The Cotham Flash area consists of a number of sites, which have been lumped together on this page for convenience - they are Cotham Flash, Hawton Works Grassland, Cotham Landfill, and Pykett's Pond.
Cotham Flash is a small wetland area, which can be 'unofficially' accessed through a gap in the hedge off the Hawton to Cotham road (with parking available opposite in the carpark at the northern end of Pykett's Pond). The site is about a decade or so old, formed on an area of mining subsidence (the area was previously opencast mined for gypsum). There is one main pool (furthest from the road), around which vegetation has become well established (with a small reedbed and several young willows). There are two small pools closer to the road, now largely choked with rushes and Typha, with more willow establishing. An area of rough grassland surrounds the whole lot. For such a small site, it has a good track record, pulling in migrant passerines such as Whinchat, and a wide selection of waders and wildfowl (American Wigeon the most notable), but is now past its best for these due to the establishment of fringing vegetation. Short-eared Owl is a regular winter visitor, and Grey Partridge is frequent in the area. The field immediately to the south/east of the Flash has ponding water in some years which attracted loafing gulls during the winter and have supported breeding Ringed Plover and Lapwing. Regular breeding birds include Yellow Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler and Reed Bunting. To the south is an area of horse paddocks which are good for passage Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear, and look like they should attract Ring Ouzel.
Hawton Works Grassland is the large area of rough grassland north of Cotham Flash, developed on former (and subsequently infilled) opencast gypsum workings. It is a slightly lawless place with no formal access, with the ruined Hawton Works building at its centre. It can be accessed unofficially from the Cotham Flash direction, or from the Sustrans Route (National Cycleroute 64) which runs south from Newark on a disused railway line - this itself can be accessed off Bowbridge Lane, with parking outside the gypsum works. It is also possible to enter from the north, again off Bowbridge Lane. The grasslands are alive with Skylarks and Meadow Pipits in the summer, and support a good population of Grasshopper Warblers. Barn and Little Owl breed, and Short-eared Owl is a good bet in the winter, as is Stonechat and Snipe. It supports good numbers of Grey Partridge all year round.
Cotham Landfill is an active landfill site to the south-east of
Cotham Flash, on Grange Lane. It used to be possible to see into the landfill
from the road, but this is no longer the case, and the only place to view the
site from now is the Sustrans Route (National Cycleroute 64) which runs up its
western side. Access to the cycleroute is via the ramp at its southern end,
with parking on the verges on the road just south of Cotham village. The
landfill is active on weekdays and normally on Saturday mornings, but looking
east into the sun can make viewing tricky during the morning. The
obvious draw at this site is wintering gulls; it normally attracts
Iceland and Glaucous Gulls (the latter more frequent than the former), as well
as Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls. Mediterranean Gull occurs occasionally, and
Kumlien's Gull has also been recorded. Unfortunately, the gulls do not always
play ball. If not on the landfill itself, these sometimes gather in the field
on the east side of Grange Lane, opposite side of the road to the landfill
entrance; it's not easy to stop safely on Grange Lane and the gulls are always
very jumpy. The gulls also head to Pykett's Pond or to
Kilvington Lakes to bathe, or to temporary pools in the field next to Cotham
Flash if present, whilst they roost at Hoveringham Lakes. For access, see this Google Map.
Pykett's Pond (officially known as Hawton Waters) is a restored area of gypsum workings, west of the Hawton to Cotham road. The site is private, and now used as a fishing lake but with patches of fringing reed. It occasionally hosts wintering Bittern, and is used by bathing gulls from Cotham Landfill. It sometimes draws in other notable birds (e.g. Smew). Parking is available in the carpark at the northern end of the pond.
For a map of the area, see below: