The focus of our November work party was the installation of the new gate. Delivered by Antony and Lewis, 2 of our team (Andy and Joe) volunteered to help erect the new metal gate.
The new gate in position.
The rest of us carried on where we had left off in October, checking the hedgerow whips planted over the winter of 2016-17. Along one section, they had been smothered by bindweed, so it proved a really valuable exercise clearing around them and gently untangling the strangling weed. Underneath they seemed in good condition.
Another area checked was the hedge. As explained in previous posts, the ‘living’ hedge we had envisaged in March, turned into more of a dead hedge as the state of the existing hedgerow became depressingly apparent. However, we planted many more saplings here – all native hedgerow species – hazel, field maple, hawthorn, blackthorn, dog rose, etc. It was more difficult to check these as the area had become very overgrown. However we cleared along the hedge and we will continue monitoring growth.
The overgrown hedge from the road.
Much time was also spent clearing an area of bramble, cut by one of the local residents, along the cut-through path from the bridle lane to the road. Clearance work of this nature reveals hidden delights and we were fortunate to be joined by Mike Poulton, a member of Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust, who helped with identification of some of the fungus we uncovered. This autumn seems to have been quite fruitful for mushrooms and below are some of the fungi we discovered.
Andy pointed out this particular species which is ever ready to release its mist of spores on the gentlest of contacts.
As the name suggests, this was a delicate coral shade (afraid the photo does not do justice to the beautiful shade of pink).
As it was Mike’s first visit to the site, he was treated to a guided tour along the bridle path with Richard. Mike has a great botanical knowledge and his observations proved not only interesting but gave us cause for thought. Along the bridle path there is a lengthy stretch of elm. This borders privately owned fields and is maintained by a contractor (who carries out regular hedge cutting) engaged by the landowner. Thus the hedge has escaped Dutch elm and could provide excellent habitat for White Letter Hairstreak. Indeed the butterfly had been recorded here in the past and is definitely present in neighbouring Norton Covert. Consequently we intend to give greater priority to checking for the presence of this elusive butterfly and try to establish good habitat maintenance if at all possible, in conjunction with the landowner. Early days for this but an exciting prospect.
Mike also identified a rare plant growing near the bank we named the Russian vine area. It is a blackcurrant sage which flowers late in the season, thus providing a source of nectar at a time of year when there is little else in flower. It may be that the plant is a garden escapee but we will probably never know its origin.
Our next work party is planned for Friday 15 December when we plan to focus on the Russian vine area.
And finally … for those of you who, like me, need a lepidoptera fix, despite the morning frost, our work party was bathed in sunshine and with it we enjoyed 3 sightings of Red Admiral. Additionally, I try to keep a check on the Alkanet on Roman Road, looking for tell-tale signs of the Scarlet Tiger larvae. One small patch under the Crematorium wall, had been eaten away, so I planted additional Alkanet, fearing that the caterpillars may be in danger of eating themselves out of house and home. So I checked up on how things were going here, on the other side of the road to the main patch and there was a caterpillar feeding openly on one of the new plants.
Quite a good size for this time of year.