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The dragons den

PUBLISHED: 17:31 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:48 20 February 2013

The white legged damselfly - the latest arrival at King's Meads. Copyright Alan Reynolds

The white legged damselfly - the latest arrival at King's Meads. Copyright Alan Reynolds

King's Meads nature reserve is the perfect place to see damselflies and dragonflies

SANDWICHED between the two busy towns of Hertford and Ware, is King's Meads, one of the top nature reserves in Hertfordshire. This 96-hectare site is a rich mixture of meadows, rivers, ditches and flooded areas. It is a haven for birds, bats, butterflies and other insects but it is for its dragonflies and damselflies that it is notably the best site in the county. Eighteen of the 19 species that can be seen in Hertfordshire have been recorded on the site. Great news came in late June this year when the remaining species - the white legged damselfly - was recorded on the reserve.
The secret of the site's success with these fascinating insects is partly due to the work that Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust and partners have been carrying out with the help of volunteers. Over the years prior to the Trust's involvement (nearly ten years ago), the ditches and ponds had become silted up and populated by grasses and plants. Dragonflies require open stretches of water over which to hunt and marginal plants on which to lay their eggs. The dragonfly larvae (nymphs) require water in which to develop, hence it has been crucial to carry out a lengthy and intensive programme to clear ditches and ponds whilst protecting important, and often scarce, aquatic plants. Last winter, the Environment Agency carried out works at King's Meads to restore over 1km of the network of ditches and five ponds. This work will also benefit other wildlife including birds, ducks, water voles and the rare water violet.
Judy Adams, HMWT's chief executive, was able to share the excellent news of the white legged damselfly's arrival with councillors from East Herts Council and representatives from GlaxoSmithKline (who both own parts of the site) the very next day, when they visited the site with Trust staff, to see first hand the results of the restoration works. Because the nature reserve is proving to be such a hit with dragonflies, the Trust is currently talking to partners and local wildlife experts about its ideas for a dragonfly sanctuary - ensuring that King's Meads remains the top place in Hertfordshire for you to experience 'dragons' in their den.

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