A wetland walk to enjoy on the outskirts of Ashford
THIS WINTER BIRDING walk is centred on the quarrying activities of the Brett Group, along the Stour valley close to the busy commuter town of Ashford. The resultant Conningbrook Lakes have recently been designated as a country park by Ashford Borough Council, which maintains the site for general leisure use, along with a natural history input from the Kent Wildlife Trust. The lakes are famous in fishing circles for the landing of a British record 67lb carp. They attract a range of gulls, feral geese and wildfowl, with a chance of a Goosander or Smew dropping in during cold weather. Increasingly, the occasional Great White Egret is found among the commoner Little Egrets around the margins, or in the mature willows that border the lakes. A smaller, reed-fringed lake may entice a Bittern to winter, while adjacent areas of scrub and uncut grasses can attract finch and thrush flocks at times. The River Stour is the jewel in the crown of this walk as it meanders northwards through the North Downs and should deliver the likes of Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail with a chance of Siskin and Redpoll in riverside alders. Outside of the country park, the footpath winds its way across arable farmland and skirts a copse, adding to the habitat diversity. Keep an eye out for increasing numbers of Red Kites.