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Published June 15th 2015
A birdwatcher's dream but also a great place to walk
It is one of the newest jewels in the crown of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, but the delightful Middleton Lakes in Staffordshire is certainly up there with the best of its nature reserves.
Covering almost 400 acres of mainly wetland and grassland, Middleton Lakes lies within the beautiful Tame Valley, just south of Tamworth on the Staffordshire/Warwickshire border. It is hard to believe that this network of lakes, absolutely teeming with birds and other wildlife, was a sand and gravel quarry until 2007 when the RSPB acquired the site.
It officially became Middleton Lakes just four years later when the RSPB's latest nature reserve formally opened to the public in May 2011.
Situated at the rear of Middleton Hall, visitors to the nature reserve should not be put off by the bumpy road leading to the Middleton Lakes car park as the route is apparently still used by a landfill firm. Once at the entrance to the bird sanctuary you will immediately discover what treats there are to discover.
Literally around the first bend, and after crossing a farm road, is the annual nesting site for grey herons with 33 nests having been built this year in what is now called Heron Corner.
Several bird feeders also regularly attract woodpeckers, tits and finches, as well as a pair of grey squirrels during our visit.
The trail then takes visitors along a path which passes through an area of ancient woodland before emerging at the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, with Fisher's Mill Pool just beyond it on the other side.
A crossroads invites visitors to turn left along the Wetland Trail or right on the Meadow Trail, but we were interested in exploring the wetland area.
There were hundreds of birds on the day we visited, with various species of gulls, ducks and geese, but also numerous types of wading birds such as coots and the much rarer (certainly in my experience) avocets and oystercatchers.
Recently planted reed beds seemed to be filled with warblers judging by the birdsong as we walked past, but one of the most impressive sights came when we reached the furthest point, appropriately called the North Pool, which was absolutely filled with swans.
Here you will find the impressive new Lookout hide recently opened by the RSPB, which has plenty of seating for birdwatchers to take their time looking at the wildlife in comfort.
But there are other designated viewing areas alongside the Jubilee Wetlands, which are the result of a Lifeline for Lapwings project created as part of Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The area is now home to lapwings and other wading birds.
The Jubilee Wetlands created for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee
The nature reserve, which is open every day from dawn until dusk, has something of interest for all ages, with a specially designed play meadow that invites children to clamber on a 'tangly tree', scramble up a grassy mound, or find their way around a maze.