Our projects


Amwell Nature Reserve, Hertfordshire – Reedbeds for Bitterns


This major habitat improvement project at Amwell Nature Reserve in Hertfordshire aimed to safeguard the future of the Bittern. Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (HMWT) improved the reserve’s reedbeds to provide places for the rare bird to hunt and breed.

Bitterns are an endangered member of the heron family and are one of the most threatened bird species in the UK. They rely on reedbed environments for hunting and shelter and are regular winter visitors to Amwell, where their brown streaked plumage gives them excellent camouflage as they hunt for fish in the reeds at the water’s edge. The bird also feeds on amphibians and insects, and males make a remarkable far-carrying, booming sound in spring.  

As part of this project Amwell’s reedbeds were restored, new ditches and ponds were created and special bittern bays and rides were constructed.

The reserve is a former gravel pit in the Lee Valley near Ware. It is now internationally important to nature conservation on account of the number of water birds that visit. It also supports outstanding communities of breeding birds as well as dragonflies and damselflies. Amwell is a key site for reedbed habitat and has attracted wintering bitterns since 1995.

The need for this project was identified through the results of over eight years of the wildlife trust’s management of the site and its commitment to further enhance the site’s biodiversity, habitats and visitor access and experience.

The proposals were also informed by the national Reedbed and local Bittern Biodiversity Action Plans. These both stressed the importance of increasing quantity and quality of reedbed habitat in the county. This need was confirmed by expert partner organisations such as Natural England and the Environment Agency.

HMWT worked directly with these partner organisations, individual experts, local user groups, volunteers and neighbouring landowners to develop the proposals for this project as part of its management and enhancement planning for the site and local wetland landscape.

This was key to ensuring the project met both the evidenced need for improving the quantity and quality of the reedbed habitat and also the wider benefits to habitat biodiversity of the site and the experience of those visiting the site.

The proposals formed part of a five year management plan, launched in March 2014. Local user groups including the Amwell Birder Group and HMWT volunteers were introduced to the project to explain the biodiversity aims and to discuss outline works proposals. All were invited to give feedback to HMWT to inform and support the project.