OUR NATURE RESERVE
The SMJ (Stratford Midland Junction) Nature Reserve.
The Making of Our Nature Reserve, by Jean Cholerton
This wonderful 1/2mile of former railway (Stratford/Midland Junction) closed by Dr. Beaching in 1965, stretches from East to West and lies flat at the Eastern end rising to embankments towards the West.
We purchased it some 23 years ago from our next-door neighbour, primarily because our garden adjoins it, and as we owned two dogs at the time it became a beautiful, private walk which provided endless pleasure for our dogs as they raced between the trees, up and down the embankments chasing rabbits & squirrels!
As we are both nature lovers and keen environmentalists our wish was to create a wildflower meadow. Now, as we grow older, more and more of our family garden becomes part of our 4 acre Wildlife Reserve.
Today we are all proud of what we have achieved here…
25 species of Butterflies. 600 species of Moths. Grass -snakes have returned after 50 years. We have discovered the common Newt and there are healthy frogs. Pond life is vibrant with many species of Dragonflies, Damselflies, Water Beetles etc. There will be much more to be discovered by the biologists and botanists that visit.
We have our own moth traps. Visitors have experienced the truly breath-taking moths we have trapped here. Moths never normally seen by most.
The former two embankments have now become one large one following this Autumn`s meeting of volunteers here (2018). They have worked so hard. Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire must be proud of their workforce. We know we are!
Some highlights of the journey so far…
2009/10: We hired two experienced chainsaw handlers who worked tirelessly over 2/3 days and cleared a 100metre stretch (mainly Hawthorn). David worked hard replacing ash bed with second soil to provide a wild flower habitat for bees, butterflies, birds etc.
This proved to be an amazing space with wild Buddleias growing alongside small fruit trees and a huge array of wild flowers attracting pollinators & our much sought-after butterflies.
2014: My cousin arrived with a moth box and set it one night. He trapped a locally rare moth called a Waved Black. “You must report this to a local Lepidopterist” said Dick. We did, and next came the Warwickshire Butterfly Conservationists in 2015. Everyone was so impressed with our former railway. They requested to fell the Southern embankment so we compromised and allowed them to clear two very large areas of mainly Hawthorn & Elder. The banks were then sown with Kidney Vetch, Horseshoe Vetch, Birds-foot Trefoil. All of which provide valuable nectar and habitat for the Butterflies and pollinating insects.
2016: We had three ponds dug out by our neighbour Ben, with his mechanical digger. This was a huge excavation as the former railway bed is many feet deep with layers of sand, gravel, and finally, at the bottom, yellow clay.
One pond is lined, two unlined. The ponds were successful, but after a very wet winter (causing flooding) we decided to dig deeper in November 2017.
2018: The ponds have survived the extremely long drought this year with a minimum depth of 12” throughout. (Two of which reach 2 metres deep in winter!)