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A Jewel of an Oasis

A true oasis in a desert of water

That contradiction in terms describes an area we visited recently near the River Agogna south of Novara and west of Milan. It has been, for many years, an important area for the production of rice and the sight of the fields under water brings views of most of the heron species.

However, it is not without its problems; while inundated the fields are home to countless frogs and tadpoles but at some point they are drained and baked under the sun. The fields are as flat as a billiard table so no pools remain and the amphibians either leave or die and the herons are forced to look elsewhere for food.

There are two stories of hope to be told here. The first is of Cascina Bosco, a farm run by Roberto and Ilena with help from six year old Cloe on traditional lines. No chemicals are used and green manures ensure the quality of the soil with flooded ditches around their fields for the benefit of all sorts of aquatic life. It is heartening to learn that there is a strong demand for organic food despite the fact that their rice costs twice as much as the industrial counterpart and that, therefore, their enterprise has a promising future. Good luck to the three of them at

In the picture we see (L-R) Roberto, Professor Giuseppe Bogliani of the University of Pavia who works for Burchvif as a volunteer, Ilena, Claudio Celada, LIPU’s Conservation Director and Shirley and David Lingard of LIPU-UK.

 Roberto and Ilena work closely with “Burchvif” a conservation group based in nearby Borgolavezzaro who have bought, with the help of LIPU-UK, sections of oxbows from the River Agogna and have created nature reserves of the highest standard.

Within a minute of arriving at “Canneto Boverio” we heard a symphony of birdsong – Nightingale, Golden Oriole, Cuckoo and Bee Eater were all singing for all they were worth.

These two neighbouring enterprises show that big is not always better and that amid agriculture on an industrial scale nature can be considered, respected and protected. LIPU-UK and our parent body in Italy were happy to help Burchvif buy this area and it was wonderful to visit and see how the reserve has been created – “Avanti Burchvif!”.


Squacco Heron



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