Visit to the Meadow 10th February 2023
I recently returned to the Meadow after a long absence; disruptions in the usual pattern of my life, provoked by the Co-vid pandemic, had been turning my attention away. Curiosity about the Meadow and its wildlife had finally prompted me to take the long stroll south of Keyworth village. Fortunately my old friend, the ever-observant Dave, was also eager to reacquaint himself and to observe changes in the flora and fauna there.
It was a fine afternoon in mid-February when winter still lay over the land but we felt the strong sense that spring would soon be approaching. The air was calm and the light clear. Some snowdrops had emerged beside the track on Lings Lane. Piles of soil showed that moles had been hard at work in their delving.
We turned off Lings Lane and entered the reserve. We were pleased to note that the side hedge beside the entrance path had been neatly laid since our last visit. Enough time had passed since the laying for regrowth to have sprouted on the thorn but not enough for it to have thickened up yet. An animal track, from perhaps a hare or a badger, ran across the path from North Lodge to Church Fields. We reached Bin Corner and noticed that midges had come out already. There were rabbit scratchings on the path and thorn shoots were colonizing it in places.
We were surprised that we could no longer find the steps that led from High Path to Willow Pond. A wall of entwined bramble was blocking any easy way down there. We continued to Seat Bank. I was struck by how green the grass in the Meadow was looking. A vernal pool of standing water stood in the Old Meander. The meander was now far more visible than I remembered it in the past, marked out with a distinct line of deeper green. Clearly a lot of water had, at some point, entered the Meadow and spread itself. There were rabbit droppings on the path and rabbit tracks across it coming out of North Lodge Field. We went down to the vernal pond. It seemed to have settled itself in and must have been lying there for some while.
The ever-observant Dave spotted a Grey Heron motionless in the middle of the field south-east of Main Meadow. To my weaker eyes, it seemed a blur of grey but Dave insisted that he could see a whitish head and neck above the grey body and, sure enough, the grey blur took off shortly afterwards and flapped, with heron-like dignity, over the brook and away to the west. As we passed along Hedge Path we were surprised to see a smart new fence on the east perimeter of the Meadow. A smart new gate then appeared in the fence, provocatively marked with an authoritative and intimidating ‘Private’.
We passed on into Side Meadow, which, we noted, had remained grassy and cleared of scrub. Leaves of Lesser Celandine were poking up there. We then followed the Fairham Brook to Stream Top, noticing a splendid bracket fungus and, on the brook bottom, a mussel valve. The brook was flowing clearly and quite strongly. At some point – probably quite recently – it had taken a large bite out of the bank near where we were standing, now rather perilously close to the edge. The brook must have been flowing with some force after heavy rain. As we took in the scene, we noticed that a line of woody debris had been pulled out of the brook’s channel. A tree that had leaned into the water - and probably been responsible for the accumulation of debris - had been neatly cut back and pulled back from the channel along with the debris. We then saw that the sedge and brookside grasses had been flattened at some time, evidence, it seemed, that the brook had been blocked and the water backed up after failing to break a way through, in spite of the bank collapse. Intrigued, we walked back to Stream Top and found evidence of water back-up southwards right along up to the perimeter fence.
We then followed the brook down to Kingfisher Bank and beyond it found another line of woody debris swept up in the water by a Crack Willow. I had never seen this here before. I assume that some time in the interval between my last visit, an enormous flow of stream-water has swept down the brook and then backed up, and this the flattened vegetation certainly indicated.
I am strongly in favour of the return of the Beaver to the English countryside – and I am delighted that we now have a population of them in Nottinghamshire, in an extensive enclosure in the Idle Valley – but it may be that their role as ‘landscape engineers’ has been overstressed. It seems from the look of Fairham Brook around Kingfisher Bank that you don’t need beavers to dam a watercourse. All you need is a fallen willow to catch floating boughs and branches that have been blown down, and then a mass of twigs, stems and leaves to catch in the impediment and finally mud swept along in a flood to be caught up and deposited as sediment, and the obstruction is sealed. Then you can have a fully functioning beaver dam without any beavers!
As we came back into Main Meadow past the Civvies Crossing, it struck me, more strongly than ever before, how steep was the rise up to High Path on the far north-east edge of the reserve. We were obviously standing in a well-defined flood plain which the brook must have been carving over the millennia since the end of the Ice Age. I could imagine a host of former meanders along which the brook would have sought to move in different periods of time, repeatedly changing its route, as every so often the existing channel would have become blocked by debris, and the brook forced to find another passage through the flood plain.
Molehills and field vole runs indicated that the Meadow’s inhabitants had been busy. There were obvious burrows in the brook’s banks. We crossed over to look at Willow Pond. The pond’s water was quite murky and its surface seemed reduced in extent by encroaching vegetation. You could sense an ongoing conflict between earth and water with sedge, reeds and willow as the combatants. We climbed the stile out of the reserve and onto the grazing meadow beyond. Rabbit tracks criss-crossed the sward, marked out by poo. We clambered onto the footbridge leading over the brook. The brook was flowing well but we were intrigued to see that, even this far downstream, much of the bankside grass and shrubbery had been flattened, indicating that there had been flooding here too.
Some years ago Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust had supervised measures aimed at improving the ecological quality of the Fairham Brook across Bunny Moor down to the NWT reserve between Clifton and Ruddington. Metal gating had been put in place to restrain the cattle while they were using the brook as watering ground. The metalwork had aged since our last visit. The white Lincolnshire limestone rubble that had been laid to provide hard-standing for the cattle had vanished, except on the rise that linked the upper field to the floodplain meadow. The cattle had clearly not found the stones pleasant for their hooves and were by-passing them. Unfortunately they had been by-passing the stones by wandering over a strip of grass where before we had found cowslips flowering. The grass was now badly churned up. I doubt whether we shall find cowslips flourishing there when we return to investigate later in the spring.
We turned back, thoughtfully and sadly, to Keyworth Meadow. Crows flew energetically over the fields on either side of Lings Lane and there were blackbirds flitting between the hedges as we climbed the lane to reach the village.
Visit to the Meadow 6th February 2017
On the afternoon of Monday 6th February, I set out for Keyworth Meadow after a long absence. For this absence I lay the blame entirely upon my botanical adviser, 'Geological Dave', upon whom I am totally dependent for any accuracy in my identifications of plants and flowers. Dave had been too busy, ever since last May, on various research projects and geological schemes to spare any time to join me on excursions to the Meadow. Finding himself, however, 'between deadlines' on Monday afternoon, he at last had time available. Hence we set out southwards along Lings Lane under a grey sky, but one that did not seem to threaten rain.
Dave spotted three corvids aloft over Penny Field but they were too distant for us to decide whether they were Rooks or Crows. As we strolled down the Access Track to the Meadow, I was disturbed to note how brutally the hedge on the south side had been cut back and flayed, leaving jagged ends. Dave assured me that Blackthorn recovers rapidly enough from such harsh treatment.
We wandered down to the Main Meadow. Willow Pond was full, as I suppose we should expect in February, but it did look a splendid sight with healthy weed sprouting on the pond floor. The removal of the fallen Willow had certainly been justified. I wished that I had been able to visit in August in order to find out how much water the pond has been able to retain during the height of summer. There was a fair amount of standing water in the Old Oxbow on Main Meadow with green shoots of Willowherb sprouting underneath it. We looked at the Butterfly Bank and saw that some patches of bare earth still remained amidst the recovering moss and grassland plants. I noticed a hint of yellow at my feet which turned out to be from the first opening of a bud of Lesser Celandine.
Within Main Meadow there were plenty of tyre marks from a heavy vehicle. These were deep enough in places to be be termed 'ruts' – which may of course be nothing to worry about as the ruts may provide a habitat niche for some mud-loving plants! The tracks skirted a tree that had fallen from the hedge that separates the southern edge of Main Meadow from North Lodge Field. Earlier we had eagerly scanned North Lodge Field when we had entered the Access Track, hoping to see any signs of Brown Hare for we have watched from that vantage point on other occasions a family of them feeding and running about over the sweep of that field. We had been disappointed to find none of them there on this afternoon – and so we were delighted that, as we approached the Fairham Brook, a Brown Hare ran enthusiastically along the field over on the west side of the brook.
The Fairham Brook was flowing strongly and the flattened stems of plants around its banks suggested that its level had been higher at some earlier times during this winter, although I do not recall much recent heavy rain. Haw Pond in Side Meadow was full. We passed on to the nature reserve's end at King's. A group of horses on the grassland west of the brook made a fine sight, cantering with elegant grace, and with eight of them creating a sense of natural grouping. We came across a burrow under the trees at King's which puzzled us as it seemed too big for rabbits but too small for the usual larger burrowing mammals. There was a peculiar poo lying about, definitely not the small black pellets of rabbits. The poo, scattered in single pieces was coiled and olive green with largish white steaks on its exterior. We wondered whether there is any expert on animal excrement who might enlighten us over what species would have dropped it.
While returning to Civvies, we noticed a mussel shell becoming exposed fairly high in the brook's bank side and so originally cast down in some long-gone year. Molehills were plentiful. A Robin, with a bright red breast, sang in a thicket. (Many of the thickets along the western edge of both Side Meadow and Main Meadow had been well strimmed back, presumably by the craftsman who had driven the vehicle that had made the tyre ruts.) Dave investigated the geo-cache left by the 'Kaiser Chiefs' and found it still intact. As we looked at the exposed cobbles on the brook bed at Fairies, we revised our judgement about the strength and depth of the flow. The level of the brook's water, for February, was not really that high. We have seen a much deeper flow during our other winter investigations.
Dave was excited when four largish game-birds took off from a shrub just before him. They flew off in close formation but too rapidly to allow any firm identification. A forlorn cluster of pigeon feathers was lying on the grass near Penny Pond, intimating some recent violent drama. We stood on the western side of Willow Pond and gazed into it, hoping for frog's spawn. We discovered that what we had taken to be some discolouration of the pond surface at the southern end was in fact a sheet of as yet unmelted ice. Dave was intrigued by a plant growing under the ice. He carefully took a photo and declared that it might, possibly, be Water Starwort. Shortly afterwards he noticed a fern, probably a Polypody, poking up among the reed litter by Willow Pond.
We crossed over Main Meadow to the Butterfly Bank where there was much rabbit poo and some evidence rabbit burrowing on Shrubby Bank. We disturbed a Chaffinch in a hedge on Lings Lane and, a little further on, a large number of 'small brown jobs' that flew away overhead with an 'up & down' flight over the wolds to the east. They might perhaps have been finches.
Later, that evening, the rains poured down over Keyworth. No doubt the Fairham Brook, in its flow, is now changed completely and our observations on its condition, almost immediately, rendered invalid!
Visit to the Meadow 29th March 2016
On a cold, windy but sunny spring day, on 29th March, Geological Dave and I met at Lings Lane to see how plant-life had been moving on since our last visit to the Meadow. Although the winter had been mild, a cold spell seemed to have set in for most of March and we were not expecting striking changes from our visit in February.
The forecast promised rain and so we stepped briskly, noticing only how waterlogged the path and surrounding pastures had become.
On entering the Access Way we were struck by how beautifully the hedge had been laid next to North Lodge Field. The shoots had been deeply cut and willows twisted neatly around the stakes. Around 50 yards of new hedge had been laid from the old Ash with bird boxes up to a younger ash higher on the Access Way. It was lovely to see that, despite our mechanical culture, such old country skills, such as hedging, still survive and being put to good use.
Along the Access Way leaves were erupting on Hawthorn, Dandelions and Lesser Celandine had come into flower and a scattering of Red Dead Nettles were out. There was an animal track running over the path under the Old Ash. Along Shrubby Bank we were surprised to notice vehicle marks on the grass which seemed to have been made by a heavy vehicle rather than a motorbike.
At Willow Pond Elder was coming into leaf and some Lesser Celandine in flower. The pond's level was very high and the water clean and clear. On entering Main Meadow we saw hosts of the bright yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine scattered over the sward. The ground was sodden and the Old Oxbow full of standing water. There were green shoots of Flag Iris at the north of the Oxbow and signs of Great Hairy Willow-herb. Some Mallards flew overhead. We then noticed ruts made by a vehicle beside the hedge coming down Shrubby Bank. The ruts became quite deep and water-filled as they crossed Main Meadow. They appeared to have been made by a tractor as large clumps of earth were lying, apparently flung off from the tyres. We wondered what had been going on!
In Side Meadow the grass was also growing well and healthily. Catkins were out on the Goat Willow. Along the Fairham Brook we came upon more yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine, rising Nettle shoots and Goose-grass. The brook was running strongly and some of the vegetation on the brook's far bank had been swept down, suggesting even higher water overnight. At Civvies there were signs of more flooding over the banks. We pushed on to Stream Top where the swiftly-moving water of the brook looked quite turbid.
We then returned to Willow Pond to confirm that the pond level was extraordinarily high. Water weed had been growing fast, but we saw, at the southern end, that algae was also reviving and spreading its ugly, mushy murkiness again. We gazed into the deep water, clear in the sunshine, trying to spot insect or animal life but we saw nothing. We were looking in particular for frog spawn and were disappointed to find no trace of any. The pond was overflowing north, past the old Willow, and out of our nature reserve along to Penny Pond. Geological Dave wandered over to the muddy corner, poached regularly by the cattle, and began staring at the waterlogged ground, half pond and half mud. He called me over and there in the shallow water was frog spawn! Why the female frog should have chosen to deposit her eggs into puddles that might dry up soon, rather than in Penny Pond itself is a sad mystery. On future visits we shall check anxiously for any sight of tadpoles.
We then moved on past the footbridge and further into the Glebe Land. We noticed again the utter futility of the measures taken under the European Water Directive aimed at reducing the flow of sediment into the brook. The cattle have been avoiding walking over the limestone hard-core laid down for their use. Instead they have been pushing their way down through mud on either side of it and are probably carrying more of the stuff into the brook than they did before! We then wandered over to the hardcore laid down higher up in the pasture that had been threatening to smother a clump of Cowslips. On earlier visits we had carefully picked up rubble that had been covering the cowslip leaves but the cattle had spotted the comfortable rubble-free soil we had uncovered and were now choosing to find their way down exactly along that line. So much for our feeble efforts!
We returned along the footpath to Keyworth across the horse pastures where the old ridge & furrow were water-logged and the furrows now cradling long ponds. As we neared the Ash Grove we wondered how long our local ash trees would survive the spread of imported disease. Here we agreed on the folly of bringing in exotic plant species through garden centres or of planting woodlands using imported seed or saplings. As someone who regularly joins work-parties to dig out invasive Rhododendron in Sherwood Forest, Geological Dave has sensible views on the menace to our ecological balance of aliens like Spanish Bluebells or Himalayan Balsam. One of the major attractions to him of our Meadow, he told me, was our management policy of supporting natural evolution and of forbidding artificial introductions. 'What is the pleasure or point', he declared, 'in monitoring what is growing if you then allow some idiot to introduce a new species? You might as well be gardening!'
Geological Dave, I discovered, is a purist. He deplored the introduced yellow Primroses we had seen thriving in a wood at Owthorpe. He even deplored trans-locations of species by human means. Choughs in Cornwall were exciting because they have returned to their old haunts by themselves as have Cranes and Spoonbills in Norfolk and Ospreys on Speyside but bringing Cranes in Somerset, Ospreys in Rutland and Beavers in Argyll was interfering with Nature. Dave, it seems is a zealot for natural evolution! He advocated a policy of patience. Preserve the habitats and wait for the wildlife to follow. If I was sure I would live for another 500 years, I might enthusiastically agree with him. Until sure of that fate, I fear that if ever a Red Kite from Northamptonshire or an Osprey from Rutland flies over our Meadow, I shall be pleased and excited even though the bird's forefather or fore-mother has been released by human hand from some unnatural and intrusive translocation pen!
Here ends my jottings,
Visit to the Meadow 2nd February 2016
On a windy day, blowing some strong gusts, we set off along Lings Lane in the direction of the Meadow. We were surprised to find that a Dandelion was coming into flower on Lings Lane and a single umbellifer was also coming out, probably a Cow Parsley. As it had only just turned from January and we should still be enduring the depths of winter, we considered this surprising, a sign of how mild this year's winter season had been. There was a massive flock of corvids in the pastures to the west of the lane; over a hundred rooks feeding energetically on the ground.
We followed the public footpath over the fields to avoid a muddy quagmire on Lings Lane and so approached the Meadow through the Glebe Land. Alongside the upper cattle descent, we noticed that Cowslip leaves had emerged successfully. The cattle had churned the soil on either edge of the white hardcore laid down to ease their movements! This was also the case along the descent to the brook itself; the beasts evidently were avoiding the hardcore rubble, churning the soil along its edges and so still carrying sludge down into the brook. This surely indicates that the clumsy intervention to comply with the European Water Directive had completely misfired.
The Fairham Brook was fairly high and running with a healthy flow. At Stream Bottom we were surprised to find that two bright yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine had already come out, something that surely we should expect to happen in March. Goosegrass and Dead-nettle shoots had emerged.
Willow Pond was looking attractive.
The water level was high. There were no ugly algae to be seen and the water was clear and clean. Healthy fresh weed was growing up from the pond floor. We agreed that the removal of the fallen Willow from out of the pond had much improved the pond's appearance and probably its water retention too. We searched hopefully for signs of frog-spawn but we failed to spot any. There were many mole-hills scattered amidst the grass just west of the pond.
In Main Meadow the grass looked fresh and green. It was difficult to believe that in a few months the grass would be rank with Meadowsweet and other vegetation. We found Field Vole runs through the grass and so there may be a strong Vole population in the Meadow. Three Mallards passed noisily overhead, flying south east towards Widmerpool.
At Stream Top shoots of Stinging Nettles had broken surface. In both Side Meadow and Main Meadow we greeted people exercising their dogs, a welcome sign that our parish's nature reserve is being used as a facility. In Main Meadow a little water lying in part of the Old Ox-bow, but not as much as has accumulated there in other wet periods. There were more mole-hills. Moles evidently do not mind the damp!
At the foot of the Butterfly Bank we looked at what seemed like scoops in the ground made by some animal. Small droppings lay near this scooping. We found there another Lesser Celandine come into flower and then our eyes were taken by more scoopings and scratchings along the Shrubby Path. Down in the murk of the shrubs we thought we could detect a hole burrowed into the bank. We noticed what we now thought to be rabbit droppings and so, perhaps, coneys have discovered our Nature Reserve as a home.
As we set off, Keyworth-bound, along the Access Track, we passed a few flowers of White Dead-nettle. It seemed that the first signs of Spring had unseasonably arrived.
Here ends my jottings,
Visit to the Meadow 5th October 2015
Having failed to arrange between us a visit to the Meadow on a warm, sunny day in either August or September, Geological Dave and I managed to fix our next inspection on a day of grey skies, rapidly moving cloud and a heavy humid air.
I expected that, by early October any flowers would be long past but while walking along Lings Lane we spotted White Dead Nettle, Red Campion, Red Clover and Field Bindweed all still out in flower. There were some animal tracks near the Meadow entrance that looked the right size for badgers.
While strolling down the Access Path, we saw a group of Jackdaws flocking on the far side of North Lodge Field. Not just Blackberry but Sloe and Rose-hips were fruiting abundantly. A largish, grey fungus had emerged at the corner where the path turns to the Shrubby Bank. There we saw much Elderberry and Hawthorn in fruit and, amidst many shrivelled stems, a single Hogweed in flower.
We were amazed, on stepping down to Main Meadow, to find the area transformed. It had been mowed into a grassy sward! The former variety of sprouting plants had been swept away, presumably for hay. It was interesting to note how different the old Ox-Bow looked. Now dry and bare it stood revealed as quite shallow without the illusion of depth that a covering of winter water had given it.
We turned to the scraped Butterfly Bank where bare, earthy patches were still resisting the reviving scrub. There was a tallish plant upstanding there, still out in magnificent flower, with bright blue attractive petals. Fortunately Geological Dave had remembered his identification manual and so he was able to confirm that this plant, with thick, short stalks and grooved stems, was a Chicory, a perennial flowering, reassuringly, between July and October.
We also noticed a few late Ox-eye Daisies in flower. We then entered Side Meadow which had also suffered a transformation from a thorough mowing. We found little flow in the water at Stream Top and it was much too shallow to offer us any fish life to seek. There were mole-hills near the eastern bank. The sky darkened and rain began to fall. This inclined us to speed our investigation. We retraced our steps back towards Main Meadow and Willow Pond. To my sorrow, all the water had drained away, leaving the willow roots exposed and ugly, above the bare, dry pond bottom. The sandy soil indicated how we had lost the water so completely.
Urged on by the rain, we trudged to Stream Bottom where the flow was a little stronger than at Stream Top but still reduced to a mere trickle. We could ford the brook by walking across it with no fear of the slightest wetting of our boots over the coarse pebbly stream floor.
Then homeward to Keyworth, noticing some bramble still in flower in Penny Field. We made a point of investigating field ponds on the way back. In one the water level was well-down but a recognizable pond was still surviving. At the other the water level was still high as in any other season of the year. It must surely be fed by a spring. As we approached the edge of the village a host of swart birds swept across the clouds. Dave proposed, because of their cries, that they were Jackdaws but I ventured Starlings as the flock reminded me of murmurations I have watched in earlier winters. We both stand ready to be corrected by others more knowledgeable in the ways of jizz.
Here ends my report.
Visit to the Meadow on Tuesday 31st July 2015
On a bright, sunny summer's day at the end of July, I paid a visit to the Meadow, accompanied by my good friend, the ever-observant Geological Dave. Dave had recently attended a day-course run by Notts. Wildlife Trust on how to identify grasses and he was eager to find out whether he had managed to remember anything from the experience.
As we strolled southward along Lings Lane, we saw an abundance of Great Hairy Willowherb out in its purple flower. We were uncertain whether at the end of July we had come too late for the full glory of the flowering season but, as we reached the access path, we found Spear Thistle in flower and some late blooms on Bramble, attracting bees. Field Bindweed was also still in flower down amidst the grass. A small toadstool had emerged, probably very recently, and dusky brown butterflies fluttered about. A Buzzard was gliding over Penny Field, circling and looking intently at the ground below. At the end of the access path by Bin Corner Dave began to put his newly acquired knowledge of grasses to good use. He announced that he had identified Meadow Foxtail and Yorkshire Fog. Then, utterly engrossed in his quest, he began muttering what could have been rhetorical questions as I was totally in the dark as to what answers he was expecting. Thanks to this rigorous self-questioning other species of grass fell into place, such as Timothy on which he proudly identified a host of 'horned devils'. To my surprise this lugubrious discovery appeared to delight him!
Feathery seeds of thistle floated gently in the warm summer air above the Upper Bank path. The Hemlock had turned to dry stems and seed. We passed some Oats, Ragwort, Lady's Bedstraw in yellow flower and Knapweed in purple. An animal track appeared to run across the path, made possibly by a badger. On the Butterfly scrape I was attracted to a plant with bright blue flowers on its stalks. As this was not a grass Dave showed little interest but eventually let me know that is was Chicory. On the scrape there also were many Horsetails there and some Bird's-foot Trefoil.
The old ox-bow in Main Meadow was now completely dry. I was disappointed to find that we had missed the flowering of the Flag Iris. The white flowers of the Meadowsweet were turning to seed. Dave was pleased to identify some more Timothy along with Great Burnett with its rather globular flowers. Dave found more Meadow Fox-tail in Main Meadow along with Cock's Foot. My identification skills in contrast were taxed with the more prosaic Meadow Buttercup and Thistle. While Dave was peering into the grassy sward, I heard the distinctive 'pew' of a Buzzard and was pleased to see one gliding over the field west of the Fairham Brook. Then another, smaller, raptor flew past lower down. It was too quick for me to be sure what species it was. It was perhaps a Sparrowhawk or maybe a Peregrine.
Near the brook we saw a patch of Rosebay Willowherb and some Meadow Crane's bill with its dark blue flowers. Two dragon flies, attached to each other, hovered above the water, striking in red and blue, and, as we entered Side Meadow, a bigger blue one darted by. I counted nine Common Poppy flowers out in the northern part of Side Meadow and we found two peculiar plants bearing enormous seed-pods. This was enough to divert Dave from his grassy fascination and he announced that these strange plants were Radishes that he had noted on one of our earlier visits. At Stream Top, where the brook was hardly more than a trickle, three Swallows were dashing about. We saw Great Hairy Willow-herb, Figwort, which seemed to be just coming into flower, some more Meadow Crane's bill and then, in a sunny spot, Wild Hop climbing up over Elder and Hawthorn. Dave pointed to its tiny clusters of flowers high up on the supporting tree. We returned to Civvies where we saw Woody Nightshade on the edge of the brook and an enormous green-blue dragonfly, iridescent in the sunshine.
We then inspected Willow Pond and found it sadly reduced to a shallow, murky, greenish slither of water. Dave spotted in it some Great Pond Snails, a welcome sign of life, and a Peacock Butterfly tantalized us by flying and landing close to our feet. The fallen Willow no longer drapes itself over the pond as it has been carefully cut away and removed but some of it was regenerating from the remaining roots exposed by the shrinking water. Dave conscientiously pulled out the shoots of new Willow sprouting in the newly-dry and exposed pond bottom, expressing as he did so his disappointment at the sandiness of the substrata. This sandiness makes it likely that a large part of Willow Pond will always be drained away in dry summers. Looking into the murky water of what remained of the shrunken pond, I noticed something move but then, as it stayed still, it lost any distinguishable form to my sight. I called Dave and then it moved again. It was a young Common Toad, incredibly well camouflaged against the mud and shadow.
Rosebay Willowherb was in flower at the end of Main Meadow. A Pheasant flew overhead. Dave found some Black Bryony with its big leaves creeping up a brookside tree and a few Herb Robert. Then we walked over the bottom of the largely dried-up brook, gazing at the dribbles trickling between puddles and remembering the wildly surging flow of February. There was a little Brooklime in the water.
Having passed out of the reserve we made a point of searching for the Cowslips we had, back in Spring, rescued from a thoughtless crushing under the hard-core tip. We couldn't find any, although the stalks should still be obvious. The cattle must have eaten them! Then I noticed one, hiding under a thistle that would have protected it from any grasping cow's tongue. We shall continue our struggle to maintain that fragile colony.
We then began to walk back over the huge arable field towards Keyworth, where the footpath was covered in a mass of Redshank. Suddenly we were disturbed by the roar of an enormous combine, powering over towards us amidst a swirl of dust, billowing out of its pipework as it swallowed the corn crop. This brought to an abrupt end whatever reveries we had been enjoying and we speedily directed our steps away from the clouds of dust and off to the Ash Grove and paddocks of Lings Lane.
Visit to the Meadow on Tuesday 8th June 2015
Geological Dave and I managed to find the time to make a visit the Meadow on the afternoon of Monday 8th June, aware that the summer flowering is reaching its peak and the fruiting season soon to begin.
While walking down the Access Path we saw a Brimstone fluttering above the Hawthorn hedge. Ground Ivy was still in flower. In the North Lodge Field to the left there was a fine display of Oxeye Daisy and in the untilled corner at the north west of that field a scattering of attractive White Campion. At Bin Corner Dave identified some Cut-Leaf Cranesbill along with much Creeping Buttercup. The Elder had come into its flower of creamy while clusters.
Along the Shrubby Bank there were quite a few gigantic umbellifers. Since their stems were marked by purple spots, these must be Hemlocks, only to be consumed by the unwary or foolish. Nearby there was an enormous Spear Thistle. At the bottom of the bank by Willow Pond we found some Hogweed with hairy and grooved stems, Hedge Woundwort and large clumps of Great Willowherb. In the fine June weather the pond was, sadly, shrinking fast, exposing banks of bare mud which may be good for insect life. There was still much Water Crowfoot and Watercress on the reduced water surface.
In the northern end of Main Meadow we found much Pignut out in flower along with Lesser Stitchwort. The rich-yellow flowers of Flag Iris had broken out in the wet area of the old Ox-bow below the Seat Bank, a striking and lovely sight. Nearby, towards the pond, Dog Rose had bloomed with delightful pink flowers. Lady's Smock was still out and we searched hard for the solitary Cowslip which we thought should still be visible, bearing its fruit, but it seemed to have disappeared amidst the mass of rising Meadowsweet. Geological Dave was pleased to be able to find and identify some Silverweed.
We moved on to Side Meadow. In the comparatively infertile patch near the opening to Side Meadow there was a clump of Black Medick and many Horsetails emerging, along with some Germander Speedwell. Further in our eyes were caught by the bright red of a freshly emerged Common Poppy. We saw another one further south, very striking blood-red amidst the green around and below it. We spent some time pondering over a yellow-flowered wild cabbage. Geological Dave considered that it probably was Charlock. Tangles of Goosegrass were abundant.
We moved on to Stream Top where the flow in the brook was disappointingly low. It seemed almost stagnant, a greatly changed sight from the racing torrent of February. The clumps of Red Campion there were high, providing pleasingly strong colour. We walked past Goat Willow which were in fruit, discarding woolly waste onto the ground at our feet. Geological Dave became fascinated by one plant which, after much gazing at stems and agonized internal debate, he decided was a rare Fodder Radish. Field Forget-me-not was flowering in the shrubs along the Fairham Brook. A swallow swooped down over the grass as we re-entered Main Meadow.
At Civvies the brook did appear to be moving, trickling along, not a very attractive habitat for any fish that were any size above miniscule. Herb Bennet was in flower there and Brooklime down near the water's edge. As we reached Stream Bottom a swallow swooped over in a circuit, and then another, showing their white bellies and long streamers behind. We stopped to watch, unable to decide how many swallows were dashing about overhead. There were at least three and possibly more if the birds that swept off eastwards were not the same as those that suddenly reappeared from the west!
We then left the Meadow to take the footpath back to Keyworth. We found again the Cowslips near the footbridge to Wysall, this time in fruit with their flowers past. We made a point of revisiting the clump on the edge of hardcore rubble. The cattle are now using that track to the brook and some stones had been kicked towards the cowslips which have also lost their flowers and cone into fruit. We felt happy that the colony had survived the season and would reproduce for next year. Grey clouds were overhead and the air grew moist. We sped back to the village hoping to elude the rain.
Here endeth my report.
Visit to the Meadow on Tuesday 12th May 2015
Dave and I visited the Meadow again on 12th May, aware that in the gap since our last visit in March, we must have been missing many key moments that mark the coming of Spring. It was a fine afternoon but windy, with strong gusts blowing from the south-west.
We noticed some Honesty out on Lings Lane and Cow Parsley was blossoming in abundance. Hawthorn was coming into bud with some already out.. Along the access path to the Meadow the blue flowers of Ground Ivy were visible and there was a lot of White Dead Nettle out at Bin Corner. We had a violent argument over a white-flowered plant which Dave insisted on calling Garlic Mustard, consuming several leaves to make his point, while I preferred Jack-by-the Hedge as its name as more lyrical and evocative. We made peace by agreeing that we would never use the arid, instantly forgettable Linnaean term. Further on a large plant from the carrot family was emerging that might turn out to be Hogweed or perhaps Hemlock.
We were saddened to see that the level of Willow Pond had dropped with unsightly algae hanging off the lower branches of the fallen willow. There is still however plenty of depth to it. Elder was springing up near some Spear Thistle. We were uncertain at first about the buttercups that had appeared on the bank above the pond. We eventually decided that they were Creeping from their grooved stems and spreading sepals. Along with more Jack-by-the Hedge and Cow Parsley, we found both Herb Robert and Herb Bennett along with a strange orange spider roaming the undergrowth. A Small White Butterfly fluttered by.
On Main Meadow we were pleased to find some Pignut with its characteristic fine leaves and some flowering stalks of Lady's Smock amidst the Meadowsweet that was now erupting into leaf. There was still some water standing in the Old Ox-bow where the green shoots of Flag Iris had appeared.
On the Butterfly Bank scrape there were still some bare sandy patches amidst the Creeping Thistle, so it should successfully act as we want it to this summer – but there were plenty of tiny shoots appearing on it which may be Hawthorn. Near the Top Bench some flowers of Lesser Celandine were still out, along with Lady's Smock and Dead Nettle. We looked for the solitary Cowslip but when we found it we saw that its flowering was over. There was much Plantain with a Bumblebee hovering around it.
As we entered Side Meadow the ever-observant Dave pointed out some vole-holes. Amidst the Stinging and Dead Nettles there, we managed to identify some Bulbous Buttercups with their characteristic turned-back sepals. Dave was then thrown by a strange cabbage family member. He pondered whether this was Charlock. It might have been, given its yellow, four-petalled flowers, but then every member of the cabbage family seems to have yellow, four-petalled flowers! Dave's only hope is to make sure he returns in autumn when he expects to be able to identify its fruit. So, as long as we haven't fallen out by then, I may find out too! (I have subsequently found out that the lovely pink-flowered Lady's Smock and the white-flowered Jack-by-the Hedge are also cabbages.)
At Stream Top we found Red Campion, tall and in clusters. Blue Ground ivy was flowering under the scrub. Dave was pleased to spot a mussel shell in the Fairham Brook, an indication of the stream's good health. We were then delighted to notice a shoal of fry darting about in the water. As we walked along the strand to Stream Bottom, we found two other clusters of tiny fish, flitting about in the sunshine. Dave, optimistically, claimed to have spotted two larger fish in the shadows but my eyes failed to distinguish them. He was intrigued to come across two species of Forget-me-not, both blue-flowered, but quite different in appearance; Field and the more luxuriant Wood. An Orange-tip butterfly flew by above the Bulbous Buttercups.
Out of the reserve, in the glebe land, we found Daisies which we had not seen in the Meadow itself. As we approached the footbridge, we came across some Cowslips that we had not noticed there before. At the hard-standing it was clear that the cattle were now using this approach to the brook. Some stones had been kicked down and others given a delicate coating of poo. How long this cattle hard-standing stays effective remains to be seen. We were delighted that the cluster of Cowslips that we had striven to unearth from the layer of rubble tipped over them were unaffected by their misfortune and were flourishing in glorious full yellow flower. We felt proud of our achievement!
As we walked back up the footpath to the village we came across a group of wild geese in one meadow – five Greylags, two Canadians and one God-Knows-What. Three Swallows dashed overhead. Two Goldfinches also appeared on some shubs, close enough to us for a fine view of their lovely colouring.
Here endeth my report.
Visit to the Meadow on Monday 30th March 2015
We decided to visit Keyworth Meadow again twenty days after our last walk there in order to see how much Spring had been advancing. It had seemed to be a late Spring and we wished to check on this.
As we walked down Lings Lane we saw elder coming into leaf while the hawthorn was in bud and some showed emerging green leaf. I heard the sound of 'pink, pink' coming from a hedge which I thought might be the song of a chaffinch and then was pleased to see a chaffinch indeed in the hedge, which gave me hope that my bird-song identification might not be so dire as everyone tells me it is!
When we reached the Entrance Path, we saw two buzzards wheeling over North Lodge Field. Despite their languid flight, they soon moved off to the east, although one returned and flew off in the direction of Keyworth. We then admired the new hedge-laying along the path, which had been completed up to the old ash with the bird -box on it. Passing along the Shrubby Bank we saw that some red dead nettle had come into flower. In the Main Meadow, compared with what we had noticed on our last visit, a lot more lesser celandine had flowered. While scrutinizing the earth, in the way that geologists do, 'Geological Dave', my companion on this excursion, spotted what he claimed was a sudden hurried movement by a disappearing small brown blur and then he found what he believed to be a vole run, a string of linking small holes. While investigating these holes, we came across again the plant which we had on our last visit identified from its characteristic leaves as a primrose. In the interval this plant had broken into flower and was now obstinately, defiantly and unequivocally announcing itself as a cowslip. In spite of the humiliation of our misidentification Geological Dave appeared to be delighted. Three weeks ago he had been most upset that a 'primrose' might have been surreptitiously introduced by persons unknown. Dave is a stickler when it comes to natural processes at work within nature reserves. He was happy that a cowslip could have seeded itself from clusters nearby.
We noticed the bright yellow of the first dandelion and, by the Willow Pond, the emergence of cleavers, stinging nettles and dead nettles.
Passing into the Side Meadow we spotted a mussel shell on the mud beside the brook, a welcome sign of watery life that we had been unable to find on our previous visits. On Stream Top we looked out over the grassy stretch of field running upstream and saw buzzards again. Although people often see buzzards in our local countryside nowadays, I still get excited over them. In my youth I would trek to Devon and Wales in hopes of spotting one and, consequently, I am still struck with awe whenever I see one soaring over our village fields. There were at least three air-borne and then one dropped down into the grass at the far end of the field. The others followed. This made exact counting difficult, but Dave agreed with me that there could have been four of them, as various birds flew up, flew down and around again.
The Fairham Brook looked attractive in the sunshine, the water running vigorously. There had been two minor collapses of soil along the Kingfisher Bank where Dave found another mussel shell. Goat willow was coming into bud and great hairy willow-herb emerging on the water's edge. More lesser celandine was scattered along the bank of the brook. Near Stream Bottom the flowers of the lesser celandine were particularly striking. We saw two brown game-birds running along a hedge over on the Wysall side of the brook that looked like female pheasants.
We climbed the style out of the Reserve and passed, out of curiosity, by the footbridge and had a look again at the new Cattle Hard-standing beyond. The beasts were clearly still held in-doors and so the hard-standing had yet to be put to the test. We took the opportunity to clear away with our fingers some of the stone rubble which had been tipped over the cow-slip cluster that we had spotted there last year. As we did so, we successfully uncovered some emerging stems and leaves and felt we might yet be able to congratulate ourselves on saving the colony.
Finally, I should mention that we ran into on the Meadow a quaint old countryman out exercising his dog. This genial rustic was taking time off from the hurly-burly of the electoral strife currently holding Keyworth in its feverish grip, and so was able to enlighten us about his inspiring vision for the future of our village, its leas and green meadows.
Here endeth my report.
For clarity, the character referred to in the last paragraph is none other than your Green Party candidate for Rushcliffe Borough Council at the forthcoming election. Geoffrey, I anticipate a vote for Neil Pinder in return for the slanderous description of me as a rustic (I'll accept the genial)!
Visit to the Meadow on Tuesday 10th March 2015
My latest visit to the Meadow on 10th March was blessed by bright sunshine and a blue sky – the promise of spring on its way. As before I was accompanied by my eagle-eyed friend, 'Geological Dave'.
We noticed that the signpost ¼mile from the Meadow was adrift. Its concrete base is not secure in the ground. We found the reserve gate open and a vehicle in the access track. Someone was hard at work there, cutting back the scrubby thorn with a chain-saw and laying the cut thorn into a fine, new hedge. I was pleased to see this traditional country craft being applied in our Meadow.
Although we may be on the cusp of Spring, there was still little evidence of much sprouting and flowering. We found along the path of the Shrubby Bank some Groundsel on its way out and in the Main Meadow some bright yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine. We counted nine separate flowers of Lesser Celandine near the line of the old Oxbow. We also found there a primrose coming into bud. We were surprized by this as we had never noticed a primrose on the wet meadow before. Could it have been introduced? If it had arrived naturally, from where had the seed come? On the Butterfly Bank there still remained some weed-free bare earth patches and the Main Meadow was still wet enough for the old Oxbow to retain standing water within it. We saw fewer molehills than last month but some of them were enormous creations for such a small animal. There was evidence of a slain pigeon near Willow Pond with a scatter of feathers on the grass.
Dave produced his extra-long auger in order to investigate the geological underlay beneath Willow Pond. To the east of the pond his auger revealed a sandy clay silt and to the west of it a sandy clay silt to the depth of 4' 6" but he ran against a pebbly or stony base below 4' 6". This made him doubt how well the pond could retain its water during dry summers. We shall find out the truth in a few months' time. There was quite a lot of unpleasant algae in Willow Pond; but much healthy water-weed too. We did not see any of the frogs that we had been hoping would be active there at this time of year.
The Fairham Brook was flowing less strongly than it had been doing in February. We looked hard but couldn't spot any fish. We couldn't see much weed in it nor any molluscs. At the end of Side Meadow at Stream Top we looked out over the field beyond, with its new fence and newly-planted hedge, and noticed that a decoy trap had been placed in it with a magpie hopping desperately within. Rather nasty! We then walked northwards along the brook. Some Blue-tits darted by and we saw some shoots of Herb Robert emerging. The makeshift wooden bridge leading to the island at Picnic Bank has not yet been swept away by any torrent. There were some isolated yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine along the brookside, particularly near Stream Bottom where Dave detected a geo-cache hidden in a tree and deposited by the 'Kaiser Chiefs'.
We then climbed the style out of the reserve and into Penny Field. It was less wet there than it had been last month and the tracks, left by the heavy vehicles, were now less obvious – but still visible! We searched the edge of the upper dump of the limestone rubble where we thought we had seen cowslips before and were delighted to find, on moving away some stones, some delicate shoots of cowslip leaves peeping out under the stones. We then tried to clear the rubble from the ground around them. Sadly the cattle will probably kick back the stones in a few days' time and our labour will have been wasted. There were heron prints in the mud downstream of the footbridge.
As we were hard at work picking up stones from on top of the cowslips, Mervyn, who had been laying the thorn hedge on the Entrance Path, came down to look at the new cattle enclosure and hard-standing by the brook. We then discussed country matters with him, including the folly of bureaucrats!
Here endeth my report.
Visit to the Meadow 13th February 2015
According to the rota my visit to the Meadow was due this week and so I rambled down, accompanied by my friend, Dave, who is much more sharp-eyed than I manage to be.
The entrance path was clear and wide with the southern hedge flayed back. Some brown toad-stools had emerged on the path, along with some shoots of white dead nettle. The bird-boxes did not appear to be occupied. The vegetation at Bin Corner had been cut back, allowing access down to Penny Pool below. There, the water level was high.
To our irritation we found a large bag of rubbish (Foster's Lager) thrown down along the Shrubby Bank which we picked up and placed in the bin. The fallen willow in Willow Pond is not disintegrating with rot, but flourishing. A host of vertical shoots are sprouting out of the fallen trunk over the water. I thought the Willow Pond looked magnificent, with a healthy growth of sedge around its brim and water-weed within. On the western edge of the pond, however, some unpleasant algae were re-emerging. Dave had brought his auger and tested the underlying soil, both east and west of the Willow Pond. He could reach down 4' 6" below the surface. To the east, where the pond's dug-out earth had been dumped, he found that the underlying soil to be silty with some sand and only a moderate clay composition. To the west, the underlying clay is more definite and may well be dense enough to be acting to retain the pond's water and block seepage. Dave will bring an extension to his auger when we next visit.
In the Main Meadow the meadowsweet had been cut back, leaving only short stalks and the ox-bow meander running into the Willow Pond from the east was holding some still water. We thought that this area could usefully be skimmed to remove rotting vegetation and to define the ox-bow meander more clearly. In the wintry conditions we could see more clearly than usual the various lines of ancient meanders through the Meadow.
The Butterfly Bank is well vegetated now, except for a patch in the middle. Was the objective, though, for it to be kept bare to enable butterflies to enjoy resting in the sun?
The Fairham Brook was flowing well, looking full, clean and healthy. Someone had lain a wooden frame over a branch of the brook to give access to the island at Picnic Bank. There was a lot of flattened vegetation down beside the brook, indicating that the brook has been in spate recently with some heavy flooding over its usual banks.
We hadn't seen much sign of fish, bird or animal life except a mass of molehills between the Brook and the Willow Pond. We went through into Side Meadow but found nothing there yet in flower. At Stream Top we looked out over the southern part of North Lodge Field, where we have previously seen three brown hares, and were intrigued to see that a new line of hedge-saplings had been planted, dividing the arable from a band of pasture running beside the brook upstream. I imagine that this will be good for wildlife. A sizeable flock of what might have been fieldfares flew high over the meadows in the west – but perhaps they were starlings.
We then walked the length of the reserve to Stream Bottom. Some part of the style there seems to have gone missing as it is a lot easier to climb over now. Beyond to the footpath bridge, at the far side of Penny Field, there were quite deep marks of heavy vehicles scouring the muddy ground, so we explored further. We found the Cattle Hard-Standing in place with a base of white Lincolnshire limestone rubble and, midstream, metal gates and wooden frame. There were no cattle around, so we could not judge how well the standing was working. We were distressed to notice that another load of Lincolnshire limestone rubble had been laid on a slope higher up, north-east of the standing, where we could recall a clump of cowslips flourishing last year. I hope some have managed to survive this disaster!
Returning to Penny Pond, which was nicely full, we noticed some Brook Lime in the water. The remains of a well-eaten pheasant lay on the grass. On the way back to Keyworth by Ling's Lane, we saw that the footpath sign, indicating ¼mile to the Meadow, had been repaired – but the post was still loose and the concrete base was not set in the ground effectively.
Here ends my report.