Mill Green and Hawks Green Valley Nature Reserve
Over the winter the countryside service and the countryside volunteers will be carrying out the following conservation management tasks.Mill Green and Hawks Green provides a rural feel between Cannock Town centre and Heath Hayes.
This year for the first time in several years swans have successfully bred. Two sygnets hatched over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend. In previous years late spring floods had filled the reservoir and flooded out the nest. This is a sad consequence of the swans nesting in a flood prevention reservoir, fortunately swans have recovered from the lows of the 1970's to a very healthy population.
The Mill Green entrance is opposite Cannock railway station and has a small car park.
The paths at this end of the proposed reserve are well surfaced in rolled stone and have no significant gradients.
A 1 1/4 Km Healthy circular walk is laid out around this site. The healthy route has benches that mark the distance every 250m and other rest points in between.
When the Dexter cows are grazing the pastures and meadow the circular path is gated by kissing gates. These are suitable for pedestrians and manual wheelchairs. Users of large motorbility scooters can pass the through the gates by using a RADAR key. If you require a RADAR key these are available at cost price from the countryside service.
There is a footpath link from Mill Green to Hawks Green that involves climbing a flight of steps over the Eastern Bypass (the line of the former Hatherton Branch Canal).
The paths in Hawks Green are also well surfaced in rolled crushed stone. However apart from the paths along the stream the landform of Hawks Green means that some of the paths have some sections of steep gradients. Currently there is less provision of rest points.
A new woodland path, alongside a laid hedge, and the old Hawks Green Lane creates a circular route between Hayes Way and Lichfield Road.
Mill Green performs an important engineering function as a balancing reservoir. Floodwater entering the site from Ridings Brook is held up by the large dam, that forms part of the circular route, and released a rate that does not flood properties and businesses downstream.
This function is managed by the Environment Agency.
The works carried out by the Environment Agency during 2005/6 has raised the height of the dam by 1.9 metres.
To ensure that wildlife is protected that could be that could be flooded by the new level of flood water:
a tall island was created as a refuge for watervole,
0.5Ha of wildflower was created,
two cattle refuges were created to enable the best practice of grazing of the grasslands to continue.
Although nesting waterfowl can, occassionally, be flooded, overall the fluctuating water level of the reservoir provides waterfowl with an ideal habitat.
There are shallow areas, for dabbling ducks such as Mallard, deep water areas for diving birds such as little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe and mudflats for Snipe, Teal and other winter visitors.
Because of changing water levels Mill Green is one of the last pools to freeze and can have good numbers of water fowl in winter. Over 200 Snipe have been counted.
Although you are more likely to see the common fowl like Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Geese and Swan that will feed from food provided by people. The shier birds like Teal, Snipe and Grebe prefer a little more seclusion and are often at the far end of the pool.
The banks of Riding Brook are home to a small colony of Water Vole and if you are lucky you may see, this rare and elusive animal, which is the basis of Ratty in the Wind in the Willows. But unlike true rats, water voles are vegetarian, stay near the waters edge, have poor eyesight and shy away from people.
Mill Green also has mature woodlands. At the Northern end of Mill Green there is a remnant of Ancient Oak Woodland, one of the few examples in this district. Springtime is spectacular with the mix of Bluebells and white Stitchwort.
A magnificent Beech wood runs along one side of the site with screening the railway. Many of these trees are over 100 years old and there is a long term project underway to regenerate the woodland by creating clearings for new trees to grow.
Although impressive the woodlands are not the main reason for the Local Nature Reserve.
Mill Green and Hawks Green are particularly important for their grassland habitats. The sites have the only species rich meadow, 0.9Ha, in Cannock Chase district and herb rich pastures that have plants that indicate they have never been ploughed or agriculturally improved.
The pastures are managed by grazing with Dexter cattle and the meadows are traditionally hay cropped and provide for winter feed for the cattle.
The hay meadows are fenced to enable light grazing after the hay crops have been taken which further improves their structure and species diversity. The ancient meadows and pastures, home to some rare invertebrates, are at there best in summer, with bright colours, smells and the humming of insects.
Conservation Management Tasks Winter 2008
Over the winter the countryside service and the countryside volunteers will be carrying out the following conservation management tasks.
- Removal of one willow tree from the ancient hay meadow to allow more wild flowers to grow. - complete
- Removal of invasive willows from the reed beds to encourage more Snipe to use the reserve. - complete
- Installation of two signs. - complete
- Coppice the willow plantation for hedge laying binders.
- Lay 80m of hedge by Deavall's Farm. - complete
- Rotovate the arable flower areas to promote next summers growth. Without this these annual flowers would soon die out. - complete
- Remove trees and scrub from the rush pastures. complete
- The Dexter cattle will be grazing the fields across the reserve. -comlpete