Behind DIRFT 3

Where Birding meets Logistics

If you have a sense of adventure, a pioneering spirit and you are willing to risk being hit by an HGV, while getting covered in mud, then read on …

The busy A5, just north of Crick, may not at first sight seem an ideal birding location but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Sandwiched between this major road and the M1 is a 250-hectare wedge of land currently under development by Prologis as an extension to the long-established Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal.

DIRFT 3 represents the third phase in this continually expanding logistics complex, which already includes national distribution centres for Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Royal Mail, as well as those of a number of other well-known retailers and third party logistics operators. The project is a joint venture between Prologis and Rugby Radio Station Limited Partnership, with construction taking place on the former Rugby radio station site, the masts of which have now been removed.I am not a big fan of industrial or housing developments on virgin territory but in this instance, given the location alongside existing industry, it doesn’t strike me as being a big deal and the creation of a 70-hectare nature reserve included as part of the development plan is welcome news, going some way to mitigate the loss of green land to industry. Lilbourne Meadows LNR is a collaborative initiative between Natural England, the Environment Agency and the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust (WTBCN). Based on the creation of new meanders to the Clifton Brook tributary – a watercourse running east to west across Lilbourne Meadows – a varied wetland habitat will include wet woodland and reed beds, pools and scrapes. The reserve will be located below Lilbourne and behind the industrial site’s northern perimeter landscaping. This new habitat is designed to attract a range of wetland birds and two bird hides are also included in the plan. Excellent!

But back to the here and now. Levelling of the site is well under way and, as a spin-off, some sizeable shallow lagoons and pools have been inadvertently created as a result of standing rain water on the recently created flat earth surfaces. While some of these are inaccessible, deep within the construction site, one area in particular is readily viewable from the A5 – if you don’t mind the proximity of thundering traffic! Parking is also a problem but possible with care in the limited number of narrow pull-ins and lay-bys. This one shallow, though extensive, pool is located immediately to the right (south) one of the entrances to the site, about 1.5 km to the north of the Sainsbury’s DC roundabout. The grassy fields to the north of the entrance are also worth viewing. This roadside area holds hordes of roosting gulls – particularly at the weekend when construction activity is minimal – and many drop in to bathe. Over the past two weeks, it has produced Shelduck, Golden Plover, Curlew, Dunlin, Caspian Gull, Yellow-legged Gull and Glaucous Gull and, with spring passage now under way, who knows what else might drop in over the coming weeks.

Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls, DIRFT 3, 12th March 2017 (Gary Pullan)

Having stumbled across it by accident while driving along the A5, I have visited this site a good number of times over the last month, recognising its potential for gulls in particular, and I’ve been lucky (or persistent) enough to find Glaucous and Caspian Gulls there. Its location is prime for receiving gulls, which roost at nearby Draycote Water (Warwickshire) 13 km to the south-west and feed on Shawell Landfill (Leicestershire) 5 km to the north and it seems logical to assume there is movement between all three sites. I’m hoping the new Lilbourne Meadows LNR will continue to attract them long after DIRFT 3 is completed. As far as both the reserve and the industrial site are concerned there is, as yet, no completion date. The area remains in a constant state of flux and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Watch this space!

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4 Responses to Behind DIRFT 3

  1. jeffollerton says:

    Nice to see that the site is already starting to be used by birds! I agree, Lilbourne Meadows LNR has the potential to become a really important wildlife site in the county. In 2015 I met with one of the consultant ecologists on the project to discuss options for best supporting bees on the site. There’s going to be a long, low (up to 17.5m maximum height) ridge running east-west across the site, built with spoil from the construction. Trees will be planted on it but I’ve recommended having some open spaces on the south-facing slopes for ground nesting bees. Will also be interesting to see what birds use that ridge.

    • Mike Alibone says:

      Excellent, Jeff. Nice to see you were involved as a consultant. The ridge is already there and I’m looking forward to the day when the reserve opens and the habitat matures and is subsequently managed.

  2. ian smith says:

    It is really big step forward that this type of planning gain is being used to create good wildlife habitats, nice places for humans to enjoy as well. We just need some similar schemes for farmland birds (and bees) habitat as well, before some of these become extinct.

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