Parks can be vital habitats for wildlife. Stratford Park is no exception. While it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors to its leisure centre, museum and grounds every year, it still provides space within its 56 acre boundary for a variety of animal species. It is located on the edge of Stroud, only a five minute walk from the town centre at the bottom of the Painswick Vallley.
The Painswick Stream, which flows through the valley, continues on its course through the park and is frequented by Dipper, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail. It passes beneath an area of mixed woodland that includes a small Beech wood, such an iconic feature of the Cotswold landscape and the nearby commons and scarp in particular. Here, as there, the ground is covered in wild garlic in the spring. The woodland is home to Sparrowhawks, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit, Chaffinch and Tawny Owl. Tree Creepers feed along the trees that line the stream.
The stream flows past the park’s historic fishing lake. Today the needs of the anglers are weighed against the lake’s ecology and it is the focus of a conservation project to increase its biodiversity, through landscaping and planting, leading to more community engagement in the future. On the very first day that the timber piles were removed and a sloping bank was created, a Common Sandpiper was observed feeding on the water’s edge. A first for the park.
The park has its own arboretum, planted around the same time as Westonbirt’s. Though not endemic species, many of the trees provide additional homes and food for other species including Nuthatch and Goldcrest, as well as winter roosting for several hundred Jackdaw. Ravens have been seen at the top of the park’s highest trees.
The top of the park is bordered by grassland and a variety of shrubs and hedgerow tress, including two majestic oaks. Little owls have been resident and Barn Owl are occasional visitors. The grassland, much of which has been created in recent years by the park staff, is home to a variety of insects, including butterflies like Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Common Blue and Gatekeeper. Almost 300 butterfly and moth species (Lepidoptera) have been recorded in the park. The bird count is almost 100 species and 7 species of bat have been recorded.
Managing the park for wildlife is a top priority for its owners, Stroud District Council and the various stakeholders in the park. Steps are also being taken to counteract the effects of climate change, looking at more drought resistant plants and water conservation.
Stratford Park is the home of the ‘Big Nature Festival in the Park’, highlight of the Stroud Festival of Nature. But don’t wait for the festival to explore it.