The park has a formally planted core which echoes the plan of beds and pathways set down over the years by the park superintendents. Within and around this our native wildlife has moved in and made itself at home. We do our best to make sure there is space for as wide a range of plants and animals as possible. The area suffered greatly during the industrial revolution as coal fired factories polluted the air and industrial waste was poured into the river. Since then thankfully things have recovered and the valley is once again full of greenery and life.
With its mix of mature trees, shrubs and open grass the park provides habitat for many species of birds. Resident species nest in the canopy of the trees and visiting migrants drop in for refuelling. The river is also home to some interesting birds and as the water quality has recovered in recent years we have welcomed back kingfishers, little grebes and cormorants. These birds are catching fish and aquatic invertebrates, proof that the river is thriving.
Swallows and Sand Martins return each year from their African winter homes and feed on the abundant insects along the river and across the grass.
Several species of bats have been spotted in the area. Mature trees provide roosting sites and the flying insects that are common around the woodland and river are the favoured food of Pipistrelles and Daubentons bats. On mild summer evenings bats can be seen skimming over the river beneath the footbridge from the park.
Other, less often seen mammals that we know are here include hedgehogs and small rodents such as woodmice. The occasional fox has been seen strolling across the park at night.
By far the largest group of animals you’ll find here are the invertebrates. In amongst the woods, grasslands, and scattered trees you’ll find snails, slugs, earthworms, butterflies, moths, beetles and bees.
You can get involved in maintaining and improving the park for wildlife. The events programme includes volunteer days when you can help to maintain the formal and informal planting in the park. A gardening groups helps with planting and weeding the beds while conservation volunteers can help with woodland and wildflower meadow management.
We also arrange wildlife watching activities including bat walks, fungi finding, wild food forages and bird song identification walks.
Helped by the students and members of the public there are regular Bioblitz days to see just how many species of wildlife live in the park. The answers can be staggering. Whether you enjoy a quiet stroll in the park or want to get involved and find out more there is always something to see and do.
Newly planted saplings have been added to the park to supplement the many mature trees and replace any that may have to be removed due to disease. Many of our trees are of familiar native species but there are also examples of trees from around the world. Shrubberies also include a range of species which provide a colourful display as well as being refuge for wildlife.
Flower beds are managed for colour but the plants and their blooms are a food source for native species including bees, butterflies and beetles. Colourful bedding plants and traditional cottage garden varieties fill the circular beds that form the iconic ‘roundel’ pattern of planting. These are best viewed from the steps behind the museum. Our volunteer gardeners help to maintain and add to the display.
Much of the grass area has to be kept mowed for recreational uses but there is plenty of room for wildflower rich meadows where taller grasses and wildflowers can grow allowing small mammals and invertebrates to find homes. Together with the Meadow which can be reached across the footbridge, there is a wealth of wildlife habitat.