Alpacas, albino squirrels and super sexy scones at the finish line. Yes, it’s Warwickshire’s best walk this winter – Draycote Water.
Draycote Water, a large man-made reservoir just outside Rugby, is the perfect place to go for your winter stroll. Taking the 5-mile circular path around the reservoir, once you’ve set off you:
* can’t get lost;
* are unlikely to turn back, so can guarantee a five miler;
* will see some of the UK’s best quirks of nature; and
* will have a great choice of cakes waiting for you at the Visitor Centre restaurant.
The biggest body of water in Warwickshire, Draycote is easy to get to from Coventry and Birmingham, straight down the A45. Owned and managed by Severn Trent Water, there is no entrance fee, but remember to bring £2.50 for the car park and some change for your post-walk goodies.
Once you’ve left the car-park, walking in an anti-clockwise direction, the first mile or so is on the straight and is exposed so can be windy and cold. The reservoir is home to a sailing club and is popular with windsurfers who you will see on this stretch of the walk.
Past the first bend, trees will give you cover from the wind and it’s here your nature trail begins. There’s a wooden bird hide for spotting the cormorants and egrets that frequent this part of the reservoir. You might see the odd water vole too, but count yourself very lucky indeed if you spot an albino squirrel.
There are estimated to be between 2.5 million and 5 million grey squirrels living in the UK, with only 1 in 100,000 being born albino, with bright white fur and red eyes. This means there may only be between 25 – 50 in the UK, and if all the recent reported sightings are to be believed, most of them are at Draycote Water.
I’d never heard of them before, and wasn’t sure if it was just a joke to drum up a bit of publicity, but they really do exist. Have a look at this video clip from youtube (sadly not taken by me):
If you have no luck seeing water voles or albino squirrels, you can’t miss the next bizarre creature. Clearly visible in the fields beyond the lake about 1.5 miles after leaving the car-park is a herd of South American alpacas (and I’ve no idea if herd is the correct word). Toft Farm, between the reservoir and the village of Dunchurch, sells alpaca wool products and alpacas themselves as pets (if you’ve got around £3,000 handy).
The first time I saw these long-necked beasts here I was in shock, thinking they were llamas that should have been in Macchu Pichu, not the Midlands. There are in fact over 35,000 alpacas in the UK, represented by the British Alpaca Society.
At the halfway point of the walk, you’ll pass the valve tower (see main photo), used to abstract water for the water treatment works and to control the level of the reservoir. I’ve always thought if it had a lick of paint it would look a bit like the top of a baddie’s underwater lair in a Bond film.
On the home straight you will see trout fishermen in their boats, or wading in the reservoir. If you’re struggling for motivation and feeling a bit weary by now, the photo below might keep you going. The Visitor Centre was revamped earlier in 2013, and now features a superb café with cakes and scones to keep even the most reluctant hiker marching towards the chequered flag.