Watchtree is a local nature reserve, but one of those places that although I knew were it was I'd never actually been there.
It's always the way that you forget the beauty that's just on your doorstep.
During the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2001 Watchtree became the final resting place of many infected cattle, the site was chosen due to it's proximity to many infected farms, but also for its bedrock geology that would prevent further contamination from the buried cattle.
It's story could have just ended there, leaving the site a barren wasteland, however the ecological consultants assigned to the restoration of lands after the outbreak choose to turn the space into a community asset and a positive feature to local wildlife.
In 2003 Watchtree became a nature reserve, water areas were created with wildlife in mind, huge areas reseeded, 80,000 trees planted to enhance local woodland and create extra habitats.They have educational programs for school visits and run Watchtree Wheelers and cycle group for people with learning or physical disabilities.
This amazing site is free to visit but has a donations box.
When we visited the site it was a cold frosty but clear Winters day, most of the ponds still had ice skimming the top of them.
Maisie and Lucas enjoyed running around the wide open pathways of the site, trying to spot any wildlife which was unfortunately in hiding for us most the time. Maisie took to hiding in the wooded area while Lucas and I looked out for the Guffalo, of which we didn't see any.
We did however find this awesome wooden spider in the wooded area.
These insect holes are all over the site providing homes for little beasties, quite a lot had spiders in them when we were looking, and I think we may make some of these for our next garden project.
Maisie was map holder while we were there, she has her no one is listening to my command face on here, and took around the site to find the hides which look out onto various wetlands and feeding areas for birds. We saw a few sparrows, a finch and some ducks. The hides are very comfortable, with carpeted seating and one has a telescope too much to the children's delight. They all had posters inside to say which animals and birds were in that location.
The area is also the site for several wind turbines, I know that they get a lot of stick for being ugly and a blot on the landscape but I'll admit I find them hauntingly beautiful. Stood underneath one listening to it slow thrum thrum sound was a simple kind of peace and meditation.
I think will be regular visitors to this wonderful site, and hope to do another Spring time update. You can find out more about Watchtree Nature Reserve here.
Photographs courtesy of Stuart Ryan.