Walk 22: Summer Leys Circular: What a beautiful little nature reserve

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: 2 miles (3.22km)

Time to walk: This walk can take as long or as short as you like. Although only 2 miles, because we’re wildlife watchers it took us a good couple of hours. There’s plenty of hides too where you can just sit, chill & watch

Difficulty: Mainly on hard paths & completely flat. Parts of the route used to be very muddy in winter, but new, harder surfaces have now been put in

Parking: There’s a free car park at the Nature Reserve

Public toilets: None

Map of the route: None

Summer Leys is one of 126 reserves looked after by the excellent Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire The Trust works with local communities & business supporters to protect local wildlife across the three Counties. Click on the following link to access their website at www.wildlifebcn.org

This was our first ever visit to Summer Leys Nature Reserve, which is 3 miles from Wellingborough &, as it was mid December, we weren’t too sure what to expect

It’s hard to imagine that in the late 1980s this place was just 2 bean fields. Since then gravel has been extracted &, rather than restoring the area to agricultural use, careful landscaping has created one of the most important wetlands in the Northamptonshire Nene Valley

As well as an ever changing bird population, the Reserve is also home to rare fish & newts

Well…what a little treasure this place is! It’s somewhere you can come back to time & time again & see something different. Today we did the 2 mile circuit walk. There’s plenty of excellent hides to watch the wildlife.

Today we saw…Swans, Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, a Little Egret, Herons, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Wigeons, Shovelers, Red Crested Pochards, Field Fares, rare Tree Sparrows (the Reserve is home to the largest colony in the UK), & numerous others

We’d bet that in the summer months it’s packed with families at weekends & why not!

So….ready to explore?

Let’s Walk!

1. Here’s a link as to get here & then just park in the ample free parking area & decide what route you’d like to walk. This walk starts by turning right & following the 2 mile circular walk

Come on...our route lies through that gate

Come on…our route lies through that gate

2. The path’s very clear &, at this time of year through the leafless bushes, you’ll get your first view of the wetlands

Good paths at this stage

Good paths at this stage

The berries are dying now so soon it'll be time to help the birds in your gardens

The berries are dying now so soon it’ll be time to help the birds in your gardens

3. As the path bears left you’ll come across your first gate, so pass through & enter a new meadow

4. On the left here is the first hide. Don’t be scared go & talk to the people in there & ask what they’re looking at – they’re very friendly & happy to tell you

Turn to follow the path…

Bring binoculars!

Bring binoculars!

Red Crested Pochard

Red Crested Pochard

Fabulous colony of cormorants

Fabulous colony of cormorants

5. This walk’s so easy…just keep following the path! It’s along here that you’re likely to come across the largest colony of Tree Sparrows in the UK. And what playful chaps they are! Even with a long lens it’s hard to get a close up photo…

6. Carry on around the path…

So many nesting boxes in this reserve

So many nesting boxes in this reserve

…& on your left’s the next hide

Another look at those Cormorants

Another look at those Cormorants

7. A little bit further is The Charles Towler Memorial Hide…

…which has been turned into an amazing hide with feeding stations. So sit..wait…& watch…

Greedy boy picking up the scraps

Greedy boy picking up the scraps

I'm off!!

I’m off!!

8. Now it’s time to continue & exit this section of the walk through the gate & into grassland…

Lots of benches to sit & enjoy

Lots of benches to sit & enjoy

December mid afternoon light is mystical

December mid afternoon light is mystical

Fishing time

Fishing time

9. The path now exits the Reserve for a short while…

….so follow the disused railway track

On the right you might come across a real varied collection of cattle…

A starling hitching a ride

A starling hitching a ride

10. Pass the sluice on the left…

…& looking across to the left in the distance is an amazing Little Egret…

What a stunning bird

What a stunning bird

The winter afternoon light is just incredible

The winter afternoon light is just incredible

11. It’s now time to re-enter the Reserve at the gate on the left…

…& the lakes are ahead again

12. You’re back on the circular path again now so it’s easy to follow. After crossing a bridge you’ll come to Marigold Pond

Marigold Pond

Marigold Pond

Marigold Pond is a preserved Great Crested Newt breeding area

13. Now return to the path & to arrive back at the car park.

So…that’s the end of our first visit to a Nature Reserve we never knew existed & what another little jewel this county throws up.

We’ll definitely be back at several times during the next year to watch the ever changing seasons.

Go & try…you won’t be disappointed…

Go Walk!

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