Posted by: lensweb | August 13, 2019

#Get Better with Nature at Lightwood Reservoir

DSC_8558After driving through pouring rain we arrived at Buxton ready for a good soaking. However the weather was kind to us and although we seemed to be surrounded by a damp water mist we didn’t experience any heavy rain. The light was poor  so we were reluctant to get our cameras out, but Steve came up with a helpful suggestion, apparently there is a new compact camera which is waterproof, drop-proof, crushproof, dustproof and freezeproof, this sounds like a good option for our wildlife wanders!

However, back to Lightwood Reservoir, this was constructed in the nineteenth century but was drained in 2004. The V-shaped sides have been ‘softened’ by landscape works when Nestle took over the site. So, instead of a steep sided reservoir we have a delightful valley in the middle of high heather moorland. The Hogshaw Brook scours the valley bottom as it crashes over gritstone boulders but there are also a series of isolated ponds.

We met at the bottom of Lightwood Road, this is a dead-end which leads onto a track past some old water treatment buildings, over the brook and into the Nature Reserve.

The long grass laid flat with rain, was peppered with the round leaves of coltsfoot, ‘the son before the father’, the yellow flowers now finished instead we saw the white flat heads of the feathery leaved aromatic yarrow, egg and bacon or bird’s foot trefoil, we pondered on the vernacular such as Jack-by-the-hedge (mustard garlic) and Jack-go-to-bed-before-noon (goatsbeard). Jack was such a nuisance weed in the old days but now we value these plants for their ecological credentials.

We spent some time searching among the wildflowers on the grassy valley floor for orchids. The pink clouds of wild basil trumpets impressed, and we saw the tallest bee-orchid we had ever seen. Some common spotted orchids were still flowering but we could not find the twayblade or fragrant orchid which had been seen just two weeks ago. Steve rued the events of World Water Day when trees, including goat willow, had been planted on the wonderful wildflower meadow and are now starting to shade out the wild flowers, hopefully the new management plan under production, may address these issues.

Where were the insects? Steve, who carries out a regular butterfly transect at this site could not believe that nothing was flying. Our eyes sharpened and we began to see there were dozens of immobile small skippers with wings closed, batteries flat, perfectly camouflaged beige on beige, stick legs clamped around  plant stems or clinging to brown seed heads. As the day progressed a few hover flies emerged and, huge and harmless, the red-legged St Mark’s Fly. Marking the onset of Autumn, hairy hawkbits launched celebratory seed umbrellas but the staid brown oval flower head of ribwort plantain has only two fertile seeds which rudely protrude.

Hooray, it’s raining, green marsh froghoppers and meadow grasshoppers were leaping for joy among the rushes and reeds which have colonised the marshy valley floor. At the water’s edge, pale purple water mint jostles with yellow monkey flower. The ponds named number one to five support large populations of amphibians, common frog, common toad, common and palmate newts we had to be careful where we trod. The small pond was overgrown with water horsetail and broad-leaved pondweed covered another, but the big ponds showed clear water. All of this makes dragonfly heaven, Steve has recorded 15 species of dragonfly including black darter and golden ringed dragonflies. But, today was not going to be about dragonflies, search as we might.
We headed uphill towards Flint Edge, tall but delicate pink valerian, sneezewort, white plates like oversized yarrow and blue devil’s bit scabious were attractive, but, most exciting for us was to see the lousewort (much smaller than expected) and fen bedstraw. This was a first and, good news, easy to identify as it has hooked barbules like it’s ubiquitous relative goose-grass. It would have been intereresting to see the marsh valerian which has been found on site, but this flowers earlier.

Plodding uphill, pale blue Harebells nodded among red fescue which turned to purple moorgrass and wavy hair grass and soon we were among the heather, although it was us, not the pink pollen which was puffing today. We watched a sparrowhawk hunting below with cuckoo rock behind us. There were fabulous views of Buxton, over to Solomon’s Tower and even to the, multi-denominational, Curbar Cross.

 

The footpath followed a gritstone wall along the skyline and Steve turned over nearly every one of the flat stones which had tumbled to the ground. He was so pleased to find a common lizard to show us, but it quickly escaped. there were also 2 newts and some interesting ants’ nests. We saw yellow Choke and black Ergot in the grass. On the move again, Steve was surprised to discover several new streams and ponds which had not been there yesterday, these had had to be negotiated. Bracken now obscured the narrow path, but pause to breathe that evocative and mushroomy air.  A long winding path of twisty roots through beech and sycamore woodland brought us back to the beginning. Anyone ready for round two said Steve? You lead, we follow.

According to T Howard, in 1879 there was a borehole at Lightwood to a depth of 243 yards. In 2015 Nestle submitted a detailed planning application for a proposed borehole and associated building on land located towards the northern end of Lightwood Road Buxton to provide a new water supply for the Nestlé Waters bottling plant on Waterswallows Lane. Everything that goes around comes around, enjoy it while it lasts!DSC_8652

Marion Bryce 10 August 2019

 


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