Last Sunday, The Vice-chair of FOSP carried out an interview with Nicky from BBC Radio Gloucester. Please listen below but in response to the familiar, ‘you’re doing a good job‘ comment, around the pond, in the article below is outlined the goals and ideals set out by FOSP (The Friends…), whilst working with its partners.

Radio Interview January  2021 with Nicky Price, BBC Radio Gloucestershire @ BBC




Once again, The Friends of Saintbridge Pond (The Friends…) has been awarded The Green Flag.

The outstanding work and community pride in getting this for the third year go out to all the volunteers who have given their free time to make this green oasis a gem in the City of Gloucester.

What it reflects is the ‘natural standard for green spaces and aims to reflect that nature of good urban green spaces.

Swimming Rat with Bread – P Wilson

Frequently asked questions about  The Friends.. and their work

To start with, the Green Flag Scheme was first launched in 1966 and is now widely accepted as the benchmark for green spaces as 69% of Local Authorities use the award. Besides, it is said that the Green Flag Award criteria are closest to indicators of national quality for England and Wales.

So what makes a site so special?.

Well, it is an analysis based on its fitness for purpose, through quality judgment based on local need. These quality judgments are both subjective, concerning aesthetics, and objective, regarding facilities. By looking at a study that was carried out a couple of years ago, there are eight indicators that can be viewed in the document below.

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There are eight areas of excellence to fulfill against the Green Flag Award Criteria, for the site, potentially, to continue to receive the award.

Criteria 1, 2 and 3 – For these three criteria, the public were asked on a scale to what extent they would describe Saintbridge Pond as a place to visit.

Criteria 4 and 5 – For these criteria, again, the site was evaluated against the Green Flag Award guide, but additionally, several Habitat Surveys of the site have been carried out, to industry-standard, demonstrating the high habitat diversity of the site.

Criteria 6 – Multiple questionnaires were created, considering the inclusion of different areas of Gloucester, age groups, genders, as well as uses of the site and frequency of use. Besides, the public was asked how they would describe the site, and this was used to create a word cloud.

Criteria 7 – Current and previous marketing were outlined, and marketing options suggested from the Friend’s activities, including how events could be publicised and the scale of community inclusion.

Criteria 8 – The features suggested from four sources were tabulated and featured in a proposed action plan, with justification from sources stated, and who, how, when, how and cost.

So what do The Friends… actually do?

The effective time and effort put into the conservation work carried out have led to the biodiversity we can see today.

Woodpecker at home on the reserve – P Wilson

This pays long-term dividends for all and that is something that FOSP members give instinctively. We are proud to work with our partners and would like to thank The Friends of Barnwood Arboretum (FOBA), The Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, Saintbridge Allotments Group Association (SAGA)  who have all been awarded the Green Flags. We all believe that wildlife is the first priority to creating a wonderful ecological balance between a precious resource and cultivation. That passion from nature is more important than biological knowledge.

Primula Species – P Wilson
Snowdrops in the Spinney by P Wilson

The work that The Friends…. put into the woodland walk or spinney, is just part of the bigger management plan to look after the site, along with our local partners.

Why have the visitor numbers increased since last year?

Since March 2020, the footfall around the pond has increased, especially in the early spring, into summer and even individuals have stayed out all day in the warmer weather around the pond at its margins. What draws people of all ages, I suppose is that it is attractive to anyone looking to get out and be with their friends and although we’ve been told not to mix, just being in a few metres from other living beings, we all feel connected.

Why do people visit?

Unknowingly, it may be part of mankind’s genetic make-up to respect the need for natural space. Wilson (1984) theorised the concept of ‘biophilia’, which states humans have an inherent affiliation, as a species, to the natural environment. This is both through genetics and cultural experiences of stimulation from nature.  It is important for health to be exposed to natural environments because it promotes psychological restoration and encourages physical activity and social interaction. With an emphasis on the latter, it’s important to note that if society becomes detached from nature, it is the responsibility of The Friends… to be a part of this cause to bring them back to appreciate the natural world.  It offers a place for reflection and fitness, family, or nature. Experiencing nature leads to increased cognitive abilities and inspiration to protect the environment.

Foxes and Corvids at one by P Wilson

What drives FOSP individuals and the group as a whole?

It is a feeling of belonging leads that leads to an increased likelihood of caring for the environment. It is the role of Saintbridge Balancing Pond & Reserve to be aesthetically stimulating to the extent that FOSP volunteers feel a sense of belonging, and therefore assign a high value to the site.

As our mission statement states:
We are a group of dedicated volunteers who meet twice a month and during the week in conjunction with our partners. We aim to maintain and develop the balancing pond as a nature reserve.
Our partners are Gloucester City Council, the Environment Agency, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, and Saintbridge Allotment Gardens Association. We work together to make the balancing pond more than just a flood relief structure.
Overall, we endeavor to make the site accessible to everyone, ensuring it is a pleasant and relaxing oasis for wildlife and people alike

Dillie showing full Speculum before landing on water, common to most waterfowl – P Wilson

Environmental Benefits of the Surrounding Area

The Dry Balancing Pond, which is situated North-East of the pond itself is there to filter in any excess water which flows down from the Cotswold Escarpment and this is funnelled through the dam where, it flows out the balancing pond and then through the city, ending up in the River Severn.

Water in Dry Balancing Pond – P Wilson
Flooded Path in Spinney – P Wilson

Due to the numerous trees and aquatic bacteria, this improves the local air quality, through the removal and deposition of carbon from the atmosphere, which is stored in the living material and soil. However, with the number of trees on the site and climate change adaptation, this would have a substantial diminishing effect on the amount of carbon dioxide produced in the local area.
Pollination from the many tree and flower species offers a large volume to pollinator species during the summer months, like bees butterflies and moths.  The Biodiversity Potential for the flora and fauna species found at Saintbridge Balancing Pond are diverse, and many of them are visible on any one visit to the site. In terms of biology, an increase in species richness, especially of bird and plant species, has been found to increase psychological well-being. Interestingly, high-quality small areas were seen to be more valuable than having low-quality large areas or a higher quantity of areas in general.

FOSP considers the future management of green space to be considerate of habitat patches and the connectivity of this mosaic, both to increase biodiversity and enhances the well-being of urban populations.

Finally, the Noise Attenuation in this area of Gloucester is minimal, with the main roads some distance from the site. As well as this, the tall tree species offer some sound protection from external sources.

Resident Swans – P Wilson

The Future of Friends of the Pond
This is a flagship project, as the site does not discriminate, with open access all times of the year, and encourages walking or other sporting activities.

We’ve met the following criteria 

a) Support an active community
b) Reduce social and economic disadvantage
c) Reduce carbon emissions
d) Protect and enhance biodiversity
e) Protect built and natural heritage
f) Encourage good quality design

Finally, the natural boundaries around Saintbridge Balancing Pond are considered a priority by FOSP members and so that is our focus to improve these aspects, which therefore increases biodiversity. Although the site does not have ancient buildings which could be referred to as heritage, if Saintbridge Balancing Pond is continuously cared for by all interested parties, it could be considered as a place for community pride and heritage status for Gloucester in the future.

Follow these links to take you directly to the following websites
Contacts: Friends of Saintbridge Pond Nature Reserve | Taking Nature In Its Stride
Friends of Saintbridge Pond Nature Reserve in Gloucester
o Twitter FOSP Gloucester @fospgloucester
o Facebook Saintbridge Pond Nature Reserve
o Nextdoor Friends of Saintbridge Pond Nature Reserve & Garden Allotments

Blackbird in situ – P Wilson