Category Archives: Wild Places

Lea Marston Lakes

Lea Marston is a series of three purification lakes created by the Environment Agency (EA) from former gravel extraction pits. They were opened in 1980 and helped remove pollutants from the River Tame.

As the River Tame flows in to and through the wide, shallow lakes, the water flow slows, allowing pollutants to settle. These could then be removed by dredging. At it’s height, the dredging was a constant operation, removing around 15,000 tonnes of contaminated sludge per year. Following creation of the lakes, the water quality of the River Tame downstream began to improve rapidly.

Improvements in water treatment at Minworth Sewage Works, and the widespread decline in heavy industry in Birmingham, mean the lakes are no longer required for water purification. The EA is currently considering their longterm future, for people and wildlife.

There is a similar lake purification system on the River Rhur in Germany.

The lakes are of regional significance for winter wildfowl populations. There is a bird hide and walks around the lakes.

Look out for…

Access

The car park entrance is on Coton Road.

Contact

For more information about the EA visit www.environment-agency.gov.uk.

Where is it?

Shustoke Reservoir

Shustoke Reservoir was built in the 1880s to supply clean drinking water to Birmingham’s rapidly expanding population.

In 1870, the Birmingham Water Works Company applied to Parliament for permission to extract water from the Bourne and Blythe rivers and to create a new reservoir at Whitacre Lodge, near Coleshill.

The land was purchased from Lord Norton, owner of the Hams Hall estate, and work began to excavate the 100 acre reservoir. A pumping station, filter beds and another small reservoir were also built at nearby Whitacre.

The construction of the reservoir took over 10 years to complete and it finally opened in 1874. The total capacity of the reservoir is around 460,000,000 litres and it supplied 28 million litres of water per day to Birmingham.

By the early 20th century, the supply from Shustoke had become inadequate for Birmingham’s ever-growing population. With the completion of the Elan Valley dams in 1904, the reservoir became a backup, and in 1908 Shustoke’s supply was switched to Coventry. Today, Shustoke supplies Coventry, Nuneaton, Bedworth and Atherstone.

The following photographs were kindly provided by Dianne Hazel and show steam-powered dredgers clearing silt at Shustoke Reservoir, circa 1920 :

Access

There are a variety of walks including a circular walk around the Lower reservoir, which links to The Heart of England Way and Centenary Way footpaths. The Upper reservoir is not open to the public

There are opportunities for bird watching, fishing and sailing, and in the spring the reservoir banks are covered by wildflowers.

The main car park can be accessed from the B4114, Coleshill – Nuneaton Road.

Contact

For more information visit www.stwater.co.uk.

Where is it?

Whitacre Heath SSSI

Tame Valley Wetlands | Warwickshire Wildlife Trust | Heritage Lottery Fund

Whitacre Heath nature reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The 44 hectare site features pools, woodland and wet grassland and is formed from old sand and gravel workings.

The reserve is important for breeding water birds. The pools support species including little grebe, tufted duck, water rail and teal. Waders such as lapwing, redshank, curlew and snipe are also regular visitors to the large areas of wet grassland.

Other frequently seen birds include great spotted and green woodpeckers and numerous species of warblers, finches, tits and thrushes.

Dominated by alder and willow, the wet woodland areas are important for fungi, mosses and liverworts which thrive in damp, shaded conditions. Deadwood provides a home to a number of important beetle species.

Frogs and toads thrive in the moist habitats and pools on the reserve. Grass snakes can be seen in March and April basking in the spring sunshine.

A walk along one of our self-guided trails may reveal some interesting plants including southern marsh orchid and the rare blue fleabane, which is only found at a handful of locations in Warwickshire.

Keep an eye open for the rare white-letter hairstreak butterfly and watch for emperor dragonflies and broad-bodied chasers in mid-summer flying over the open pools.

Look out for…

Access:

Open to members of the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust only.

There is good car parking facilities on the Birmingham Road, 0.5km south-east of Lea Marston.

The reserve has fairly flat informal paths (after an initial steep slope up from the car park) with a way-marked route to 5 bird hides. Paths are prone to flooding and are muddy in winter.

Contact:

For more information visit www.wkwt.org.uk.

Where is it?

RSPB Middleton Lakes

Just south of Tamworth lies Middleton Lakes, one of the RSPB’s largest nature reserves.

This 160ha reserve was a gravel quarry until 2007, since when it has been transformed into a haven for wildlife and people.

Situated adjacent to Middleton Hall (owned by Middleton Hall Trust with a craft centre and tea room) and between the River Tame and the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, the site contains lakes, pools, reedbeds, meadows and woodland and is a haven for wading and woodland birds, otters, dragonflies and butterflies.

There are footpaths, viewpoints and an events programme. The reserve is open every day from dawn to dusk.

Look out for…

Access:

Open to members of the public (£3 charge for non members).

There is a good network of surfaced and unsurfaced paths, benches and bird hides.

To find out more about access and opening times, as well as the events programme and volunteering, visit the RSPB website.

Contact:

For more information visit the Middleton Lakes pages at www.rspb.org.uk/reserves

Where is it?

Tameside Local Nature Reserve

Tameside was historically pasture land and is now a valuable site for wildlife and people.

The reserve was created following the building of the A5 bypass, when material was extracted from the site for the construction of road embankments.

Tameside covers 18 hectares, with a 3.2 hectare lake as the most prominent feature. The lake has four small islands, and is a great place to spot little egrets, herons and lapwings. The River Tame passes through the reserve and a small link to the lake enables fish to take refuge from the fast water and spawn. Kingfishers are regularly seen feeding along the river bank and barn owls may be observed hunting for small mammals over the rough grassland.

The reserve is a mix of grassland, scrub, ponds, and scrapes, and new areas of woodland have been planted across the site. All of this encourages many different species, from foxes and other small mammals, to an abundance of birds, insects and plants. Look out for dragonflies, marsh frogs and grass snakes.

There are a number of trails around the site that link to the River Walk into Tamworth and up on to the towpath of the Birmingham and Fazeley canal, which crosses the river on an aqueduct at the southern end of the reserve.

The LNR is managed by Tameside Wildlife Conservation Group through the ‘Wild about Tamworth’ project, a joint initiative between Staffordshire Wildlife Trust and Tamworth Borough Council.

Look out for…

Access:

From Fazeley Road – no on-site parking available.

Contact:

For more information about Tameside and the Tameside Wildlife Conservation Group go to tamesidelnr.wordpress.com

For more information visit the Wild About Tamworth website at: www.tamworth.gov.uk.

Where is it?

Broad Meadow

The 61-acre Broad Meadow is sited on an island between the two channels of the River Tame at Tamworth.

It is an example of lowland meadow – a floodplain grassland habitat which is becoming increasingly rare in Staffordshire and across the UK. Broad Meadow is also one of only two sites in the county where the rare Snake’s Head Fritillary can be found growing wild.

Broad Meadow is a Local Nature Reserve and is managed under the Wild About Tamworth project, which aims to make the site more accessible to people by opening it up and more valuable to wildlife by allowing the fritillaries to spread.

Look out for…

Access:

From Oxbridge Way, via the bridge over the weir to the west of the site.

Contact:

For more information visit Wild About Tamworth at www.tamworth.gov.uk

Where is it?

Kingsbury Water Park

Kingsbury Water Park is the jewel in the crown of Warwickshire’s Country Parks.

Sitting in the floodplain of the River Tame, the 250 hectare site features a diverse range of habitats, including meadows, woodlands, lakes and pools.

The park also features many activities, including waymarked trails, cycle hire, model railway, water sports and fishing, and there is a cafe and visitor centre. Sitting at the heart of the Tame Valley Wetlands, the park acts as a gateway for exploring the wider landscape.

The history of Kingsbury Water Park

Until the late 1920s, the area around Kingsbury was quiet riverside meadows and woodlands, a rural landscape largely unchanged for centuries. However, beneath the ground lay valuable deposits of sand and gravel left over from the last Ice Age.

The area became a mineral extraction site in the 1930s. For almost 50 years, thousands of tonnes of minerals were extracted and used across the region in the construction of roads, bridges and buildings.

Eventually the mineral deposits were exhausted and by the early 1980s most quarries had closed, leaving behind huge open pits and a devastated landscape.

In the early 1970s, Warwickshire County Council set out on an ambitious plan to transform the area into a Country Park. Thousands of trees were planted, the derelict land was restored, and the quarries landscaped to form a series of lakes and pools. The park opened to its first visitors on 24th May 1975.

Since then, the park has welcomed millions of visitors and has grown from 123 acres and just two lakes to 620 acres and over 30 lakes and pools.

Today the transformation is almost complete. The park is a special place; a beautiful landscape we can all enjoy, a safe place to relax and play, and a haven for wildlife.

Read more...

 

Look out for…

Access:

Visitor centre and main car park (pay on entry) on Bodymoor Heath Lane, Bodymoor Heath, B76 0DY. Toilet facilities (baby changing and disabled) are available. See the website for more information.

Contact:

For more information about Kingsbury Water Park visit countryparks.warwickshire.gov.uk.

Where is it?

Ladywalk Nature Reserve

Ladywalk Reserve sits in a loop formed by the River Tame. This reserve is an integral part of the important wildlife area known as the Tame Valley Wetlands.

The 50 hectare site features woodland, wetlands, reed beds and pools, which are the result of flooded gravel extraction workings, and the River Tame flows around three sides of the reserve. The range of habitats is particularly attractive to birds and over 200 species have been recorded.

The large area of reedbed has become an important feature not just to this reserve but to the whole Tame Valley. Wintering Eurasian bittern are frequent visitors and the reserve has been identified as one of the best sites in the country to observe this bird.

Ladywalk Reserve is owned by E.ON and is leased to and managed by the WMBC.

About West Midland Bird Club

The West Midland Bird Club was formed in 1929 and is dedicated to the study and conservation of wild birds in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands.

The club manages several reserves across the region, organises field visits and talks, produces quarterly newsletters and an annual report on the birds of the region.

For more information about the club and membership, please visit www.westmidlandbirdclub.org.uk.

The West Midland Bird Club is a Registered Charity, number 213311.

Read more...

 

Look out for…

Access:

Open to members of West Midland Bird Club only, but there is a public bird hide which can be visited by contacting the club via the website.

If this is your first visit to Ladywalk, make sure that you visit the River Walk Hide. Its elevated position gives excellent panoramic views across the reserve. There is a good network of paths, but please be aware that these can get very muddy in winter. There is a bird feeding station next to Hide ‘A’, which attracts flocks of tits and finches.

Contact:

For more information about Ladywalk, including latest news, photographs and volunteering opportunities visit:
ladywalknature.wordpress.com

For more information about West Midlands Bird Club visit www.westmidlandbirdclub.org.uk

Where is it?