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Fosse Meadows by Adey Baker



Fosse Meadows © Adey Baker

Where the River Soar and the Fosse Way first come together, in the south of the county stands Fosse Meadows Nature Park in the parish of Sharnford, 'where the brook runs uphill'! Formerly farmland, the Park was purchased by Blaby District Council in two lots, opening in 1987. Although much of the farm had been modernised and converted to arable use, the farmer was sympathetic to the needs of nature, and some areas were left untouched. Most notable are the two meadows that lie alongside the River Soar, which

forms the north-eastern boundary of the site. These two fields were the first part of the purchase and the larger, 'North' meadow (known locally as the 'Long Meadow') is the most interesting, botanically. The old course of the river can be seen, clearly, across this field even though it was diverted to its present line well over a hundred years ago, probably to alleviate flooding. Much of the rest of the site was laid down to grass before several areas were planted with trees, mainly native species, but also there is an 'Arboretum' area. Two small pools have recently been joined by a much larger Wildlife Pool. There are two car parks alongside the Fosse Way, sign-posted off the unclassified road between Sharnford and Frolesworth. The first, main car park is as good a place as any to start exploring the bird life of the area, as it contains a small feeding station. Along with the usual visitors such as Blue Tit, Greenfinch and Chaffinch there have been frequent sightings of Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit and even the occasional Brambling.


Flooded Long Field © Adey Baker

Taking a clockwise tour around the site, marked with red dots on the map below, leave

the left side of the car park, cross the picnic area and approach the new Wildlife Pool. At the moment (spring 2002) this has not been completed, with further engineering and planting tasks needing to be carried out. However, it has already been visited by Little Ringed Plovers and Sand Martins, although very few birds have actually been seen on the water. Linnets, Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits are amongst the species noted around the pool at various stages of its development.


The Wildlife Pool © Adey Baker

There are pathways on either side of the first series of tree plantations and this area can

be interesting at any season. The Silver Birches have already attracted over-wintering Lesser Redpolls and Siskins and this an excellent spot for several warbler species in the summer. The grassland areas between the plantations provide breeding sites for Skylarks and feeding for several species including Kestrels. Moving on to the next plantation, this provides some green cover throughout the year, having been planted with conifers amongst the deciduous trees. The shrub layer also contains gorse and broom, giving a kind of heathland feel to the area.

 
Willow Warbler © Adey Baker


The next three pasture fields were fenced off and planted with trees during the winter of 2001/2002. The fencing has provided security for breeding Skylarks for a few years until

the tree cover takes over. The perimeter path here also passes closest to Sharnford and this is where most sightings of both Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers have been noted. It's probably the most likely spot to hear the Cuckoo and this species, although rarer than it used to be, gives you a chance to test an old local saying, often repeated by one of Sharnford's more senior residents exactly as it was told to him by an old farmer from a previous generation: 'You'll seldom hear the Cuckoo afore April the twenty-third, but you'll hear it directly afterwards.'

 
Skylark © Adey Baker

Skirting the edge of the Arboretum, you join the public footpath from Sharnford and can

return to the car park by carrying straight on via the Claybrooke section of this path, explore the middle of the site via the pathways crossing the Arboretum, or turn left onto the Frolesworth path. This takes you down to the Long Meadow and it's worth noting that the gateways can get very muddy in winter! This is the best spot for over-wintering Snipe, with occasional Jack Snipe being noted here in most winters. This field and the Long Meadow are the most likely sites for either partridge species. The Rooks that feed here inhabit either the traditional rookery around Sharnford church or the newer one by the Fosse Way/Frolesworth Lane crossroads.

 
Fosse Meadows © Adey Baker


The footpath crosses a corner of the Long Meadow but you can walk around the edge of the field, keeping in mind that during the wetter months you will have to cross the old

  

streambeds. Nest boxes have been fixed to some of the trees and these have been used by Tree Sparrows, and Reed Buntings are often recorded here. The Crab Apple trees in the N.W. corner are sometimes used as a roost by Little Owls. The land between here and the village is mainly grazing land and often liable to flooding. Rooks and Jackdaws, Fieldfares, Redwings, gulls and Grey Herons are regular here. Walking back alongside the river it's worth keeping an eye open for Kingfisher which occasionally nest. The boggy area here is another regular spot for wintering Snipe.

 
Tree Sparrow & Yellowhammer © Adey Baker


Negotiating the maze of gateways (and mud!), you can return to the car park via either the right or left side of the final field (East Meadow). Taking the right hand path leads you past a small pool and through one of the plantations. The left path takes you, also through two plantations, by the stream again. The small bridge across the stream is on the footpath to Frolesworth and you can access Frolesworth Manor Lake this way - the path goes right, after the bridge, straight across the Fosse Way and then towards Frolesworth until you get level with the lake, where you turn right down a grassy ride. Birds such as Jack Snipe and Little Ringed Plover have been recorded here on similar dates to Fosse Meadows so there is obviously some interchange between the two sites.

Returning to the car park you have the choice of exploring the Fosse Way in either direction for the usual range of hedgerow species - going south-westwards the road soon peters out into a footpath and after a mile or so you reach High Cross where the Fosse crosses Watling Street. From here, on a clear day and on the county boundary, you can perhaps work out for yourself just how much of Leicestershire you have in view at one time.


Fosse Meadows © Adey Baker

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