Visit: Amwell Nature Reserve
Since purchasing the Amwell Nature Reserve site in 2006 Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust has worked to restore it to a diverse wetland habitat which is now internationally important to nature conservation, forming part of a 25 mile living landscape which stretches through the Lee Valley and Olympic Park to the Thames in central London.
From gravel pit to Special Protection Area and Ramsar (internationally important wetland) site, the 40.8 hectare Amwell Nature Reserve, near Stanstead Abbotts, has undergone a massive transformation in the last 20 years. Thanks to several significant awards and much hard work by local groups and individuals, the site’s owner, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, has made this wonderful wildlife haven more accessible to the public.
Many will already be aware of the Reserve due to its high profile but elusive resident, the otter. Others may have spent time trying to catch a glimpse of the Bitterns that have become a regular winter visitor but many more still won’t realise just what an Aladdin’s cave of flora and fauna is right there on their doorstep.
As well as the full-time resident wildfowl, the site is hugely important for over-wintering species such as Gadwall and Shoveler and summer visitors such as the Little Ringed Plover. And it’s not just birds, Amwell is home to all 19 species of dragonfly and damselfly currently identified as resident in Hertfordshire and is the most important site in the county for water beetles. With these and the 350 species of plant, including a thriving orchid population, you can see why the Trust describes Amwell as “the most significant acquisition of land in our history”.
Tracks around the reserve are accessible to all and although they may be muddy after wet weather they are firm and level in most places. There are hides and walkways, a dragonfly trail and clear signage to help bring you closer to wildlife at the reserve.
Rare but there
Wild otters became extinct in Hertfordshire in the late 1970s due to loss of habitat, pollution and hunting. However, six animals were re-introduced in 1991 by the Otter Trust and they have bred successfully. If you are quiet, patient and very lucky you may just catch a glimpse of this charismatic but very elusive resident of the Reserve. Best spotting time for otters is early morning or evening.
The Amwell year highlights
• Wintering wildfowl (Gadwall and Shoveler in particular)
• Gull roost
• Roosting Jackdaws and crows
• Roosting Little Egrets
• Wintering Bittern(s)
• Reed Buntings
• Passage wading birds
• Bird breeding season. Birdsong plus displaying birds of prey – Sparrowhawk, Hobby, Buzzard
• Start of the dragonfly season
• Marsh orchids and other flowers
Summer (July – August)
• Passage wading birds feeding on muddy shorelines
Autumn (September – November)
• Returning wintering birds.
• Passage wading birds
• Autumn colours of Easneye Woods and lakeside trees
All three hides have ramps or are wheelchair friendly and the view point is ‘layered’ to allow wheelchairs to roll up to it at the first level. Information boards and way markers further enhance the experience and identify the flora and fauna.
Nearest towns: Stanstead Abbotts, St. Margarets and Ware OS map reference: TL376127
The nature reserve is near to both the A414 and A10, and accessed via Amwell Lane. From Stanstead Abbotts, turn off the B181 into Amwell Lane. From Ware (A1170 heading south), turn left into Lower Road and then left into Amwell Lane after approx 1 mile.10 minute walk from St Margaret’s rail station (Stanstead Abbotts). Buses stop here from Hoddesdon and Ware. The nature reserve can also be reached on foot/cycle via the River Lee Navigation towpath from Stanstead Abbotts, Ware and Hertford.
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust
Amwell Nature Reserve is just one of more than 40 nature reserves managed by Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. If you would like more details on HMWT’s work for wildlife or how to join please contact 01727 858901, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk
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