Water Meadows Chronicles

The Water Meadow Chronicles part 3 (October 2019)

BWMG member Iain Carruthers-Jones continues his first-hand accounts of our work parties

Wednesday 23rd October was one of those days when the water meadows looked just about the best place to be. The sun was out and it was neither too warm nor too frosty. It was autumn at its best. A group of volunteers met at the bridge over the river Linnet at the bottom of Shirehall Way. There were fifteen of us. Our task for the day was to make our way over to the River Lark side of No Man’s Meadow to clear ground, dig some squares of earth (about 45 centimetres square for the technically minded), clear roots, remove leaves and cut grass. Then we did a light till and spread a sand and wildflower seed mix. Hopefully this is going to look lovely in the spring and early summer.

Ian Cunliffe / Yellow Rattle – Rhinanthus minor

The choice of wildflowers seeds to be sown was researched carefully. The final choice contained 23 native British wildflower species consisting of mainly perennial species designed to restore and enrich loamy riverside soil. One of the most important species being Yellow rattle which is semi parasitic on grasses. This suppresses the growth of grass so that other flowers can flourish.

As always, there was a great spirit of team effort and good humour. It was an excellent session and there was a collective sense of real satisfaction. And all that’s needed to join in is to dress as if you were going to do some gardening, wear some stout and waterproof footwear and bring a pair of gardening gloves. It’s a good idea to bring a flask of tea, coffee or water – it can be thirsty work – and there is always Polish cake and/or flapjacks for the “tea break”.

As always, too, there’s lots to chat about and plenty to see as well. There’s longer term planning to hear about and shorter term activity to get feedback about. Just yesterday we moved some turves that had been removed to make way for wildflower seed planting. It was decided to put the turves to good use rather than just pile them up. They were placed along the footpaths at the end of No Man’s Meadow where the paths near the steps have got very muddy. Just this morning I had feedback from a regular dog walker (who also happens to be a member of the Water Meadows Group) that she thought this was a brilliant idea and a great improvement. It was good to get such prompt and fulsome feedback about the Volunteers Group efforts.

I mentioned in one of the earlier Chronicles that it would seem a good idea to begin to keep a record of the wildlife that inhabits the water meadows. Obviously we are hoping that the nurturing of biodiversity will be of interest to Group members but it could also be useful when, as a newly established charity, we find ourselves eligible to apply for grants. In discussions I have had with a variety of people, it is evident that there are quite a number of animals, birds, bugs etc. Please help me with this initiative. Indeed, if someone has started to collect data, I would love to hear from them. A collaborative effort, which might include several people, would be an excellent way to move forward.

Yesterday, while we were beavering away as a group of volunteers, we took time to enjoy the view of the water meadows in its autumnal glory. We also saw an egret, several fieldfares and redwings, a grey heron and a buzzard being mobbed by crows. As always, there was a robin about as well.

By Joe Pell – Tawny Owl, CC BY 2.0

In recent weeks I have had reports of kingfishers (near the bridge over the Linnet), adders ( a neighbour’s dog was severely bitten; it needed to stay over with a local vet. It appeared to be well on the way to recovery but has subsequently died) and a tawny owl. I have been tantalisingly close to the owl on several occasions but not yet managed to see it. Earlier this week a vole was seen on the bank of the Linnet near to the bridge and several people have reported seeing bats. At least two types of bat have been spotted. Would it be a good idea to put up bat boxes? And just yesterday I saw a large flock of long tailed tits scurrying from tree to tree.

Several months ago I saw deer and at night, in season, there was plenty of deer noise to be heard around the Crankles. Plenty of squirrels have been seen, too. With regard to fish, I have heard that sticklebacks have been seen in the Lark. Have any other types of fish been seen?

If you would like to let me know of sightings you have made or if you would like to be involved collaboratively in our survey and recording work, please contact me via email.