From the Tranquil Otter you may just be able to make out wind turbines close by; these are at Watchtree Nature Reserve, a former disused airfield and now the biggest man made nature reserve in Europe. Well worth a look.
The reserve is open from 9am to 4:30 pm and is easy walking or cycling distance from the Tranquil Otter and there is parking nearby. The area has some happy and sad memories for local people. During the 2001 Foot-and-Mouth crisis the disused airfield became the site at which animals suspected of having the disease were brought and eventually buried. Naturally local people were worried at many levels, not least because the effect of burying a large number of animals in complicated underground chambers was untested. The area was selected for its particular kind of clay bedrock, which prevents groundwater seepage. Immediately after the crisis was over, it was agreed by majority vote to designate the site as a nature reserve.
Over the last ten years Watchtree has been quietly implementing innovative schemes for attracting birds, beetles and butterflies. Whilst we have been pollarding trees at the Tranquil Otter so that the tree dies standing up, thus creating an environment for insects, at Watchtree they have created a fake tree made out of plastic tree guards and stuffed it with dead wood to achieve the same outcome. As registered charity, the reserve has also been busy planting over 80,000 trees, including certain species to attract red squirrels. None have yet started breeding, but we know that there are red squirrels in the area as we have seen some in our garden and woods, so hopefully in the future there will be more success. Of course, it’s only fair to report that we have also seen grey squirrels hanging around too, but so far there doesn’t seem to be a reduction of reds.
The reserve also has an excellent scheme called Watchtree Wheelers, with customised bikes so that people of all ability and mobility can enjoy cycling around the woods and lakes.
I have just seen from our parish magazine that the reserve are holding a Fungi Foray session on 8th October, I shall be there. We have a large variety of mushrooms at the Tranquil Otter and it would be good to learn about them.
There are regular activities at Watchtree Nature Reserve for children and adults, including orienteering skills. For more information about events during your stay at the Tranquil Otter check out www.watchtree.co.uk