How to get there: Brandon Marsh Nature Centre, Brandon Lane, Coventry Warwickshire
What to shoot:Birds, Flora & Fauna
Best time of day: Something at most times, Seek expert advise for Birding
Post Code: CV3 3GW
Located near Brandon Village, just a few miles east of Coventry. The 228 acre site is located adjacent to the River Avon. The area was originally enclosed farmland with two small woods and a small wetland area in the flood plain of the River Avon.Later the area was mined from Binley Colliery up till the mid 1950’s. This process itself caused much subsidence, which resulted in creating Brandon Floods, a large lake which linked directly to the River Avon. This area was partially drained by river engineers, leaving two pools “River” and “Teal”. After coal mining ceased the site was quarried for sand and gravel in vast quantity’s this left the land open to new formations of pools.Local birdwatchers worked alongside the gravel company to enhance these areas for wildlife, having already seen the diverse bird life that frequented the pools and wetland.In 1973 the site was declared a Site of Special Scientific Importance (SSSI), by 1981 the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust entered into an agreement with the gravel company, and by 1989 all quarrying had stopped, with just a small concrete mixing plant left on site.The site developed over the coming years with a visitor’s centre being opened by Sir David Attenborough in 1998. The centre has hands on displays, and activity’s about the reserve, as well as a gift shop and tea room.The reserve has matured over the years and a staggering amount of bird life has been recorded visiting the site during the last few years, with an estimated species count of over 230. This consists, as you can imagine, of a diverse and contrasting mix. This is due to special habitats being set out within the reserve to cater for differing species. For example the East Marsh Pool has two gravel and pebble islands. Put in place to encourage breeds such as Common Tern and Little Ringed Plover. There are also a number of artificial rafts on site and another island that is set to grasses to attract Lapwing, Common Redshank, and Green Sand Piper. These islands and rafts also help safeguard against predation from foxes.The site has 10 main pools, and a few smaller pits that have been created for Dragonfly and flora. Each of these offers a rich and diverse habitat. The reed beds are made up of Common Reed, Reed Sweetgrass, Sedges, Bulrushes and Teasel among others. The wooded areas are home to Willow, Alder, Oak, Ash, Larch, and Scots Pine.Because the reserve is so varied in its biodiversity, not only have over 230 Bird Species been identified using the reserve, but over 480 Plant Species, 550 Fungi, 30 Butterfly , 220 Moth, 16 Dragon/Damselfly, Not to mention an array of mammals from Voles to Shrews. Even Otters have been spotted here during recent years.The site itself is laid out very well, with a site map being provided on entry and walks of varying lengths dependant on how your group is made up, so this really is a family oriented site. Which is a refreshing change, as so many times no provision is made to accommodate family’s, which results in fewer visitors and less understanding and appreciation from the younger generation. But the site also caters for the real hardened enthusiast as well. With multiple bird hides and more difficult trails being included. There is also fishing on site but by prior agreement only.This really is a fantastic example of what can be achieved by hard work and great biodiversity skills, in giving the wildlife you wish to attract the very habitat they require.It is not very often I would recommend you travel any real distance to see a site. But this truly is the exception, I can honestly say in all the years I have had an interest in wildlife and walking, Brandon Marsh for me truly is among the very best of the reserves.
Contributed By ©Karl Redshaw