This week it’s the Otley Walking Festival and it’s 20th Anniversary. It’s a week where there’s several guided walks each day from a couple of miles or less to twenty miles, there’s pub walks, history walks, teashop walks, cake walks as well as nature walks.
There was a few walks I fancied but I was a bit late deciding so many were already booked up. One was called Early birds in the Wetland, a short walk round Otley nature reserve followed by champagne breakfast and they still had a space so I booked it.
We had to meet at the Buttercross in the centre of town at 5am!! So I set my alarm for 4am to give me chance for a quick breakfast and time to walk down, though my OH, bless him, did offer at 4am to drive me down. However it was light and dry so I walked the 1.5 miles into Otley.
I wasn’t the only one mad enough to think getting up so early was a good idea, there were 25 booked on and I would estimate 20 turned up!
Otley Wetlands is a nature reserve to the west of the town in what used to be gravel pits, it’s not usually open to the public at the moment so I’ve only been once before with WI.
The two leaders, Jur and Yvonne, explained the history of the area and how the are maintaining it as a nature reserve. from what I remember the quarry closed in about 1996 and the gravel pits gradually flooded. It became a nature reserve in the early 2000’s.
The area has quite a good mixture of habitat, wild flower meadows with several different orchids flowering, native woodland, reed beds seasonal ponds and of course the lakes from the gravel working. In one meadow they started to create two small ponds,after they dug them out they found they were very seasonal, drying up in summer. They were just about to line them when someone advised them that actually a pond which dries up in winter is it’s own special habitat.
We walked all round the reserve, seeing quite a few damsel flies. oystercacthers and swans. quite a few protected birds and insects there, but also roe deer and otters.
It was a lovely walk, about three miles at a gentle pace followed by a lovely breakfast of crumpets, scotch pancakes, homemade jam, strawberries, cheese…the plates just kept on coming out of the cabin! The final offering was a glass of champagne.
Altogether we walked about three miles round the reserve bu including my walk up and down to home I had walked six miles by 8am!
It was a lovely little walk, though I’m not sure what we gained from being there so early, though that may just be because it was a cooloer overcast morning. Also, with 20 odd people wandering round you’re not going to see much in the way of wildlife.