The Middleton Lakes complex is located approximately 1.5km south west of Tamworth, within the River Tame valley. Principally in Staffordshire, part of the site crosses into the neighbouring county of Warwickshire.

Case study date







Hanson Aggregates

Mineral Planning Authority


Mineral Type

Sand and gravel

Habitat(s) Created

Floodplain grazing marsh, reedbeds, standing open water, wet woodland

Restoration / Priority Habitats

Floodplain grazing marsh
Wet woodland

Partnership Working

Hanson Aggregates
Staffordshire Mineral Planning Authority
Staffordshire County Council

Key Issues

Water quality
Public access
Ecosystem Services

Public Benefits

Public access


The Middleton Lakes complex is located approximately 1.5km south west of Tamworth, within the River Tame valley. Principally in Staffordshire, part of the site crosses into the neighbouring county of Warwickshire.

The site was largely farmland prior to excavation of alluvial sand and gravel deposits. The lakes form part of the wider Tame Valley Wetlands Landscape Partnership being led by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust and lie within the Green Arc project area (funded by the M6 toll road).

Planning History

In the original restoration plan, the site was to become a country park with a small area restored as wildlife habitat. Collaborative work by the Environment Agency and the RSPB into large-scale wetland restoration opportunities in the region identified Middleton Lakes as one such opportunity.

In the context of the West Midlands, Middleton Lakes is now one of the largest single wetland sites in the region and part of an extensive network of wetland sites in the Tame Valley. The site already has populations of breeding waders and other birdlife in a location close to major urban areas, and potential exists to enhance these further.

Habitat Creation

A mosaic of dry and wet habitats has been or will be restored on the site. The largest area will be restored to wet grassland with pools (65 ha), shallow lagoons with islands, dry grassland, woodland, and a small area of reedbed (9 ha).

The habitat design proposed seeks to utilise vegetation, especially reedbeds, to filter nutrients from incoming water from the River Tame (of moderate quality) to create improved water quality conditions across wetland areas more remote from the main river. This will be of benefit to wildlife within the site and will provide an ecosystem service by having beneficial effects on water quality downstream.

Spring flooding could have a major impact in the success and viability of much of the site for ground-nesting birds and there may be a need for control structures in place. A project is currently ongoing to investigate flood events and productivity and consider solutions including control structures and further engineering.  Any solution would, however, allow levels fluctuation across the site for most of the year, unimpeded.

Middleton Lakes is exceptional in being one of the few sites in the region where it has been possible to carry out extensive river and floodplain restoration in the course of gravel quarrying. The restoration has been designed in close collaboration with the Environment Agency and is based on the principles of river channel geomorphology to achieve as close to a naturally functioning system as possible.

Features such as river braiding, pools and riffles, meandering backwaters, ponds and scrapes have all been created, adding visual interest and improving habitat quality for wildlife. Together, these measures help to reverse the impact of modern river management practices such as hard-bank reinforcement and river straightening.

Long-term Management of the Site

Most areas of grassland will be managed through grazing using traditional breeds of livestock, particularly those well adapted to grazing wet grassland. Cattle are likely to be the best option but Polish Konik horses will also be used in the wetland areas. These horses are used to wading into lake margins and eating sedge, reed and other marginal plants and so create open areas around the peripheries of lakes and reedbeds.

Public Benefits

Middleton Lakes opened in 2011 and continues to develop to become a first class nature reserve readily accessible to local people and attracting visitors from across the West Midlands. A network of public rights of way is complimented by a series of visitor paths which allow views across the main habitat areas.  Viewing screens, benches and a hide also add to the experience for birdwatchers and others to enjoy the site.

A new footbridge across the river Tame was installed by Hanson in 2015 and allows visitors to cross from and to the reserve on the East of the river. This area includes a large lake, some wet woodland and extensive reedbed which shelters up to four bittern each winter. Rights of way connect into the reserve trails in this area and can allow access on foot from the villages of Dosthill, Cliff and Kingsbury.

Since opening, Middleton Lakes has attracted between 30,000 and 40,000 visits per year and includes many local people who visit very regularly for walking and wildlife watching. As new visitors discover the nature reserve its popularity continues to grow, and in 2019 a Visitor Reception was built, refreshing the visitor welcome to the reserve.

The information set out within this advisory sheet in no way constitutes legal or regulatory advice and is based on circumstances and facts as they existed at the time Nature After Minerals compiled this document. Should there be a change in circumstances or facts, then this may adversely affect any  recommendations, opinions or findings contained within this document