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Sat-Nav postcode: Boat Lane/Stoneyford Lodge parking - NG16 5PR. Plumtre Road parking NG16 4EZ.
Access: From the Nottingham direction on the A610 take the Langley Mill exit off the carriageway towards town. Turn right into Cromford Road at the 'Asda roundabout and after about 1/2 mile, where the road turns sharp left, go directly ahead into Plumtre Road and park before the A610 bridge.
Alternatively, follow Cromford Road around the sharp left hand bend and up the hill to the crossroads and turn right into Aldercarr Lane. After about 1 mile fork right into Boat Lane and park above the Stoneyford Lodge Inn which has been closed for a few years now. Continue on foot past the front of the pub and over the railway bridge until you reach the Kennels and the Reserve. .
History: Formerly known as Langley Mill and Brinsley Flashes, a good part of the area became a Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve (Erewash Meadows) in 1996 when purchased jointly by the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Wildlife Trusts. Each Wildlife Trust is responsible for either side of the River Erewash, which forms the county boundary. The area has long been a well-watched site with records dating back to the 1960s when much of the Erewash Valley reverted back to flood plain because of mining subsidence which could still be occurring even in 2016. Until the early 1980s the wetland area was about three times more extensive than it is today. But the southern part was a local tip and was gradually being filled from the south west corner. When tipping ceased, the A610 bypass was built across it in 1982. The area to the north of the road, however, has remained intact and is little changed, apart from the silting of the delta caused by a narrow causeway built at the time of the bypass.
During the early 1980s the area was threatened with opencast mining. To avoid the threat becoming a reality the Erewash Valley Bird Group (EVBG) was formed in 1985. The EVBG undertook systematic recording of birds and published an annual report to show that the area was important for birds and should be safeguarded. Although most of the site is now safe, the EVBG has continued to monitor birds and published an annual report for 21 years from 1986 until 2006.
The whole site suffered during the early 1990s when a succession of dry years reduced the water table. However, steps taken by EVBG brought help from the then NRA (now Natural England), who dredged out two scrapes enlarging what remained of Langley Mill Flash. Shortly after the Wildlife Trusts had purchased the land they deepened and enlarged these pools by hiring an enormous JCB type Dredger, said to be just back from fire-fighting the Oil Field Wells in Iraq set alight by Saddam Husain. Further enlargement by ‘regular machinery’ will hopefully take place when funds allow. This area just to the north of the causeway holds most of the wildfowl through the winter and, fortunately, the farmers across the river have not carried out any major reclamation work - occasionally they deepen the river and carry out some infilling of flooded land. At times of high water levels virtually the whole area on both sides of the river is under water, creating various sized pools and then wet grassland as the flood waters recede and providing excellent birding on regular occasions. At these times, as the river floods, most wildfowl are on the land owned by the 'Farmers.
Birders who have been around awhile will know of Brinsley Flash, which is in Nottinghamshire and about half a mile north of Langley Mill Flashes. These pools and the surrounding land are now owned by a local shooting club and are strictly private, but they can be viewed distantly from the footpath north of Stoneyford Kennels in Derbyshire.
Habitat: There are four main pools on the Aldercarr or Langley Mill Flash section, called Spoonbill, Taylors, Railway and Farmers. All these pools are shallow and surrounded by marshland, which are usually larger than the pools. Just off the reserve, and slightly to the northwest, are two small ponds that were created after a period of opencast mining that finished in 1989.
These six pools, apart from the first two, are on the Derbyshire side of the river Erewash that forms the border. There are two more pools, also in Derbyshire, the first being about 1/4 mile and the second 1/2-mile to the north, respectively. They are Kennels Flash and Big Marsh, which is directly west & across the river from Brinsley Flash.
An area known as the Delta which until the A610 was built, used to be the main 'stop-off' for any passing waders due to the large expanse of mud which was continually exposed and then inundated. This happened every time the river rose and fell, but is now sadly overgrown, mainly due to the silting, which built up when the causeway was constructed. The EVBG did take action at the time and started a Reed Bed with about six root plants of Phragmities which were planted back in the early 1990's which was the only available means of slowing the transition from water - mud - 'Typhus & eventually Willow. This Common Reed bed flourished and within just a few years Reed Warblers had taken to it. Another six spade size 'clumps' from here have recently been set in an area of the site which is solid typhus / reed mace. It is now about 2 years since planting & all six plants are doing well and almost certainly within a year or two, will hold more birds than it doe's at present
Birds: A total of 193 species has been recorded up to the end of 2016, including a number of rarities and scarcities, e.g., Bittern, Great White Egret. Night Heron, Purple Heron, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis. Red-Crested Pochard, American Wigeon, Avocet. Pectoral Sandpiper, Honey-buzzard, Red-footed Falcon, Quail, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Red-rumped Swallow, Black Redstart and Great Grey Shrike.
Birding the Area: The Reserve itself is more or less surrounded by the perimeter footpath route followed in the text below and is were all the wildlife whether in, or outside of the reserve can be seen. Please stay on these outer paths; the areas inside are classed as 'Sanctuary Area's' to give protection to the wildlife and any track ways or other paths are for farming use or machinery access.
The main starting points are on Plumtre Road, Aldercarr. Stoney Lane, Brinsley; and at the Stoneyford Inn which is closed at present. Starting at Plumtre Road, Aldercarr, walk north under the A610 Langley Mill bypass and follow the farm track around to the right and past the farm buildings on the left. There are several alder trees on the bypass embankment that often attract Siskin and Redpoll. Continue down the rough farm track and onto the causeway over the River Erewash and into Nottinghamshire. Note that the causeway is underwater when the river is high and is sometimes impassable. This is one of the best places to see Water Rail, especially in winter when they sometimes cross the causeway, but are more likely to be seen alongside the reed stands. There is a small colony of Reed Warblers in these reeds.
At the far end of the causeway there is the winter-feeding station that attracts Great, Blue and Coal Tits, a few mixed finches and Reed Buntings plus more interestingly, Willow Tit and Water Rail. Wildfowl are also fed during any severe winter weather from a point a little further along. Just beyond the end of the causeway the track starts to rise and veers to the right. Go past the Farm Gate and 'feeding station' and the 'north to south fence line', then shortly before reaching the first brow of the hill where the Stoney Lane, Brinsley parking site is, turn north over the stile into the field and proceed part way past a small triangular copse on your left which offers some cover while you scan the marshy open area of the river valley in front of you.
Spoonbill Pool is the nearest body of water you will see and as this area usually holds most of the wildfowl it can be worth spending some time here. During the winter period 200 - 400 mixed duck species occur, mainly Teal, Mallard and Wigeon, but also Shoveler and Gadwall with occasional Tufted or more rarely Pochard, which were much commoner here and have even bred in the past. Other species of duck recorded on this pool have included Goosander, regularly over the last few years, Goldeneye, Scaup, Shelduck, Pintail, Garganey and an American Wigeon, which stayed for over 2 weeks. Apart from the American Wigeon, the strangest, most unlikely record was the Common Eider found dying here some years ago. This bird is now in Wollaton Hall Museum. Look for waders around the margins, especially in spring and autumn, and a telescope is advisable because the small species can be difficult to see in the water's edge vegetation. Snipe often congregate on the island or amongst the emergent, flattened reedmace beds. Double figure counts of Snipe used to be common throughout the winter, even reaching three figures at times, but double figure counts still happen occasionally during Autumn and there is always the possibility of Jack Snipe in winter.
Continue along the footpath and over two more stiles to Taylors Pond and Marsh. This is a small overgrown field with what was a small pond heavily fringed by reedmace until late in 2014 after the NWT had laid a new fence-line along the inside (left side)of the footpath and it then changed. This was nothing to do with the fence, but probably a combination of further subsidence aided by the weight of about 40 cattle. This field had been fallow for many years, but once the local farmer could get his cows on without them 'escaping' they worked wonders.The 40 cows soon cropped all the vegetation down to stubble and within days the small pond became a large wader scrape about 2-3 times its former size. The pond itself was often devoid of birds apart from Coot & Moorhen, but a variety of warblers occurred in summer, Whinchat on passage, and Water Rail and sometimes Stonechat in late autumn or winter, but 2015 it became the pool to check for waders and it still is.
The warblers and the other species above are still to be seen here during the right seasons, but fewer in number Follow the path around the northern end of the field and over the river bridge back into Derbyshire. At this point 'Notts Only' listers should retrace their steps, after pausing to check for Kingfisher and Sand Martin along the river. Otherwise carry on up the grassy rise to a gateway on your left which is the entrance to the Railway Marsh area. Now is the time to decide whether to continue on the circular short route or to carry on past the gateway to the two small ponds which are over near the main railway lines about 100 metres away on the left. Alternatively for the longer walk, head back from the gateway towards the river or turn right after crossing the bridge and continue up the valley, over the stiles and across the fields to the Kennels. Keeping the Kennels on your left, go over the stile and into Big Marsh meadow. Below and to your right is Kennels Flash - a shallow pool dammed to control the water level but now overgrown with Reedmace. Continuing north keep close to the hedge and fence line on your left, scanning the posts and bushes ahead of you, especially in July and August for Redstarts, which are recorded in this area almost every year. Arriving at a large isolated post on a rise, the whole area of Big Marsh and across the river to Brinsley Flash and its reedbeds can be scanned. It is recommended that a telescope is used because of the distances involved, especially for any birds on Brinsley Flash. There are usually Great Crested Grebes and a few diving duck present with Common Terns recorded regularly in summer. In autumn and winter scan the bushes and reed tops for Stonechats. Directly behind you to the west is a stile that leads to a concessionary path alongside a remnant of the old canal, through an area of willow and hawthorn to a clearing that is good for butterflies in the summer.
Follow the path through the 'hills and holes' and into the Top Copse. This small area of woodland has attracted many species over the years, including Night Heron, Wryneck, Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher, Hawfinch and Brambling, as well as all three species of woodpecker on a fairly regular basis. Unfortunately it is now some years since these species occurred and although the habitat looks basically the same it is well overgrown with a thick understory nowadays. The paths that do exist just here are mainly east to west, so by keeping east you come to the end of the canal, which now empties into Big Marsh mainly as a trickle Cross the end of the canal and climb the embankment steps. About half way along the top, 50 metres or so, is the Embankment Watchpoint (just a bench seat) that looks out over Big Marsh and is one of the best places to watch for any passage, including Marsh Harriers of which there has been seven in the past three years. Beyond this point is the river, with the land and water east of the river and south of here is private belonging to Ladywood Shooting Club.
Retrace your steps through the woodland or alternatively cross the stile where the canal ends and follow the path along the hedge and fence along the west side of Big Marsh and back via the Kennels. Return past the two small ponds to the gateway and entrance stile to Railway Marsh. The areas of water on this marsh can be difficult to see, but just through the gate is an area of slightly higher ground, so scan from there. Several species of duck are usually present, including Garganey on occasions . When water levels are low waders occur, mainly Snipe and Green Sandpiper, but also other species including a Little Stint that stayed for several days. A Spoonbill spent a week here in 1998, as did a Little Egret in 2002. In 2016 there was Little Egret records in six months of the year with up to 6 birds on several days. In winter Cormorants sit in the dead, riverside trees, joining the resident Grey Herons. There is a small, shallow pool as you near the railway bridge that did have Little Grebe and Ruddy Duck in addition to the species found on the marsh, but over the past 2 years, a species of 'Mare's Tail' has taken over all the pond leaving hardly any visible water.
Cross the front of the railway bridge hole and go over a stile onto the path beside the railway. Where a small stream runs under the path, about 200 metres along, Water Rail and Grey Wagtail are sometimes seen. The stream forms the southwestern boundary of the reserve, but the adjacent field, which belongs to Plumtree Farm and is known as 'Farmers' has an interesting flooded area with small islets. Check the margins for waders and this is a particularly good spot for finding Jack Snipe. There are often Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the willows and the low branches over the water are used by Kingfishers; with Little Owls preferring the pollarded willows near the footpath which takes you back to the A610 road bridge and Plumtre Road.
Dave Sneap June 2017