Places to see birds

Branston Water Park (SK2120)

Situated immediately to the west of the A38 between the Barton and Burton turn offs and accessed from the service road which runs alongside the A38 past the Marley Tiles works. A visitor centre is on the north side of the park next to the car park and has toilets and an information centre. Access can also be made from the south side 200 metres from the main entrance. Map available from http://www.nationalforest.org/visit/access/branston.html

The water park area is to the east of the Trent and Mersey canal and is made up mainly of a large lake with three central islands. A deciduous wood is situated on the north east side and the second largest reed bed in Staffordshire runs from south of the wood round to the south west corner. A mature hedge runs along the west side next to the towpath and a pathway which runs around the whole of the water. Another hedge runs outside the path on the south side and scattered trees and shrubs surround the reed bed.
The mixture of habitats make this a very important breeding area for warblers and wintering ducks. In the winter months Tufted Duck, Pochard and Coot feature with a few Cormorants, Mallard and Moorhens. The most interesting period is the spring when Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps arrive in mid April followed by Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Sedge and Reed Warblers and finally Garden Warblers. At the same time the nesting Sand Martins, House Martins, Swallows and Swifts feed over the lake. Chaffinches, Bullfinches, Great, Blue and Willow Tit also nest plus Reed Buntings in the reedbed. In the late summer Common Terns and many Black-headed Gulls are present and the occasional Hobby appears looking for Martins. Many Canada and Greylag Geese use the water to moult on around this time. Kingfishers can be seen along the west side of the lake from August. Wildfowl build up from September and in cold spells Water Rail call from the reeds.

To the west of the canal is an area of pools and scrub with dense areas of bramble hawthorn, Elder where many of the warblers nest. This section can be accessed from the canal bridge next to the Bridge at Branston Public House along a footpath running south or by walking along the footpath towards Tatenhill on the south side of the water park then turning north across a stream. Access is restricted away from the footpath but a wet patch north of the pools is good for Snipe in the winter and Little Grebe can be seen here.

Walking is very easy from the car park around the lake but can be very muddy west of the canal. Recreational activities include fishing, model yachts and model power boats. Very popular with families, birdwatchers, joggers and casual walkers. Visitor centre is open at weekends only during the winter. Postcode: DE13 7XX