The Edgeland

My edgeland is 90 acres of rail embankment, pasture, farmland, canal, river, scrub, woodland and a sewage works sandwiched between the Leicester City suburb of Wigston in the north, Countesthorpe village in the South and Blaby in the west. From the outside looking in there is nothing remarkable about this patch of land. To some it is ugly, barren and on first inspection lifeless. Luckily beauty is in the eye of the beholder and from the inside looking out this is a rich and varied habitat for an extensive variety of flora and fauna. An unappreciated, neglected hidden gem. Here it is in pictures, from start to finish. These were taken in October and so it may look a little bleak and colourless. It’s worth mentioning that the river is wider than it looks but as the banks are steep and largely inaccessible the photographs do not really convey this.

img_20161025_124633308The rail bridge and gateway to the edgeland.

img_20161025_124701861_hdrFirst field of unmanaged pasture. A private fishing lake, once an old gravel pit, lies beyond the hedge on the right.

img_20161025_124752879Looking back to civilisation.

img_20161025_125011976Second field and more unmanaged pasture, the large Hawthorn hedge gives way to Blackthorn.

img_20161025_125256079_hdrThird field and more wildflower amongst the grass, beyond the hedge to the right is the foxes field where they follow the hedge line and pass through into this one.

img_20161025_125506634_hdrCanal meadow, you can just make the locks out in the background. The high-wires here are the plaything of vast swathes of Starlings.

img_20161025_125819659Looking back from the raised bank and locks over the first four fields of edgeland.

img_20161025_125834542The locks on the Grand Union canal, right along the canal leads to South Wigston, left leads to the pub!

img_20161025_125919566Beyond the locks and into river meadow.

img_20161025_130220374Beyond the hedge is another accessible meadow. Owl meadow is home to the Little Owls and in spring and summer is awash with wildflower colour.

img_20161025_130450005_hdrThe footbridge across the river Sence at the bottom of river meadow.

img_20161025_130526664Downstream on the river, the Willow in the bend is home to Moorhens.

img_20161025_130535165_hdrLooking upstream the river is narrow and swamped with reed, further up it broadens dramatically just as my access ends.

img_20161025_130820757Following the river downstream into the next meadow. The river snakes and bends continuously.

img_20161025_130913337Willow point, a favourite place of Willow Warblers and Long-tailed Tits.

img_20161025_131024546The banks are overgrown with nettle, hogweed and teasel.

img_20161025_131344657Still downstream, the river dips in a dramatic U-shape forming the wooded island.

img_20161025_131738757The northern tip of the island. The river bed here forms a muddy beach where I saw a Water rail sifting for food.

img_20161025_131754666Another Willow at the southern tip of the island, another good moorhen spot.

img_20161025_131936173_hdrAround the bend you can see how the river forms a moat around the island.

img_20161025_131942267_hdrAnother Willow forms the top of the U as the river heads out of reach.

img_20161025_131957534_hdrThe gate to this pasture marks the border of my edgeland. You can just make out the town in the background.img_20161025_132140906Another look at the island.

img_20161025_130545494_hdrTreading back along the river and across the footbridge is a large expanse of farmland that stretches east to the medieval village of Kilby. Crows, Rooks, Jackdaws and Guls gather here on mass. Pheasants can be seen around the woodland edges.

img_20161025_130550635_hdrLooking to the right there is another copse that hides a large pond.

img_20161025_132634035To the left you can see the wooded island where we were before.

img_20161025_132717763An Oak takes centre stage in this ploughed land.

img_20161025_132913228_hdrCrossing over we reach the sewage works.

img_20161025_133042873And over a small brook, a tributary to the Sence.

img_20161025_133105866Left leads into the Woods.

img_20161025_133152049_hdrThe sewage works can be a little unnerving. A desolate place even on a working day.

img_20161025_133200677The path into the woods.

img_20161025_133321936The home of the Sparrowhawks and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

img_20161025_133329492_hdrThis monstrosity runs alongside the adjoining path.

img_20161025_133405724A look back at where we have been.

img_20161025_133508914And forward into the small scrub. These grassy patches make perfect ant-eating for Green Woodpeckers.

img_20161025_133512664It is thick with bramble here and fruiting Horthawn lines the perimeter

img_20161025_133603474Looking out over the scrub and into the back of the woods.

img_20161025_133607599Just to show the proximity to the sewage towers. It doesn’t bother nature.

img_20161025_133728018_hdrAt the woodland edge.

img_20161025_133749207_hdrThe fence line is a favourite perch for Robins. Dozens of Finches, Tits and Wrens call this place home and it is never quiet or devoid of life.

img_20161025_140906849_hdrBack through the woods and into the Sewage Works meadow, managed by the council.

img_20161025_140918703More Meadow.

img_20161025_141134283_hdrAnd then the paths filters into more scrub and woodland. Redwing, Thrush and Blackbird like the bramble here in autumn.

img_20161025_141315641Looking backwards the site as lined with mature Willow and a small brook. Willow Warblers can always be seen here in the summer and Wood Pigeons use them to roost on mass.

img_20161025_141405730It leads to the large, inaccessible scrub. This is Kestrel country, almost always on display. Meadow Pipits too. The sewage works is behind the hedge running down the right hand side.

img_20161025_141413367Panning around the scrub keeps going. It looks desolate in October but it is buzzing with life in spring and summer.