Student stumbles across hidden gem 'he never knew existed' just minutes from city centre

Matthew on his walk around Freeman's Pools
Matthew on his walk around Freeman's Pools -Credit:Wildlife Trust

A university student was blown away when he came across a hidden gem "full of nature" just minutes from Lancaster city centre.

Freeman's Pools is situated next to the River Lune on the Lancaster to Glasson cycle path. The Wildlife Trust-managed site is just a matter of minutes from the city centre and UCLan student Matthew Constantine is urging other visitors to discover its delights.

Matthew described how insect lovers can spot some rare dragonflies while the reserve is also home to one of the UK's rarest trees - the Black Poplar.


In his video on Twitter, Matthew said: "It was a real surprise, I didn’t expect to find somewhere so full of nature so close to the centre of Lancaster... It was really easy to find and would be great for young families to get out and about."

Matthew explained how the pools were formed out of pits dug to create a flood alleviation scheme. The nature reserve is managed by Lancashire Wildlife Trust on behalf of the Environment Agency which is responsible for the flood defences.

The mosaic of interconnected pools, ponds and other wetland habitats was formed after the digging of borrow pits for the Lower Lune flood alleviation scheme. Now, the reserve has flourished into a peaceful retreat for a whole range of birds.

Spring and summer are the perfect seasons to spot sedge warblers, reed buntings, oystercatchers and little ringed plovers as they raise their young.

In winter whole rafts of waders and wildfowl including snipe, jack snipe, teal, shoveler, goldeneye and gadwall arrive to while away the colder months, sometimes joined by black-tailed godwits and green sandpipers. Wintering smew have even been recorded on the reserve: a stunning duck whose monochrome plumage and impressive quiff you can’t fail to miss.

The skies over Freeman’s Pools are sometimes patrolled by barn owls and marsh harriers on the hunt for food, while on the ground below, roe deer and otters may chance a visit.

Insect-lovers will relish the chance to spot a range of wetland and grassland invertebrates throughout spring and summer, including breeding dragonflies such as black-tailed skimmer, emperor and four-spotted chaser. On sunny days, large numbers of meadow brown, large skipper and common blue butterflies flit from flower to flower.

Excitingly, one of the UKs rarest trees stands within Freeman’s Wood on the reserve boundary: a mature native black poplar. Saplings have been planted within Freeman’s Pasture’s woodland belt and we hope they’ll grow into a strong population of these rare trees.