19 June 2014


We found ourself in a different, and fairly unknown to us, part of the county last week with a huge courtesy car for the day.  Our car need a safety recall sorting and the garage needed the car all day.  We set off with a picnic and bikes in the van with a scant plan in mind as I had not been able to find anywhere to take the children on a bike ride.  I remembered as I was driving a new reserve that was near to the city I was heading but couldn't for the life of me remember its name.  It was so new that it was not marked on the map I had.  We headed into the city after sorting the car to find more about this nature reserve.  We got ourselves a leaflet and very very wet as we I left the coats in the car at the moment the rain came down.

The reserve was a treasure, a place that we will be returning too, despite the distance from us it is worth it for a day out.  Watchtree Nature Reserve is on the site of a disused RAF airfield, the land originally having been farmed has been semi returned to that state as there is still farming very much in evidence in and around the site.

The old runways are perfect for riding bikes.

The old control tower is visible just outside the reserve with a wonderful elderflower growing on its side.

There are a number of bird hides round the site where you can sit and watch the wildlife.  Sadly we forgot our binoculars so we were struggling to identify what we could see as it was so far away.  All the more reason to return!

Several of the trees around the site were labelled.

There was a wee garden near the Visitors Centre where we found a newt.

Some Marsh Fritillaries which are part of a breeding/reintroduction programme in the county, this beautiful butterfly has declined in numbers over the twentieth century.

And an unidentified caterpillar anyone know what it is, or what it might later become?

Not only has the land been a airfield it was also used a burial ground for the thousands of carcasses as a result of the 2001 Foot and Mouth epidemic.  It was out of this tragedy that the reserve came into being, the site needed careful management to ensure that the surrounding land and the water table were not contaminated by the intensity of carcasses.  It takes its name from two trees, which are sadly no longer standing, which were used by local people to 'watch' for raiders from North of the Border!  They were felled to make way for the airfield.  We spent five lovely hours on this reserve and didn't manage to explore it all I am sure we will return some day.


  1. It looks lovely there and sounds like you had a great day out :-) . I particularly like the furry Caterpillar. I find them really cute when they are really fury like that :-)

  2. Wow! The sky looks gorgeous with it's big puffy clouds. I love all the butterflies...they make me very happy to see. Sounds like a perfect place to explore.

  3. How wonderful that out of an environmental tragedy came a nature reserve. Looks like a great place to visit - the runway reminds me of when I was 16 and impatient to learn to drive - my parents used to take me to an old disused air strip to practice!
    Shame the original 'watch trees' had to be cut down!

  4. I love places like this, where nature has reclaimed a site. I love the shells of old buildings and imagining scenes from the past, reconstructing it all in my mind's eye.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. I had a friend that lived out at Kirkbampton for many years, she was the Anglican priest in residence for many years. B and P would really enjoy runway biking!!

    We passed your house on the train yesterday and today!

    San x

  6. What a beautiful day you had with your family! So much to see that I hope one day I will get to see for myself, in "real" life. Until then, thanks for sharing and inspiring :)


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