Aqualate Mere NNR is just to the east of Newport, and is centred on Aqualate Mere – at nearly 180 acres, the largest natural lake in the West Midlands. The mere supports a diverse fish population, in particular pike and bream, and important numbers of wintering and breeding wildfowl including mallard, teal, wigeon, pochard, tufted duck, goldeneye and gadwall. Aqualate is also home to a large heronry that has been recorded for over 300 years. The reedbeds around the lake support reed warbler, sedge warbler and reed bunting, with the occasional visiting marsh harrier and osprey. The site also sees large murmurations of starlings at dusk during the winter. The low-lying pastures at the east and west of the reserve provide breeding areas for lapwing, curlew, snipe and redshank. Hunting barn owls and buzzards are also seen regularly here. Mammals include otter, polecat, stoat, water vole, yellow-necked mouse, harvest mouse, and bats such as pipistrelle and Daubenton’s.
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About the area
It was Staffordshire that bore the brunt of the largest non-nuclear explosion of World War II, when a munitions dump at RAF Fauld went up in 1944. It was also the county’s regiment that once boasted within its ranks the most decorated NCO of World War I, in the person of William Coltman (1891-1974). Going back a little further, George Handel penned his world-famous masterpiece The Messiah on Staffordshire soil. During another chapter of Staffordshire history, the county was home to the first canals and the first factory in Britain, and it had front-row seats for the drama surrounding one of the most notorious murder trials of the 19th century, that of Doctor William Palmer.
In outline, Staffordshire looks not unlike the profile of a man giving Leicestershire a big kiss. The man’s forehead is arguably the best region for hillwalking, as it comprises a significant chunk of the Peak District. This area is characterised by lofty moors, deep dales and tremendous views of both. Further south are the six sprawling towns that make up Stoke-on-Trent, which historically have had such an impact on Staffordshire’s fortunes, not to mention its culture and countryside. This is pottery country, formerly at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution and the driving force behind a network of canals that still criss-cross the county.
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