LIANNE DE MELLO: Driftwood hints at the area’s history

Children at Milton Locks

The joy of wildlife encounters  Lianne de Mello at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust
 
The Wildlife Trusts are delighted to be John Lewis Christmas charity campaign partner for 2016. This years John Lewis Christmas advert celebrates - with sparkle and a flash of magic - the joy of encountering wildlife in a garden. But how well do you know this cast of wild creatures?
 
Fantastic foxes are very adaptable, and thrive in cities and countryside alike. They arent fussy eaters - they hunt rodents and rabbits but will also eat earthworms, birds, fish and even fruit and vegetables given the chance. Meanwhile badgers are one of the most recognisable, well-known British mammals; theyre sociable and live together as families in a sett, made up of over 100m of tunnels, with up to 40 entrances.
 
Did you know that adult hedgehogs travel between 1-2km a night searching for food, and have up to 7,000 spines? Meanwhile cheeky squirrels can be seen at this time of year hoarding nuts, see
Children at Milton Locks The joy of wildlife encounters  Lianne de Mello at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust The Wildlife Trusts are delighted to be John Lewis Christmas charity campaign partner for 2016. This years John Lewis Christmas advert celebrates - with sparkle and a flash of magic - the joy of encountering wildlife in a garden. But how well do you know this cast of wild creatures? Fantastic foxes are very adaptable, and thrive in cities and countryside alike. They arent fussy eaters - they hunt rodents and rabbits but will also eat earthworms, birds, fish and even fruit and vegetables given the chance. Meanwhile badgers are one of the most recognisable, well-known British mammals; theyre sociable and live together as families in a sett, made up of over 100m of tunnels, with up to 40 entrances. Did you know that adult hedgehogs travel between 1-2km a night searching for food, and have up to 7,000 spines? Meanwhile cheeky squirrels can be seen at this time of year hoarding nuts, see
Police cordoning off an area next to Southsea Common. Picture: Ellie Bain/Twitter

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AN INCREDIBLE exhibition of 70 paintings currently hangs in Portsmouth Museum’s main exhibition space, sprung from the hand of the great artist Edward King.

He was committed to St James’ Hospital in Milton in 1925, from where he painted many images of the natural coastline and green spaces around the hospital, like Milton Locks.

His scenes of houseboats at the locks can seem quaint and distant, but the reality is that it’s forms part of our city’s recent history.

There are many in Portsmouth who still remember living, playing and exploring in and around this thriving community on our island’s coast.

The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust-run nature reserve now at Milton Locks is the last remaining section of natural shoreline on this side of the harbour.

Hints at the area’s history arrive on the shore regularly in the form of driftwood and seaglass.

But what really puts this unassuming hectare of land on today’s map is the array of wildlife that now calls it home.

The small wood provides much-needed shelter to birds like starlings and house sparrows.

The nectar-rich flowers that grow in the dappled sunlight provide food for painted lady and small copper butterflies.

The path snakes through tall grass buzzing with an orchestra of grasshoppers and crickets, before opening out to the shoreline itself.

Depending on the tide, you might be lucky enough to spot tiny fish in the shallows, crabs scuttling between clumps of seaweed, or oystercatchers foraging on the mudflats.

It’s a rare pocket of wildness on a largely urban island. With the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund the Wildlife Trust is putting Milton Locks back at the heart of the community.

In the spirit of Edward King we recently held a community art day, giving local families and artists the chance to portray the modern day scene.

And it’s already proven itself as an ideal place for the next generation to have their first outdoors experience – with hundreds of children learning about natural history through seashore safaris and treasure hunts on school visits.

There’s more to come, as we build a team of volunteers to help us look after the reserve, and champion green space at the heart of in the community.

Find out more about Milton Hidden Seashore, including wildlife you can spot and how you can get involved, at hiwwt.org.uk/milton-locks.