Wildway Route 24 – Colliers Way …….. Off the Rails is a diary of plants and wildlife seen along Sustrans Colliers Way (Route 24) from January 2017 to date.
It is not intended to be a comprehensive record of the flora and fauna of the environs of the cycle path, which Greener Greenways’ ecologists are planning at a later date, but merely a log of what we and fellow ramblers and birdwatchers see whilst walking a small section of the path which is an oasis for wildlife like roedeer, red fox, badger, common lizard and grass snakes, filled with wild flowers, abundant insects and deep wooded ash groves, untouched for more than fifty years.
The cycle path at present offers 21 miles of off-road cycling from Bath to Great Elm and in the near future, due to the determined and committed community group which has for years worked endlessly clearing and removing old railtrack, raising funds and negotiating with local landowners to connect the last few miles of the pathway, right into the centre of Frome. This project which for years seemed a distant dream is now well in their sights!
Wild Waterways is a record of our survey of a stretch of the Somerset River Frome on behalf of the Somerset Otter Group. We are very lucky here in Somerset as the local otters are genetically linked to the native wild otters which survived on Exmoor when most of the otter population was wiped out in the 1990s so they are not descendants of later reintroductions.
The streams which run through the fields alongside and beside the paths on Colliers Way feed into Buckland Brook before the brook joins the Mells River which then flows into the River Frome.
The River Frome is a very beautiful ever changing fast flowing river where it narrows, ripples and widens or deepens before weirs as it flows through farming country where cattle stand ankle deep, drinking and flicking flies and Otter and Beaver thrive.
It passes through the ancient wildflower meadow of Rodden Meadow, past the Rodden Nature Reserve, on into the centre of the town of Frome, along tree-lined riverside walks, a thriving Canoe Club and at Welshmill, Frome’s famous BMX pump track.
The Somerset River Frome supports Kingfisher, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Heron, Little Egret, Dipper, Cormorant, Mute Swan, Mallard, Coot, Mandarin and the occasional Hooper Swan, Canada Geese, Goosander and Garganey.
There is good fishing to enjoy along stretches of the river, wild brown trout attract the fly fishing community and chub, roach and dace* challenge the skills of the coarse fishing fraternity. For details of Membership and Waters see Frome & District Angling Association (fdaa.uk) below. *For a complete list of fish species see “Wild Waterways Species” on main menu.
Once it leaves the town it flows downstream through farmland, past a few villages before reaching Farleigh Hungerford castle where the weir deepens the river, creating the ideal swimming spot at the Wild Swimming Club, the oldest in the country. As it passes Iford Manor it flows over rapids down to the mill above Freshford Mill where it slows before speeding up after the weir, speeds up over more rapids before joining the Bristol Avon.
Iford Manor beside the River Frome