A walk along the south drain at etton

Vergette Wood Meadow

Lovely views of  Vergette Wood Meadow

Start at the old bridge across the South Drain on the road out of Etton and walk west along the South Drain.  Vergette Wood Meadow is on your right.  Look out for flocks of yellowhammer and linnet in the meadow and its hedgerow and for kestrel hovering overhead.  Fieldfare and redwing can often be found here too.

Walk straight along the Drain until you have to wiggle around the Tarmac access track and go over the conveyor belt on a small metal footbridge (and you get a sense of the scale of the gravel quarrying and the new wetland habitats that are being created here for the future) before you re-join the old footpath again until you reach a wooden bridge that takes you on the other side of the Drain. From here you walk alongside an ungrazed field which often attracts flocks of goldfinch and in past winters an occasional stonechat.  At dusk look and listen out for the little owl too.

Click on the link to hear the sound of the little owl.

The path turns to your right (north) and heads between two pits on your left and a large open pit (Grebe Pit) on your right.  Grebe Pit takes it name from the little grebe which seems to particularly like this pit, with up to 15 regularly seen there in winter.  These are small brown and white birds which often seem to change shape – sometimes huddled up and almost round in appearance, at other times slim and sleek. They are also very active, constantly diving for fish and reappearing some distance from where they started. Other birds that you might find on the pits are wigeon, pochard and tufted duck.

Your route then turns along the north side of Grebe Pit (with the Maxey Cut over the bank on your left) and then down the eastern side of the Pit to where it joins the Old Green Lane which heads west to the Etton Road.  This is a wide track with hedges and tall trees on either side and again often full of bird life, particularly long-tailed, blue and great tit and occasionally green woodpecker.  Look out for the berries of the hawthorn and dogwood trees. 

Coots, moorhen and mallard can be found on the open water and if you are walking towards dusk listen out too for the strange squealing noise of the water rail, known as sharming – you can see and hear an example at this link on YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64NAEyLEj9I

Etton Church

The track eventually opens out as you reach the north side of Vergette Wood Meadow, this time looking across the wet woodland with fine views of Etton church (pictured, right) in the distance. 

And at that time of day you may be lucky enough to see a barn owl at any point on the walk, hunting purposefully across meadows and banks.  

Click the link to hear the call of a barn owl.

Equally a snipe might suddenly fly up from the rushes that surround the open water at Vergette High Meadow, often identified by its grunting call, its rapidly ascending flight, bulky shape and long straight beak. The snipe is a winter visitor to our area (although it nests nearby on the Ouse and Nene Washes) and usually feeds out of sight in the damp areas of our reserves, there can be dozens at Etton Maxey in cold winters.

As you approach the Etton Road you will get a glimpse through the hedgerow of another pit to your left (north).  This pit often has flocks of gulls resting on the mud banks often joined by cormorant and grey heron.

Walk down the Etton Road back to the South Drain, with our other reserve High Meadow just visible through the bare hedgerow to the east. Carry on down the road south towards Etton – you might see more tit flocks and perhaps a jay or two in the trees as you walk – and you’ve completed the walk – should take no more than an hour!  Hope you enjoyed it!

  • Note: The walk was written with winter sightings in mind – but it is equally fascinating all year round.