#1 Magna Park: Where Countryside Meets Commercial
We came across this walk purely by accident. It was a rather wet day in January and we were taking the dogs on a popular circular walk across the fields around Bitteswell. One section of the walk takes us partially down a concreted farm drive before crossing back over the fields. The drive runs parallel to a large hedge that gives way to a well maintained fence beyond which there is a large lake. For some time, we had assumed the lake belonged to the farm, but always said what a nice walk it would make.
On this particular day as we walked down the lane, we spotted two people with their dogs on the opposite side of the fence. Of course our two did their usual barking routine, but over the din we managed to speak to the couple who told us that “no the land didn’t belong to the farm, it was in fact part of Magna Park”.
Now for those of you who live outside the East Midlands, Magna Park was the biggest logistics hub in Europe, indeed it is still considered to be one of the largest and is set to expand in the next few years (if the planners and council get their way). The site is over 500 acres of warehousing, commercial logistics units and road networks and is already as big as Lutterworth, the nearby town. Whilst its siting has been controversial and like marmite, you either love it or hate it, the planners have done their best to landscape the site and, as it turns out, create the lake and surrounding woodland we had admired at a distance. It became clear from our talk with the couple that access to the site was open to the public and it was a popular place with local dog walkers.
So when we arrived home I scouted the place out on Google Maps and sure enough found that there were extensive paths and large rides criss-crossing almost a quarter of the site. Since that day we have been periodically exploring the site; finding peaceful glades and long tree lined routes.
Our walk always begins along a dead-end lane which is just off the site (at the top of the Farm drive I mentioned earlier). From there we cut through the hedge and turn immediately left into the well maintained grass way that runs parallel to one of the main roads through the site. As it is usually Saturday or Sunday when we go, the site is eerily silent, with only the odd truck coming onto the park. To me it often feels like it’s one of those post-apocalyptic movies where everyone has left and the landscape is reclaiming it for itself.
Now, depending on the dog’s keenness and mine and Nick’s energy levels we follow one of the many rides up and over the very steeply banked earth that must have been moved there when the site was first cleared. These rides are now well established and densely packed with trees and shrubs. From there we just meander the many paths, generally trailing after the hounds who are as high on wild scents as two moggies on catnip. Sometimes we stay close to the road, following the path through overarching hawthorn, rhododendrons, birch, and bay. Despite the site only being 28 years old, the woodland has been planted and maintained to give the appearance that it is significantly much older. There are often little gems which pop out, like irises and phormiums, which add a splash of colour to the green.
All paths it would seem lead to the lake, which sits in a dip between the two hilly sides of the site, and is fed by a small stream that takes most of the runoff from the heavily concreted site. Never-the-less it is a pretty place, surrounded by rushes and water irises and all manner of plants I have yet to identify. The wildlife is also in abundance, of course rabbits in their hundreds but we have seen dragonflies, ducks and water fowl and even water voles; one of which I nearly stood on by accident as it shot through the grass in front of me one day, scurrying towards the water. It stopped mid-run and I was able to carefully pull back the grass to see it. We’ve even been privileged to see a barn owl, and a number of different types of hawkes. This site always surprises us and as the seasons have changed we have seen just how beautiful the site is. I am looking forward to seeing it in the Autumn and Winter months.
Love it or hate it, large commercial sites such as Magna Park will continue to encroach on our landscape, eating up great swathes of countryside. But it would seem that it is possible to marry the urban with the hedgerow and we must encourage planners to create large outdoor spaces around these kind of industrial sites. We will continue to walk these woodlands as long as we are here in Leicestershire and we encourage you to go out and find wild places in your towns and cities.
Why not do it this weekend and message us with pictures of your walk.