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

Cotswold Life - - NEWS -

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

Whelford Pools

Barn owl, by Andy Rouse

Kestrel, by Jon Hawkins

South­ern marsh or­chid

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