As Neil Thompson’s article in the January newsletter shows, the Greenways Project manages some little-known, but important green spaces in and around Ipswich. I have been associated for a number of years with the Project and also with Ipswich Borough Council’s Parks and Cemeteries Department, based at Holywells Park. As an illustrator I have produced pictorial maps and wildlife illustrations for information boards that are installed in Ipswich parks, recreation grounds and other public open spaces. This has entailed visiting various locations and I have been surprised to discover delightful pockets of green space which I knew nothing about, and I suspect many Newsletter readers don’t either.
For example, I have recently worked on information boards for The Dales and Bixley Heath. The Dales Local Nature Reserve is a narrow belt of land about 1/3 mile long running parallel to Dales Road. It can only be accessed from Baronsdale Close and via two grass tracks off Dales Road; you could go past and not realise where they lead as the site is concealed by the houses which surround it. They lead to a meadow, surrounded by woodland. A path leads to another meadow where there is a pond fringed by reeds. Beyond, the ground rises steeply to a ridge where clay pits were dug to make bricks from which many of the surrounding houses were built. The pits are now covered in trees and a meandering path will take you the length of the site, but be warned, in places it climbs and dips steeply as it skirts the old pits. Springs arise from the base of the slope, feeding the large pond and several smaller ones. At the northern end is a well-equipped play area. I expect this delightful place is well-known to local children and dog-walkers, but I wonder how many people from further afield know it is there?
The other site I visited recently is Bixley Heath which has the status of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and which IBC are managing as a nature reserve, rather than just a public open space, because it has not one but three distinct habitats. Like The Dales it is surrounded by housing and has no direct access by road, so is a very secret place. A footpath runs through it from north to south from Wadhurst Road to Bucklesham Road and another path enters from the west off Dorchester Road into an area of open heath. Here IBC are gradually restoring areas of heather. The heath drops down steeply to a narrow wooded valley which is classed as fen carr; boggy ground supporting damp-loving trees like alder and willow. To the east this valley opens out into marshy meadow, where the conditions are just right for Greater Tussock Sedge – distinctive mounds of tall grasses rising out of the quagmire.
On the other side of the access path, the meadow opens out further into reedbeds fringed with oaks and willows and a circular walk takes you on a boardwalk over the marshy ground, through which the stream flows and disappears into the adjacent golf course.
Both sites have a distinctive character and are well worth a visit.