Sue Bradley from the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust explores the wild side of Alney Island
The long days of August are a great time to go out exploring and enjoy being close to nature, whether it’s the wilds of Alney Island just outside Gloucester or the beautiful surroundings of Cirencester Park, as Sue Bradley reports
Alney Island lies less than a mile from the centre of Gloucester but is a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and there’s no better time to explore it than during the drier summer months.
This 2.1 mile long site lies within a section of the River Severn that splits into two channels, starting at ‘Upper Parting’ at the northern tip and merging at ‘Lower Parting’ in the south. For centuries it was used as the lowest river crossing point to Wales and remains the spot at which the Severn Bore reaches its peak, a phenomenon that’s best viewed from Telford’s bridge at Over or The Lower Parting. Alney Island is said to be the place at which the Danish king Cnut fought and defeated the English king Edmund Ironside in 1016 and was once the site of a 1.5 mile-long racecourse.
Alney Island’s position within the UK’S longest river means flooding is a common occurrence, and it’s for this reason that the site is generally used as farmland, although there are also a few houses too. It’s mostly maintained as pasture, which is used for grazing hardy rare breed cattle, including Old Gloucesters, with the grass cut for hay in the summer.
Some 198 acres of the site are designated a nature reserve, managed by Gloucester City Council and assisted by regular work parties known as The Friends of Alney Island. It contains wet grassland, broadleaf trees and other watery habitats, all of which attract a range of wildlife.
In the summer the nature reserve is awash with wild flowers, including orchids, which