Access: Colwick is well served by road or public transport and has several areas of free parking. The whole area is located off the A612 Nottingham to Southwell road and located between Sneinton and Colwick village. Anyone visiting from outside Nottingham should follow the brown Nottingham Racecourse road signs and that will get you to the general area
A word of advice about parking: Unfortunately Colwick suffers from car crime but no more or less than other areas. There is also the additional problem of cottaging homosexuals in two areas. One recommended parking area is the Colwick Hall access road which runs from the Nottingham Racecourse entrance. Park well before the hall and you should have no problems, this point also allows access to the Racecourse Pool which is covered in detail later. Other parking places (which are free) are located off the A612 on Mile End Road (follow water users only sign). Just by the road entrance to the park is a small building with a safe car park or, drive along River Road into the park and there is now a free area next to the Fishing Lodge (the green tin shack) although spaces here are limited. Cars can enter the park but must pay £1.00 on exit, free with a disabled badge .
Once on the site there is unlimited access to all areas except the locked Marina and, on racedays only, the Nottingham Racecourse. As with any site, visitors are asked to stick to obvious footpaths and not trample vegetation. It also helps if dogs are kept under control as its embarrassing having to take them home in a carrier bag after a territorial swan has topped them.
Racecourse and Pool This wetland site is of "Site of Special Scientific Interest" quality primarily for its dragonfly species. Access is through the gate opposite Colwick Hall and is unrestricted except as previously stated. The pool, which is the main point of interest, is located in front of the main stand. This site has recorded 16 species of dragonfly with 14 species breeding there. Visits in-season should produce several Emperor Dragonflies, Black-tailed Skimmers and Four-spotted Chasers. Close scrutiny will also reveal Emerald Damselfly and Ruddy Darter. The vegetation around the pool is kept as cover for emerging dragonflies, it also holds commoner butterflies with Essex Skipper a possibility.
The pool is not a birding hotspot but does get Stonechat in winter and Whinchat on passage. The sports fields also get Wheatear annually and have turned up Glaucous and Mediterranean Gull in recent years. To the north of the Racecourse is the old Colwick Road, this area holds butterflies and commoner summer migrants such as Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. The east end of the Racecourse borders the Nature Reserve and can produce good butterfly watching including, in 1999, including eye-level views of White-letter Hairstreaks.
Nature Reserve This can be accessed from the Colwick Hall area and is probably most interesting in winter. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker are often "easy" as are Water Rail and Kingfisher. Rarities such as Firecrest have occurred while, in the early 1980s, what was probably a singing Icterine Warbler was present. When visiting the Nature Reserve in winter wear good footwear, the paths are awful. Dragonfly enthusiasts should check out the lily-pads from the Causeway for the large population of Red-eyed Damselfly found there. Two other spots within the Nature Reserve deserve mention, specifically because they hold White-letter and Purple Hairstreak butterflies. At the junction of the main track along the side of the Racecourse is a large Oak, this holds the Purple Hairstreaks which are best viewed late on a calm sunny July/August afternoon. Just after the Oak, as you walk north-east, is an opening into the old Horse Trail. Walk along here for 100m until you reach the obviously cleared area, then look opposite in the tops of the small Oaks and Cherry Laurels for White-letter Hairstreaks. By carrying on around the bend you come to another large Oak which also holds Purple Hairstreaks.
Away from the Nature Reserve and between the Racecourse and the Trent are two lakes, Colwick Lake, a 63 acre water mainly used for trout fishing, and West Lake, a smaller 24 acre coarse fishing lake. Due to disturbance on both lakes the birding can be frustrating. The best area to concentrate on is Colwick Lake, which is easily viewed from footpaths or the park road. Another area to check is the bushes between the Marina and Sluice Gates as these often hold migrants in spring and autumn.
Birds Colwick has a justified reputation for turning up rare birds, it also has 64 breeding species. In the 1990s Colwick produced county firsts in the shape of Bufflehead, Yellow-browed Warbler and Long-tailed Skua. Other notable birds seen during the 1990s are White-winged Black and Caspian Tern, Shorelark, White Stork, Common Crane, Long-tailed Duck, Honey Buzzard, Mediterranean Gull, Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Grey Phalarope, Great Northern and Red-throated Diver, Bean Goose, Eider, Great and Arctic Skua, Snow and Lapland Bunting, Ring Ouzel, Quail, Little Egret, Black Redstart and occasional rare grebes. Prior to the I990s the site recorded Pomarine Skua, Little Auk, Red-footed Falcon, Night and Purple Heron, Spotted Crake, Purple Sandpiper and Black Stork. Old breeding records for the site include both Red-backed Shrike and Cirl Bunting.
Seasons Winter can often be good with fair numbers of wintering wildfowl and occasionally high concentrations of Goldeneye (156 is the record). Harsh weather produces rarities, especially grebes and gulls with Med Gull annual. Spring migration is often visible with hirundines moving through in numbers at times. Summer is generally the quiet time with the breeding Common Terns usually the focus. Autumn begins at the end of July when a gull roost can develop, producing lots of Western Yellow-legged Gulls and occasional Meds. Warblers also congregate in the Migrant Trap and are well worth checking. In October/November visible migration comes once again to the fore with, in some years, heavy lark, pipit and thrush passage. These flocks sometimes hold the odd rarity for the sharper eyes and ears.
Butterflies Colwick has recorded 27 species of butterfly, the rarest being White Admiral which was captured on video, followed by Clouded Yellow which only occurred in 1996. Recent colonists have been Essex Skipper and Purple Hairstreak which are still scarce, Brown Argus occurred for the first time in 1999.
Dragonflies Seventeen species have occurred although the Common Hawker as only been noted twice including one in 1999. Important populations of Red-eyed Damselfly and Ruddy Darter are present while Large Red Damselfly seems to be getting rarer.
Finally Colwick is easy to visit with a broad range of wildlife interest be it birds, butterflies, moths, flora, dragonflies or whatever. Information boards are positioned outside the Fishing Lodge and there is a logbook kept in there for you to check what has been seen or to log you own sightings. The site is wardened during daylight hours and there is a regular programme of bird and wildlife walks along with public moth trapping sessions.
costs: £5.00 p.a. with annual report + four newsletters. £3.00 p.a. for just the newsletters.Colwick map courtesy of the Colwick Park Wildlife Group Annual Report
From an article A Guided Tour Around Nottinghamshire courtesy of Nottingham Naturalist