The River Alne passes between the two manors of Henley and Beaudesert. It rises at Pink Green near Tanworth-in-Arden and eventually flows into the River Arrow at Alcester. It was originally called Alwen which translates as either white, bright or shining. Today, the Riverlands are an important open green space in the centre of the town.
Originally this land was part of the medieval park which surrounded the castle and was known as the Moors. It was until fairly recently marshy land, prone to flooding before the river was straightened. In the early 1980s, planning applications for housing and a carpark were eventually granted which included an agreement that part of the area would remain an open ‘nature reserve’ area of parkland.
The River Alne in Henley-in-Arden has a population of native white-clawed crayfish, a protected species threatened by displacement by the more aggressive signal crayfish. The river also contains a good population of bullhead fish along with trout, minnows and sticklebacks, and the occasional kingfisher can be seen.
In 2011, a National Lottery grant enabled the Henley Wildlife Society to build a pond-dipping platform over the pond in the Riverlands. This was part of the refurbishment of the area to make it a haven for wildlife. Some three-quarters of Britain’s ponds have been lost over the last hundred years. The remaining ones are unique biodiversity resources, rich in species of plants, invertebrates and amphibians. Henley’s pond is particularly important because it contains great crested newts, which are Britain’s most strictly-protected amphibian. The surrounding woodland is also important to the newts for foraging and overwintering, and include a variety of tree species including alder and crack willow. Other fauna identified in the area include grass snakes, smooth newts, sticklebacks, water spiders, damselflies, dragonflies, mosquito larvae, lesser and greater diving beetles, pond skaters, pond snails and frogs.
The park has children’s play equipment including a new junior play area. There is also a large picnic area served by wooden benches.