IF you close your eyes and imagine a beautiful place in the UK countryside, there is a good chance it has water in it.
Human beings love water: We walk by it, we swim in it, we aspire to live near it and wherever possible we incorporate it in our gardens.
Our aesthetic love of water is evolutionary in origin: We like the environments in which our species has historically flourished.
Picture by Dave Foker
Wetlands have always been crucial to us as they are sources of water, in addition to providing food in the form of fish, ducks and plants, natural materials such as wicker, thatch and pelts, and – most importantly before the widespread development of roads and railways – transport.
We aren’t the only species which flourishes in wetlands. Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust manages as a number of wetland nature reserve sites across the region where you can see a range of habitats and species including wildflowers and rare birds.
Just a stone’s throw away from Southampton Water and docks, sits the Lower Test Nature Reserve, an area of floodplain meadows, marshes and reedbeds that hosts a great range of wildlife.
With salt and freshwater and the natural progression from land to sea, all manner of birds and flowers thrive in this watery haven.
Kingfishers Encompassing nearly 400 acres of extensive wetlands, the Lower Test Marshes is one of oldest and largest nature reserves that are managed by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
It is one of the best sites in the country to see kingfishers and overwintering wildfowl regularly visit this site.
Over 450 species of wildflower have also been recorded here including southern marshland green wing orchids.
The estuarine reaches of the river provide important nursery areas for fish, while migratory species, such as Atlantic salmon and sea trout will pass through to their spawning grounds upstream.