Ladywalk Nature Reserve lies on the site of the old Hams Hall power station, situated in the borough of North Warwickshire, some ten miles from Birmingham city centre. Grid ref: SP2191
By its name the Ladywalk Nature Reserve at Hams Hall recalls the stately avenue which served as the main approach drive to the original Hams Hall, home of the Addeley family. The avenue can still be identified running through the main area of the reserve. The mansion dating from 1626, rebuilt in 1891 after a disastrous fire, was demolished stone by stone in 1919 and rebuilt as Bledisloe Lodge near Cirencester when the parkland was bought by Birmingham Corporation to provide the site for the new power station.
In its heyday, the power station was one of the largest generating plants in Europe but the last station, Hams ‘C’, was closed and demolished in November 1992. Hams Hall has now become a national distribution park.
Ladywalk was initially designated a nature reserve in 1970 and formally inaugurated in 1971 by Max Nicholson CBE, and is leased by the WMBC from E-On with a 40 year lease currently operating. Although the approach to the reserve along Faraday Avenue is an unusual entrance to a wildlife haven, the visitor will find an impressive natural legacy left by earlier industrial activity on the site. The reserve comprises about 125 acres of flood land and woodland lying within a loop of the river Tame, with sand and gravel extraction having left a series of pools of varying depth which, coupled with the surrounding rough pasture and the depositing of pulverised fuel ash from the power station has created a habitat attractive to a wide variety of bird life.
To date 215 species of bird have been recorded at Ladywalk including such unusual visitors as Common Crane, Night Heron, Spoonbill, Glossy Ibis, Great White Egret, Nightjar and Alpine Swift to mention just a few, and rarities apart, the reserve offers good bird watching all the year round.
In the winter months hundreds of wildfowl, mainly Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Goosander, Gadwall and Mallard are more or less guaranteed and these coupled with the regular flocks of other water birds make the reserve a very lively place. In recent years, up to four Bitterns have wintered on the reserve, drawing many birders eager for a glimpse of this normally elusive species.
The feeding stations in front of two of the hides attract flocks of tits and finches that can be watched feeding in the company of woodpeckers. Unusual species such as Willow & Marsh Tit, Water Rail and Sparrowhawk also pay regular visits to these feeding stations and small flocks of Siskin and Redpoll occur regularly in the alder plantation. Whilst at dusk flocks of thrushes and Starlings can be watched coming to roost in the phragmites, as Water Rails and Tawny Owl start to call.
The arrival of spring brings the reserve alive with song, as male warblers and other songbirds declare their territories. In the evening the reed bed, that during winter provided a roost for the thrushes, now plays host to migrating Swallows and Martins often in their hundreds and is alive with singing Reed, Sedge & Cetti’s Warblers. Spring also sees the passage of migrating sandpipers, plovers, Greenshanks, and godwits, a few regularly stopping for a day or two on their long journey northwards. Little Ringed Plovers, Curlew and Shelduck also return at this time, all of which nest on or near the reserve.
As spring gives way to summer there is still plenty to see. As well as birds, Ladywalk is home to five species of orchid and butterflies are plentiful, with many species occurring including the locally scarce species.