Coppice Leasowes was designated as a Local Nature Reserve in 1998. It covers an area of 4.8ha (12 acres) and forms part of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There is much to see and the whole reserve is open to enjoy.
The Reserve is separated into two by the A49, with the eastern side also designated as a County Wildlife Site. The reserve contains a mosaic of habitats including grasslands with wet flushes, streams, mature deciduous woodland, hedges and a wetland area. Both areas are grazed by cattle during the late summer months. Visitors are encouraged to keep their dogs on leads.
Habitats and Species
Mixed Hedgerows border both the upper and lower areas. These are relatively species rich and include Hazel (Corylus avellana), Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and Holly (Ilex aquifolium). Management includes both the cutting of hedges and hedge laying.
The Upper Eastern Grassland contains summer flowering herbaceous species and a good diversity of grasses in the sward. Plants to look out for include Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra), Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) and Crested Dog’s-tail (Cynosurus cristatus). This area is drained by a ditch, which is periodically dredged. The larger northern section contains a boggy area and a dead willow tree, while the smaller southern area is more sheltered and shaded.
The Semi-Natural Woodland contains ancient woodland indicator species such as Dog’s Mercury (Mercuralis perennis) and Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa). Primroses (Primula vulgaris) and Dog Violets (Viola canina) produce colour in the spring. Mature Oaks (Quercus robur) and Brambles (Rubus fruticosus) provide cover and food for a range of birds and invertebrates.
A small area of memorial trees has been planted at the northern end of the wood. The woodland is fenced to prevent animals from grazing its valued flora.
The Lower Western Grassland is much wetter than the eastern grassland with Soft Rush (Juncus effusus) and Tufted Hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) being the dominant species. Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus), Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) and Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) provide splashes of colour at various times during the year. The stream which crosses this area is dredged, whilst other areas require management to keep them free of rush invasion.
The Wetland Area is the lowest part of the Reserve and is contained by the railway embankment to the west. Rushes often conceal open water pools.
Butterflies and other insects thrive on the wide variety of flowers and grasses, and species of dragonflies and damselflies can be found on the permanent and temporary ponds, also in the marshy areas that host Whirligig Beetles, frogs and newts.
Some 50 species of birds have been observed, 13 of which nest here. Resident birds include various finches and tits, Nuthatch, Tree-creeper, wagtails, thrushes, Mallard, Heron, Green Woodpecker and Wren. Summer visitors include Swift, Swallow, warblers, Blackcap and Chiffchaff; while winter migrants include Fieldfare and Redwing. Sparrowhawk and Kestrel may be seen along with Buzzard, Red Kite and Raven.
This makes the reserve particularly interesting. In contrast to the ancient Precambrian rocks, which make up the surrounding hills, the valley floor is composed of younger Silurian rocks – the same as those found on the nearby Wenlock Edge. This is because the Church Stretton geological fault has caused these rocks to be displaced downwards by about 1000m. Surprisingly, a band of Wenlock limestone passes right through the Eastern Reserve and shelly fossils can be found in a small disused quarry in the woodland. These younger rocks result in very contrasting flowers compared with those on the hills.
Anyone wanting to help look after the Reserve as a working volunteer would be made very welcome. Please contact Church Stretton Town Council here…