Lightwood reservoir Sunday. I am standing, binoculars at the ready above the canal, among the bracken and heather.Lilly my Collie is close by staring at the Frisbee and then looking at me expectantly. Below me, down by the ponds two men talk about how they could turn this space into a fishing lake. Part of me tries to listen but I can’t fully concentrate because a Hobby is gliding across the airspace above me, dominating it, clutching something, a dragon fly probably, and taking bites out of it, holding it in its talons while it scans the skies for more prey. Close by a kestrel tries to find some space to hover, so it too can hunt, but it cannot compete with the Hobby twisting and darting, diving and stalling totally owning its environment.
My mind can’t ignore the conversation that the two men are having. They are now down by the top pond, the biggest and deepest.
‘Of course we would need to take out all this vegetation cut down all these trees. The ponds would need to be bigger. Imagine’ and for this bit he had straightened up and swept the horizon with his tattooed arm, ‘Imagine benches lining the banks above the ponds, you could come up here with a flask and just sit and fish. Of course we would have to have something for the wife and kids to do.’
The Hobby was gliding across the landscape. Swallows were still here, feeding on the wealth of insects, perhaps postponing the trip south while there was still so much food. Away over towards the moors a buzzard circled, rising higher on the thermal of warm air. Earlier I had watched as two large adult buzzards both sitting on fence poles called to each other across the valley before lazily flapping away to the woods.
The two men moved on, walking quickly back towards the entrance to the woods. I was concerned about what they had been talking about. There were no fish in the ponds. But there were tadpoles in abundance, frogs and toads seeking out the damp, marshy conditions and the water, like pilgrims, treading the ritual route to froggy salvation each and every year.
The tadpoles that survived the cold and the harsh environment became frogs who in their turn fell victim to the herons that sought out the supply of food. Sulking by the waters edge,the herons stand statue still before darting their long beaks into the ponds and reaping the harvest. First feeding on the seething mass of mating frogs and then when the tadpoles had metamorphosed into adults, feasting their fill once more.
Severn Trent have done well since the reservoir has been dismantled, to let nature take over. The variety of flowers, butterflies and birds increases every year. People come to walk their dogs, watch birds or just sit under the trees. It is an increasingly rare place. Somewhere where nature can do its thing almost without interference. The kestrels and buzzards are testament to the health of this special ecosystem. It needs to be left alone.