Wyken Slough (Sowe Valley Walk Part 1/4)
How to get there: Aldermans Green Road, Aldermans Green, Coventry
What to shoot: Water Foul, Flora & Fauna
Best time of day: Anytime
Post Code: CV2 1PL
After recently exploring Coventry canal, from the Coventry Basin, to Hawkesbury Junction. I discovered that in fact this is the start point of the Sowe Valley Walk. Which itself is an area of greenbelt that starts at the Hawkesbury conservation area and connects, no less than 4 nature reserves. The Sowe valley Walk itself is a beautiful walk but I was intrigued by the knowledge that it linked the 4 reserves, and decided to look at these in more detail before writing about the walk itself, which has been done many times before. The first of these being, Wyken Slough. And this is where my journey begins; I was keen to see what the history behind the slough was, how well the slough maintained wildlife and the general health of the eco system. Also what it offered to someone like myself who is a keen walker, and photographer.So on a somewhat cloudy day I set off, and tried to put aside what I knew about the local residential area, so as not to cloud my judgement of the slough itself. If I am honest I was not expecting much but I always visit places with an open mind, and try to look for the beauty in everything no matter how obscure it may be.The Sowe Valley walk itself is 8 ½ miles in total, the 4 nature reserves it connects are: Wyken Slough Nature ReserveWyken Croft Nature ParkStoke Floods Nature ReserveStonebridge Meadows Nature ReserveThe slough itself was found to be rich in coal and was being mined as early as 1600. In those days it was an uncomplicated affair of digging pits by hand to remove the precious resource. There was a main pit at Wyken which had two main shafts and continued to work until the late 1800’s. The coal was removed from site by a mixture of road, canal, and railways. Indeed some of the paths around the slough follow the old railway lines. The slough pool did not form till around 1860 as a result of subsidence from the mining. The word Slough referring to marsh land that was present prior to the pools formation. The pool itself is the largest body of water in Coventry, and the area is managed by Coventry City Council with support from Warwickshire Wildlife Trust. Due to the abundant wildlife found on the slough it was designated a local nature reserve in 1991.The slough offers habitat to many wild species with its ample marsh land, flood land, and reed beds. There is a large area of scrubland, covered in wild grass which also adds to the diversity of the wildlife. The meadow is made up heavily of “Quaking Grass” so called because the slightest breeze makes the delicate little flowers quake like an army of tiny jewels.On my visit I was firstly amazed by the sheer volume of water fowl present on the pool. It truly is outstanding; it is awash with Mute Swans, Canada Goose, Mallard Duck and Coot. I was lucky enough while taking a break part way round the pool to spot a Kingfisher as he passed through, the unmistakable turquoise plumage never loses its amazement for me. I also saw Hawker Dragon Fly, Mayfly and many varieties of butterflies along the reed beds that are primarily made up of Sweet Grass Reed.And I believe that the slough also has frequent visits from Little Grebe and Heron. This is in fact one of the primary reasons for the Sowe Valley Walk, the area of greenbelt that links the reserves acts as a Wildlife motorway.The walk round Wyken Slough itself is ideal for the older walker, with most area’s being flat easy to access, with a small car park. There is a footbridge to one end of the pool and the paths are well maintained and relatively even. There is seating all round the pool so those needing a break can do so or just sit and take in the fantastic array of wildlife. For the more adventurous I would recommend starting at Hawkesbury Junction and walk through the conservation area to Wyken Slough and maybe onto Wyken Nature Park, which is the second of the reserves, I will be looking at in the next article.
Contributed By ©Karl Redshaw