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Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park By Ian Forrest

Background

Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park is an area of woodland within the Tees Forest located on the north edge of Billingham. Since 1990 around 300,000 trees have been planted. The Park is managed by Stockton Borough Council. Countryside Wardens are based at the Activity Centre opened in 2000. The site was reclaimed from former brickworks, landfill and ex-agricultural land. Habitats include managed rough grassland, two small hills with viewing points and seating, a lake, around a dozen smaller ponds, three streams with small areas of reed, young mixed woodland (oak, ash, willow, alder, pine, sycamore, cherry), several established hedge lines and a railway embankment. There are several small copses of mature deciduous trees. The abundant wildlife consists of 90+ species of bird with waterfowl, toad, newt and dragonfly in and around the ponds. There are 18 species of butterfly, hare, fox and small mammals in the grassland.

A feeding station is located by the car park accessed through a narrow gate opposite the car park entrance. It is kept supplied with food by the wardens and visitors November-March.

 

 

 

Location, Access and Strategy

The Park is located beside the A1185 Seal Sands Road 2km east of the A689 Wolviston roundabout junction on the north side of Billingham. Site facilities include a large metalled car park and several paths providing easy access for the disabled. There is a modern visitor centre.

By Bus: Take service 91 from Middlesbrough to Low Grange or the 52 from Middlesbrough, Stockton, Norton or Billingham to Low Grange Avenue. Get off at Bewley Infants School, cross Wolviston Back Lane, and enter the park. A ten-minute walk will bring you to the Activity Centre.

By Bicycle: Sustrans Route 14 runs right through the park. Pick up the route in Stockton, Billingham or Hartlepool and ride to the park. Cycle parking facilities are available at the Activity Centre. Full details of cycle routes in the area are in the ‘Cycling in Stockton’ leaflet available from Stockton Borough Council.

Facilities 

Months Open: All Year
Car Park opening hours - Summer: 9am-9pm. Winter: 9am-4pm.
Activity Centre including shop, gifts and toilets - Sundays 10am-4pm (also Mondays and Fridays during school summer holidays)
Car & Coach parking facilities: Yes
Picnic area (uncovered) and Children’s play area: Yes
Wheelchair access: Yes
Address : The Activity Centre Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park Seal Sands Link Road Billingham TS23 3NF
Phone: 01642 371633
Email: Tommy.Pybus@stockton.gov.uk
Website : Stockton Borough Council: Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park
Location : Multimap: Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park

Birds

The park is worth a visit any time of the year as there is always something to see. Noteworthy residents include Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch, Tree Sparrow, Bullfinch, Blackcap, Linnet, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Tit and Grey Wagtail. Kingfisher is seen intermittently on the streams and main pond but sightings are never assured. Pheasant and Grey Partridge are always around, but often difficult to locate. Jay is becoming more prevalent as is Bullfinch which previously were mostly found to the south side of the A1185.

Resident birds found on the main pond include - Tufted Duck, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Little Grebe and Mute Swan. Present in smaller numbers appearing through the year - Pochard, Gadwall, Wigeon, Teal, Canada Goose, Goosander, Heron and Cormorant. The main pond sometimes attracts Red-necked Grebe and Red-crested Pochard in winter when Goldeneye are usually present and sometimes Shelduck.

As with many locations birding is probably at its best in winter once leaves have fallen, through to late Spring. Winter attractions in most years include Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Common Redpoll feeding on Alder trees. Redwing, Fieldfare and Waxwing are usually found feeding on the numerous hawthorn bushes. Some winters see good numbers of Short-eared Owl which can give very close views over the grassland areas. Whilst Linnet breed around the park, in winter large flocks of up to 200 birds can usually be seen in the trees and fields around the main pond. These often attract Merlin and the resident Sparrowhawk. The hedges in the car park, being close to the feeding station usually hold good numbers of roosting birds in winter, mainly Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Robin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Dunnock, Siskin and Blackcap. Winter also gives a better chance of seeing the elusive Water Rail which favour the smaller ponds either side of the A1185.

The Feeding Station attracts - Dunnock, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer, Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Bullfinch, Siskin, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Brambling appear some years as well. Goldcrest, Treecreeper and Goldfinch are usually in the surrounding trees.

Spring sees the arrival of breeding migrants – Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Whitethroat and an increase in Blackcap numbers. Swallow, Swift, House Martin and Sand Martin can be in good numbers over the main pond in summer. A few Common Tern are often present as well. Other migrants recorded most years passing through in Spring and Autumn include Cuckoo, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Marsh Harrier. In Autumn large flocks of geese, mostly Pink-footed are seen passing overhead and sometimes Whooper Swan.

One habitat that is rather lacking is shallow mud for waders. Waders are recorded each year, but never staying for very long. The best places to see them are on the tidal streams on the north side of the park where Redshank, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Sanderling and Ruff have been recorded. Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper are recorded most years on the streams. Of course this habitat can be found over extensive areas close by at Greatham Creek and Saltholme Ponds.

In 2007 at least two families of Sparrowhawk bred, so sightings are common. Kestrel is the only other bird of prey seen regularly. Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Peregrine Falcon have been seen occasionally. Merlin are seen over winter.

Birds now less common than in previous years include Barn Owl, Green Woodpecker and Long-eared Owl. Little Owl and Tawny Owl are nearby but I have never seen one in the Park itself. Summer 2007 has seen a drop in the number of Tree Sparrow and fewer Woodcock were seen. The resident head of Roe Deer appear to have succumbed to illegal poaching.

Birds seen more frequently in 2007 include Sparrowhawk, Little Egret, Bullfinch and Jay. As the woodland matures over coming years the range of species is likely to increase.



 


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