Charnwood Lodge National Nature Reserve
Location and access
OS map ref: SK 458155 (Sheet 129)
Please Note: Significant areas of this important and sensitive nature reserve have no public access. Other areas have limited access to LRWT members and other permit holders only. For a map, please contact Neil Pilcher on 0116 248 7363 or e-mail [email protected]
LRWT members are requested to carry their membership cards (which acts as your permit) at all times when visiting the reserve and to present it when requested to do so by staff or LRWT volunteers. We ask that you do this as it helps the Trust manage access to restricted areas of the reserve.
There are several marked paths around the reserve and all visitors are requested to keep to these.
The reserve lies 3 km east of Whitwick and 3 km north of Copt Oak, to the west of the M1.
LRWT members and other permit holders can access the reserve from Abbey Road (on the east side about 0.5 km from the Forest Rock Public House junction). Cars should be parked on the side of the farm track.
Other visitors can access the reserve from the Warren Hills Road where there is limited parking in the layby.
We encourage visitors to use environmentally friendly forms of transport wherever possible. Most of our reserves are easily accessible by bicycle with many close to the National Cycle Network. Please note that cycling is not allowed on the nature reserve itself.
Public transport - contact Traveline for further information www.traveline.org.uk or phone 0871 200 22 33.
A self-guided walk trail information sheet is available to LRWT members and permit holders from the Trust office.
The Trust has always had a 'no dogs' policy on this nature reserve due to the sensitive wildlife found here. The designation of the heathland areas as Open Access land means that dogs cannot be legally excluded from these areas anymore.
However, visitors are asked to respect the wildlife found at the reserve and avoid taking dogs onto the heathland areas during the bird breeding season. The woodlands are not covered by the Open Access regulations and remain closed to dogs.
The reserve is owned by the Trust and covers 193.5 ha. Most of the reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and part was declared a National Nature Reserve in 2000.
History, habitats & management
The area covered by the reserve was originally part of the Charnwood Forest 'wastes' and the now familiar stone walls were erected during the enclosure period of the early 19th Century, followed by a period of afforestation and drainage. Gisborne's Gorse, the largest area of woodland on the reserve, was planted during the later part of the 19th Century and is mainly mixed oak, pine, sycamore and spruce, although a number of exotic species such as coastal redwood, wellingtonia and various pines are to be found in certain areas. This was one of the earliest reserves to be established by the Trust, and was formally held under a management agreement with Miss C E Clarke, who owned considerable areas of land in the parish of Charley. On her death the land now comprising the Charnwood Lodge Nature Reserve passed to the Trust. The bequest was subject to a number of conditions reflecting Miss Clarke's wishes that the area be maintained with the minimum of disturbance. A further condition was that the agricultural tenancies be maintained, and this has resulted in a mutually advantageous partnership between the Trust and its tenant, Mr A Danvers.
Habitats include planted oaks and other mixed woodland, acid grassland, heath grassland (called moorland by some), with occasional sphagnum dominated wet areas, a small reservoir and a number of small ponds.
Grazing is the most important management tool used to contain coarser grasses and scrub birch which would otherwise eradicate the smaller and more vulnerable species to be found in certain areas.
Selected bracken-covered areas are cut by hand or machine and although this policy has to be maintained regularly to show any significant effect, the results are impressive. In much of the woodland the spread of rhododendron is a menace and large areas have been cleared. Colonisation by sycamore is also a problem and several large trees have been removed to prevent the spread of seed: native species will be planted in place of the sycamore.
During the 2004/5 winter 2.5 ha of conifer plantation was felled and replanted with oak trees as part of the restoration of Gisborne's Gorse to oak woodland. However, it is not intended to remove all of the conifers from the woodlands as they provide an important habitat for some species, most notably birds.
Some of the old drainage pipes have been removed to increase the size of the wetter areas; other culverts are being maintained and regularly cleared as they support a rich variety of mosses, liverworts and fungi.
Features of interest
Among the most striking features of the reserve are the prominent 600 million year old Precambrian rock outcrops which protrude through the surrounding marl and other Triassic deposits. These outcrops include the famous 'Bomb' rocks - porphyroid 'Bombs' buried in the agglomerate rock which attract attention from geologists nationwide, and have led to the reserve being declared a National Nature Reserve.
However, research by the British Geological Survey has concluded that these 'bombs' (lumps of molten rock ejected from a volcano) may not be bombs after all. The contorted aerodynamic outlines typical of volcanic bombs are not present. Therefore these features should more accurately be called volcanic blocks. It is now thought that the rounded edges found on these blocks, which gave rise to the bomb hypothesis, were caused by the blocks being carried along pyroclastic flows. Similar blocks were recorded by pryoclastic flows during the volcanic eruptions on Montserrat in the Caribbean which began in July 1995.
The large tracts of heath grassland are dotted with small areas of bilberry, while marshes and boggy pools harbour a wide variety of species, some of them true relics of the ancient Charnwood landscape, such as bog pimpernel, marsh violet, lesser skullcap, creeping willow and climbing corydalis.
A number of different ferns grow on the reserve - two species, lemon-scented fern and hard-fern, occur at few other sites in Leicestershire and Rutland. There are also several rare species of sedge. A vernal alpine fungus, Melanoleuca evenosa, previously unrecorded in the counties, was discovered in 1965. The reserve is currently the only known locality in the counties for several species of mosses and liverworts.
Holly blue and green hair-streak butterflies can be seen on Timberwood Hill, usually in May. A variety of moorland species of moths are known to occur, including the fox moth, neglected rustic and glaucous shears.
On the lower slopes of Timberwood Hill tree pipits are present in the spring and summer while the woodland supports several species of warbler. All three species of woodpecker occur, although the lesser spotted is rare.
A large area on the southern side of the reservoir is dominated by alders under which a rich Sphagnum community has developed, including species now found only in small quantities in Leicestershire outside the boundaries of the reserve. Mallard are present during most seasons on the reservoir (and breed in many parts of the reserve) and occasional groups of wigeon, teal, pochard and tufted duck are present in the autumn and winter.
The fields bordering the reservoir are the haunt of curlew and wheatear in the spring. Buzzard, kestrel and sparrowhawk are now quite common, all possibly breed, and there have been several sightings in recent years of hobby.
Charnwood Lodge is also important for bats; both species of pipistrelle and the rare Natterer's breed here, and brown long-eared and noctule are also recorded. The woodland, Colony Reservoir and heathland edge are rich feeding habitats for these species.
Charnwood Lodge remains one of the last truly wild areas in the Forest.
Live near here? Want to help out?
Why not join one of our teams of volunteers. We have regular work parties covering reserves in this area including Charnwood Lodge. For more information contact us.