October 10, 2008
Good Reason to Be Sent to Coventry ; Days Out GRAHAM YOUNG VISITS BRANDON MARSH NATURE CENTRE, NEAR COVENTRY
By GRAHAM YOUNG
IT'S easy to think of the Midlands as a wholly built-up area - but nothing could be further from the truth.
Luckily, the amount of greenery in the region is astonishing both for its quality as well as its variety.
Driving down the A45 towards Coventry, for example, it's hard to imagine that you are about to enter a wildlife paradise.
But, that's exactly what happens if you cross the Toll Bar Island (the Coventry Airport junction) and then take a badly-signposted immediate first left as soon as you spot a Texaco garage on your nearside.
Continue along Brandon Lane for 1.5 miles and then turn right at the sign for Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve.
Follow the narrow track and soon you are on the edge of a fabulous, wetland wilderness on the River Avon's floodplain.
It looks like the sort of place which no developer would surely ever want to disturb.
Yet the site was only created by two industrial processes.
The mining of coal at Binley Colliery caused subsidence which led to the 'Brandon Floods', a large lake linked directly to the river.
And the subsequent quarrying of sand and gravel from the 1950s to 1980s created further areas of open water.
Designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest 35 years ago in 1973, the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust entered into a formal agreement with the gravel company in 1981 to create the marsh of today.
After quarrying stopped in 1989, all that remains is a concrete mixing plant.
Today, the car park's lovely wildlife mural along the perimeter wall is an instant sign that here is a place that is now to be treasured.
Just as you'd expect from a visitor centre opened exactly 10 years ago by Sir David Attenborough. Inside, the man at the reception desk could not have been more welcoming, promising to show us the way in once we'd returned from the very pleasant cafe.
Not only are the cakes lovely here, but it's also good to see such a facility where visitors are trusted with reference books lining one of the walls.
Developers of the new MAC at Cannon Hill Park should take note of how this instantly creates a completely different atmosphere in a 'park' cafe.
Suitably refreshed, we then went out to explore after learning how to get in and how we'd need to leave once the gates were locked.
With just two hours to play with, we were never going to get round the entire 228 acre site, which includes ten pools, the Newlands Reedbed and several hides in an area that was enclosed farmland at the end of the 19th century.
But we took our time and hugely enjoyed the parts that we did see.
Leaving the nature centre we followed the path between Goose Pool to the right and Grebe Pool to the left.
Bearing left, we came back round the other side of Grebe Pool to eventually return back to the nature centre.
Luckily, our visit coincided with the mini warm spell we had in September, when the paths had dried out and we could walk round without the need for heavy coats.
But, such is the natural splendour on view here, it would be just as exciting to follow the paths throughout the golden autumn or to return on a misty, frost-tinged morning in winter.
The Site of Special Scientific Interest is looked after by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust which offers the following splendid advice: 'Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs'.
In this environment, it would be hard to do anything else.
Despite the feeling of remoteness, the fact that you have to pay an admission charge made our walk feel a whole lot safer than trying your luck in a place like some parts of the Kingfisher Country Park in Birmingham where you are quite likely to meet youths riding motorcyles without helmets and acting like they own the place.
Brandon Marsh Nature Centre, Brandon Lane, Coventry, CV3 3GW.
The reserve is open to the public from 9am-5pm Monday to Saturday and from 10am-4pm on Sundays.
Non-member admission: pounds 2.50 per person (50p per child, pounds 1.50 concessions).
Wildlife Trust members go free.
There are 228 acres of reserves, ten main pools, 30 acres of open water, 220 bird species, 60 bird species nesting, 460 plant species and 508 fungi species.
There is also a tea room and education centre.
Telephone 024 7630 2912 (office) or 024 7630 8999 (visitor centre).
Email: [email protected] Website: warwickshirewildlifetrust.org.uk
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