Within a stones throw of Brownsover Hall Hotel, but have you taken the time to explore the hidden gem?
The Swift Valley Nature Reserve was an area of ridge and furrow farming land intersected by the River Swift. Next door is the grand Brownsover Hall Hotel, which itself is steeped in history, and makes an interesting accompaniment to a visit to the nature reserve.
The coarse grassland is filled with red fescue and Yorkshire-fog. Other wildflowers grow here, including meadow crane’s-bill, musk mallow and goat’s-beard.
What’s it like to visit?
The woodland is mainly oak trees with snowdrop and daffodil offering pretty springtime displays. Wetter areas are ideal for alder and willow trees. Ash and willow mingle with the hawthorn hedgerows.
The wetland habitats of the reserve are ideal for many dragonfly and damselfly species, with small red-eyed damselfly choosing Swift Valley – its first county site – in 2004. Nationally scarce soldier and longhorn beetles have even been recorded. Butterflies are also plentiful in the grassland, especially browns and skippers. Small copper and holly blue appear, while small tortoiseshell, peacock and red admiral benefit from all the nettles. The chimneysweeper moth breeds here, laying its eggs on the pignut where fat caterpillars later emerge.
The canal is lovely to visit in summer and yellow water-lily, watercress and celery-leaved buttercup relish growing in its muddy edges.
Home to an excellent diversity of birds, the reserve boasts kestrel, hobby and sparrowhawk, which can regularly be seen hunting. Mute swans breed on the wetland as do mallard, tufted duck, coot, moorhen, lapwing and reed bunting. Snipe and various gulls visit the site in winter.
Rabbits and grey squirrel are numerous, with indications of red fox and mole. The rough grasslands hide a multitude of mice, voles and shrews, whose high pitched squeaking can often be heard.