Long-term solution is needed at the lake
Update from the Friends of Eastville Park
ABOUT a hundred years ago, when Eastville Park was created, it became an instant success. Families promenaded tree-lined open spaces, children had space to play in and shrieked with delight as the shiny, well-greased swings and roundabouts whirred and arced. Itinerant performers would set up on a weekend and endlessly amuse everyone, and crowds would gather for brass band concerts that would be heard across the 80-odd acres of parkland.
A short walk into the ancient Frome Valley offered walks along the river bank along paths that would open up a whole new wildlife world. What a joy it must have been to see, for the first time, the new serpentine lake, designed in a way that, wherever you stand on its perimeter, you’ll never be able to see the whole of it, leading you to explore further and further along. What would have been more exciting for those first young children than the sight of rowing boats gliding across the lake? Or the majestic swans, squabbling geese and ducks hanging out around the islands? Young children sat around the lake edge, feet dangling in the water and small fishing net in hand, hopeful of scooping up a small fish or two.
Over the hundred years that have passed since, fishing at the lake has become an ever-increasing activity that has brought pleasure to countless thousands. Byelaws are in force that control the times of the year fishing is allowed and these laws are generally observed, with a few exceptions. The new season opened in June and, with an increased number of visitors and anglers to the park as a result of Covid ‘down time’, the lake has been busier than ever.
Many of you will have heard of or seen that we are currently facing a very upsetting and tragic consequence of snagged and discarded fishing line, floats and hooks in the lake. Over recent weeks we have been witnessing and responding to a frighteningly increasing number of occasions where birds are being found entangled and distressed. In the vast majority of these incidents, visitors or Friends have been able to disentangle – in particular – cygnets, and return them to the water unharmed.
As we look at ways to address this crisis, we are aware of several contributing factors that may explain the surge in incidents. Records show that the lake was last dredged in 2003: it is currently very cluttered with debris (particularly around the islands) which inevitably leads to more line being snagged and cut away by anglers at the side of the lake and leads to a hazardous build-up of discarded line. We’ll be out in the boat dragging the lake for any line we can find, to try to reduce the immediate risk, but a long-term solution is desperately needed. While the vast majority of anglers are responsible and make every effort to prevent this from happening (some even wade in to retrieve snagged line), a small number choose the easy option and make no effort to remove the line at all. Much of the line we are recovering has been washed into the debris accumulating around the islands, where the birds tend to spend a lot of time exploring and consequently find themselves in difficulty. The Friends Committee are responding to this situation with an approach to the council to look at ways to ensure above all that our wildlife is safe at the lake. We hope that whatever action is taken, our visitors will be able to enjoy their visit to the park without witnessing the awful sight of birds suffering in this way.
On a cheerier note, many of you may have noticed the vast improvements to the garden, pathways and verges around the bowling greens and Nissen hut. You may even have spotted a small team of folk in red t-shirts busy on Wednesday and Sunday mornings. Throughout the last three months or so, GoodGym have really come up trumps for us and turned their hands to anything that’s needed to be done, come rain or shine. The whole area is looking amazing and testament to the enthusiastic ‘can-do anything’ approach of Mel Young and her volunteers. As if the hard work when they get here wasn’t enough, bear in mind that GoodGymers run to the park from all over Bristol before they’ve even put on a pair of gloves – then run home again! Thank you to all of you for your great work and amazing team spirit.
Our ‘Butterflies of Eastville Park’ display is located in Everest Road field. You’ll see some amazing photographs of the butterflies you’re likely to come across and learn all about their life cycle, lives and habitat. There is also a small section on dragonflies and damoiselles you might spot along the River Frome. Bring a picnic and do some spotting on a sunny day – it’s all part of the national ‘Butterfly Count 2020’.