Lightwater Country Park extends to 59 hectares and consists of a variety of natural habitats. These include heathland, woodland, meadows, scrub, bog and ponds. Several of these can be observed from the easy access trail.
On-site facilities include the Heathland Visitor Centre which offers displays on heathland and natural history. It is used to stage events and is available for school and group hire. For details of bookings and opening times, contact a member of Greenspace on 01276 707100.
Use this map to follow the trail on the numbered points below:
Adjacent to the Visitor Centre are picnic areas and public toilets. Also within the Country Park is Lightwater Leisure Centre. This complex offers sporting facilities, a function room and bar. Further details of the Leisure Centre are available on 01276 472662. All of the above areas have facilities for disabled access.
Easy Access Trail
At this point you can look out across the open heathland habitat that grows on these poor sandy soils. Consisting of low growing heather and scattered trees, the heathland provides a home for nesting birds, insects and also reptiles such as snakes and lizards. Due to its open aspect it provides plenty of sunlight for these warmth-loving species that a shady woodland could not offer.
This pond known as 'Hammonds' provides an important wildlife habitat and recreational resource. Used by the local fishing club the pond is well stocked with a variety of fish including Roach, Perch, Carp and Bream. Wildlife attracted to the pond includes herons that hunt small fish and amphibians in the shallows and geese and ducks that nest on the islands.
This area of woodland comprises several species of trees including Scots Pine, Silver Birch, Oak, Holly and Sweet Chestnut. You will notice there are trees of different ages and sizes this is the sign of a healthy woodland, providing homes for mammals, birds and other animals. The woodland is managed through selective thinning and also by leaving dead wood which is important for woodpeckers, hole-nesting birds, mini-beasts and ultimately fungi, which assist in the decaying process.
This pond was dug out in the early 1970s as part of the water drainage system when the M3 motorway was built. This area used to be part of Lightwater Bog and some of the original wetland plants still survive. Looking across the pond you will see an island covered by a one metre high shrub. This is Bog Myrtle, which is a remnant of the former Lightwater Bog. Other wetland plants growing around the margins of the pond include Devils Bit Scabious, Purple Loosestrife and moisture-loving trees such as Alder. In the summer, the magnificent flowers of water lilies can be seen on the ponds surface. Under the surface lurk aquatic insects such as water boatmen, dragonfly nymphs and diving beetles.
This pond is home to a variety of waterfowl including Mallard ducks, Moorhens, Coots and Canada Geese. In winter, large numbers of Canada Geese sometimes land on the pond, as do occasionally Black-headed gulls, fighting for scraps of bread left by human visitors to the Park.
The open heathland area you are looking across provides important wildlife habitat for many species including rare birds, mini-beasts and reptiles. However, it needs constant management otherwise scrub and tree saplings would quickly invade it and the heather would be shaded out and die. To ensure the open aspect of the heathland is maintained, the Rangers undertake a programme of scrub clearance. This takes place during the winter to avoid the birdnesting season.
The picnic areas and surrounding woodland are often subject to human disturbance and therefore the shyer wildlife like Deer are not easily seen. However the resident Grey Squirrels are much bolder and can frequently be seen on the ground around the picnic tables searching for visitors' discarded food or amongst the tree canopy moving from branch to branch with great agility. After dark when the picnic areas are quiet Foxes will visit them looking for scraps of food. Birds found in this area include parkland and garden species such as Robins, Magpies, Blackbirds and Chaffinches.
The laying of this hard surface easy access trail has been possible due to the generous grant aiding by SITA Environmental Trust and The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We hope you enjoy the trail.