Work in and around Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve
Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve is a well-visited and much-loved nature reserve. Visitors enjoy the wetland habitat, and variety of protected species including water voles, great crested newts, and barn owls, as well as overwintering wildfowl and waders found on the pools and grazing marsh.
In April 2020, National Grid began work in the nature reserve to make changes to Western Power Distribution’s (WPD) local network to make way for the new high voltage electricity line, featuring T-pylons. When complete, it will connect six million homes and businesses to low carbon energy from Hinkley Point C and increase capacity on the network for renewable energy.
Work in the reserve to date has involved:
- installing new underground electricity cables to directly replace a line of WPD pylons that we’ve removed to the south of Portishead substation
- building new underground ducts in preparation for laying new cables that’ll replace a further four pylons to the east of Portishead substation
- preparing the work areas for the construction of two new T-pylons.
All construction activity, including stringent measures to protect wildlife and habitats, is monitored by North Somerset Council.
Our main construction activities are timed to avoid disturbance to wintering birds and other wildlife.
Between April and September 2022, our work will involve:
- ecological surveys
- clearing vegetation
- finalising the underground cabling work
- piling and constructing foundations for two new T-pylons
- removing four WPD pylons to the east of the substation.
We will return to the reserve in 2023 to clear vegetation, ahead of installing the wires between the two new T-pylons. We will also remove additional WPD pylons south and northeast of the substation. Reinstatement of the land will be completed in 2024.
Access to and through the reserve
Access to the reserve during our work is being maintained, but to keep everyone safe some footpaths will need to be closed for a short time. Construction traffic crosses Wharf Lane occasionally and is carefully managed by a controlled crossing.
Protecting local wildlife and habitats
To avoid disturbance to wintering birds and other wildlife, we only work in the reserve during certain months, which explains our presence over a number of years.
The main construction period is April to September, though North Somerset Council may permit activity such as vegetation removal and other minor works outside these dates.
This is just one of many measures in place to protect this sensitive environment, which were agreed during consultation after thorough ecological surveys. So far as part of the project, we have:
- installed four new barn owl boxes
- protected mature oak trees by diverting the original construction road route
- saved and translocated over 300 great crested newts, over 340 toads, 600 smooth newts, and 5 palmate newts (only recorded once before in the reserve)
- installed specialised fencing and cleared vegetation to prevent protected species from entering the construction areas
- created new habitats for water voles.
We’ve installed new fencing along Wharf Lane and erected a permanent information notice board, along with a finger directional signpost, in addition to improving the seasonal footpath and removal of diseased elm trees at the request of the council.
The project team has proactively helped to keep the reserve clean and free of rubbish by coordinating regular litter picks. We also helped rescue and relocate the popular splash sculpture to Swan Lake at the Ecology Park.
This is a great example of partnership working between North Somerset Council and National Grid and helps improve the site for all. We hope these new features will enhance the enjoyment of people in the reserve and help them navigate and explore the many paths in the reserve.