Sue Bradley from the Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust dis­cov­ers the wilder side of Tewkes­bury

Cotswold Life - - CONTENTS - WORDS BY SUE BRADLEY

The meet­ing of two rivers are just one of the fac­tors that sin­gle out Tewkes­bury as a spe­cial place for wildlife.

The Sev­ern and The Avon and their as­so­ci­ated flood plains at­tract a va­ri­ety of bird life; swans are a fa­mil­iar sight in these parts but the area is also rich in wa­ter fowl. River mam­mals such as ot­ters are also known to use the wa­ter­ways.

Since 2014 there has been a great deal of work by vol­un­teers to cre­ate a thriv­ing na­ture re­serve be­tween Prior’s Park and Wheat­pieces. The 118-acre (46 hectare) site, which lies along­side the Tewkes­bury by­pass and sits op­po­site Mor­ri­son’s su­per­mar­ket, is a short walk from the town cen­tre along Bar­ton Street.

Tewkes­bury Na­ture Re­serve per­forms a dual role of pro­vid­ing a habi­tat for wildlife as well as im­prov­ing ur­ban drainage, an es­pe­cially im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion after the hard­ships en­dured by many res­i­dents dur­ing the flood of 2007.

Vol­un­teers there have made im­prove­ments to the River Swil­gate, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of me­an­ders to lessen the speed of the wa­ter, in­crease habi­tat di­ver­sity for fish to re­pro­duce and al­low the river to clean it­self. Back­wa­ters, which are used by spawn­ing fish and pro­vide refuge from preda­tors, and reed beds have been made to pro­vide food sources for fish, birds and bats, while wild flower mead­ows have been sown to in­crease the range of in­sects.

The re­serve, pre­vi­ously used for graz­ing cat­tle, is now a pop­u­lar area for walk­ers, run­ners and dog ex­er­cis­ing. Some 80 dif­fer­ent types of birds have al­ready been recorded there, rang­ing from gulls to song thrush, lin­net and the cuckoo. Mean­while some 87 dif­fer­ent in­ver­te­brates have been found on the site, along with bats such as the com­mon pip­istrelle, so­prano pip­istrelle and noc­tule, and brown trout.

An­other im­por­tant wildlife-rich part of Tewkes­bury is Sev­ern Ham, an an­cient wa­ter meadow that’s reached by a small foot­bridge from the cen­tre of the town.

The area, one of the best ex­am­ples of the few re­main­ing hams in the UK, sup­ports wild flow­ers, such as the par­a­sitic greater mad­der (ru­bia), along with in­sects and birds, in­clud­ing the curlew. It is a splen­did place to en­joy stun­ning views of Tewkes­bury Abbey and the Malvern Hills.

Fields to the south west of the town close to its his­toric abbey are now a peace­ful spot but in 1471 they were the scene of fe­ro­cious fight­ing. The lo­ca­tion of the Bat­tle of Tewkes­bury is now reg­is­tered as a bat­tle site and used for graz­ing cat­tle, al­though the keen-sighted visi­tor may find the odd horse­rad­ish plant and even the odd patch of mus­tard grow­ing there, a re­minder of the town’s years man­u­fac­tur­ing a fiery condi­ment so fa­mous that it’s men­tioned in a play by Wil­liam Shake­speare.

While Tewkes­bury’s rivers, flood plains and mead­ows are prime places to find wildlife, there’s also a great deal to be found around its his­toric build­ings. The 12th cen­tury abbey, like many old struc­tures, at­tracts a num­ber of bats, while its grounds – in­clud­ing its se­cret gar­den - are a haven for plants and in­sects. An­other re­li­gious house, the old Bap­tist chapel, also sup­ports a great va­ri­ety of species in its grave­yard.

Many peo­ple in Tewkes­bury have em­braced the idea of wildlife-friendly gar­den­ing and the town even has a spe­cial train­ing area in Pri­ors Park, owned by Sev­ern Vale Hous­ing So­ci­ety and run by Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust.

Other prime spots just out­side the town in­clude Ash­le­worth Ham, an­other wet­land that’s used by many species of over­win­ter­ing wild­fowl, and Coombe Hill, with its canal and mead­ows. Both of these sites are man­aged by Glouces­ter­shire Wildlife Trust and are con­sid­ered so valu­able that they’ve been des­ig­nated Spe­cial Sites of Sci­en­tific In­ter­est.

COTSWOLD GREATS: BLUE­BELLS

A sea of blue awaits vis­i­tors to Glouces­ter­shire’s wood­lands this month. Car­pets of blue­bells are a feast for the nose as well as the eyes, fill­ing the air with del­i­cate per­fume. Al­most half of the global pop­u­la­tion of com­mon blue­bells, Hy­acinthoides non-scipta, can be found in the UK. These dainty flow­ers can be told apart from their Span­ish rel­a­tive Hy­acinthoides his­pan­ica by the way their bells droop dis­tinctly to one side of their stalks rather than be­ing ar­ranged all the way round. One of the big­gest threats to Bri­tain’s wood­land blue­bells comes from hy­bridi­s­a­tion and it’s for this rea­son that gar­den­ers liv­ing near such sites are en­cour­aged to stick to na­tive bulbs. Blue­bells are an im­por­tant species for wildlife as they pro­vide rich nec­tar for a va­ri­ety of in­sects, in­clud­ing but­ter­flies. The com­mon blue­bell is a pro­tected species and is par­tic­u­larly as­so­ci­ated with an­cient wood­lands; ar­eas of trees that pre­date the 1600s.

INTO THE BLUE – 10 TOP SPOTS FOR BLUE­BELLS IN GLOUCES­TER­SHIRE:

Betty Daw’s Wood, near Dy­mock Cho­sen Hill near Church­down Collin Park Wood near Upleadon Frith Wood – Slad Val­ley Lower Woods, near Wick­war Midger Wood near Hilles­ley Mythe Rail­way near Tewkes­bury Ri­d­ley Bot­tom near Stroat Sic­caridge Wood near Sap­per­ton Three Groves Wood be­tween Oakridge and France Lynch

5 PLACES TO HEAR THE DAWN CHO­RUS

May is a great month to hear the avian orches­tra in full voice. Here are a few spots to en­joy their early morn­ing con­certs. The mu­sic starts just be­fore sunrise. - Robinswood Hill Coun­try Park, Glouces­ter, GL4 6SX - Lower Woods Na­ture Re­serve, off In­gle­stone Com­mon, GL9 1BY. - Midger Wood Na­ture Re­serve near Lower and Up­per Kil­cott on the A46 close to Wot­ton-under–edge - Sic­caridge Wood, near Sap­per­ton GL7 6LN - Collin Park Wood be­tween Glouces­ter and Newent GL18 1ED

Com­mon pip­istrelle

Blue­bells at Lower Woods

Blue­bells at Midger

PHOTO: AMY LEWIS

Song thrush

Cuckoo

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