Moor Copse, Reading
"But when meadow-sweet, debonair and odorous in amber jerkin, moved graciously to his place in the group, then the play was ready to begin.”
Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows
Widely believed to be the place that inspired Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows', Moor Copse is a haven of peace and beauty, renowned for its flowers, butterflies and moths. Its location - within the woodland and beside the stream - is what makes it so inspiring. In summer, meadow flowers provide a colourful carpet whilst butterflies are abundant. Dragonflies and damselflies, such as the beautiful demoiselle also hunt along the river and the adjacent woodland provides excellent bird habitat: marsh tit, treecreeper and nuthatch have been regularly seen. And if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of 'Ratty' (see 'Species to spot' below).
How to get there
On the A340, 1/4 mile south of Tidmarsh, turn into surfaced car park just north of the M4 bridge.
Species to spot
Best time to see: All year
The inspiration for 'Ratty' in Wind in the Willows, this vole is sadly our fastest declining mammal. It can be distinguished by its rounded nose and ears. 'Lawns' of nibbled grass can be found near their burrows. Image © Tom Marshall
Early purple orchid
Best time to see: April - June
Often arriving with the bluebell, this early orchid has a wonderful scent, not dissimilar to lily-of-the-valley and is the "long purple" of Ophelia's garland, referred to by Gertrude in Shakespeare's Hamlet.
Best time to see: June - Sept.
This frothy wild flower has a scent not unlike marzipan. Its sap contains the chemical responsible for aspirin and was in fact used as a medicine in Medieval times. Image © Plantlife/Andrew Gagg
Best time to see: April - Aug.
The bulbous, blood-red heads of this member of the rose family often indicate a floodplain meadow. The name burnet comes from the Old French for 'dark brown' - the same source as 'brunette'.