The Whitley Pump

The view from Katesgrove Hill

Author: Adrian Lawson

Ghosts of the Meadows

Matt and me

Matt and me

I see very few people over the Kennet meadows. Especially at the moment as they have been under water for so long.

They are still saturated and very muddy and not an attractive proposition for a walk. The marshy nature of the floodplain does attract a lot of birds, and April, as they migrate northwards lots of new birds appear. I spend a lot of time looking, and despite finding over 60 different species this month it takes a lot of time. Often I am out at dawn and get to see the sun rise from a vantage point that gives me a good view over one area or another.

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Goodbye to the Coley Park Black Poplar

The Coley Park black poplar after storm Ciara

The Coley Park black poplar after storm Ciara, February 2020. Photo: © Adrian Lawson.

The great Coley Park black poplar was, for me at least, one of the most iconic trees in Reading.

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A walk into the Wilds of Coley

Coley Meadows (Adrian Lawson)

Coley Meadows (c) Adrian Lawson

On Sunday 17 November there’ll be a walk from Waterloo Meadows Children’s centre into the marshes of the Coley water meadows. We’ll meet at 10am, and we’ll expect to return by 1pm.

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‘The Art of Trees’ at the Turbine House

The Turbine house at Blake’s Lock, part of Reading museum and next door to Bel and the Dragon, is worth a visit on its own; it’s a lovely spot and I could easily gaze out the windows at the waters of the Kennet flowing over the Borough weir.

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Winter flocks on Coley meadows

A murmuration of starlings at Gretna. Photo: Walter Baxter via Wikimedia Commons

Flocks of birds are a phenomenon that have always intrigued me. Watching how different birds go about it has fascinated me all my life. There are those obscure little flocks of twittering tits that flit about the hedgerows in winter, and there are those massive and spectacular starling murmurations that fill the dusk skies with choreographed magic.

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Are You Listening to Idles?

Idles

I’ve rarely had more excitement for a gig than Idles at Sub 89 on 28 April, the undoubted headliner for the Are You Listening? (AYL) festival, which already had a stunning line up this year.

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Whitethroats and I

Whitethroat. Photo: Nikola Middlemast

If you see me at this time of year, I am usually not walking very fast – I am scanning the fields and bushes on my regular walks looking for the common whitethroat. From spring and through the summer there are quite a few of them scattered around Reading, skulking in bushes or patches of bramble, and singing their curious scratchy little song.

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1962 air crash wreckage found at Kennet Meadows

Coley Meadows (c) Adrian Lawson

I met the owner of part of Coley meadows many years ago, and he told me a fascinating tale of two aeroplanes colliding there. He described the area where he thought they had crashed, and for many years I kept my eyes open for any sign. When the Fobney Island nature reserve was being dug I had hoped to find some evidence, but there was none. I looked it up and found a news report; the crash happened on 4 November 1962. There was no detail on the actual location, so I asked a few of the more senior residents, but strangely nobody knew much.

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Katesgrove’s bountiful river valley

Sadly, there are few good places on Katesgrove hill to enjoy the westward view. The steep west-facing scarp of Katesgrove hill is the edge of a river valley, and at the bottom flows the river Kennet. The river carved the valley into Reading before it became a canal, and used to run riot over a vast area of low lying land between Southcote and Whitley. The valley south and west of Katesgrove is a couple of miles wide, suddenly narrowing as it passes through two hills, Katesgrove and Coley. From the top of Katesgrove hill the view over the valley should be cherished, especially when the valley is full of floodwater and the sun sets beyond.

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