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Celebrating Stotfold Watermill Local Nature Reserve

In 2009 Stotfold Watermill Local Nature Reserve won a CPRE Mark in the Landscape Improvement category of our Living Countryside Awards. In this guest blog post Liz Anderson, Chair of the Nature Reserve Management Team, shares the story of the site since then.


Stotfold Watermill Local Nature Reserve is situated on the south west edge of the town, bordered on one side by the River Ivel and on the other by agricultural fields. The 8.5 acre site has been known as Bowman’s Common in the past with the land used for cattle grazing until 1999 as part of a working farm. Since then the focus has moved to nature conservation with tree and hedgerow planting and ponds dug of various sizes and shapes.

The peaceful setting of Stotfold Mill and the LNR.

The site consists of three adjoining meadows following upstream along the mill race and the River Ivel. The first meadow, Meadow one, is just over a hectare of grass, occasionally used as an overflow car park or for events like our Ugly Bug Ball. It’s also a space to run around and in the corner lies Johnstans Wood a small planted broadleaved copse now with a natural play trail and bug hotel.

Wildflower meadow.

Meadow two, a similar size, is our Wildflower Meadow, this was seeded in 2009 with a wildflower mix and overseeded again in 2016 as a top up with additional wildflower seed including yellow rattle, a parasitic plant which helps to reduce grass cover and allow space for wildflowers to move in. Hay cuts have been taken since 2016 and the meadow flowers have gone from strength to strength bringing joy to visitors in spring and summer year after year. We’ve also planted a small orchard.

The meadow cut for hay.

Meadow three is the largest featuring three large ponds and a complex of wet areas and smaller ponds, several being excavated in 2009. These have colonised beautifully with reedbeds and associated aquatic plants and animals. We have a resident swan family who raise young each year and the sight of the new cygnets is always a pleasure. In 2018 we built a bird hide on a raised area giving views over the swan preferred nest site. It allows visitors to watch the swans and other birdlife without disturbance.

Wetland habitat.

We also have a viewing platform on the edge of one of the larger ponds enhancing visitor’s appreciation of the pond habitats and also providing a safe spot for pond dipping. The educational team from the Mill take small groups out regularly and the site is enjoyed by young and old.

Pond dipping and identification.

A mound left from when the ponds were dug has had steps added leading up to the top where there’s a bench giving an elevated view of the reserve.

Work on the steps in progress.

Meadow Three also contains an area of woodland and an osier bed, this is cut annually removing the larger stems which providing materials for weaving and also to help with hedge laying which has been done with the hornbeam and hawthorn hedges around the periphery of the reserve.

The Nature Reserve has high value for a wide range of wildlife, especially those species associated with wet features such as the river, ditches and ponds. The site also provides suitable habitat for rare and or threatened wildlife including otter, water vole and a number of bat species.

The site is well used by the local community, particularly since Covid where many people discovered the reserve with more time to wander and enjoy the tranquillity. The site has received the Green Flag Award year after year since 2012 – the national standard for parks and green spaces managed by voluntary groups in England and Wales. Visitor numbers continue to increase and the site is valued as special place by Stotfold residents.

Exploring the reserve using the boardwalks.

The Mill and Nature Reserve are run entirely by volunteers and we are very lucky to have support of TEASEL (ThE Astwick and Stotfold Environmental Link) Over the years thousands of hours of volunteer time has been invested in caring for the nature reserve and we are really proud of what it has become.

Our Mission Statement is ‘to maximise the potential of the Reserve for biodiversity and public involvement for people of all ages, without detriment to either.’

Since 2009/10 we have installed:
• Three Interpretation Lecterns
• Kissing Gates and Field Gates
• Visitor Point
• Boardwalk
• Circular Grass Path with brass rubbing posts
• Viewing/Dipping Platform
• Viewing Screens
• Copse Planting
• Wildflower Meadow
• Picnic tables
• Bird Hide

Getting creative.

Has this post made you want to visit?

The reserve is open all year round. You can find lots of information, including a downloadable map, on the Stotfold Watermill and Nature Reserve website.


What is a Local Nature Reserve?

Local authorities can create local nature reserves (LNRs). Town and parish councils can create LNRs if the local authority has given them the power to do this.

The local authority must control the LNR land – either through ownership, a lease or an agreement with the owner.

LNRs are for people and wildlife. They are places with wildlife or geological features that are of special interest locally. They offer people opportunities to study or learn about nature or simply to enjoy it.

Stotfold Mill Meadows Nature Reserve in 2009 Barry Halton