Eardington Local Nature Reserve is a 7 hectare (17 acres) former sand and gravel quarry offering an unusual mix of habitats, largely due to its industrial heritage. The site was acquired by Shropshire Council in 2013 on a long term lease and is being developed by the Friends of Eardington Nature Reserve, working with Shropshire Council, for the benefit of the local community and to improve local bio-diversity.
One of the most important features is a large central area of “open mosaic habitat”, comprising nutrient-poor, glacial sand and gravels – a key habitat in the UK’s conservation policy. Within this is found a well-established wetland area consisting of seasonal and ephemeral pools, supporting good populations of amphibians and dragonflies.
Around the perimeter are further key habitats including mixed broad-leaf woodland, lowland meadow, species-rich grassland and scrub. Surveys, commissioned by Shropshire Council, have recorded over 300 plant species, including 150 wildflowers as well as an amazing number of insect species, many of which are seldom found in other reserves in the UK.
Open Sand and Gravel Areas
Several decades ago the top soil was stripped away to expose the sand and gravel deposits which were extracted for the aggregates industry. The gravels are now heavily compacted and thus have very poor drainage. Rain-water tends to run off, rather then drain away, which helps to maintain the small temporary and larger seasonal pools. Due to the low nutrient levels, few grasses grow here leaving the area to specialist plants and insects which thrive in these conditions. Purple Loosestrife and rushes are dominant. During the spring and summer wild flowers are abundant and many species of solitary bees can be seen digging burrows in the softer sands.
The first area of woodland is on the east side of the reserve and has self-seeded on the silty deposits from the old settlement lagoons. Species found here are largely birches, alders and sallow. As these are favoured by birds, a feeding station has been erected to supplement the rather low volumes of naturally occurring food.
Further round are areas of over-grown alder and hazel coppice, within which new woodland walks have been created. We have already started to clear some open glades which is creating a new and varied habitats, thus attracting different plant, insect and bird species.
A path leading in the direction of Mor Brook joins the local footpath network. In April and May this area of ancient woodland supports a large area of bluebells along with further woodland plant and bird species.
Species Rich Grassland
On the east between the circular track and the Highley Road there is a flower-rich lowland meadow and further along a larger area dominated by flowers and herbs. This meadow was once used for field trials by the then Ministry of Agriculture, which may part explain the abundance of wildflower species. A wide variety of native flowers and insects have thrived, including several species of orchid. Butterflies are abundant, with the locally scarce Brown Argus well worth looking for between the months of May to September. Large numbers of grasshoppers are also found.
The best chance of finding reptiles is within the meadows. Several black survey boards have been laid out to attract amphibians and reptiles in particular. By carefully lifting these, and with a little luck, you may well find slow worm or grass snake, which we know are on site in low numbers.
These are star attractions and are found near the centre of the reserve. As there no predatory fish in any of the ponds, local amphibians thrive. Toads, common newts and even great crested newts all breed here in the spring. Later in the summer swarms of dragonflies and damselflies take to the air on warmer days. To date we have recorded twelve species of dragonfly and eight of damselfly. Signature species to look out for include the Emperor Dragonfly, White Legged Damselfly and numerous Common Darters.
A further wetland area lies further along the main track on the right. Created in the winter of 2014/15, this new habitat is rapidly maturing to further support the wide range of breeding populations of invertebrates and amphibians.
To date we have recorded over 70 species of birds, including the stunning green woodpecker and the nationally scarce marsh tit, 23 butterfly species and a similar number of moths. In addition thirteen mammal species visit the reserve and six reptile & amphibian species.
We hope you enjoy looking around the nature reserve and find things to interest you. There is a small car park, bird hide and picnic area, but no personal facilities are available. Disabled access is currently good and is being further improved.
As this is a nature reserve and not a country park, to minimise disturbance to wildlife please note that dogs are prohibited between the months of March and August and must be on a lead at all other times.
The George Bridgnorth