The Dove Valley Community Project began in May 2006 when a group of 31 residents in Hatton, Derbyshire, purchased the field adjacent to the River Dove and the island in the centre of the River Dove/Mill Fleam and decided to create a Nature Reserve (Thistley Place Meadow). The land in question is held under a legal Constitution so it cannot be sold in the future and can only be run as a nature reserve.
Having been successful in obtaining c.£42,000 from various Grant sources, we have been able to clear the field of invasive perennial weeds, install a new disabled access, mow footpaths wide enough to allow wheelchair access, increased the marginal planting along the riverbank by installing pre-vegetated coir rolls, installed benches, picnic benches with wheelchair access, a disabled fishing platform, dog and waste bins, planted over 450 shrubs – including hazel, spindle, dogwoods, field roses, gorse, guelder rose, wild privet and broom – to encourage native birds and wildlife. We have also erected pictorial/informative nature reserve signage. We also have some memorial trees planted in the area as well as benches commemorating special events.
To the rear of the island, we dredged the severely overgrown Mill Fleam which, although it has become slightly congested again, has created a physical barrier (together with a wrought iron gate and railings to the bridge end of the island) to prevent access, and allowed us to turn the island into a dedicated nature sanctuary where we have erected bird and a colony of bat boxes, an otter holt with a ‘dry run’ for the otter onto the island. The spore for the otter was originally found by a representative from Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and the otter is regularly seen by local fishermen. We also have a kingfisher and tawny owls on the island.
We did clear the area of overgrown wild rhubarb, adjacent to Tutbury Bridge, which unfortunately has grown back, but where we planted indigenous trees and shrubs these have now become well established and are thriving and gradually overpowering the rhubarb.
In the Spring of 2008 we took over the responsibility of the Hatton Picnic area (on an initial 5 year lease at a peppercorn rent) from Hatton Parish Council. We have subsequently concreted around the picnic benches in this area, created mown pathways, planted an indigenous orchard with a variety of fruiting trees and shrubs. Unfortunately, these plants had to be removed during the Lower Dove project work but these have now been replaced thanks to the EA.
In the past, we have held special nature events with Heath Fields Primary School. We have hosted numerous community events - the official opening Thistley Place Nature Reserve in 2008, the Environment Agency attending TPM in October 2013 (holding a community planting day with their employees taking part) and then dignitaries arrived to commemorate the official opening of the completed flood defence scheme for the Lower Dove. We have also held Community Easter Egg and Orienteering days with members of Youth of Hatton/SDDC taking part - this event has been kindly sponsored by Nestlé UK.
Every Christmas we light up the flood bank with our Christmas tree (donated by Nestlé UK) complete with reindeer, sleigh and Santa Claus creating a warm welcome for everyone travelling over the border from Staffordshire into Derbyshire. We also have the Derbyshire Flag in situ at the roadside welcoming everyone into our County!
We have come a long way since our inception in 2006. There have been many hours of hard work and planning to make sure that Thistley Place may be enjoyed by all visitors to the Meadow. Obviously maintenance and upkeep are costly and, as we do not receive any revenue funding from external sources, we continue to hold various fundraising initiatives to enable TPM to be enjoyed by the whole community in perpetuity.