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  • Julie Muller

HURCOTT AND PODMORE POOLS -Dipping A Root in the Water

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

(Nearest post code - DY10 3PH)

Visited by Zak and Shep

Today - the first Monday in January - Julie chose to visit Hurcott and Podmore Pools and Woods, which is both a SSSI and a Local Nature Reserve and is located very close to Kidderminster in Worcestershire.

It was a very cold day for our visit with snow still lying on the ground. In spite of this, the small car park was full of cars with dogs and their humans milling around, either preparing for a walk, or recovering, from it.

A family of four arrived at the same time as we did. The two little boys, welly booted and wrapped up against the cold seemed delighted to see us.

The path from the car park led us alongside the two pools.

The pool closest to the car park was still covered with ice. The reeds and bulrushes the edge were bent over and broken from the snow. A wooden fence ensured that neither we or our humans could fall or jump into the water. We allowed the family to walk ahead of us to give them some space but we met them again at a newly repaired wooden boat house.

A viewing area close to the boathouse gave Julie lovely views across the pool. Shep and I had a good old snoop around. There were all kinds of interesting smells.

Shep, a Border Collie, explores the edges of Hurcott and Podmore Pools SSSI  near Kidderminster in Worcestershire
Shep exploring the banks of Hurcott and Podmore Pools, near Kidderminster in Worcestershire

Despite being quite close to the road it was very peaceful. The air was full of birdsong. Two pairs of jackdaws sat in the trees above us, nattering to each other like neighbours gossiping over the garden fence whilst a wood pigeon cooed softly and a buzzard shrieked overhead. Nothing stirred on the water. Julie was hoping for a glimpse of a great crested grebe or a reed warbler but it was just too cold.

The path became quite muddy under our paws when we re-joined it, and we became aware of the sound of gushing water. We raced ahead to investigate and, peering under a gate we saw a cascade of water trickling from one pool down into another. The pool in front of us was occupied by a forest of alder trees all huddled together, their roots comfortably planted in the water. Other trees lay on their sides like fallen soldiers and a carpet of bright green pond weed linked them with islands of rush and reed.

There aren’t many trees that can survive with their roots fully submerged in the water. Alders can do this because they have special bacteria living in their root nodules which can trap nitrogen from the air.

Such wet , watery conditions would have been common during the last stages of the Ice Age so it is no surprise that alders were one of the first trees to colonise Britain at that time.

This type of habitat is called alder carr and Hurcott Pools boasts the largest area of alder carr in the County.

The alder trees themselves, together with crack willow and goat willow (otherwise known as pussy willow) ,provide an amazing home for all kinds of wildlife. Their roots provide homes for small fish and insect larvae and in some parts of the country they are even used by otters as nesting sites. There are all kinds of wild -flowers too and at certain times of the year the pools are carpeted with bright yellow pond lilies.

Hurcott pools are not a natural feature. They were built during medieval times to provide power for the industries of the time. Dams were used to ensure a steady flow of water throughout the year. In recent times though, the water levels in the pools have fluctuated so much that additional weirs have had to be built in order to make sure that they don’t dry up.

As we continued on our walk and away from the pools, the ground became much drier and less sticky under our paws.

The trees above the pools were devoid of leaves and the path was covered in a soft squidgy leaf mulch. Apart from clumps of bramble the ground under the trees was bare.

So far, we had seen few dogs and their humans on our walk but as we climbed further into the wood we heard the excited barking of a fellow collie fixed on finding squirrels. Here the woods were much darker as the broadleaved trees had been replaced by thickly needled conifers some of which were strewn across the ground.

Shep and I could not resist running around and jumping over them. Another man came walking towards us with two greyhounds warmly wrapped up in woolly scarf like coats. They ignored our fun and games.

The light was going as we arrived back at the car park –but, although the car park was emptying, there were still some people arriving for a last saunter before sundown.

One man armed with a plastic bag and accompanied by his liver -coloured spaniel was off on a litter pick. Funnily enough, we hadn’t seen much litter on our walk.

In fact, we hadn't seen many dogs or their humans either - despite all of the cars in the car park when we arrived.

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