Sue Bradley from the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust explores the wild side of Greystones
September is a great month to enjoy wildlife ahead of the seasons when the weather cools and many creatures go into hibernation. Sue Bradley explores an extra special nature reserve, meets a man who looks after a very special garden and keeps her eyes pee
Greystones occupies a unique position within the 60 nature reserves looked after by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust.
Not only does the 66 hectare site support a diverse mix of creatures and plants, including one of the area’s healthiest populations of the nationally threatened water vole, it’s historically important too, so much so that it’s been described as the ‘cradle’ of the Cotswolds.
Add to that the fact it’s also a working farm, with cheesemaker Simon Weaver’s cows assisting in the management of its wild flower rich meadows, it’s easy to see why the Trust thinks it’s so special.
Now people visiting the nature reserve on the edge of Bourton-on-the-water will be able to experience so much more from their time there thanks to a £1 million renovation project, with funding from Heritage Lottery Fund, Grundon Waste Management and various other supporters, along with the hard work of dozens of volunteers.
Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, which bought the site in 2001, has devoted several years to creating a pioneering visitor centre worthy of Greystones’ rich historical and wildlife heritage.
The site dates back more than 6,000 years, and was particularly important during the Iron Age, when people from all over the region gathered there to trade, and it has been given the important status of a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Meanwhile the meadows stretching away from the River Eye have been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest on account of their unusual geology and rich collection of wild flowers. These plants, which include great burnet, orchids and foxtail sedge, attract a variety of insects, which in turn provide food for a variety of birds. Further up the food chain, the farm attracts tawny owls and little owls, kestrels and sparrowhawks.
A new wildlife walking trail and accompanying map have been created, boosted by interpretation posts, a little like a modern version of the muchloved ‘I Spy’ books. Information is dotted around about the wildlife to look out for, and to listen for, as you explore the nature reserve.
Derelict agricultural buildings have been transformed to create Greystones’ new visitor centre, which includes a café and a Discovery Barn where visitors can get a taste of the gems to be found around the site.
Meanwhile a recreation of an Iron Age roundhouse, the work of a dedicated team of volunteers led by reserve manager Tom Beasley-suffolk, provides a tangible link to the site’s historical significance in conjunction with its archaeological remains, which the passage of time has made less visible.
All in all Gloucestershire Wildife Trust wants to make Greystones a centre of excellence for outdoor education that makes the most of its environmental and historical richness, for everyone to enjoy. Read more about Greystones on page 134.
The River Eye at Greystones Farm, by Mike Boyes
Barn owl, by Andy Rouse
Kestrel, by Jon Hawkins
Southern marsh orchid