Lemsford is a hidden gem in the heart of the South
East of England just a mile from the A1M and its thunderous traffic.
its proximity to modern settlements, the Lemsford nature reserve is packed with
freshwater habitat is attractive to Kingfishers|
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
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
Amongst the fish species are Chubb, Barbel with orange fins and whiskers
that feed on the river bed, and Carp.
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.
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.
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
eyes, long pointy nose and makes a loud, squeaking sound. Found in marshes and
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.
Shrew - Smallest of the shrews. Prefers hedgerows, wooded areas and field borders.
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.
All photographs courtesy and copyright
of Clare Gray, Herts Wildlife Trust.