|Sign of spring|
Like Paxton Pits, Titchmarsh is a former gravel works and it is a Nature Reserve, but it is much more like Paxton was 20 years ago rather than now. For a start, it's not manned and it does not have a visitor centre. All the same, it is cherished by a handful of supports and volunteers who make the place special.
Hanna and I visited Titchmarsh to rceapture that sense of adventure you get when you viist a reserve that has lots of wildlife but very few visitors.
|Derelict hide, soon to be replaced|
Now that we are entering the Second Age of the Internet (that's the age after the brief period before we found out who was running the Internet and what they were using it for) we can just look up Titchmarsh Nature Reserve and be taken to the local Wildlife Trust's website. There we can find info and maps, and a colourful down-loadable guide to the reserve. It's not far from Corby and only 25 minutes from my house, but because it's in Northamptonshire and I live in Cambridgeshire, I've never been there.
|I love the sound of running water|
There are several entrances to the reserve, but none of them are signed when you get there. To make matters worse, there are three lakes that look alike and they are all in the Nene Valley near Aldwincle; two of them are fisheries.
The main entrance is supposed to be in Aldwincle, so that's the destination I set on the Sat-Nav, rather than Titchmarsh. This tiny bit of research proved invaluable, because the reserve is nowhere near Titchmarsh!
We drove round the beautiful village of Aldwincle, making up jokes about how the village got its name. You have to remember that this trip was a 65th birthday present from my wife; a sort of pre-dementia bon-voyage. We left a lake behind us and no others came into view. Were we lost? Only briefly, because the village is tiny. We just kept going up people's front drives until we found the lake.
I hope you are getting the idea that this reserve is a bit more remote and a lot more quiet than Paxton Pits?
We tramped down a track towards the lake and searched in the margins of the ploughed fields. I was looking for arrow-heads and Hanna was looking for jewels, but we were both disappointed. What we did notice was that this rolling landscape is not very gravelly compared to the Ouse Valley. Mostly we saw limestone, which explains why all the houses around here are made from it. It's very pretty.
Time was against us from the start, so we made our objective the Peter Scott Memorial Hide. Both Hanna and I used to work at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust for Sir Peter Scott. In fact, that's how we met, so we made a 200 yard pilgrimage from the car to the hide.
|The church in Titchmarsh|
As soon as we entered the reserve we started to see birds; red kites swooped low over us, buzzards sat in trees and Cetti's warblers swore at us.
The first hide we found was very old and derelict. After many years of service, it had been vandalised during the winter. I can't see it being repaired, but a replacement would be nice because it overlooks a little cove full of teal and widgeon. It should be a good place to see water rails too.
|The village from the church.|
John Finlayson just happened to be in the hide on a Monday afternoon when we were there. He absolutely "made our day" and turned a relatively ordinary visit into something memorable. We learnt a great deal from John about the birds and about the management of the reserve. You can visit his blog at http://johnfinlaysonbirder.blogspot.co.uk His photos are excellent.
|Alms houses in Titchmarsh|
My message to bring home was that there is nothing to replace the basics. You have to have the wildlife and you need have to have people to show it off to the public.
For all of you non-birders I recommend a visit to the villages of Aldwincle and Titchmarsh.
Today we had a poke around Titchmarsh, intrigued by the fact that a bloke called Alan Titchmarsh opened the new village shop. The history of the village goes back an awful long time and you can see the medieval field system and the ruins of the old castle. (That's a bit of an exaggeration because all of the stones were nicked to build houses with.) Just across from the castle mound is Brookside Farm where the Elizabethan poet John Dryden lived for a time, but some sources say he was born in the Rectory in Aldwincle where his father was the rector at All Saints. Both villages are worth a stroll around.
The village has its own website that is much better than most, see Titchmarsh. Have a look!
Exploring this part of Northamptonshire has been a revelation, though it is right on my doorstep.
(Note: I referred to the lack of signs at Titchmarsh. We have a lack of signs at Paxton too because a previous Councillor did not want traffic through the village and we are not allowed to sign traffic along the quarry road. We will make progress on this, though probably not for several years.)