Birches Farm Trail – Start
There is a small car par at the entrance to the reserve off the A4111. Parking is limited to 3-4 car maximum. There are residential properties using this entrance. Please do not block any entrances.
Start the trail
Following many generous contributions from Herefordshire Wildlife Trust members, the public and other charitable trusts, the Birches Farm Reserve was purchased in June 2015.
As well as being a good example of how Ice Age Ponds were formed, Birches Farm offers a rare window to an historic farmed landscape as it has not been altered significantly by modern farming techniques.
Historic farmed landscape
During the spring and summer months the meadows and hedgerows are full of wildlife including several orchid species such as the common spotted (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and green winged orchid (Anacamptis morio), many meadow wildflowers such as Devil’s bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) and farmland birds including whitethroat (Sylvia communis) and willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus).
Head to gate
Walk straight passed the buildings heading for the gate. The building on your right has been recently converted from farm buildings and is designed for schools and community use. For more information contact Herefordshire Wildlife Trust.
Find these creatures
At certain places along the trail – which you need to find – the option to take a selfie with one of these creatures from the Ice Age in Herefordshire will occur. You will know you have found one of these places when the camera button appears at the top of the screen. So keep a lookout as you explore.
Pond to your left
Just after passing through the gate a pond will be visible on your left. Although this pond may have started out as an Ice Age Pond, it has been greatly modified over the years. However it still holds an amazing variety of wildlife including three types of amphibian. Touch ‘Show more’ for pictures of the water plants than can be found in the pond.
Largest pond on the reserve
The pond beside the track here is the largest pond on the reserve and holds water throughout the year. It may be of natural origin, potentially glacial, but it has been heavily modified and deepened resulting in the steep banks typical of man-made ponds. Recent management work has involved felling of several of the trees which surround the pond, increasing the amount of sunlight reaching the water.
Patches of submerged aquatic plants including water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis) can be seen.
Water starwort (Callitriche palustris) is another submerged aquatic plants which can be seen in the pond.
Blanketweed and duckweed
Most of the surface tends to be occupied by mats of filamentous algae known as blanketweed and duckweed (Lemna spp). This is a consequence of the accumulation of a large quantity of sludge and fallen leaves at the bottom of the pond.
Life in the pond
Many common toad (Bufo bufo) tadpoles were present in the pond in 2019, swimming in shoals beneath the surface vegetation. Larger, more permanent ponds are important for this species. Great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) and smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) also breed here. Invertebrates found in the pond include the horny orb mussel (Sphaerium corneum).
Nut Orb Mussel (Sphaerium rivicola)
A population of this freshwater mussel was found in this pond. The species is more commonly found in canals and slow-flowing rivers, so to find it in a pond is unusual.
Into Pool Field
Go through gate into Pool Field. Turn sharp left once you have passed through the gate.
Head through the gate
In the hedgerow ahead, go through the gate into Foolway Piece field and walk up to the top of the slight hill, until you can see a pond surrounded by a fence.