Posted by: lensweb | July 20, 2015

Chasing Unicorns at Cannock

Sat Jul 11, Cannock Chase – a fascinating area with boggy ecosystems and the possibility of sundews, wood horsetail….

Park at Boulderstone between Brocton and Pye Green. Lunch/toilets at visitor centre at SK 004 154. After lunch more heathland is available to discover if you wish.

Meet Grid ref SJ 980 183

Leader   David Gibbons

I eat my sandwiches and gaze into the peaty water with it’s swirled film of pink pollen and reflect on our day at Cannock Chase.  The dragonflies are still on patrol, the bright blue common hawker which never settles and the ever obliging 4 spotted chaser. This morning I had seen the large red damsel fly courting and more blue needles with LENS. It was a sunny pleasure eating plump purple bilberries, the red cow berries not yet ripe so it would be a trip to IKEA for a taste of Lingonberry jam.

damsel memebush cricket meme
Starting at a Scottish glacial erratic seated on French pebbles, we had a glimpse of recent history World War camps obliterated by brief time, only the drainage channels remain. We set out to enjoy willowy moorland in the Cherwell Valley but there was a surprising refusal at the first fence ‘We weren’t told to wear Wellingtons’. Our leader, David, reluctantly passed by the cotton grassed basin bog, for consolation dipped his net into this very pond, a dragonfly paradise kept clear to provide water for fire defence with a collar of soft rush and sedges black and star, ‘Rushes are round but sedges have edges’. One great crested newt larva and one phantom midge larva a paltry but high class haul. ‘The good news you’ve got the pond all to yourself, the bad news, there is nothing to eat but peat’.

bouldermemecommon spotted meme
We now walk through the alder clad Oldacre valley, a rare landscape woven with tapestry shades: Blue green heather not yet in flower, purple moor grass, mat grass, wavy hair grass and bracken.  The rhythmn of a well walked route interrupted by sudden turns to feast our eyes on marsh fern and what else? We are desperately seeking sundew in a fenced Blanket bog with great hummocks of paniculate sedge, but the sphagnum is dry, ‘white moss’, without the deer graze needed to keep the sundew and butterwort. There is a lot of marsh thistle, greater birds foot trefoil, common bedstraw and some attractive orchids which may have Heath spotted ancestry also a micromoth with a large proboscis, Pleurota bicostella. We march on past Highland colours alien to our native lowland. High and dry, grey green heather in bud, fighting back pea green bracken, pushing through tall stems, breathe in that distinctive bracken aroma. Dancing never still, flesh coloured, red stemmed wavy hair grass coats the hill side punctuated by splashes of bright pink bell heather and flushed pale pink cross leaved heath ‘bog heather’ in damp hollows. Ringlets and small Heath butterflies tease in the breeze.

A sharp left turn and hidden under the sessile oak canopy are the delicate branched fronds of wood horsetail and I snap a picture wing fly, Dictya umbrarum, characteristic of heathland. Dawdle to admire the slender St Johns Wort, tormentil and heath bedstraw. We are high on a ridge viewing past the Wreakin and Long Mynd of Shropshire to the dark mountains of Mid-Wales. Scanning the unfolding chase with clear lines of view to a browsed treeline I determine to see the famous fallow deer of Cannock. This mythical beast is my unicorn. Despite many visits to Cannock in every season of childhood I never saw the deer, I so wanted to see the large eyes and white spotted chestnut coat on gawky legs, Bambi.  Disappointed at the busy Visitor Centre as the deer had melted into the landscape, but local walkers are encouraging, ‘Try the gate at Brocton, 2 fawns with spotted coats are hiding in the grass’, ‘Look through the trees, four deer just passed this way’. Today I have been lucky, 2 wonderful old ladies draw up nearby with a large bag of peanuts. Did you know that deer love peanuts? Just keep quiet and stand very still and they will come to you.

fallow meme article
Marion Bryce 18 July  2015


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