Photo by: Gordon Dickins

The Ercall Reservoirs

Viewed from the Forest Glen car park, or the summit of The Wrekin itself, you might wonder why the Ercall Reservoirs are so named. Follow the footpath around the main body of water, however, and all will become clear as the other smaller, tree-lined pools that form this tranquil complex quickly come into view…

The Birdman of Eyton

The main portent attending the birth of this serene locality (which once supplied drinking water to nearby Wellington) was the national drive to improve public utilities in the mid Nineteenth Century. TC Eyton, an internationally renowned ornithologist whose work on birds directly influenced lifelong friend Charles Darwin’s masterwork The Origin of Species, was, improbably, the man responsible for the scheme — in his dual role as proprietor of the Wellington Waterworks Company!

The Ercall Reservoirs were constructed to supply nearby Wellington with drinking water (Gordon Dickins)

The reservoirs are fed by streams cascading from the Wrekin Hills and, as you might expect, have some worth to local wildlife. Despite the luminary status of its Victorian creator-in-chief, the site is not especially valuable for birds, although waterside alder and scrub regularly attracts finches, including Siskin, as well as Marsh Tit and Garden Warbler, which has perhaps the prettiest song of any summer visitor to our shores. Surrounding the reservoirs, there is a good deal of raised, grassy ground, which not only provides habitat for wildflowers but also burrowing mining bees and other solitary species of that kin. To some extent the two enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship, evidenced by the presence here of both the Sleepy Carpenter Bee, a woodland edge grassland specialist that feeds and, as its name implies, rests in buttercups, and the Narcissus Bulb Fly, a bumblebee mimic that breeds on bluebells.

Nowadays, and as the plethora of signage at the water’s edge will attest, the Ercall reservoirs (which are no longer a source of drinking water) are probably best known as a destination for local fishermen. However, Dace, Roach and Gudgeon are certainly not the only aquatic residents, as this is a locally important site for Common Toad. Contrary to popular belief, toads spend very little of their lives in water but in late winter return from the surrounding woodlands to their natal grounds in order to breed — a time consuming process that can see them locked in amplexus for days on end as females lay their spawn. For the many that make this life affirming trip, part of the journey involves traversing Ercall Lane, where toad patrols have in the past been set up to leaven the hazardous crossing point!

Key Species

General: Dog Violet, Bluebell, Bramble, Garden Warbler, Siskin, Marsh Tit, Common Blue Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Beautiful Demoiselle, Brown Hawker, Migrant Hawker, Polecat, Gudgeon, Roach, Dace, Common Toad, Slow Worm, Common Lizard

Solitary bees and allies: Gooden’s Nomad Bee, Bare-saddled Blood Bee, Grey Mining Bee, Yellow-legged Furrow Bee, Brassy Mining Bee, Narcissus Bulb Fly, Sleepy Carpenter Bee.

Gooden’s Nomad Bee is one of several mining bees recorded on the site (Nigel Jones)

Where Else?

The Ercall Reservoirs were not the only water resource constructed in the Wrekin Forest in order to feed the insatiable appetites of the people of Wellington! In the north of Limekiln Wood, near Steeraway, two adjoining pools were built in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century, utilising boreholes and the area’s local stream network and for their supplies. While all bodies of standing water have potential value to plant, insect and birdlife in particular, the Steeraway Pools have not enjoyed a particularly happy retirement (for Wellington now receives its water directly from the Severn), so if you’re hoping to view a wide range of aquatic wildlife this is probably not the best place to look!

One of the old Steeraway Reservoirs (Gordon Dickins)

Links

Wrekin Floodplain Ecology