Point 7 - Alney Island Nature Reserve
The Alney Island nature reserve is just a few minutes' walk from Gloucester city centre but you're right in the middle of the countryside...
Stop for a moment and look around you. You'd be forgiven for thinking that you were in the middle of the countryside, but you're only a few minutes' walk from Gloucester city centre.
Much of Alney Island is a nature reserve managed by Gloucester City Council. The flood meadows here provide traditional wet grassland and marshy areas which are ideal for all sorts of wildlife.
The Severn viewed from Port Ham
As part of the recent construction of the new Gloucester South West bypass across Alney Island a series of shallow seasonal ponds and shallow scrapes have been formed. These are designed to enhance the wetland habitats. Look out for wading birds such as snipe which have suffered serious declines in recent years as marshland and wet meadows have been drained for agriculture.
You may also see a four-legged creature here. The meadow is soon to be grazed by traditional breeds of cattle including Old Gloucesters, owned and managed by the City Council's Countryside Unit.
There's no sign of a racecourse here now, but it was here that Gloucester Races used to be held in years gone by. The flat meadow made it an ideal place to hold the event on the 1.5 mile-long course.
Alney Island: Site of the old racecourse
The races were held up until 1839. They were revived in 1861 and 1862, and in 1870 held on the Mean Ham to the north of the railway line. The local paper boasted that the course was "admitted by all sporting men to be superior to Cheltenham's".
Picture the scene: Fairground attractions, merry-go-rounds, people drinking and eating, dancers, musicians, boxers, acrobats, and all kinds of mayhem. This could be why the races were not held very often...
Campaigners handed out leaflets to the crowd warning of the dangers of gambling and drinking, while police reinforcements and plain-clothes detectives were called in from Birmingham and Bristol.
Although banned, betting did take place. It's recorded that one unlucky gambler was thrown into a ditch for not being able to pay up!
Before continuing on the walk look across at the "blot on the landscape" that is the Port Ham electricity substation. But it won't be an eyesore for much longer! The plant is currently being refurbished, and all the equipment will eventually be housed in the new small green building. The obsolete transformers and power equipment currently visible on the ground will be removed, creating a much less intrusive view.
Continue walking, keeping the river on your right. Just after you pass close to two pairs of large wooden telegraph poles carrying wires across the river turn 90 degrees to the left, and cut across the meadow to join the new cycle track. Here turn right, and follow the cycle track, keeping to the left when the track splits into two. Just before the track goes under the new road bridge turn sharp right, almost doubling back on yourself along a grass track which can get overgrown. Head towards the old railway bridge and the disused lock - Point 8.
last updated: 01/04/2008 at 11:24