Campus Walks: Lakes Walk
The walk starts from the Sports Centre car park (CP8). Much of the path follows ancient hedgerows. Most are shown on the 16th century plans and several plant species like dog's mercury, greater stitchwort and bluebells confirm their ancient nature, as does the variety of woody plants.
To increase their value for wildlife, we're reversing past neglect by "cutting and laying" hedges in the traditional Warwickshire style. We plant trees in and near the hedges to replace the numerous trees, especially elms, lost in the last 50 years.
After the small ponds near to Claycroft Halls, the path crosses a tributary of Canley Brook and runs alongside a poorly drained meadow. This habitat once occurred along most streams and rivers, but has been lost through the introduction of improved drainage. Our meadow contains uncommon plants such as great burnet and meadowsweet. It's an important habitat for insects, especially butterflies.
The path now reaches the largest of the Tocil lakes, which we dug ourselves. The next lake and its associated wetland area was developed jointly with the National Rivers Authority in 1990, as an amenity and an educational resource. Most animals and plants growing in and around the lakes have established naturally and demonstrate the colonising powers of nature.
Bird life is varied and includes coots, moorhens and mallards, which breed on the islands and on the far side of the lake in a wildlife area closed to the public. You might see two pairs of mute swans with their cygnets here, though they breed elsewhere on campus.
In recent years the appearance of two introduced species has upset the balance of wildlife. Canada geese gather in large numbers (over 150) throughout the winter months and, more seriously, mink have spread from the river Avon since 1993. They eat the eggs and young of most water birds, even swans, and have reduced populations dramatically.
Well worth a visit is Tocil Wood, a nature reserve belonging to Coventry City Council, managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust.
You can access it from the inter-site footpath to Gibbet Hill, though the paths can be muddy. The wood, known to have existed since before Roman times, is managed by traditional methods with coppiced hazel under fine standard oaks. In May, bluebells make a magnificent show and the wettest area supports a stand of marsh marigolds.
Return to the starting point by retracing your steps across campus via the Rootes Halls of Residence and the Arts Centre (see map).