
Yesterday, (Thursday) we tried out a new idea for the Reserve. I was joined by professional archaeologist and Wildlife Trust volunteer, Peter Girdwood. Pete and I led a family event looking for archaeological evidence of the history of Milton Locks. It turned out to be a truly eye-opening morning with an impressive array of discoveries. These included parts of an old butler’s style sink, boat anchors, roof tiles and a large collection of pottery. Among our finds was this large, buried metal bucket.
Pete told us that a lot of our finds were likely to be from the house boat community in the area during the mid 20th Century and also a nearby Victorian bottle dump. The archaeological discoveries and associated stories and mysteries really captured everyone’s imagination.
I will be back in the area tomorrow at the Milton Picnic on the Green so do come and find me for a chat. For information, my colleagues are working on a replacement for our broken interpretation board which will be coming soon!
I’ve recently been given permission to share the work of another keen Milton wildlife photographer who has captured some extraordinary images in our relatively ordinary patch of green in Portsmouth. Thank you Sheila Mackie for letting us share your beautiful pictures.
Flowery scene by Sheila Mackie
Cow Parsley by Sheila Mackie
Teasel Heads by Sheila Mackie
Speckled Wood butterfly by Sheila Mackie
Collared Dove by Sheila Mackie
If you have wildlife sightings or photos of Milton Locks Nature Reserve that you would like us to share on this blog, please email me at Jess.Daish-Miller@hiwwt.org.uk . I don’t spend much of my work life at my desk, so please bear with me – it might take me a few days to post what you send.
If you are enjoying these posts, and particularly if you have not been before, why not pop along to our Open Morning this Saturday 25th March. There will be an opportunity to ask questions, find out more about what is going on and there will also be some hands-on activities for families to get involved in.
For more information on this and other events, click the ‘Upcoming Events’ button on the blog. Also, if you have a photo or a sighting that you would like to contribute to the Friends of Milton Locks, please do comment on one of the posts or email me on email@example.com.
Our mystery-filled, foggy Friday afternoon was really rather wonderful in the end. Fog horns continued in the background right through the day and my group for the afternoon set about mapping the nature reserve, not with pens and paper but with found objects. Our canvas was the beach, our frame was a big blue rope, and like all of the best treasure maps, we had an ‘x marks the spot’, which I added when they had completed the map. We used our spatial awareness and geographical skills to decide how to mark the features of the reserve. The children’s ideas included boats made of old bricks, three dimensional trees and our little windbreak shelter represented by a cuttlefish bone.
The treasure hidden at the spot marked by the x was a box of storytelling props which we used towards the end of the session. One of my favourite things about Milton’s hidden seashore is the fact that it is never the same two days in a row. The atmosphere today was truly unique.
Unfortunately, due to the weather warning for very strong winds around the coast tomorrow, I have had to take the decision to cancel Milton Locks Wildlife Tots. No-one is more disappointed about this than me. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. Our next family events are the Open Morning on 25th March and Go Wild on 13th April. Click on the ‘Upcoming events’ button to find out more. Hopefully Storm Doris will be over by then.
I popped into the reserve this morning before embarking on a list of jobs and meetings. Not only was the grass frosty, but there were bits of ice on the shore itself. These bright but bitter mornings are beautiful and well worth getting wrapped up for.
Icy water on the seashore
There were plenty of birds around, including Brent Geese, Redshank, Curlew and Oystercatcher. The light at this time of year and time of day makes for some captivating views.