Friday, 31 July 2015


Re-reading an old copy of Birds magazine (RSPB) from 2008 I came across an article about 'Scrub' and the tendency to consider it unkempt, untidy and fit only for building homes on or prettying up to create parkland. What is 'scrub'?

"Scrub is rough and unplanned; scrub is unexpected... a tangle of bushes and thorns, nettle beds full of butterflies ...long grass growing through brambles and hawthorns... the first coltsfoot flowers before it is spring... the first willow warbler fresh in from Africa... the lesser whitethroat bursting into its rattling song from the blackthorn thicket... blackberries and elder bushes rich with fruit... hawthorn berries that attract flocks of fieldfares and redwings in winter..."

Scrub is a place of discovery and observation, full of the buzz of bees and the chirping of crickets, and overhead the calls of kite and buzzard. There are only a few patches of hawthorn scrub left on the Shanley land as it has mostly been torn out, leaving grasses and wild flowers to take over which they have done in abundance and rich diversity.  The grassland is a perfect habitat for insects, beetles, butterflies and bees but less so for nesting birds, large mammals like foxes and reptiles. 
Long live scrub!

Golden Rod, probably a garden escape
Common Fleabane

St John's Wort

Evening Primrose
Scentless Mayweed

Large Skipper on Teasel
Bee on Field Scabious
Woolly Thistle and bee
Ladybirds on seed heads
Gatekeeper butterfly
Rose gall - nest of a gall wasp on wild rose
Everlasting Pea
Wild Thyme
Field Bindweed
The first blackberry is ripe and ready for eating
Wild apples ripening in the sun
View south from the top field towards Blows Down
Now go and see how many you can find.
Long Live Scrub!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

News Update

I took this photo of sewage pouring into Houghton Brook on 16th July, just what I had feared happening each time one of these manhole covers overflows, several times a year.  This was at 9.00am, and it wasn't stopped till sometime after 2.00pm.  The cause was a blocked sewer.  Please don't put non-biodegradable items down the toilet!  You can see here what happens when we do.
On the other side of the bridge a blackbird was dipping its head as if to drink but stopping at the smell. 
We can only hope that our water voles were equally wary and kept well away, but they will have to find food and will be vulnerable to predators if they cannot escape by water.  The sewage reached to just below the vole trapping area, the free flow having been slowed perhaps by a big dam of branches at the field bridge.  The worst pollution is in the section which will be by-passed by the new stream when it is dug in August. 

The Environment Agency classified it as a Category 2 pollution incident, the second worst incident.  The sewage was sucked out over the next few days and the case is now closed.  This spill diminishes still further the chances of our voles surviving the upheavals they've already endured.
*  *  *  *  *
A few more flowers snapped before the fences were erected along the buslink.
Rosebay willowherb is renowned for springing up where trees are cut down, so here are patches of magenta blossoms where the copse used to be.
Ragwort is often regarded as a weed but insects love it, and who can fail to be impressed by this splendid specimen!
I had very profitable discussions at the 'Meet the Contractors' Exhibition on Tuesday and am hopeful that some benefits for our wildlife and local community will come from it. 
There may be a lot of mess around us on the ground, but the sky above is still beautiful!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

What to see in July

Throughout June I was watching the site of the bee orchids beside the buslink for signs of their appearance, but when they didn't come up, and I found another patch elsewhere, I enquired of experts and discovered to my surprise that they don't come up every year!  So they haven't died but may come up next year instead, or the year after.  So there's nothing to be seen of them this year.  But if you are in the field beside the buslink, watch out for tiny pyramid orchids.
In June ox-eye daisies were abundant by the buslink.
Because of the works in progress, this month I am enjoying Shanley's field instead which is full of yellow hawkweed, dog rose and other wild flowers easy to spot.

Dog Rose
Orange Hawkweed

Hedge Woundwort

 Broomrape (and clover)

Tufted Vetch

This is the time of year for Cow Parsley and other umbellifers (like an umbrella) - who would guess this photo wasn't taken in the countryside?  Only the radio aerial gives away its location.

And behind the cow parsley in the weedy field are poppies adding a dash of colour.  So there's lots of flowers to see and enjoy still as well as the wonderful variety of grasses. 
Update on Houghton Brook
As nettles make it inaccessible to humans, I'm hoping the water voles are currently enjoying their privacy.  The section above the buslink has been cleared of vegetation to discourage voles venturing up stream into the area currently being worked on.  The water is not affected and continues to flow when it rains.  When the new stretch of stream is dug, water will be diverted away from the treated area into the new stream and new habitat created for the water voles.