THE conservation charity offering “substantial funds” to the future for a county nature reserve has called a public meeting to pitch its plans.

Siren Conservation - backed by specialist cycling company Peloton Market Services - sees Bodenham Lakes as a self-sustaining showcase for all a “green” Herefordshire can be.

Now, Siren is calling a meeting for Bodenham’s Siward James community centre from 7pm today (June 5) to form a friends group for the Lakes.

“The Parish Plan is suggesting that houses are built on part of the existing reserve, Herefordshire is seeking to transfer ownership of the lake and surrounds - our aim is to ensure the lakes remain forever as a reserve for people and wildlife," said Siren’s Sasha Norris.

Bodenham Lakes, the largest area of open water in the county, is up for grabs amongst a host of natural assets Herefordshire Council can longer afford to keep – as reported by the Hereford Times in February.

Sasha  says the Siren bid proposed a continuation of the council’s current reserve management and its emphasis on public access while creating a “low key” conservation education centre and locally sourced cafe showcasing the county’s farming and biodiversity.

This would be run with cycle and mountain bike ventures, and a centre for outdoor pursuits sympathetic to on site wildlife.

There is also a future for the lake’s current sailing capacity and scope for canoeing and open water swimming.

“We have start-up funding, expertise, local knowledge and the commitment to make this a success,” she said.

The plan has already been put to Herefordshire Council and New Leaf, the community group looking to run both Bodenham Lakes and Queenswood.

“We’re not looking to oust anybody, we just want to offer our expertise and partnership,” said Sasha.

Bodenham Lake Nature Reserve is 44.5 hectares (110 acres) of varied habitat including riverside meadows, veteran orchard, newly planted orchard, a ‘gravel’ area and wet woodland requented by otters  and home to more than 160 species of birds.

A friends group is seen as assisting conservation efforts and assessing opinion.

The conservation package, as proposed, is underpinned by the promotion of  “green” transport  to and from the site – bus, bike or foot – with the lake linked to Queenswood via a track-way and bridge over the A49 allowing the two sites to be integrated for walkers and cyclists.

An initial budget plan for the site sees “start up” costs at around £120k to bring buildings in to use, improve the nature reserve  and fund two full time and two part time staff.

This is set against a Year 1 estimated income target of  £75k from cafe trade, cycle hire and retail and bird watching lodges.

Sasha says both Siren and Peloton have “substantial funds” in the bank, accounts accessible to view through the Charity Commission website and experience of managing large grants and budgets.

“We are confident that we can elevate further funding for this project rapidly. Once we have commitment from the council we can go ahead and begin to bring in these cash resources. From there the project will quickly become self-sustaining,” she said.