Formerly used for Gravel extraction, now important for many rare and declining species of wilslife.
Andover is fortunate to have Rooksbury Mill Nature Reserve, nestled between the A303 and Watermills Park. The site started life as part of the Rooksbury Estate. In 1969 it was used for gravel extraction, before being filled, converted to a fishery, then sold and turned into a reserve.
Two lakes and the river on the reserve create a mosaic of wetlands valuable for wildlife. In the winter it is good for overwintering wetland birds like Water Rail and Gadwall, who seek shelter here from colder climates. Cormorants, egrets and herons are regularly at the waterside.
It is known for the nationally declining water vole, also known as ‘Ratty’ from Wind in the Willows. Listen for a plop in the water as one jumps off the bank. Otters occasionally bob their heads above the water too.
Dragonflies and damselflies dance around the lakes. Dragonfly species include the golden-ringed, migrant, southern and brown hawker (Britain’s largest). Damselfly species include azure, common blue, blue-tailed and red-eyed (hiding on algal mats). In autumn you can see brown hawker perched high up on the trees and darters sunning themselves on footpaths.
In spring months, orange-tip butterflies, so-called due to their orange tipped wings, can be seen. Peacocks, commas, and small tortoiseshell flutter amongst the buddleia and nettles.
The site is rich with night pollinators like poplar and lime hawk-moths. These along with mosquitos provide food for bats including Daubenton’s, known also as river bat. You might, in summer, glimpse one of the increasingly rare glow worms, which are actually a type of beetle.
Rare in the local area, both smooth and palmate newts are abundant together. Palmate newts prefer the acidic ditch water . Frogs and toads are also plentiful croaking in the mating season.