Closer to Nature: New trail guides visitors through wilderness
Today saw the festive opening of a new educational trail, named "Koutské a Zábřežské louky" (Meadows of Kouty and Zábřeh), which leads through the eponymous nature reserve between Kravaře and Dolní Benešov in the District of Opava. It was built by the local chapter of the Czech Union for Nature Conservation (ČSOP), which goes by the name of Levrekův ostrov, with generous support from the NET4GAS Closer to Nature programme. The trail introduces visitors to the wetlands and waterlogged meadows in the floodplain of the Opava River, and to the plants and animals tied to it.
The route spans three kilometres, leading for the most part through the heart of the nature reserve and away from kempt paths, and is literally a journey into the wild. Visitors are guided along the Štěpánka Brook and its meander cut-offs. Six information panels and interactive elements for children complement the experience. Visitors learn about the history of the site and its development over time, its natural treasures, and other interesting aspects. They are told about this unique complex of wetland meadows, with scattered vegetation and alluvial plains, remnants of river meander cut-offs, and periodically flooded freshwater pools. It is home to numerous protected plant and animal species that depend on wetland ecosystems, and is an important nesting place for many bird species. Along with the nearby Kozmice Bird Meadows, these are the last substantial floodplain meadows that have survived in the Opava River valley.
To mention just the rarer plant species, here one can find the violet devil’s-bit, the bright yellow shining meadow-rue, and water mudwort, with its inconspicuous white blossoms. On the edge of these meadows grows the exceedingly rare broad-leaved ragwort to heights of up to two metres. The most valuable communities cling to the bogland soils near Zábřeh with their higher water table, where the violet-red stars of marsh cinquefoil, the diminutive rosemary-leaved willow, the fern known as adder’s-tongue, and the orchid known as the common twayblade can still be found to this day.
The burgeoning fauna of the Meadows of Kouty and Zábřeh is testimony to how well-preserved the local biosphere is. Here, one can spot numerous rare insect species, such as the dusky large blue. A number of amphibian species thrive in this watery environment: grass and pool frogs, various toads, the European treefrog, the common newt. Altogether 95 different avian species have been identified at this site, among them the European stonechat, the penduline tit, with its quaint elaborate hanging nests, and the common redshank, a bird of medium size, but with striking long red legs.
This diversity of plant and animal life deserves greater attention. An additional motivating factor behind this education trail was the desire to alert people to the threat looming over this unique habitat, in the form of a planned pit for gravel production right next to the nature reserve.
One reaches the first info panel coming from the municipality of Kravaře – Kouty via Olšinky Road, at the first body of water, an oxbow lake known as "Koutské rameno" (GPS: 49.9221050N, 18.0466125E). From there, the trail markers provide reliable guidance. Three kilometres later, the trail ends not far from the municipality of Zábřeh, near Dolní Benešov, on the eastern edge of the reserve under a cross (GPS: 49.9174450N, 18.0796931E).
The educational trail was built with the financial support of ČSOP’s general partner, NET4GAS, as the 102nd site developed within the NET4GAS Closer to Nature programme. It is through this programme that NET4GAS has been promoting conservationist projects across the country for the past fourteen years. No fewer than sixteen sites have been unlocked by the ČSOP in the Moravian-Silesian Region. The cities of Kravaře and Dolní Benešov acted as additional project partners for this particular trail.
To find out more about the NET4GAS Closer to Nature program and on the sites opened to public, please, visit www.closertonature.cz.