Getting Lost in Warwickshire’s Wildlife
With many of us exploring the great outdoors of our beloved region over the last year, we wanted to celebrate some of the best of nature’s beauty that Warwickshire has to offer. Whether you are looking for a new walking route or an escape from the noise of traffic and hustle and bustle of civilization, we’ve got you covered. After spending most of our time enjoying the great outdoors of Warwickshire, we have put together a handy guide of the best spots for you to enjoy the sights and sounds of Warwickshire’s wildlife. Why not make the most of what is local while we’ve got it to ourselves? Let’s explore how lucky we are.
Up first is a hidden little gem we came across at the beginning of Autumn last year. Tucked away at the end of Albert Road in Meriden, Millisons Wood Nature Reserve lays waiting to be explored. Not only is this a great spot to get away from the rush of the city roads and get a bit mucky with your wellies on, but there is plenty of wildlife to be spotted and natural footpaths to follow.
Millisons Wood Nature Reserve is approximately 25 acres of ancient woodland which was once a part of Arden Forest, covering much of the countryside. Medieval sheep grazing and farming has reduced this to just a small pocket of woodland. It is delicately maintained to encourage the local wildlife to take up home. You will see handmade bird houses and feeders staggered across the woodland, just a little reminder that some wonderful people are taking care of this special area and the wildlife within it.
We feel incredibly lucky to have this on our doorstep; a perfect escape away from the hustle and bustle of the city where you are sure to spot all kinds of wildlife. On our last visit, we were fortunate enough to spot a sparrow hawk circling the air above, obviously on the hunt. The natural pathways are littered with leaves in the autumn and you are sure to get pretty muddy, exactly as you should when exploring the outdoors. But as spring has awoken, Millisons Wood Nature Reserve offers exciting blooms of spring bulbs and a carpet of bluebells in the sunshine. This is a beautiful nook of countryside for spotting insects, rabbits and a variety of birds and a perfect place to reconnect with Mother Nature.
Crackley Wood can be accessed from Kenilworth Greenway, which we’ll talk about a little later on. But you can also park along Crackley Lane to enter the 35 acre woodland. During the previous century, this wood was coppiced but after time sycamores, conifers and chestnut trees were introduced to the habitat. You will find many ancient oak trees among the rich woodland, as well as beech trees and silver birch.
The circular loop of Crackley Woods Nature Reserve also provides a fun Brass Rubbing Trail, with eight posts around the circular loop to find; a great way to get the kids engaged with the outdoors. You will find the first post at the entrance of the south car park on Crackley Lane.
If you are looking for a solo nature walk, or perhaps taking the dog, you can enjoy this beautiful bit of nature in any season. Careful when it has been really wet as some of the pathway can get flooded but with a pair of wellies on, you should be fine! The wide paths also provide plenty of opportunities to go further in to the woodland, where you are sure to spot blankets of bluebells and other spring bulbs this season. We can’t wait to see what wonderful colours this summer will provide too!
What Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve doesn’t have, we don’t know. There is a gentle walking path around the woodland, which has been carefully maintained and preserved for the rich wildlife living there. As well as this, it boasts many spots to sit and watch the birds, take in the quiet hums of the trees and relax in the beauty of nature. We would personally go there any time of year; there have been many flasks of tea drank in the depths of Brandon Marsh’s beauty on a cold winter’s day.
Following the trail around the woodland, you will find yourself coming to a few natural clearings, we would highly recommend getting off that beaten path for a little explore too. In the summer seasons, the wildflowers and thickets of brambles are a party palace for the insects and butterflies, and if you are fortunate enough you may spot mammals such as badger, muntjac deer and rabbits.
Brandon Marsh is 220 acres of ancient woodland, pools, grassland and wildflower meadows and is home to a rich variety of wildlife. It is a site of Special Scientific Interest(SSI) due to visits from so many rare migratory birds such as the pied flycatcher and home to otters and kingfisher, which you may spot on your trails.
Brandon Marsh has finally reopened to the public, so you can once again visit the nine hides across the reserve where you can look out for wildlife in their natural residence. The Badgers Kitchen and the Nature Reserve visitors centre are also open again, seven days a week from 9.30am on weekdays and 10am at the weekend.
The nature reserve also have sensory and education gardens to take the children, as well as a brass rubbing trail to get everyone exploring the outdoors. We can’t wait to see you there as the sun shines more and more this season.
Once you’ve found a spot to park in the lay by at the end of Burnthurst Lane, you will be greeted by the nearby sound of geese and chickens from the farm at the entrance to Wappenbury Wood’s trail. The smell of wood burning stoves and haybarns linger in the air as you head further away from civilization and deeper in to nature’s paradise.
The age old pathway, marking the history of Wappenbury Woods, at the beginning of the trail is definitely suitable access for wheelchairs. However, we would strongly advise you ignore the information online and avoid the short loop trail during the colder seasons as it can get extremely muddy and would not be suitable for wheelchairs.
Whilst online information states no dogs are allowed at Wappenbury Wood Nature Reserve, there are many polite signs dotted around to advise that your furry friends remain on a lead whilst you explore. As the area is home to such a wide variety of wildlife and there is a working poultry farm by the entrance, keeping those pups close by on a lead is a must; you don’t want them disturbing this well preserved habitat.
In the summer months, Wappenbury Wood is a thriving environment for over 40 different varieties of butterfly, including the white admiral. If you can’t wait that long though, it is still a tranquil escape through any season and over 80 species of bird have been recorded here. You may spot a tawny owl or a woodpecker on your trails. For us, this is the perfect place to get away from it all; switch off from devices and work and reconnect with nature.
When you decide to get your walking boots on and head down there, avoid Wednesdays and Saturdays as they are closed to the public for private shooting.
Once you do enter Wappenbury Wood Nature Reserve, you have the choice of two routes. The short loop around the trail takes approximately 45 minutes and is 1.3 miles long and the long loop is 1.75 miles and takes approximately an hour and a half to walk. Don’t worry if you don’t have too much time to do the long loop, you will be spoilt still in the thick of the Aspen trees and the birdsong from above whichever way you choose.
Tocil Woods Nature Reserve, tucked away by The University of Warwick Campus, is made up of ancient woodland, meadow, ponds and grassland. Some of the trees at Tocil Woods are over 400 years old. This is a must visit in every season as over 60 different varieties of birds have been spotted around the ancient woodland. If you are quiet, enjoying the stillness of nature sat among trees, you may be fortunate to spot some weasels too.
You will be pretty lucky to explore Tocil Woods this Spring time. Without having to share this site of natural beauty with loads of tourists and students, it really is somewhere very special to explore. With sculptures from the University’s arts department dotted around the trail, you will feel the celebration and connection that has made with its students and the surrounding natural beauty. With pieces specifically designed to aid wildlife habitats and encourage the bee and butterfly population, you will be able to enjoy the ongoing restoration and maintenance of this beautiful site.
You won’t be surprised to find many mammals such as badgers and rabbits on your walk as well as a symphony of birdsong. Whilst you can still hear the hum of traffic from Gibbet Hill Road, most of it is dulled by the woodland and gentle trickle of running water that appears along the trail.
Tocil Woods Nature Reserve provides colour all year round, with an array of autumn colours and chances to spot some interesting fungi, but the spring time colour is a must see. Fields of bluebells swarm the area creating such a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy. Head down there after this Bank Holiday weekend to immerse yourself in the bright blue fields of flowers, with wood anemones and violets offering some extra colour too.
The only pitfall here is the parking so, if you can, walk there first. But if you must drive, you will find permit parking in the university. Public parking access can be found on the university campus, subject to permits and payments and then you will have to navigate The University of Warwick Campus first. But it’s worth it, we promise.
This is our remedy for a quick dose of nature to help you regroup. Sometimes life is just stressful and time takes over, tasks overload us and suddenly we haven’t left the house all day or taken a single moment for ourselves.
Knowle Hill Nature Reserve in Kenilworth is 10.1 acres of natural habitat tucked away on Knowle Hill. Find some parking on a residential street, but preferably walk there, and then go and get yourself a dose of fresh air. With scenic views of Kenilworth and some steep inclines to get that body moving, you will quickly feel that remedy kicking in.
This local nature reserve provides a little something for everyone; the local wildlife, including birds and mammals, insects and butterflies, our four-legged friends and us. You will be spoilt with grassland, woods and glorious views as well as the many sounds of the local wildlife enjoying the rich landscape. Whilst this local nature reserve is only small, we had to add it to our list of top choices for its convenient location and small but mighty dose of nature.
So, if like many of us you are working from home, feeling stuffy and in need of some fresh air, but don’t have much time in the day, go for a quick stroll in this wonderful little spot to reconnect to with the outdoors. You’ll head back home feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and restored for another afternoon of work.
Ran by Warwickshire County Council, Burton Dassett Hills Country Park is comprised of large ironstone hills. Whilst most of the spots of natural beauty we have looked at have included much ancient woodland, Burton Dassett Hills offers astounding views. As well as a small bit of maintained woodland to explore; what is nature without trees, after all?! But the trip here is really for those high up, breathtaking, panoramic views of Warwickshire.
You will see for miles and miles; the ancient town of Burton Dassett, surrounding farmland and small spots of civilization in the distance. For us, this is the perfect spot to be humbled and remind ourselves how small and insignificant we are on this gigantic, beautiful earth.
Opened by the council as a country park in the 70s, there lays a wealth of history in these 100 acres, which includes the small woodland, Fox Covert which has a path around the circumference. As well as this, the landscape offers the opportunity to visit the quarry remains, the beacon and a 12th Century church nearby.
There are a few spots to park up, one near the prominent beacon; just don’t forget to pay!
And then, you have acres of land to explore. Shared with many farm animals, you are bound to spot sheep on your amble. But we recommend looking up to spot birds of prey circling the skies. The sharp ascends and descends of the hills provide little nooks of shade on a summer’s day and there are plenty of picnic tables and benches to take in the views or have a rest. Burton Dassett Hills is a personal favourite for catching a sunrise or sunset, but make sure to wrap up; it is windy up high where the views are best! A perfect spot to take a kite….
We need to give you one more spectacular view to visit and that’s waiting for you in Stratford Upon Avon. Welcombe Hills Nature Reserve is 148 acres of grassland and woodland where you will find cattle grazing across spring and summer. This Nature Reserve provides beautiful walks through the countryside with access via kissing gates as you travel up the steep walking trails. You’ll notice woolly thistle among the grass and many ant hills created by the yellow meadow ants that reside there.
Once you reach the woodland, the English elm greet you among many oak and beech trees. With such a rich selection of ancient woodland, spotting a wide variety of birds is a frequent occurrence. Listen out for the great spotted woodpecker and spot many brown finches flying through the trees. This spring time, butterflies are out in force around the grassland. You’ll also be pleased to see dragonfly hovering above the ponds when the sun in shining. This really is a delightful spot to get lost for a few hours and the steep hills outside the woodland provide breathtaking views across Warwickshire. Go check it out.
Once upon a time, this beautiful walking route was a train line. But when it went into disuse, the natural world began to take it back. Largely maintained by the wildlife and walkers who frequent the area, Kenilworth Greenway has been a true treasure for local residents. It has provided a traffic free corridor for walkers and wildlife to access Crackley Woods and has become home to foxes, birds, badgers and many more of nature’s creatures. Birch trees and Hawthorn took over the land and nests were created by the wildlife above and below.
We urge you to take a trip to Kenilworth Greenway as soon as you can, because unfortunately this area of treasured and ancient natural beauty lays within the new pathway for HS2. In September of last year, HS2 Ltd officially took possession of a section of Kenilworth Greenway. This has resulted in areas of the greenway being closed off to the public, such as Burton Green where they are building a new tunnel. Between Burton Green and Berkswell, the greenway has been temporarily replaced to provide access. If you are concerned about the effect on our local wildlife, please sign this petition or contact your local council representative to express your concerns for the HS2 project.
Where do you like getting lost in Warwickshire?
We know we have missed quite a few spots to get lost in across our beautiful region but we would love to hear from you so we can keep improving the information we offer to our readers. Your recommendations help us to keep our information up to date and relevant. Tag us in your photos on social media of you and your furry friends out in Warwickshire’s wildlife, your family exploring ancient woodland or wildlife you’ve spotted on your trails.
Written by Heather Marie Willis