Cheerful snowdrops at Cherington Pond

Cherington Pond - bank of snowdrops Feb 2018 Caroline Aistrop

Cherington pond is a jewel of a place, hidden away at the bottom of a secluded valley not many miles away from Stroud but feeling like it’s in its own world. It offers a variety of different wildlife in one small area – the water birds that live on the open water plus those that prefer the seclusion of the woodland that wraps itself around the pond; the shallow stream leading into the pond where once a pre-occupied water shrew bumbled along looking for food, quite oblivious to my great bulk standing just inches away. But in February and early March, it’s the spectacle of the snowdrop carpet gracing the woodland floor that makes this an ideal place for a Sunday (or any day come to that) stroll instilling a feel-good factor that far out-weighs a bucketful of prozac.

The majority of these white pearls grow through the woodland on the bank overlooking the pond to your left at the site entrance, just beyond the car parking area.  Around the rest of the site, you’ll find only handfuls dotted here and there. On a sunny afternoon, the sun’s rays streak through through the trees, lighting up the snowdrops so they look like thousands of tiny glowing lamps. The footpath from the entrance runs along the bottom of this bank, so you’re guaranteed good views of this glorious view. The flatness of the path plus the kissing gate entrance makes this a great place for letting people with limited mobility enjoy one of the many snowdrop spectacles around at this time of year plus get a dose of nature and a bit of birdwatching.

The so-called pond is really a small lake home to many birds such as tufted duck, mallard (of course), moorhen and the delightful little grebe, also called the dabchick, which isn’t a common bird. On one visit, I saw five of these sitting in a row on the water with their fluffy white rear ends facing me. Remember those dresses with powder-puff underskirts worn by lady ballroom dancers in the golden days of Come Dancing (pre-Strictly)?  The white fluffy bottoms of the dabchicks show that Mother Nature designed it first, and it was impossible not to smile looking at this.

The path takes you on a wonderful stroll around the pond and the view at far end opens out into a panaorama of whole pond. It’s a good tea and bun-stop (though there’s no bench which it’s just crying out for) where you can soak up any sunshine, plus get a good view of the birds both on the water and in the air (keep a look out for ravens).  Here, the water flowing out of the pond creates a very shallow stream which you cross using a small bridge (a good place to play poo-sticks) and then turn right to join the path carrying on through the wood where lots of birds flit about (so keep binoculars handy). If you’ve got younger children with you, the ‘Eyeore house’ – a wigwam of sticks on your left – may offer a fun place to play. After crossing a small marsh along a boarwalk, the path joins the road a short distance away and turn right here to return to the car parking area.

When to visit: anytime during February and into March. The colder the winter weather has been (especially if there’s been a bout of snow), the longer the snowdrops keep flowering.

Location:  Cherington Pond is on the edge of Cherington village, near Minchinhampton. OS Explorer map 168 grid reference: 985898.

How much time to allow: a gentle stroll without stopping will take about 20 minutes so, really, you can take as much time as you like.

Terrain: the path is flat with a slight slope up into the woodland after crossing the bridge. It’s possible to push a pram around though the kissing gate at the entrance and at the end (where the path joins the road) means it’d have to be lifted over. Unfortunately, these gates mean that a wheelchair can’t get onto the site, though someone who can walk with limited mobility may be able to manage. The path surface is mainly earth with a few muddy bits here and there.

Facilities: none on site. The Ragged Cot is a lovely Cotswold pub with the usual facilities and serving food and real ales.

Directions: You’ll need to drive to the pond as it’s in the countryside with no nearby bus service. Drive along the main road across Minchinhampton Common heading for Cirencester. After leaving the village, turn right at the junction where the Ragged Cot pub is on the right hand side. Drive along this road and a short way past Crackstone Stables is a left hand turn sign-posted to Cherington and the Nag’s Head (a pub which has long since shut down but it’s nice the memory of it lives on). At the road junction just ahead, stay on the left hand road and keep going for another couple of miles. The road passes through some woodland, dipping down to reveal the pond on your right. There’s a little car parking area (room for just 4 or 5 cars) next to the road on the far side of the pond, you won’t miss it – it’s not a formal car park and it is muddy at this time of year. On the edge of this area is the kissing gate leading into the site. You’ll see the snowdrop spectacle here all along the bank on the left of the path.

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