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Conservation group target 10-acre property for nature reserve

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Buy it back: Alton Hill, in Southampton, which Buy Back Bermuda will buy and retain as open land. (Photograph supplied)
Senator Lindsay Simmons carries out a vine-cutting ceremony to officially open Eve’s Pond (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Eves Pond officially opens (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

An environmental coalition yesterday announced what they intend to become their fourth nature reserve — Alton Hill in Southampton.

Buy Back Bermuda, a collaboration between the Bermuda National Trust and the Bermuda Audubon Society, made the announcement as they formally opened the Eve’s Pond Nature Reserve after years of work to restore the Hamilton Parish property.

Jennifer Gray, chairwoman of Buy Back Bermuda, said: “It is a magnificent ten-acre property at Alton Hill in Southampton that consists of woodland, arable fields and spectacular coastline.

“The purchase of this stunning piece of land was possible thanks to a major gift from a private anonymous donor and funds from our acquisition account including $300,000 donated by PartnerRe in 2008 for our next acquisition after Eve’s Pond.

“Later this year, we will be launching a campaign to raise money to turn the Alton Hill property into a publicly accessible nature reserve, and to maintain all four of the Buy Back Bermuda properties for the enjoyment of all.”

Alton Hill will become the fourth Buy Back Bermuda nature reserve after Somerset Long Bay East Nature Reserve, which opened in 2007, the Vesey Nature Reserve in Southampton, which opened in 2013, and the new Eve’s Pond Nature Reserve.

Ms Gray said the site hosts one of the largest nesting sites for longtails on mainland Bermuda among other wildlife.

“We look forward to yet another very special piece of Bermuda for everybody to enjoy for ever,” she added.

Ms Gray said BBB had a list of properties that it was “keeping an eye on” for potential purchase.

“We are often driven to purchase when there’s a real threat of development,” she said.

“Alton Hill has been on the market for a very long time, but recently the market started to heat up, interest started to heat up and we thought we had to go now, we had to make an offer.”

Ms Gray added that as part of the Alton Hill project, farmland already on the site would continue to be used throughout the restoration process and after.

She said: “Farmland is extremely important to our food security. At this point we are going to maintain a lease with the farmers that are there.

“We haven’t had farmland on any of our properties yet, but it fits really well into our mission — we are doing this for people and wildlife forever, so it fits.”

The comments came as BBB welcomed guests to Eve’s Pond to celebrate the nature reserve’s opening as part of Earth Day festivities.

Eve’s Pond Nature Reserve welcomes its first guests

Eve’s Pond Nature Reserve was formally opened with a vine-cutting ceremony this afternoon.

Eve’s Pond, located west of Shelly Bay, includes a rocky coastline with tidal pools, an inland valley with a brackish pond, and a wooded hillside.

The pond itself — which was linked to Harrington Sound through a cave system — was filled in with sand dredged from Flatts Inlet in 1939 and the area later became overgrown with invasive species.

As part of work on the site, Buy Back Bermuda has removed the invasive plants and re-excavated the pond, leaving a small island for nesting birds.

Jennifer Gray, chairwoman of BBB, said the results of the restoration project were beyond the group’s expectations.

She said: “The pond is so full of life. Everything we have put in has survived and is doing really well.

“The transformation has gone from bulldozer white back to pond and green and now we can just watch it mature over the years.”

Alana Anderson, president of the Bermuda National Trust, said it was amazing to see the reserve spring to life.

She said: “It’s more than just a nature reserve — it’s giving back to Bermuda something a lot of us had as children.

“My husband would tell me about how much he loved to play at Whale Watch — it’s condos now, and this could have easily suffered the same fate, but now it's here for the next generation.

“For me, that’s the special part about it.”

The property was purchased by BBB through public donations in 2008, with work to revitalise the site beginning in 2019.

Ms Gray said today: “We are delighted to have created another beautiful nature reserve for the benefit of the Bermuda community and our wildlife.

“A great deal of thought and hard work has gone into its restoration, resulting in a wonderful place for young and old from all walks of life to enjoy outdoor exercise and the tranquillity that comes from spending time in nature.

“Amenities include walking trails, interpretive signs, a bird hide from which to observe waterfowl on the pond, and benches to relax on.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Earth Day and we urge everyone to come and enjoy this reserve, while respecting the wildlife and plants of this spectacular natural space.”

Farmland on Alton Hill, Southampton (Photograph supplied)
A rocky coastline on what will become the Alton Hill Nature Reserve. (Photograph supplied)

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Published April 23, 2022 at 7:55 am (Updated April 23, 2022 at 7:55 am)

Conservation group target 10-acre property for nature reserve

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