Ospreys are awe-inspiring birds of prey. They are a migratory species, with British ospreys spending the breeding season (March-September) in the UK, then migrating to Africa for the winter. It is during the spring and autumn as they travel to and from Africa that some of these birds pass over the Cotswold Water Park and there are often sightings over Lower Mill Estate.
The main requirement for these birds is a good supply of medium-sized fish which can be caught from the surface of the water. But if we want them to stop and breed we also need to offer them suitable nesting sites. Ospreys generally build nests at the top of prominent trees so we have created two artificial nesting sites at Lower Mill – one on Freeth Mere that was repaired in 2017 and one on Swillbrook Lakes.
The platform on Swillbrook Lakes had fallen into disrepair over the last 15 years with no one brave enough to head up the tree to maintain it. That is until last week when our fantastic grounds team scaled the very tall tree holding the platform, built a new nest and repaired the nest site. A good head for heights was definitely needed and we are really grateful for their help and enthusiasm, doing this in their own time so they didn’t lose precious time looking after the rest of the Estate.
Attracting ospreys is never easy but with ospreys returning to breed annually at Rutland Water and with chicks being raised and released at Poole Harbour in Dorset, we are hopeful that one day the osprey we see on migration may choose to stay and breed at Lower Mill Estate. Nesting platforms are also being put up at our sister site, Silverlake, Dorset.
Let’s keep everything crossed that one day soon we will see these incredible birds of prey on our sites and the efforts of our grounds team will be rewarded.
“There’s a lodging to suit every family size and budget, and they’re all scattered around Lower Mill Estate, a private reserve covering hundreds of acres.
Get back to nature, but with all the luxe comforts you could possibly need.”
View the full article HERE
As many of you will know, we have motion activated nature cams dotted around the nature reserve to keep track of our resident wildlife and particularly the effectiveness of our ecology management plan. Every now and then, these cameras capture an extraordinary moment of natural beauty that shows us exactly why we all love our little corner of the Cotswolds; this footage was just far too good to keep to ourselves…
Watch the full video HERE
I hope you all agree this is pretty remarkable and highlights the success of our ongoing ecology plan, overseen by Dr Phoebe Carter and implemented by our brilliant Grounds Team.
“One of the best hidden gems in the West Country is Lower Mill Estate, a serene lakeside nature reserve. What was once a derelict quarry, it now comprises of eight lakes, two rivers and miles of walking trails which have become home to a diverse range of native wildlife.”
Read the full article HERE
Springtime is a unique time at the estate, the House Martins return from Africa to nest forming the largest known breeding population in the UK, and the songbirds including the Nightingale and at least 6 species of warblers return to breed. Common terns can be admired as they dive for fish, and then there are the birds of prey including the Hobby hawking over the lakes as well as sightings of Osprey soaring above. Over 40 different species of birds breed at Lower Mill Estate over the Spring and Summer so there is plenty to see. This is a testament to Habitat First Group’s commitment to nature conservation and ecology which is all overseen by onsite ecologist Dr Phoebe Carter.
There are nature experiences ripe for all age groups. On the Sunset Adventure Safari guests paddle across the lagoon spotting nocturnal beavers, otters and other animals, while, for the Into The Wild Walk nocturnal nature spotting is on foot and followed by toasted marshmallows. For young children, the Miss Mouse Adventure trail features as many species on the estate as possible and sees families collect a map and then head out to find hidden treasure. Finally, for nature enthusiasts from beginners to avid twitchers, the Cotswold Birdwatching Company hold two-hour guided walks around Lower Mill Estate. Head out on 4th April for a special ‘Spring Watch’ walk or on 4th May to celebrate the upcoming National Dawn Chorus Day where the aim is to spot as many of the wonderful birds as possible and to hear the beautiful nightingale and warbler song and perhaps a cuckoo too!
A springtime visit to Lower Mill Estate is a wild experience for all the family. In addition to the nature-focussed activities, guests can head out cycling, go paddle-boarding or kayaking on the lakes, play tennis, or pop to the onsite spa for a treatment or swim before cosying down in their modern and luxurious holiday home.
Note: All images taken at Lower Mill Estate.
Chief ecologist at Lower Mill Estate, Dr Phoebe Carter said: “It was wonderful to see the children having such a great time outdoors despite the weather and to see them reconnect with the natural world. There are so many measurable benefits to children being connected to nature and it was lovely to see the children and the local wildlife benefitting.”
View the full article HERE
On Saturday 27th October, we hosted The Cotswolds’ first ever Pumpkin Flotilla on Spinney Lake. Over 100 families turned up to carve their pumpkins in our tepee and it was fantastic to see the children’s excitement as their creations were carefully rowed over to the Flotilla.
Come the evening, the temperature had plummeted, so we made sure everybody kept warm with some lovely bonfires, marshmallows and liqueur coffees.
We have had some wonderful feedback and as a result, we have already committed to bringing the Flotilla back in October 2019 with space for more pumpkins and a couple of extra treats for the kids.
Be sure to follow us on social media to hear about things first.
It all seems to have happened very suddenly, especially after the summer we’ve had. Those long, bright, hot days, that went on and on and on. Daily conversations about how long it was going to last, how no one can believe what an amazing Summer we’re having and the questions about when it’s all going to come to an end have now tailed off. I think that time has finally arrived, and in some ways I’m pleased. I love the fact that we have seasons. Seasons allow us to appreciate the good weather, to notice our surroundings and look forward and backwards at what was and what is yet to come. The change of season allows us to enjoy the beautiful country we live in and appreciate the incredible landscapes right outside our front doors.
There are not many better places to go to notice the change and appreciate the moving of the seasons than at Lower Mill estate and Silverlake. Our recent visit to Lower Mill was a perfect one. The change was very definitely in the air, whilst still holding onto a fragment of the Summer warmth. The leaves had started to turn, green mixed with yellows, oranges and the more hasty species already beginning to drop in the light breaths of wind that passed through. The Lakes stretched out in front of us looking glassy and cool, their temperature dropping by the second as the Summer warmth disappeared from the surface.
We spent a lot of time peering into the water from the pontoon on Mill Lake. The sun was shining bright and all five of us lay down looking deep into the clear depths to see what life lay below. I’m always amazed by the clarity of the water on the Estate and as we peered in we watched the fish flitting around beneath us. We spent the stunning Autumnal Saturday walking from Mill Lake, skirting Somerford Lagoon, watching the birds move back and forth on Farmhouse Lake whilst hidden behind branches and undergrowth, our own natural bird hide. It’s pretty difficult to keep our three youngsters, Jasper, Daisy & Jesse quiet for more than 10 seconds so the wildlife knows we’re coming from a fair way off! Despite this, the water surface was teeming with life for us to test our identification skills.
As we took a break in the meadow alongside the rugby pitch to have a snack and a drink Jasper proudly opened up his new birthday present penknife. A Swiss Army knife with scissors, a toothpick and a screwdriver amongst other features. I remember my first penknife and no doubt Jasper will remember this one, and the time he sat whittling us all walking sticks we had collected on the way. We were all on an adventure, we needed walking sticks to help us find our way home, so with gusto, our handles were carved, some turned into dodgy-looking spears but by the time we moved on we were all happy and not a drop of blood had been spilt!
For years now I’ve been trying to spot a Beaver. Flagham Fenn is my go-to place if I get the chance to decide on an exploring route. This visit was no different to the previous ones, however, not a Beaver in sight. Just one little glimpse one day would make my year! Instead of Beavers, we came across the most incredible collection of freshwater Crayfish shells, claws and remains. It was surely the work of an Otter family which brought us great excitement to think they had been standing in the shallows right where we were.
Back in the apartment for lunch, a much-needed coffee then we were off again, this time to the swimming pool. An impressive jump into the freezing outdoor pond from the kid’s mum Emily surprised us all and set the precedent. I was, without doubt, the biggest wimp taking forever to build up the courage to plunge into the beautifully cold outdoor water, but back into the heated outdoor pool was utter bliss after that! We can’t drag our kids out of the swimming pool. Like so many things we’ve done at Lower Mill, the memories we are lucky enough to create there will last for us as a family for the rest of our lives. It was the first place Jasper (now 9) could ride his bike without us by his side. It’s the place where all of our three children have really learnt to be confident in a swimming pool because of the unlimited time we’ve been able to spend with them in the water. We’ve learnt about and witnessed so much of the natural world while exploring the hundreds of acres on the site and we’ve seen, felt and appreciated the changing seasons. Memories are made when we spend time together and this was another memory making weekend for us in the Cotswolds.
A nationally rare plant, Heath lobelia (Lobelia urens), has just been given a helping hand by the Habitat First Group at Silverlake, Dorset. With only six populations of this plant known to be remaining in the UK it is considered to be vulnerable to extinction.
In a trial that is the first of its kind for this species, Heath lobelia plants have been translocated from a local Dorset population to a site at Silverlake where they have been protected from grazing animals using secure wooden enclosures.
The project, funded by HFG, brings together botanical expertise from Dorset County Council, the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, and Natural England.
Read the Full Article Here
Come and join us if you dare for The Cotswolds’ first ever pumpkin flotilla at Lower Mill Estate
Drop in between 9am and 12pm on Saturday 27th October to carve your family’s pumpkin and then re-join us from 6pm to watch your pumpkin set sail on a beautiful flotilla over Spinney Lake, whilst shrouded by a ghostly October mist.
We’ll have hot drinks aplenty and lakeside firepits to keep you toasty and marshmallows to keep the kids happy.
There is no charge for tickets, but there will be an opportunity to donate to the wonderful charity Dreamflight on the day.
*The Pumpkin Flotilla is exclusively for owners of properties at Lower Mill Estate and guests staying on the Estate at the time of the event.
**We regret that we will not be able to return the pumpkins entered for the Flotilla, but these will be used sustainably at Lower Mill Estate.