Posted by: lensweb | June 2, 2017

Attenborough The Delta


May 22 Monday- Attenborough The Delta Meet car park Attenborough Nature Centre Barton Lane. Well signposted off the A6005 between Beeston and Long Eaton NG9 6DYLeader Peter Stanyon

Sitting outside the Nature Centre in the sunshine watching ducks a dabbling, mallards, a ruddy shelduck and Egyptian geese with three fluffy chicks, we were met by Peter Stanyon, the Attenborough Ranger, very knowledgeable about the management of the Delta area of the Reserve and our guide for the evening.Attenborough

We marched across the car park taking the footpath towards Attenborough. The orderly procession paused to gaze across the main pond towards the tower hide where the kestrel box is used by Egyptian geese to incubate their eggs. Further along,  L- meadow  is a hay meadow which is grazed by the flying flock of sheep. A lagoon with newly planted reed bed has been financed by the Environment Agency as compensation or mitigation for the loss of land underneath the new flood bund.

The old car park which used to host so many fishermen’s coaches is now gorgeous grassland with cowslips, bird’s foot trefoil and speedwell. It is often used for bug hunts and flying spiders, the old limestone chippings have raised the pH of the soil in favour of the wildflowers so it is now the best meadow in the reserve.

In the brook by Ireton Field yellow iris was flowering. Norman Lewis knew it as a relict of the original River Erewash.  The meadow across from the stream was bumpy and was the site of the old Upton monastery stew ponds where fish were stored. A song thrush and chaffinches singing among a regular chorus of birds.

A cricket match was just starting as we cut through the cricket club grounds. We walked past glebe field, then paused for a look at the last gravel pit worked by Cemex before the gravel operations were closed down last year. Peter explained the succession which would follow from the open water as the reed invaded and the water was choked, followed by willows and alders until finally birch and ash would dominate.


Unlocking the steel gate and filing through the portal into the wet woodland of the delta we felt very privileged, the lock is to prevent disturbance of sensitive species. Pink cuckoo flower, meadow buttercup and common speedwell were flowering among meadow sweet and angelica leaves. The grass is grazed by red Lincoln cows in rotation.  Huge white willows stood guard over common alder. This was just the lush, damp, well vegetated place which amber snails appreciate. Clouded border and silver ground carpet moths flew up and settled on nettles. A bright red headed cardinal beetle was basking on a leaf suddenly, a bullet shaped black and brown click beetle catapulted into the air emitting an audible click ( or was it Nigel’s camera?).

Walking through the shaded woodland the floral diversity diminished. Himalayan balsam plants, higher than us, not yet in flower, crowded the pathway. Norman Lewis suggested the area should be flooded to control the balsam, sluice gates were installed as part of the original reserve management plan. Peter thought this was no longer an option but instead he holds regular working parties who slash the balsam before it flowers to try to stop it spreading. Tony Maggs thought balsam nectar is so good for bees that it should have a place in nature. We slithered and slid on the cut stems just like the large black slugs which were feasting at our feet.

Entering a clearing, we sat down on log stools while Peter demonstrated how his team makes charcoal from alder coppice by a quick burn process which makes a lot of black smoke. They have to wear masks and gloves to dig out the charcoal when it has cooled and their faces look like the old miners.

att kiln

We stopped again in a special part of the wood which was unmanaged with standing deadwood and branches left where they fell, the air was still, very warm and humid. We stopped to admire some steps which volunteers had made.  A very large ground beetle, Carabus granulatus foraged for earthworms and snails by our newly cut path, this beetle has a specialised lifestyle being attracted by darkness and moisture.  It can swim and overcomes flooding by retiring into soil crevices and dead wood.

att beetle meme

At the end of the delta willow and alder are coppiced to give a graded level down from tall trees to the reedbed. Swifts flew overhead and a cuckoo called surround sound. We had travelled from the bare pools and piles of sand and gravel at the active works through a succession series to the triumph of mature woodland in the delta.

Leather on willow still echoed as the sun set over the calm Attenborough evening. What wonderful weather for a walk through Attenborough Nature Reserve.

Marion Bryce 2 June 2017



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