Frome’s Missing Links Ecology Group meets regularly and members have been helping out with a Sustrans funded initiative called “Greener Greenways”, which aims to increase the wildlife value of the green verges either side of the cycle path at Great Elm.
The background to the ecology group is that Sustrans gave approval to Colin Wisbey and Andrew Marchant to manage the Great Elm Embankment. The FML Friday Club had done a massive amount of work over some four years to clear the top of the embankment to create an extension to The Collier’s Way from Great Elm to Elliot’s Bridge (also known as FML Phase 2), but it was evident to activists that the project could be slow due to land ownership, planning issues and not least lack of money – therefore in order to help preserve clearance work and because it was a good thing to do, an ecology project was started two years ago (supported by Friday Club).
In the last year Sustrans has also now realised the importance of the Collier’s Way and made it a Greener Greenway project, and Great Elm Embankment is now part of this.
Earlier in the year, working with Ann Wells, a Somerset County ecologist, the team completed a four-month reptile survey that counted over 440 sightings including slowworms, common lizards and grass snakes as well as non-reptile sightings of shrews, voles and toads. The total number of sightings was very encouraging for the recorders and the biggest surprise was the frequent sightings of grass snakes that seem to love the sloping grass verges.
More recently, work on the path has opened up the south face of the railway embankment by cutting back brambles and thorn bushes to increase the diversity of the flora and fauna and making ‘dead’ hedging. Several new reptile habitats have been built, old waterways cleared, apple trees restored and picnic areas created.
Local volunteer Andrew Marchant explains, “With the bird-nesting season approaching it is time to start reducing the impact of our activities and to give a big thanks to everyone for supporting the ecology improvements undertaken during the winter. The public has shown great appreciation for the work done so far.”
Frome Town Councillor and Chair of Frome’s Missing Links, Richard Ackroyd adds, “The ecology group have done excellent work along the Colliers Way cycle path – nothing short of magnificent in my opinion! I urge members of the public to take a walk or cycle to the site and see how much better it looks with a little care and attention. Now that spring is approaching I am sure that we will soon see an increase in flowers and bird life and I most certainly will be looking out for grass snakes next time I cycle along there!”