A CONSERVATION group that has helped care for Test Valley's nature reserves is set to celebrate its tenth anniversary.

The Anton River Conservation Association (TARCA) have marked their milestone by unveiling a bench at the Anton Lakes reserve, which was commission last year.

The bench has been carved to show a trout and an otter, just two animals which can be regularly spotted at the nature reserve, and was revealed with TARCA's chair, Kate Savage and secretary, Mervyn Gist, after the bench was completed by the late artist, Richard Austin.

Since 2009, when the group was formed, thousands of volunteers have spent time conserving a number of reserves that are regularly used by residents living in Andover.

In total, volunteers have contributed more than 11,000 hours of their time to sites including Anton Lakes Local Nature Reserve, Rooksbury Mill Local Nature Reserve, Ox Drove Meadow, Harewood Common and Ladies Walk.

Community and leisure portfolio holder, Cllr Ian Jeffrey, said: “Although we’ve done our best to calculate the hours put into the reserves by our volunteers, the work that they’ve done to keep them thriving, really is immeasurable.

“Anton Lakes is one of the best-loved features of Andover and it’s a fantastic haven for wildlife, and for our residents who love to come down and make the most of what it has to offer.

"This was highlighted during the national lockdown earlier this year, and with the restrictions that are currently in place. Green spaces and access to wildlife is absolutely vital, and that’s why I’m so grateful for the work that TARCA has done across the town, and further afield.

“Hopefully this is just the first milestone of many, and the volunteers who put such dedication into their work, can continue to do so for years to come.”

The association is also made up of volunteers from Andover and the wider area and, alongside Test Valley Borough Council officers, help to ensure the reserves, and the species who call them home, continue to thrive.