Cossington Meadows

Cossington Meadows

OS map ref: SK 597130 (Sheet 246 - Explorer)

Nearest post code LE7 4UZ

The reserve is situated to the west of Cossington village, alongside the River Soar, between the City of Leicester and Loughborough. Cars can be parked off the road outside the main entrance on the Syston Road or in the small public car park adjacent to Cossington Parish Church. There is also access at several other points, where public footpaths enter the reserve (see map).

This reserve is easily accessible by public transport to Cossington village using the access point by the church, contact Traveline for further information 0871 200 22 33 or www.traveline.info

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 permitted on the nature reserve itself.

In order to minimise disturbance to wildlife on the reserve visitors are asked to stay on the footpaths. 

Dogs are permitted on this nature reserve on short leads only and kept out of the water.

Cossington Meadows covers 88.9 ha and is the largest of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust’s six nature reserves in the Soar valley. The land was purchased by the Trust in 2004.

The area currently occupied by Cossington Meadows Nature Reserve was quarried for gravel during the 1980s and 1990s, the pits then being filled with bricks and other ‘inert’ waste, with finer material laid over this. Some parts were finally covered with top-soil and sown with grass, others were left, with several deep holes in the north of the site filling with water to form lakes. Not all of the site was dug, however, including a strip alongside the river. A number of the original tall hedges were retained.

Cossington Meadows lies next to the river, which floods occasionally in winter. As the flood water recedes shallow pools of water form on the reserve, especially at the northern end. The pools, which are also boosted by rainwater, dry up in the summer exposing areas of mud, forming good habitat for many birds. The flood-water deposits the seeds of wetland plants all over the reserve and as a consequence marsh and swamp vegetation have developed.

Since acquiring the reserve the Trust has carried out work to create more shallow pools or ‘scrapes’, re-profiled the steep banks of ditches, dug new ponds, put out rafts for common terns to nest on and established reedbeds. Further work to shape the site will be undertaken, but natural processes such as flooding will be utilised to allow plants to colonise it. Grazing by hardy cattle will be employed to control the growth of willow scrub and coarse vegetation, although in the short-term mowing will be necessary in places. By avoiding the use of fertilisers we can reduce the fertility of the soil pver time, which will benefit less competitive wildflowers. Tall hedges will be left to provide food and cover for insects and birds.

It is our intention to minimise the amount of work we carry out on the reserve, so that eventually grazing will be sufficient to maintain the wetland habitats, although the proportions of scrub, marsh, swamp and open water will change over the years and through the seasons.

The deeper pools attract wildfowl such as gadwall, tufted duck and great crested grebe, all of which breed on the reserve. In winter parties of wigeon and teal are common and rarer ducks seen include velvet scoter and garganey. Around the muddy edges of shallow water can be found waders such as green sandpiper, greenshank, oystercatcher, redshank, lapwing and little ringed plover. The last three species nest on the reserve. Grey herons are always present and other birds like kingfisher, grey wagtail and kestrel can often be located. Birds such as reed bunting and reed warbler should increase as the swamp vegetation becomes more extensive. Short-eared owls regularly winter on the reserve.

Grass-snakes, toads and frogs all breed on the reserve. Migrant hawker and black-tailed skimmer are two of the dragonflies commonly recorded and regularly seen butterflies include small copper, common blue and brimstone.

Many wetland plants have already colonised the reserve. Amongst the more notable are flowering-rush, purple loosestrife, ragged-robin and blue water-speedwell. 

The Trust’s fish refuge at Cossington Meadows is an extensive pool connected by a channel to the adjacent River Soar, it’s purpose is to boost the number of coarse fish within the river thereby improving its ecological condition.The refuge has been designed to enable fish of all sizes to escape the main flow when the river is swollen or in flood then safely re-join the river when water levels drop.It also provides much-needed habitat for fish to breed and spawn.  Immediately after hatching the tiny fish larvae have limited swimming ability and must locate suitable refuge or nursery areas in river backwaters because they can drown in flood waters and are prone to predation from larger fish, insects and birds.

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