Cuckoo a-calling at Cotswold Water Park

Swans on Cleveland lake 68a

OK, so the Water Park isn’t technically in Stroud district but it’s not far away and Cleveland Lakes near Ashton Keynes are almost a dead-cert for hearing cuckoos. This part of the park is also wonderfully tranquil, beautiful and offers habitat that we have very little of in Stroud’s valleys and vale apart from WWT Slimbridge. Thanks to the large reedbeds, luxuriant hedgerows and ample tree cover, the air was full of bird song when myself and friends walked around it yesterday evening. We’d only walked for a few minutes and were still close to the car park when we heard the cuckoo calling – what a result! It continued its appeal to any passing females all the time we were there.

In the middle of the reedbed in front of the bird hide overlooking lake 68c, a reed bunting sat proudly at the top of a spindly, small dead tree (which could hardly be called a tree really) as it, too, sang to show off to any potential mate nearby. We were thrilled to hear the sudden, characteristic, burst of song of a Cetti’s Warbler coming from amongst the reeds. These are rare birds and years ago, I had to go all the way to the south coast of Devon to see one. Another song which was great to hear was the grasshopper warbler and, yes, it does sound like a grasshopper or (to be picky) more like a cricket. Other birds singing their hearts out were Sedge warbler, song thrush, and robin. Nightingales live around here, too, but had decided to take a night off. I tried really hard to persuade myself that the song thrush was a nightingale but had to eventually admit it wasn’t.

Even if you can’t identify birds from their song, just simply walking around and enjoying the dusk chorus (as we get at this time of year as well as at dawn) is very relaxing and recharges your batteries. The paths are also completely flat so good for prams, young children to toddle along, and for people with restricted mobility. The

We did realise, sadly, how rare it is to hear cuckoos now compared to years ago when I heard them in certain places around Stroud. I also realised, with a shock, that my 11-year old daughter has never heard one at all. Oh good, another excuse for a trip to Cleveland Lakes!

When to visit: from mid-April to late May. The males are the ones with the characteristic call (the females make a churring sound) and only call until they’ve paired up with a mate which they do during May.

Location: near Ashton Keynes. Park in Waterhayes car park (parking charges  were introduced at the beginning of March)

How much time to allow: as long as you like. To walk the whole route and stop here and there, allow 2-3 hours.

Terrain: The paths are completely flat so good for prams, young children to toddle along, and for people with restricted mobility. There is a kissing gate at the junction with the bridlepath, making it impossible for wheelchairs to navigate the path, unfortunately.

Facilities: None on site, but The White Hart pub in Ashton Keynes is lovely and the staff very accommodating and there are toilets.

Directions: From the car park, head through the gate onto the bridleway. Take the next path on your right, and that will take you past a number of lakes including the bird hide. There’s a T-junction of paths at the top end of a really big lake (lake 68a/b), turn left to walk along this lake doubling back on yourself (the path runs parallel to the way you’ve just come) and when this meets another T-junction, turn left to return to the car park. The Cotswold Water Park’s Leisure Map shows the whole park and all the footpaths (http://www.waterpark.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2017-CWPT-Leisure-Map-for-download.pdf) or pick one up at th Gateway Visitor Centre or at tourist information centres.

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