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13 June 2014
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Freshwater | Lemsford

Hidden gems

Kingfisher (Image c/o Herts Wildlife Trust)

Lemsford is a hidden gem in the heart of the South East of England just a mile from the A1M and its thunderous traffic.

Despite its proximity to modern settlements, the Lemsford nature reserve is packed with wildlife.

Lemsford's freshwater habitat is attractive to Kingfishers

Lemsford is a great place to watch freshwater nature.

The water at Lemsford is clean, fast running and never freezes, with the result that it's teeming with fish.

The River Lee in Hertfordshire runs through the middle of the reserve, flowing south and growing in size until it joins the Thames close to the Millennium Dome.

Amongst the fish species are Chubb, Barbel with orange fins and whiskers that feed on the river bed, and Carp.

Water Cress beds

Lemsford Springs (Image c/o Herts Wildlife Trust)The floodplain around the river is particularly worth a visit - this man made habitat and a wildlife haven is famous for its water cress beds.

Back in the Victorian era water cress was a great substitute for green vegetables in winter.

In the 19th Century workmen dug out the floodplain of the river by hand and spread gravel where they found springs seeping out of the chalk.

The spring water flowed over it and the watercress beds were cultivated.

A cart took the watercress to London's Covent Garden where it was sold.

Today the watercress is no longer farmed at Lemsford but the spring-fed lagoons have been maintained and are brilliant for wildlife.

The shallow, spring fed lagoons are good for wildlife because they are full of invertebrates such as freshwater shrimps.

The shrimps can only survive in very clean water and they feed on the water cress from underneath and, in turn birds and some small mammals feast on the shrimps.

Pheasant (Image: c/o Herts Wildlife Trust)Bird feast

The water is so clean that it attracts insects which in turn encourage more birds.

Even in the depths of winter the water never freezes, because it comes out of the spring at a constant temperature, so there's always food for the birds.

There are hides on the reserve form which visitors can see some of the birds that love these lagoons.

Amongst the species to look out for are Little Egrets, Herons, Kingfishers, Grey Wagtails, Wrens, Moorhens and Water Rails.

Another bird which feeds on the lagoons is the Green Sandpiper - each bird eats about 8.000 shrimps every day.

The lagoons also boast 50 species of water snail.

Taming of the Shrew


Tiny eyes, long pointy nose and makes a loud, squeaking sound. Found in marshes and meadows.

Water Shrew - bigger than the Common Shrew - the largest of British shrews. Found near water. Blackish colour. Adapted for aquatic life - thicker, denser coat than Common Shrew. Also bristly hairs on the sides of its feet which fan out when swimming to help propel it along.

Pygmy Shrew - Smallest of the shrews. Prefers hedgerows, wooded areas and field borders. Dark brown.

Lemsford is one of the best places in the country for small mammals such as Shrews.

Look out for the Water Shrew, the Common Shrew, and our smallest mammal, the Pygmy Shrew which lives along hedgerows by the side of reserve.

These amazing animals have been at Lemsford for millions of years.

The Water Shrew love this area because it is rich in their favourite food, shrimps, and there are easy pickings.

Photo Credits

All photographs courtesy and copyright of Clare Gray, Herts Wildlife Trust.



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