Ladywalk Nature Reserve lies on the site of the old Hams Hall power station, situated in the valley of the River Tame, in the borough of North Warwickshire, England, some ten miles from Birmingham city centre, at grid reference SP212917 .
In its heyday, the power station was one of the largest generating plants in Europe but the last station, Hams 'C', was closed and demolished in November 1992. Hams Hall has now become a national distribution park.
Although the approach to the reserve along Faraday Avenue is an unusual entrance to a wildlife haven, the visitor will find an impressive natural legacy left by the earlier industrial activity on the site. The reserve comprises about 125 acres of floodland and woodland lying within a loop of the river Tame at the eastern end of the Hams Hall site.
Originally the area was worked for sand and gravel which, when finished, left a series of pools of varying depth. This, coupled with the surrounding rough pasture and the depositing of pulverised fuel ash from the power station, created a habitat attractive to a wide variety of bird life.
In 1970, after an approach from the West Midland Bird Club, the CEGB agreed to designate the area as a nature reserve, and in June 1971 the reserve was formally inaugurated by Max Nicholson CBE.
Since then, over 200 species of bird have been recorded within the area of the reserve including such unusual visitors as Red Kite, Common Crane, Waxwing, Bearded Tit, Night Heron, Little Egret, Spoonbill, American Wigeon, Long tailed Duck, Marsh Harrier, Hoopoe, Great Grey Shrike and Lapland Bunting to mention just a few.
Rarities apart, the reserve offers good birdwatching all the year round.
In the winter months hundreds of wildfowl, mainly Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Mallard, along with smaller numbers of Goldeneye, Goosander, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Gadwall and Pintail — and the occasional Smew — are more or less guaranteed.
These, coupled with the regular flocks of Lapwings, Geese, Gulls, the Grey Herons and the Cormorants that frequent marsh and lakes, make the reserve a very lively place. Water Rail and Woodcock are both regular winter visitors often in good numbers.
Visitors can also enjoy the opportunity of watching at close quarters birds which come to the feeding stations located at both Sainsbury's and B hides. Flocks of tits and finches can be watched feeding in the company of both Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Green Woodpeckers. Unusual species such as Marsh Tit and Willow Tit, Water Rail and Sparrowhawk also pay regular visits to these feeding stations.
In recent years, up to four over-wintering Bitterns have spent time at the reserve, making Ladywalk one of the best reserves in the country where you are almost guaranteed to see these birds, thus attracting many birders eager for a glimpse of this normally elusive species.
Small flocks of Siskin and Redpoll occur regularly accross the reserve during the day, whilst at dusk flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare can be watched coming to roost in the Phragmites, as Water Rails and Tawny Owl start to call.
The arrival of spring brings the reserve alive with song, as male warblers and other songbirds declare their territories. In the evening the reedbed, that during winter provided a roost for the Thrushes, now plays host to migrating Swallows and Martins, often in their hundreds.
Spring also sees the passage of migrating Sandpipers, Plovers, Greenshanks and Godwits, a few regularly stopping for a day or two on their long journey northwards. Little Ringed Plovers, Curlew and Shelduck also return at this time, all of which nest on or near to the reserve.
As spring gives way to summer there is still plenty to see. As well as birds, Ladywalk is home to five species of Orchid, including the only Marsh Hellebore colony in the county — there are now an amazing 2,000 plants of this species. In 1999 a large colony of the locally rare Yellow Birds Nest was discovered.
Butterflies are plentiful, with many species occurring, including the locally scarce White-letter Hairstreak that can be found in the Church Pool Covert. In 1995, Ladywalk's first recorded Marbled White was seen.
The shallow scrapes are now home to many dragonflies and damselflies — over sixteen species have been recorded on the reserve, so all in all making summer an interesting time.
As every corner of the site has potential it can be difficult to recommend a particular area of the reserve — it's all good! There is a circular footpath around the reserve, 1.6 miles in length, and this visits all 6 hides.
Do make sure that you visit the River Walk Hide, as its elevated position provides panoramic views over the entire site, providing a good perspective of exactly what the reserve has to offer. It is also the best viewing site for Bitterns, which often roost near to Hide 'B' where Water Rails may also be seen. Feeding stations are run close to the Sainsbury's and B Hides, attracting many tits and finches.
The reserve has changed a lot over the past forty-odd years. Birch, Willow and Alder have grown up into the first stages of woodland and have also encroached on the marsh and pool edges. The grass grows rapidly during the warm summer months and the phragmites beds grow larger every year.
All this needs managing and volunteer work parties meet regularly now all year round to perform the various management tasks. All volunteers are welcome; please e-mail: email@example.com.
New footpaths have been created in the reserve and screens have been built to provide birdwatchers close views of birds in the reed beds and on the pool. These, along with the six hides on the main reserve offer the visitors to Ladywalk the opportunity to see a diverse range of habitat and wildlife and will remain so for many years to come.
Access to the reserve is free for members who join at the "inclusive" rate.
For other members, permits can be obtained, on an individual basis.
The reserve is not open to the public, but organised groups wishing to visit should contact our secretary.
Non-permit holders are able to bird-watch at the site only from the public footpaths to the east of the site, and from two public hides that are situated to the north-west, and near Whitacre Pool to the south of the reserve, where some visitor information can be found.
Public transport services to Ladywalk include:
To plan a public transport journey in our region use the Traveline Midlands journey planner.
Vehicular access is via Faraday Avenue at the Hams Hall National Distribution Centre, approached using the roundabout on the A446 approximately one mile to the south of junction 9 of the M42. Faraday Avenue leads to the car park via a padlocked security gate (turn right at the final roundabout by Sainsbury's warehouse), which is on the left before the bridge, where permit holders only may park and then enter the reserve on foot using the footbridge onto the site.
The security gate has been installed at the entrance to the reserve carpark, for your protection while on the reserve. It has a combination lock, using the same four-digit code as that printed on your membership card (not the hand-written membership number). Please be sure to lock it behind you, each time you enter or leave the reserve.
All visitors by car should leave their permits on display on the dashboard of their vehicles. This helps the security personnel to identify vehicles that have authority to use the car park.
Cyclists are welcome at Ladywalk, but please take care along the footpath from the car park to the reserve entrance. Once inside the reserve there are no facilities for cycling, but you are welcome to secure your bike to a tree, being sure not to damage the bark or obstruct other visitors.
You can plot a cycle route to the reserve from your location, at CycleStreets.
We regret that there is no easy access, for people who have difficulty walking, to any part of the Ladywalk reserve.
All reserve visitors must read and follow the rules and regulations for the site which are posted in the Sainsbury's Hide.
Please note that:
Ornithology in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire & the West Midlands county, since 1929.
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