Articles & Case Studies

Otter-ly brilliant: Wildlife Trust finds new use for Hepworth clay pipes

Posted: Tuesday 26th February 2013

A three-way partnership between Wavin, Coventry Golf Club and Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has created a new breeding spot for otters by the River Sowe. Now otters can reach their new den or holt by travelling the five metres up the river bank inside a 300mm diameter Hepworth clay pipe, donated by the manufacturers, Wavin Limited.

The project had been struggling to find the right size of pipes until Coventry Golf Club’s head professional and course manager Phil Weaver spoke to Wavin area manager John Lumley, a regular player at the club, who arranged for the company to donate the pipe. Warwickshire Wildlife Trust has created the new holt by adapting a disused pump house on Coventry golf course.

“Without the donation from Wavin, we wouldn’t have been able to make the pump house into a holt for the otters,” says Tim Haselden, Wetlands Officer, at Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. “We are creating bedrooms by installing chambers within the pump house with two entrances so that the otters can escape from any unwanted guests. One of those entrances has to be connected to the river bank.”

“Wavin has absolutely come to the rescue, where the project might have foundered because we couldn’t find the right pipe,” says Weaver.

For Wavin, projects such as this fit well within its Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. “Whenever we take business decisions, we always try to find the most sustainable solution,” says Wavin’s clayware product manager Paul Wydell. “Being a good corporate citizen is part of that – and it’s great to be able to contribute to a conservation project which is helping an endangered species.”

Steered by Weaver, who is also chair of the Professional Golfers Association, Coventry Golf Club’s strategy is to take the lead in environmental issues. Earlier this year it became the first club in England to achieve the international GEO (Golf Environment Organization) Certified™ ecolabel which recognizes best environmental practice including: use of renewable energy, waste management, water management and conservation.

The creation of the otter holt was one of several conservation initiatives taken into consideration by the GEO assesors. “They were very excited that we were trying to aid a species that has been under threat,” says Weaver.

Otters are curious animals, so will naturally explore the pipes – but only if they are of sufficient diameter to allow them to do a U-turn inside them. Plastic netting running down the inside of the pipes provides something for the otters’ feet to grip as they climb the slope.

The team from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust used the pipes in 0.6 metre lengths, joined with polypropylene couplings to follow the contour of the river bank.

Over the past 10 years, otters have returned to the River Sowe as the water quality has improved. A protected species, their presence also helps endangered water voles in the area, as otters scare away the non-indigenous mink which prey on the voles.

Warwickshire Wildlife Trust works with organisations, landowners and local communities to improve the natural environment for people and wildlife. They have been installing recycled plastic holts along the river bank at a number of locations, since otters can have a territory of 30 to 40km. “The good thing about creating a holt from the disused pump station is that we are reusing something that is already there and, with the donation of the pipe, it is a cheaper alternative than plastic holts,” says Haselden.

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