Having lived in Rugby for most of my life, I’ll have to admit that I only discovered Swift Valley Nature Reserve a year or so ago. Lockdown has certainly helped many of us to discover hidden gems and undiscovered marvels right on our doorstep. Swift Valley Nature Reserve in Warwickshire is just that, and only a 2-minute drive from my house. Result! More recently, Indie and I have visited the nature reserve most weeks. Right next to Brownover Hall Hotel and Gardens, Swift Valley has open fields, perfect for picnics on warmer days, a small patch of mature woodland and, above all, a disused canal that’s now brimming with wildlife. It’s not the biggest reserve ever – 24 hectares, in fact – but it’s the perfect length route for toddlers’ little legs.
There’s a small car park hidden away at the bottom of the reserve, just off Brownsover Lane. It can get pretty boggy after it’s been raining, so wellies are an absolute must. There’s a path that takes you slightly uphill, which runs along the old canal and looks onto plains and trees. (See the dotted while line on the map above.)
You’ll notice that the field adjacent to the canal contains large ridges. I recently discovered that these are actually ancient furrow plough markings, which I find fascinating. The land has been left unploughed since. In the old canal, you’ll find ducks, swans, fish and spawning tadpoles, in March. Meanwhile, tufted duck, coot, moorhen, lapwing and reed bunting all make Swift Valley their home too.
Where the path leaves the canal, you’ll reach a metal kissing gate that enters young Oak woodlands, before taking a left downhill and across some log stepping stones that The Wildlife Trust have provided to help walkers get through the thick mud. A second kissing gate awaits, where you’ll take a left, before returning back to the car park through a field and tree-sheltered path. Take a few moments to enjoy the bird watching area on your left. The Wildlife Trust volunteers are brilliant at keeping the bird feeders full, so you’re never short of feathered company.
We’ll head to Swift Valley Nature Reserve again next month with a jar, to see if we can find any tadpoles, before returning them back to the canal. It’s the perfect opportunity to teach Indie about the life cycle of a frog.