Posted by: lensweb | July 28, 2015

An Evening of Fragrant Delight

Mon Jul 27, Wilford Clay Pits – small reserve, part SSSI, with varied habitats including ponds. Flowers include fragrant & other orchids.

The gentle walk is on good terrain, slightly hilly in places, with two stiles.

Meet 7pm at reserve entrance on Landmere Lane, next to Apple Tree Pub. From Wilford Lane turn onto Ruddington Lane, B680, then turn left just before going under the A52 bridge onto Landmere Lane. Park on roadside or in pub car park.

Grid ref SK 569 354        Nearby postcode NG11 6ND

Leader   Chris Kennedy

An Evening of Fragrant Delight

A day  of glowering clouds slipped into an unpromising dark evening as we met Chris Kennedy Reserve Manager.  Chris enthusiastically and knowledgably manages 20 of the 80 Notts Wildlife Trust Nature Reserves. He said nature reserve management follows the opposite principles to gardening, the main focus is to depauperate the soil, to discourage rank vegetation, reducing competition and giving our native wildflowers space to grow.

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We entered the former claypits at the Appletree entrance and first looked at grassland which has developed on the mineral soils of the pit slopes. One side of the path had low grasses with bare patches and a lot of the strange inflated  seedheads of yellow rattle to rattle, forbs* such as bird’s-foot trefoil and fairy flax,  ribbed melilot, eyebright and spiney rest harrow delighted the eye. The shadier side had longer grass with an underlay of frothy yellow ladies bedstraw, tall wedgewood discs of field scabious supporting some ‘frozen’white tailed bees, champagne pink hemp agrimony and codlins and cream stands of great hairy willow herb.  Chris made us aware of the value of grasses as butterfly host plants. We had a close look at crested dogstail, quaking grass, vernal grass and catstail and thug grasses such as false oat grass and cocksfoot grass. The grassland is mowed selectively with regard to succession of species. We weren’t expecting to see any butterflies but we did see small skippers and a narrow bordered 5 spot burnet.

Trees in the surrounding woodland were ash, sycamore, white beam, silver birch and various species of willow including eared willow Salix aurita and creeping willow Salix repens, rare in Nottinghamshire. Chris is on the alert for ash dieback which has been found at Newark. On the other hand the trees are invasive and he relies on an army of volunteers to help preserve the diverse habitats.

We paused to look at one of the few remaining areas of open water surrounded by grey club-rush Scirpus tabernaemontani, hard rush and the ever encroaching bulrush Typha latifolia. The woodland had been cleared back and the colours of the wildflowers were stunning; pink, yellow, mauve and maroon, ragged robin, greater birds foot trefoil, great burnet and tufted vetch were flowering, characteristic of wet lowland meadows which are now so uncommon.

The upper pit slopes were mainly dry although occasional springs issue from skerry bands in the mudstone resulting in landslips on the steep slopes (good for bee orchids).  A variety of herbs including wild carrot with it’s up curved umbrella of tiny white flowers, always with a single maroon flower in the centre. Why? Could it be a bee guide? Bee orchids finished by now, yellow-wort an alkaline indicator plant with perfoliate leaves and the delightfully delicate pink centaury grow. Also spotted hawkweed, mouse-ear hawkweed and, thanks to the surrounding gardens, 8 different species of cotoneaster.

Wilford Claypits contains one of the best remaining areas of base rich marsh in Nottinghamshire and was declared a nature reserve in 1981. We entered the SSSI to see the fragrant orchids we had been waiting for, these were rare marsh fragrant orchids Gymnadenia densiflora a scarce orchid confined to alkaline fens. One mauve floret was picked to look at the form of the flower. The lip is wider than long with large side lobes with distinct shoulders, and the long, narrow wings are held horizontally. Several people knelt in flower worship. In the damp still air we were intoxicated with the wonderful sweet fragrance. Oh happiness!

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We didn’t want to leave but Chris had another area of rare alkaline fen habitat to show us fed by pure water from a natural spring.  We sploshed through glaucous spikes of hard rush, interspersed with the miniature mace heads of common yellow sedge Carex demissa,  towards the shocking pink spikes of purple loosestrife. there were more fragrant orchid spikes and seedheads of southern marsh orchid, common spotted orchid and the tall hybrid D grandis.  The fen was alive with jumping insects, grasshoppers, common and lesser marsh, and hundreds of springing and flipping turquoise marsh leafhoppers Cicadella viridis.  Froglets and toadlets joined in the party and we all thought we had enjoyed a jolly good evening out.

Marion Bryce 28 July 2015

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*A forb (sometimes spelled phorb) is a herbaceous flowering plant that is not a graminoid (grasses, sedges and rushes).


Responses

  1. Many thanks for a lovely article about an enjoyable visit


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