We're fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, with so much amazing wildlife and landscape to enjoy. Here are some of the wonderfully wild places the district has to enjoy, as chosen by Liz Etheridge, our Wetlands for All officer.
The Vale of Evesham is renowned for its market gardening heritage and its traditional fruit orchards are home to much more than fruit trees. In spring, the boughs of blossom provide important nectar for bees and other pollinators and the grass beneath, often lightly grazed by sheep, is full of herbs and flowers.
Mistletoe hangs in clusters from the oldest trees, their dead branches and holes more obvious in the winter. Tidiness is no friend to wildlife and nowhere more so than orchards. Mature fruit orchards are home to one of our rarest beetles, the jewel-like noble chafer, whose larvae live entirely on dead and decaying wood.
The Vale of Evesham celebrates its orchard heritage twice a year. In spring, The Blossom Trail takes you through the beautiful vale landscape, fragrant with frothy white flowers, and the Pershore Plum Festival delights in our bountiful harvest of fruit.
The Vale Landscape Heritage Trust manages a number of traditional fruit orchards and meadows throughout the Vale. Visit valetrust.weebly.com for more information.
Wychavon is blessed with an array of wetlands, some natural, some man-made, but all home to their own very distinctive wildlife. Each individual wetland is wonderful, they truly come into their own when they form links along the chain of a river, like a series of green gems set in silver. Instead of isolated pockets, the river creates a natural corridor between wetlands, giving wildlife the chance to spread through the landscape.
The natural brine springs of Droitwich Spa bring wildlife not usually seen in a landlocked country. Upton Warren is one of the premier bird watching sites in Wychavon where you can see species that are more at home on coastal margins and estuaries, thanks to the salty water seeping out of the ground. At different times of year you'll see birds like avocet and oystercatcher as well as other wading birds that can tolerate the salty water like lapwing and little ringed plover.
Avon Meadows on the banks of the River Avon in Pershore is a man-made wetland that is being taken over by wildlife.
Since it was created in 2008, many wetland and reed-loving species have colonised the nature reserve; the wide boardwalks and level ground make it an ideal place to take a gentle stroll through a bit of nature. Reed buntings and sedge warblers flit through the reeds while emperor dragonflies patrol the reed-fringed ponds.
Frogs, toads and newts are all at home here, and through the winter, snipe feed on the wet grassland and herons stalk the pools, hunting fish.
Walk through Tiddesley Wood in May and you will be greeted with one of the most beautiful sights an English spring has to offer – the bluebell. This delicate flower creates a fragrant azure carpet beneath the sharp green of bursting buds high in the woodland canopy.
Photograph by: Paul Lane
This relationship has grown up over millennia, with bluebells racing to flower and set seed before the tall oaks shade the ground with their dense leaves.
Silver-washed fritillaries dance along the woodland walkways between patches of sun, pausing on a patch of bramble, and are joined by speckled wood and gatekeeper butterflies, which inhabit the woodland edge.
A visit to Grafton Wood in August is well worthwhile to catch a glimpse of the elusive brown hairstreak butterfly. This striking and nationally rare butterfly is perhaps the emblem for Wychavon - its population in the Midlands is found almost entirely in our district.
Photograph by: Pete Smith
The brown hairstreak lays its eggs on young blackthorn shoots along hedgerows, where they are sheltered over winter before the caterpillars hatch out in spring. As hedges are often cut during the winter, this can mean that many eggs are destroyed, but careful management can help reduce this loss.
Our meadows are Wychavon's crown jewels. With old-fashioned hay meadows fast disappearing, we are lucky to have some of the finest examples of flower-rich grassland protected for everyone to enjoy.
Asham Meadow, near Birlingham is one of our best surviving examples of a flower-rich floodplain meadow. These kinds of grasslands are called Lammas meadows because of the way they have been managed, often unchanged for centuries. In spring, cattle and sheep are shut out, allowing the grasses and flowers to grow. In July, after the seed has set, the grass is cut as hay before livestock are allowed back on to graze the remaining growth from 1 August (Lammas Day). This was often done ‘in common' with each commoner having the right to cut a strip of hay and graze a certain number of animals.
By keeping up this traditional way of meadow management, flowers like great burnet, knapweed and meadowsweet all flourish as do birds and insects that benefit from this slower pace of farming.
Hartlebury Common in the north of the district is home to heathland, one of the rarest and fastest disappearing habitats in the world. The UK has 20 per cent of all the lowland heath (heath found below 300m) in the world, which makes this part of Wychavon incredibly special.
Photograph by: Wendy Carter
Lowland heath needs careful management if we are to keep this precious habitat thriving. A combination of grazing and cutting keeps the heather healthy and stops trees and bracken from taking over. Look out for common lizards basking on patches of bare sandy soil and emperor moths that flash their eye spots from heather shoots, the food of their caterpillars.
Photograph by: Rosemary Winnall
Some of these sites have limited public access so please check restrictions before you visit. The best way to explore them and find out about their wildlife is a guided walk with an expert but why not see if there's an event you can join to find out more about Wychavon's wildlife?
Tiddesley Wood and Upton Warren are owned by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. Visit the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust website, for more information on the nature reserves.
- Grafton Wood is jointly owned by Butterfly Conservation and Worcestershire Wildlife Trust.
- Asham Meadows is managed by the Kemerton Conservation Trust
- Avon Meadows is managed by Wychavon District Council and the Friends of Avon Meadows.
- Hartlebury Common is managed by Worcestershire County Council
Please note Wychavon District Council is not responsible for the content of external websites.