IMG_0732Tucked away behind the busy Aylestone Road lies the hidden peace and tranquility of Leicester’s Riverside Park, including the Grand Union Canal and Towpath, the Great Central Way cycle, equestrian and walking track, the River Biam and Soar and the Aylestone Meadows.

This green wedge on either side of the river provides the city’s richest wildlife habitats and gives harassed city dwellers a piece of country within the city boundary.

IMG_0733The ancient pack-horse bridge  leads across the river into flower-rich meadows, grazed by the City’s own herd of long-horn cattle. The nearby fields are grazed by horses and the horse-riding community can often be seen riding out along the Great Central Way. The fishing is good in this area too, and both the river and canal are teeming with fish at certain times of year. The Great Central Way provides an excellent cycle route for enthusiasts and occasional cyclists alike, and every weekend sees family parties enjoying the pleasures of off-road cycling. The Riverside Park is a haven for walkers, and with numerous paths throughout the meadows and beside the waterways, there are many different routes to try. There is even a livery stables and farm shop on Sanvey Lane and a café along the towpath at Kings Lock.

The area is largely managed as grassland and wetland, and this attracts birds such as Reed Warblers, Heron, various Ducks, Geese, Swans and other water fowl. In the Spinney at the Southern end of the Great Central Way you can see both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Birds of prey can be seen hovering over the meadows, and in the summer, Swallows, Swifts and Martins swoop over the fields and waterways. Flowers, including some rarities, are seen in early summer and these attract a host of butterflies and insects. Frogs and toads frequent the ponds, and occasionally, if you are lucky, you might see a harmless grass snake. Get up early enough, and you could encounter a fox with her cubs in Spring.

IMG_0734The Riverside Park is managed by the City Council. This is a huge task which is undertaken with full time staff and volunteers. A local voluntary group is Aylestone Meadows Appreciation Society (AMAS), whose purpose is to promote the use of the Meadows by all, to enhance and maintain the habitats and contribute towards the creation of a pleasant, safe, clean and peaceful environment for all users. The group is made up of users of the Meadows and is open to anyone who enjoys the area and wants to have an involvement in its future. Some members enjoy doing conservation tasks, whilst others prefer to take a back-seat role. The Group has recently worked on the stream near the Kennels at Middleton Street, and they are very proud of their hedge laying, which you can see alongside the Kennels.

The group meets approximately every six weeks at The Black Horse, Aylestone. If you want to join or to know more about AMAS please telephone Anne on 0116 2832978. You will find a warm welcome at all our meetings and conservation events.