Posted by: lensweb | July 10, 2018

Would you like to go Pond Dipping with LENS?

July 9 Monday Pond Dipping at Manor Farm LNR

Meet 7pm Car park Manor Farm, High Road, Toton, NG9 6EL Approx 1 mile

Leader Marion Bryce and Alan Heath.


It was another fine evening as we gathered everyone together at the mound of the ancient Toton Manor House where detailed notice boards illustrate the results of the 2014 archaeological dig on the site which located the structural remains and proved the location of the Manor House; investigated structural remains belonging to a mill near the basketball court; traced dry water courses relating to past water management systems and land division, including probable mill leats or races; And plotted the remains of a medieval ridge and furrow field system (for details see Toton Unearthed). This pretty much confirmed what everyone knew anyway as older people remember the old Manor Farm House which was knocked down in 1952.

We continued our walk past the site of the old mill, contrasting the closely mown grass of the park with the long grass and scrub of Toton Fields Local Nature Reserve. A large hazel bush and an oak tree grew in an open area but we didn’t see any of the purple hairstreaks rumoured to be on site. By the River Erewash the path was well cleared but either side we were hemmed in by blackthorn and blackberry carelessly strewn with white bryony but with no views of the river. At the bridge we paused to look towards Toton Sidings but we didn’t see the little egret today. Walking along the ridged, recently declared although ancient footpath between Portland Road Toton and Cleveland Avenue Long Eaton we admired the standing deadwood of some old black poplars which had been lopped by Western Power for daring to grow so near the overhead wires.

Tramping over the green bridge over the River Erewash overflow we could see great yellowcress, great willowherb and reed canary grass flowering in the water. We were now in Derbyshire and had come to meet our local pond dipping expert, Alan Heath, at Manor Farm Local Nature Reserve.

Finding safe passage from the thistle and nettle lined path we pushed through bone dry and crackling tall tufted hair grass, meadow foxtail and timothy grass. Naturally regenerated water plants had grown in the scrape, reedmace (Typha latifolia) is choking the shallow pond which has a collar of soft rush with some compact and some hard rush. Water plantain was competing with the reedmace to fill the scrape which was dug by the Environment Agency to hold back flood water in 2016, but also to increase biodiversity in the nature reserve. The trilaterally symmetric white flowers of the water plantain which had been feeding hoverflies, bees and butterflies all day had closed for the evening. A few ringlets were still flying, then, to our amazement, Adrian found a mummified pygmy shrew. Which is a very small mammal with a markedly pointed snout. The current heatwave must have curtailed foraging opportunities for the tiny mammal which feeds on insects, arachnids and woodlice as the hard ground is impossible to burrow through.


We set up the pond dipping equipment at the deeper pond, with a table and 2 chairs. The mesh nets were distributed and we set to our pond sampling with gusto. Dark brown diving beetles plunged to the sticky mud through a bubble bursting algal bloom. Skating across the surface of the water were numerous pond skaters in various stages of development and backswimmers energetically rowed under the surface film, one lesser water boatman was caught. Three white collection trays were filled with water and soon we had a haul of many toad and frog tadpoles. The lighter brown frog tadpoles glistening with gold dust. Many toadlets and froglets were hopping around at the water’s edge. The newt efts take a lot longer to complete their life cycle and they still had a frill of external gills. They. There was a strange spotty bladder snail which distinctively had a left handed helical shell.

Various teeny transparent larvae were identified as phantom midges using Clegg’s Guide to Pond and Streams (BNA) and  and also PS Croft’s AIDGAP book on aquatic invertebrates. The one, very small leech, looked like the invasive species Barbronia weberi. This is a successful coloniser possibly introduced by the aquarium trade and was first recorded in the UK in 1986. It co-exists with native species of leech and feeds predominantly on aquatic worms and fly larvae swallowing them completely. Impresssively large and fearsome, several dragonfly larvae looked ready to emerge from the pond. I don’t know who caught the water stick insect but it was hugely, the star of the show. It really is a very large bug and looks scarey with a long possible stinger of a tail, but this is just a breathing siphon like a snorkel, watch out for the other end!


At nine thirty we packed up shop and made our way along the unofficial bridle path back to Nottingham Road opposite  the Riding School, and followed the path back over two further bridges. It was still bright and light so no chance of bats today but we leaned over the bridge to think of the many otters which have passed under on their way to the River Trent. 

Marion Bryce 9 July 2018


Lissotriton vulgaris Smooth Newt amphibian
Bufo bufo Common Toad amphibian
Rana temporaria Common Frog amphibian
Iris pseudacorus Yellow Iris flowering plant
Juncus articulatus Jointed Rush flowering plant
Carex hirta Hairy Sedge flowering plant
Juncus inflexus Hard Rush flowering plant
Juncus effusus Soft-rush flowering plant
Sparganium erectum Branched Bur-reed flowering plant
Typha latifolia Bulrush flowering plant
Alisma plantago-aquatica Water-plantain flowering plant
Sialis Indet. Alder Fly insect – alderfly (Megaloptera)
Polygonia c-album Comma insect – butterfly
Libellula depressa Broad-bodied Chaser insect – dragonfly (Odonata)
Baetis poss Olive insect – mayfly (Ephemeroptera)
Gerris (Gerris) lacustris Common Pondskater insect – true bug (Hemiptera)
Ranatra (Ranatra) linearis Water Stick Insect insect – true bug (Hemiptera)
Colymbetes fuscus poss Diving Beetle insect-Beetle
Chironomid larva Non-biting Midge insect-Fly
Sialis larva Alder fly insect-Fly
Chaeoborus larva Phantom midge insect-Fly
Erpobdellid poss Barbronia stagnalis or weberi Leech Leech
Physa ‘acuta’ Bladder snail mollusc
Pirata piraticus Pirate Wolf Spider spider (Araneae)
Sorex minutus Eurasian Pygmy Shrew terrestrial mammal


Posted by: lensweb | June 12, 2018

Would you like to go on a LENS Walk?


June 11 Monday Anchor Cave Ingleby

Meet 7pm layby on road after John Thompson Inn DE73 7HW

Approx 2.5miles, very steep hill

Leader Dominic Bryce

This walk started well, it was one of the best evenings, it was my birthday, the sun was shining and we managed to squeeze all of our cars into the unkempt layby on the Ingleby Road. Eleven of us snaked up the slope between the wire fence guidelines. Red and cream papery fruits of common sorrel (Rumex acetosa) and tiny sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella) spangled the ubiquitous wavy hair grass (Deschampsia flexuosa). A donkey peeped up at us from the farmhouse below and soon we had a very fine view out over the Trent Valley.2c2m10

Since 2015 this has been subject to gravel extraction as Swarkestone Quarry continues to expand. It was a great spot for birdwatching, swift, goosander and cormorant were spotted from our great height.

Great oaks formed a parade along the edge of the sandstone escarpment, drunken bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) stems lolled, swollen with green fruit barrels. As we followed a mountain goat path (with missing parts) clinging to the side of the sandstone cliff we could admire wood sage (Teuchrium scorodonium) and the coppery forking flowers of great woodrush (Luzula sylvatica) which leaned over the calamitous precipice. It was a slippery slope down beneath large lime trees to the banks of the old River Trent.

We relaxed as white flowers of river crowfoot sashayed in the river water flow with yellow plastic cups of water lily (Nuphar lutea). Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) and water forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpioides) crept out of ancient stones. Banded agrions formed an archway of great clubrush (Luzula sylvatica), to a swan’s nest. A bright red cardinal beetle was photographed as shining green dock beetles skeletonised broad leaved dock leaves. Meadow rue (Thalictrum flavum) was spotted but also of the unwelcome alien, Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandifera), there was plenty. The tuneful garden warbler contrasted with the Cetti’s staccato insistence. Then stepping stones helped us across the last obstacle to the Grade II listed religious site.


The Anchor Church is a series of caves which have been extended by human intervention to form a crude dwelling place, complete with door and window holes. The name is derived from the term anchorite (meaning to withdraw into the countryside) because it is thought to have been the cell of St Hardulph, a hermit, in the 6th century. In the Middle Ages, the caves were used by a monk named Bernard, doing penance. Records of the caves exist from 1658 when it is mentioned in Repton church records. Sir Francis Burdett of Foremarke Hall enlarged the caves in 1865, fitting a door and a set of steps to the main entrance, forming part of the romantic landscape of Foremarke Hall and its park. Thank you Wikipaedia.

The sandstone outcrop once formed part of the banks of the River Trent and the caves were formed by the action of the river on the rock. The course of the river has altered and left the caves opening onto a backwater pool. It has been designated as both a Regionally Important Geological Site, and as a Local Wildlife Site


A spike of creamy flowers growing out of the rocks from a rosette of succulent green, dimpled round leaves, was wall pennywort (Umbilicus rupestris) also known as navelwort, it is a rare plant in Derbyshire. We didn’t try to fish for the shining pondweed (Potamogeton lucens), which lurks in the swift flowing brown backwater channel below the rocks.


All was good, we enjoyed exploring the caves and we really should have continued to walk back along the road but, we decided to walk back along the top of the escarpment. The path which had been so obvious a few weeks previously was now rough ploughed and over grown, was it just a common path? Evening scents are strong, we pushed through bracken and foxglove, along a field edge with arable weeds, chamomile (Anthemis cotula), field pansy (Viola arvensis)  and field forget-me-not (Myosotis arvensis), back to the lime trees to repeat our outward adventure. We had a mutiny and three of our party made their own way back along the top fields. There were stumbles and mumbles and a nuclear explosion of a sunset as we waited for the whole party to reassemble and 11 of us returned home safely. But have we still got 11 members?


Marion Bryce 12 June 2018


Posted by: lensweb | May 31, 2018

Were we the only ones who missed the Royal Wedding?

On a sunny day we stood at Monsal Head looking down at the Headstone Viaduct built by the Midland Railway, we could see all the way down Monsaldale, a valley of the River Wye which is a special area of conservation in the White Peak of Derbyshire.


The aniseed scent of the ferny leaves and fluffy white umbels of sweet cicely drew us down a steep path through ancient woodland to the River Wye weir. 

After a cold start to the year, the delayed spring flowers now coincided with the arrival of summer so we had a display of flowers which would rival Chelsea flower show. In the cooler microclimate of the woods the scent of bluebells mixed with lily of the valley, there was barren strawberry with wild strawberry, dog violet with wood violet, germander speedwell and wood speedwell, wood avens with water avens. and Goldilocks buttercup. Wych elm and hazel can be tricky to tell apart but the assymetrical base of the sandpaper elm leaf soon gives it away and we were being showered with samara confetti.

The water was crashing over the weir and the dipper was lying low but an unconcerned grey wagtail was fly fishing. Stuart spotted the resident pair of mandarin ducks nesting in the back water which was calm with dignified crack willows shepherding marsh marigolds.

Great excitement as a dingy skipper flew onto the path, it posed for photographs to the satisfaction of all, although Jake was a little delayed at this point as he prostrated himself overhanging the river bank for the best shot!

How lovely it was in the dappled shade as we walked beside the rver, orange tip butterflies were visiting the palest pink cuckoo flower and Dames violet. Blue flowers of brooklime preceded water forget-me-not, sprays of great bittercress decorated the green and purple spikes of water mint.  Under the clean water were filmy phthalo-green streamers, waving whorls of chalk stream crowfoot.

Birds sang, Jake described the birdsong of redstart and linnet. We passed the footings of an old bridge, there were no signs of the ancient routeway. A large moth, a clouded magpie landed nearby and Hannah kindly held it for us to photograph.

When we came to an old mill, the rusty wheel abandoned by the wayside, at last we saw a dipper. It stayed in the shade of the far bank but it’s white chest clearly bobbed up and down, how do you do, how do you do, how do you do again.

Despite clamours for food we tackled our first upward climb through the primrose and bluebell woods up to Brushfield. Here we picnicked and basked in the full sun again. The turf was covered with tiny wild flowers: Thyme, yellow rock rose and cinquefoil, round rayed flowers of hairy hawkbit, cats-ear and the lemon-yellow flowers of mouse-ear hawkweed. Claret round heads of salad burnet, heath bedstraw, vernal grass and quaking grass were just starting to flower. Milkwort more pink than blue clashed with the yellow of bird’sfoot-trefoil. Dashing in and out of the scene were speckled yellow moths, we don’t get those at home!

There were numerous fossil corals in the drystone walls which are built from locally quarried carboniferous limestone. The sedimentary rock is formed from the skeletons and shells of molluscs and corals which have been compressed and hardened to form the great white rock. Evidence that 350 million years ago the White Peak was a reef in a tropical sea near the equator. It was certainly hot today!

We climbed over the stile to walk through a farmyard, saying hello to the stabled cows as they ate their hay. A vibrant display of meadow saxifrage met us on Brushfield Hough, an undisturbed Bronze Age bowl barrow, a burial mound from 2000BC.

Turning onto a limestone trackway we walked along the valley side. The ancient hill fort on Fin Cop overlooked us from the other side. Fin Cop has a strategic location within the central area of a limestone plateau and has formed a focus for human activity from early pre-history. Mesolithic tools of local chert and Neolithic flint have been found. Bronze age cairns remain. In the Iron Age it was a hill fort. A large bank and ditch have been largely unexcavated. A notable column of grey limestone surrounded by scree is Hob’s House which houses the only cave of note at Monsaldale.

Over the wall, a whirlpool of starry white flowers of leadwort or spring sandwort surrounded bell pits and old lead rakes.. Exploring this unique habitat, a good site for wall butterflies and dingy skippers, we came across our first early purple orchids, and then there were more, and more and more, but it was getting late, we had to move on.

Another turn down a knobbly and bumpy limestone track passed an old quarry. Ruined buildings, an old chimney and lead spoil, are all that remain of the works. The old Monsaldale Station marked our way onto the Monsaldale Trail, walking in the deep cutting we could see Monsaldale Head in the distance. We paused to cool down in the draught from the railway tunnel before following the steep vertical path to the top. We were so lucky to have the pick of the parking, seats in the tearooms and all the views to ourselves, were we the only ones who missed the Royal Wedding?

Marion Bryce 24 May 2018

Posted by: lensweb | May 15, 2018

Can the Hoffman Kiln Whale be Saved?


May 14 Monday Oakwell Brickyards

Meet 7pm Straw’s Bridge LNR car park, West Hallam, Ilkeston DE7 5FG

Leader Stuart Gilder

On a fine evening we assembled at Straw’s Bridge admiring the swans. No wonder they call the pond ‘Swan Lake’. Stuart first showed us a living willow sculpture which had been constructed by the Erewash Tree Wardens in 2016. Then we walked past the lake to the Nutbrook Trail where we admired a hedge newly laid by Sustrans volunteers.

Rabbits were grazing the meadow as we turned into Oakwell Brickyards, a former industrial site which is now an interesting woodland site. The Oakwell brickworks began production c1879 and closed in the 1960s due to lack of orders, but there is still a gargantuan old  Hoffman kiln hidden in the shady wood.2a9xzz


According to Wikipaedia, a Hoffmann kiln is a series of batch process kilns used in production of bricks and consists of a main fire passage surrounded on each side by several small rooms. Each room contains a pallet of bricks. In the main fire passage there is a fire wagon, which, fuelled by wood or coal, burns continuously. Each room is heated until the bricks are vitrified, then the fire wagon is rolled to the next room to be fired.

Each room is connected to the next room by a passageway carrying hot gases from the fire. In this way, the hottest gases are directed into the room that is currently being fired. Then the gases pass into the adjacent room that is scheduled to be fired next. There the gases preheat the drying bricks. As the gases pass through the kiln circuit, they gradually cool as they transfer heat to the brick. In addition to the inner opening to the fire passage, each room also has an outside door, through which recently fired brick is removed, and replaced with wet brick to be dried and then fired in the next firing cycle.

Built between 1900 and 1913 of pink brick, the kiln is rectangular with rounded ends. The walls taper inwards to the corrugated iron roof, which is surmounted by a semi-circular canopy with open ends. There are two tiers of openings. The lower tier consists of fourteen round-headed entrances to the two parallel segment vaulted furnaces, which connect at the rounded ends. The upper tier has ten square openings; on the south side the wall has partially collapsed around one opening. The Grade II listed Hoffmann brick kiln is badly neglected, trees and ferns have forced their way between the fence and the building and have anchored between the bricks. There are only 5 Hoffmann kilns remaining in the UK.

It was hard to drag ourselves away from this mesmeric stranded whale of a building, but we wended our way uphill through overgrown hawthorn, wych elm, ash and some huge beech trees. We closely examined some hillocks where yellow bird’s nest Monotropa hypopitys, was found in 2016. This is a strange waxy plant which has no chlorophyll and lives in parasitic association with fungi. It is found in dark shade where nothing else will grow. No we didn’t find any on this occasion.

We were now on top of a former spoil heap which has formed an unusual wildflower meadow. The depauperate soil has discouraged grass and there is a colourful flat jigsaw of stunted wildflowers including common knapweed, mouse-ear hawkweed, bird’s foot trefoil, perforate St John’s Wort and changing forget me not .

Threading our way through more woodland we were surprised to see crowds of the bright yellow flowers of sulphur cinquefoil Potentilla recta as well as a profusion of white sedum.


At the very top of the hill was a fence to a view over Ilkeston Beauty Spot, a series of pools in a marshy area which were formerly used for bathing. Silhouetted on the skyline was the Cat and Fiddle Windmill at Dale.

Through deepening gloom, we retreated downhill unable to resist we turned over bricks on the ground, one was stamped ‘London Brick Company’, it might have fallen from the desperate wreck of the kiln, but most of the bricks bore the legend of ‘Oakwell Brickworks’.

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Marion Bryce 14 May 2018

Posted by: lensweb | May 3, 2018

Are There Bluebells in Risley?

A chiffchaff remarked and a song thrush sang when Erewash Tree Wardens visited a small wood at Risley in June. Pat Ancliff related the tale of how she came to own the 0.81 acre wood which is marked on the 1813 map by Eaton which actually shows a much larger wood either side of the current farm track.
The wood used to belong to Woodpecker Farm but it was left, with 3 other packages of land, to a lady in America. After 2 years of cogitation she decided to sell and it was bought by Trixie, a local lady who then moved to a property with 11 acres of land in Sandiacre, and so Risley wood was sold to Pat.
The first task was to define the boundaries and preserve the woodland edge. The nearby paddocks and an abandoned underground reservoir behind, all have the same owner, a man from Sawley who has built a new stable block. Thanks to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, now, the woodland edge is protected by a double fence with the new track to the stable block separating the wood and the grazing stock.
This fragment of climax oak woodland  was probably  once a part of Hopwell Forest. The preponderance of sycamore together with some young wych elm, suggests the oak used to be mixed with elm. There are several large beech trees, 3 hornbeams and a field maple with some hawthorn.
This is a classic bluebell wood with native English bluebells. Other indicators of ancient woodland are Dogs Mercury  and wood anemone. Already present, Jack by the hedge or garlic mustard is the food plant for the orange tip and green veined white butterfly, red campion is a food plant  for rivulet and campion moth. There is also arum lily and foetid iris. Wildflowers such as native primrose, town hall clock, native snowdrop, nettle-leaved bellflower and goldilocks buttercup which grow nearby, may be introduced.

It is known that noctule bats are present in this locality it would be interesting to record which other species of bat are present and where they roost.

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Various ideas for future management were suggested by Erewash Tree Wardens.
  • Map the trees in the wood and carry out a full botanical survey.
  • Remove sycamore, uprooting seedlings and ring bark mature trees. Sycamore seeds prolifically, comes into leaf early and shades out woodland flora and bryophytes. The leaves and wood do not decompose easily and should be removed.
  • Consider succession, allow young oak and elm trees to grow, are beech and hornbeam to be replaced? The old beeches were possibly planted as part of the estate but to increase diversity the beech and hornbeam should not be replaced. Norman Lewis (former Notts Wildlife Trust Conservation Officer) suggested native wild cherry or gean, might be planted on the woodland edge. It is better to plant native elm. Despite the ravages of Dutch elm disease the elms should have ten years of useful existence before succumbing to the disease. It might also be worth discussing the merits of disease resistant elms. Do they carry similar numbers of native English insects such as white letter hairstreak butterflies, as native wych elm?
  • A silver birch has been planted. The silver birch is an introduction of a rapidly spreading coloniser into mature woodland with gaps which might be more in keeping, filled with young elm or oak
  • If an unusual tree is required, Norman Lewis suggested Norway spruce will attract goldcrest and coaltit, or a couple of Scots pine will not spread but will provide a variety of insects which otherwise would not be present.
  • The hedge is to be rejuvenated with hazel to encourage green hairstreak butterflies, (already present in Risley), buckthorn for brimstone butterflies and plum, crab apple support many species of moth and are typical of the local hedgerows. Norman Lewis suggested spindle and midland hawthorn. Blackthorn is good for insects but has a tendency to form thickets and get out of control. Elder is to be removed it spreads too fast and does not form a good hedge, one or two bushes might be left on the woodland edge.
  • Standing deadwood is to be left in situ, fallen boughs also. Certain favoured trees were already studded with woodpecker holes.
  • Piles of small branches and twigs will be refugia for small mammals.
  • Bramble is to be removed by uprooting to allow the woodland flora to develop.
  • Ivy is to be taken off the trees and discouraged on the ground.
 All changes to be gradual and with respect for the trees.
Pat plans to put a gate over the entrance, with a stile, allowing public access.
After careful observation, a clearing which catches the sun was chosen to be kept clear of trees and the Tree Wardens set to work  clearing bramble and uprooting sycamore,  the depth of the leaf mould making it relatively easy to remove.
Bluebells die if trampled, so defined paths were laid, using cut boughs of sycamore which does not easily decompose. What a wonderful opportunity to capture the essence of an English Bluebell wood and preserve it for posterity.29ix5s
Marion Bryce 10 June 2017
Posted by: lensweb | May 3, 2018

Are There Any Wild Daffodils in Derbyshire?

April 28 Saturday A Short Walk to Mugginton

Meet 10am at layby by dairy on Bullhurst Lane, Weston Underwood DE6 4PA

Approx 2.5 miles  Leader Marion Bryce

After some serious flooding it was a relief when the floodwater receded and we were able to set out on the first walk of the season for LENS. On a cold but bright day, a group of 10 walked up the lush grassy hill from Western Underwood to a green lane which leads to Mugginton. The hedge bank was punctuated with rabbit burrows and a fox earth.The elm and hawthorn hedge sheltered native bluebells, arum lilies and greater stitchwort.

Mugginton church is magnificently situated on a knoll, parts date back to the Domesday book. The square tower is Norman. There is some coloured medieval glass in the south window which shines upon an alabaster alter tomb with engraved brasses of a knight and his lady. Stone gargoyles ogle the dark box pews which are rarely seen in churches these days.


The oldest gravestone we found was dated 1728, notable memorials were a carved angel and a magnificent carved headstone overlooking the valley of the Mercaston Brook.

Primroses, mouse-ear hawkweed, field wood-rush and a yellow-green star shaped polytrichum moss contributed towards the impressive biodiversity of flowers in the churchyard where a treasured ancient yew tree has been proven to be over 1100 years old. A decaying shell is guarded by two living sections which are joined with metal rods and plates to keep the tree together. During the middle ages it was common to plant yew trees in churchyards as provision for defence – the wood was needed to make the English longbow.


Leaving the warmth of the church we clumped down a ploughed field to the Cutler Brook. It was very boggy here. Clumps of golden yellow giant buttercups – marsh marigolds also called kingcups or mayblobs  and other lovers of wetland were flowering  with yellow stars of lesser celandine. Less obvious were the small flowers of opposite leaved yellow saxifrage and bog stitchwort, which with cuckoo flower and great bittercress competed with other flowers to follow. Bright blue eggs nestled in the tightly woven strands of grass of a thrushes nest, but it had been abandoned, it was too low down for safety.

Now for the exciting part. I could not believe it when I found out there were fields of wild daffodils so close to home. Apparently there are written memories from locals who remember paying to enter the fields and then being allowed to pick as many as they could.


The fenced path to the daffodil fields is lined with egg yolk yellow cultivated daffodils which have bent in the wind whereas the wild plants are not very tall. Over the stile to the daffodil fields. Each flower has a pale yellow corolla of petals, the trumpet is canary yellow. They flower in mid-April and the show is short, this year lasting for only two weeks but a marvellous sight if you can hit the date.

It was too cold to linger long so we followed the track to the Trent Fish Farm which, it seems is no longer in use as a hatchery, the watermill here is a listed building. Among the greylag and Canada geese were four geese which may have been swan or Chinese geese who have made a home on the lake.

To keep us warm we followed the Centenary Way on a gentle uphill climb to Inn Farm Dairy which supplies delicious fresh milk in real glass bottles to refresh weary walkers on their way back to the beginning.

Marion Bryce 3 May 2018

Posted by: lensweb | March 10, 2018

What is a Longhorn Beetle?


Beetles have hardened backwings called elytra and biting mouthparts and undergo complete metamorphosis, from egg to larva to pupa to adult. There are at least 380 000 species worldwide, 4000 British species (and counting).

The Cerambycidae are the longhorn beetles, in Greek mythology, Cerambus was a musician who angered the gods and was turned into a beetle.  Worldwide there are more than 30,000 species of longhorn beetles described to science, in Britain 69 are considered native or naturalised while many other species are recorded as occasional imports.

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Longhorn beetles, or cerambycids, are very distinctive and beautiful beetles.

  • General appearance is generally elongate and robust
  • Elytra can be brightly coloured or patterned
  • Long antennae, sometimes longer than the beetle although some have very short antennae (Rhagium spp.). Can be filiform or serrate.
  • The feet (tarsi) have five segments but in most species the fourth segment is hidden

The life cycle begins with the female beetle laying eggs in rotting fungus, living or deadwood. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae begin feeding upon their food source. The length of time spent in the larval stage varies among species but this time can range from months to years. Adult beetles begin to emerge from April to August and are often found on flowers such as the ‘giant landing pad’ of a hogweed flower or on recently-fallen or felled timber. Some may be found by beating bramble with an upturned umbrella or spreader underneath.

The titan beetle (Titanus giganteus) is a neotropical longhorn beetle, and at 167 mm is one of the world’s giants. In the UK, The Musk Beetle Aromia moschata is a large beetle (up to 35mm long), it is elongate longhorn with dull green reflections, a knobbly pronotum and very long antennae, it emits a musky smell when threatened. It is widespread but decidedly local with a liking for older wetlands with mature willows. The Variable Longhorn Stenocorus meridianus is a large beetle reaching up to 25 mm in length and is a clumsy flier. The wasp longhorn Clytus arietus, has a jerky movement like a robot. The Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Agapanthia villosoviridescens has a common name longer than the Latin name. The logo for the longhorn beetle recording scheme, is the spotted longhorn Rutpela maculata which has a variable pattern of spots and stripes. It used to be called Strangalia. The rufous-shouldered longhorn beetle Anaglyptus mysticus is rare. The beautiful Tawny Longhorn beetle Paracorymbia fulva has golden brown elytra (wing cases) are tipped with black  and is 9-14 mm long. The larva has never been found.

Be on the alert for an invasive alien. One of the best looking and unmistakeable longhorns the Asian Longhorn Anoplophora glabripennis is purple with white spots.  Asian longhorn beetles and the closely related Citrus longhorn beetle could potentially infest a very wide range of broadleaved trees and would be a major threat to horticulture and the wider environment if they became established

Longhorns are of great ecological importance in many ecosystems, many species provide an invaluable pollination service and the larvae eat decaying matter, in turn recycling nutrients through the ecosystem.

These brightly coloured distinctive beetles lend themselves uniquely to identification by photography. All can be IDed with confidence from photographs except 4 rarely found longhorns. A Field Studies Council Identification Chart is in preparation.

The Longhorn Beetle Recording Scheme is organised by Wil J. Heeney and Katy Potts, who took it on in early 2016.

Records accompanied by a photograph are welcomed either via i-record or send a spreadsheet to

Posted by: lensweb | December 10, 2017

Forbes Hole LNR 2017

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Come and talk to the Friends of Forbes Hole

Tapper’s Harker Monday 27 November 12.15pm

Email:  or phone Chairman Stuart Gilder 07904169987

2017 Friends of Forbes Hole Annual Meeting

Forbes Hole is a 9Ha Local Nature Reserve owned and managed by Erewash Borough Council. The person with special responsibility for the reserve is Jaimey Richards, Erewash Borough Council Tree Officer. The Friends of Forbes Hole meet every Mon from 10 am -12 to work on the Nature Reserve.

Wood has been bought with £1000 grant from Nestle, Erewash Borough Council will use this to replace the car park fence and gate and the steps

Sycamore is to be removed and replaced with native trees. Sycamore leaves do not easily rot down and this means that woodland flowers, mosses and liverworts struggle to survive. Large sycamore trees may  be ring-barked to leave standing dead-wood.

Thanks to the Woodland Trust, 11 cherries, 10 rowan, 10 silver birch and 1 oak and 1 whitebeam have been planted.

Berry bushes are to be planted (hawthorn, hazel, dog-rose and dogwood) along the bank of the West ride and the height of tall bushes reduced. Cherry laurel is to be removed. Old hawthorn (more than 10 years old) does not produce many berries.

The meadow was scythed and mowed in September, dried cuttings raked off and stacked in the scrub area

Bramble has been removed from around the meadow and by the paths

Bird feeders have been placed in the car park to discourage random scattering of seed.

Trees are to be cleared from the pond edge to prevent shading and water pollution

Dead wood (except sycamore) is to be left in situ, cut sycamore can be used to define the edge of the path.

Elder bark is good for mosses so old elder will be cut back but left to grow.

Old buddlia will be cut back but left to grow.

Brushwood has been collected into habitat piles, homes for insects, amphibians and small mammals.

Clearance of horizontal ivy is on-going to encourage woodland flowers. Ivy flowers are an autumn nectar source which attracts many butterflies and these are followed by berries for the birds so a lot of ivy will be left.

Halo clearance around standard trees and raising of crowns helps trees to thrive.

The scrub area across the track is left completely wild

The water level has increased. Pond sampling by Alan Heath has shown the water quality has improved since the pond was isolated from the main sewer. Water for Wildlife provided nitrate and phosphate test kits to give a baseline for water quality.

Wildlife Recording

Flower recording. A full survey in March and August noted 191 species. Including the return of greater spearwort, fine-leaved water dropwort, broad-leaved pondweed and common water-crowfoot, also curled pondweed has appeared. Cyperus sedge, alternate leaved water milfoil, skull cap, square stemmed St John’s Wort, cornmint, water forget-me not and water mint are aquatic and marginal flowers that we hope to encourage by tree removal from the water edge. Disappointingly the water violet which appeared in 2014, was dried and shaded out.

Ann Heathcote of Freshwater Habitats visited to try to find the tubular water dropwort but none found. Tubular water dropwort last recorded 2000.

A Torchlight Newt Survey was carried out by Marion and Stuart in April. Many common newts were found when pond dipping for dragonfly larvae. Water stick insect and water scorpion also recorded.

Butterfly Transect 4th year. A fixed transect route is walked weekly from April 1 for 26 weeks and the number and species of butterfly recorded. 657 total butterflies this year.

Several rare insects have been found this year including a rare spider beetle, found by Darren Clarke and a hoverfly, Myolepta dubia. A musk beetle was photographed by Nigel Downes. A good year for dragonflies included red-eyed damselfly.

Public events held in 2017

April 9 Creation of wildflower area

May 28 Moth Watch followed by May 29 Moth identification and release

November 14 National Moth Night

Future plans

Continuation of work as above

Possible installation of a butterfly bank on the track side of the meadow NW-SE if permission is given.

Reeds need to be removed from pond in summer

Footpaths to be renewed if grant can be obtained

Disease resistant elm and black poplar to be planted along the west fence/ride. Butterfly Conservation will provide the trees, Erewash Borough Council and Erewash Tree Wardens will provide stakes and plant the trees.

Alder buckthorn, buckthorn to be planted in the woodland when it can be obtained.

Field maple and oak to be planted in woodland as young seedlings are transplanted within the site.

It is intended to take out the Japanese knotweed rhizome in the car park and to rejuvenate the hedge on the bank on the east of the ride

Other business

Forbes Hole is much loved by local residents. Visitor numbers have increased, estimate 6 per hour, a lot are regular visitors.

Unauthorised use of the car park can be a problem.

July 19 a grave was discovered at Forbes, Jaimey Richards ordered removal of the unauthorized plaque and remains.

A large poplar tree was blown down on March 28. 3 other large poplars were cut back on 4 December by council contractors. A large willow leaning over the railway path was laid down in the carr.

It was suggested a hawthorn around the meadow could be laid as a hedge.

See Forbes Hole Management Document written by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust


Posted by: lensweb | December 6, 2017

Bennerley Bryophytes

Bennerley Viaduct is a disused railway viaduct spanning the Erewash Valley between Awsworth in Nottinghamshire and Ilkeston in Derbyshire. It is set to be restored and incorporated into a newly formed cycle-path by Sustrans. The area underneath the viaduct has three settling ponds which were used to neutralise water run-off from the industrial site entering the River Erewash. The extensive brownfield site nearby is currently a haven for wildlife.20mbpf.jpg

Today we came looking for bryophytes –  mosses and liverworts.

  • Liverworts have a thin, leathery body that grows flat on moist soil or, in some cases, the surface of still water, the leaves have no central vein. Liverworts have oil bodies which may give them a distinctive smell, and they have long cells called elaters which absorb water to aid spore release .
  • Mosses have an erect shoot bearing tiny leaf-like structures with a central vein which are arranged in spirals. They have no oil bodies or elaters.

They have a similar life cycle click here

In addition bryophytes may spread by fragmentation, or formation of gemmae or bulbils. Dispersal tends to be over a short distance, they are vulnerable and need connectivity.

Bryophytes have no lignin or conducting tissue so are very small, but they are very important to help ecosystems perform effectively by filtering and retaining water, stabilizing the ground and removing CO2‚ from the atmosphere. Unlike flowering plants, they have no cuticle or waterproof layer so water and minerals are directly absorbed.  This makes them good indicators of pollution but tends to restrict them to damp environments where they may form an association with mycorrhizal fungi. Eutrophication, increased nitrogen from the air and from water run-off marmelises bryophytes, brambles grow and shade them out but if pollution decreases bryophytes increase as recently the air has become less acid epiphytic bryophytes can now be found growing on tree bark as epiphytes.

Nottinghamshire has a new bryophyte recorder Margaret Crittenden who is keen to find the good sites for bryophytes fill in the blank piece of the jigsaw which is Nottinghamshire on the National Atlas, so we went to look at the Bennerley site.

Currently Nottinghamshire has recorded 224 of the 753 UK species of moss, and 63 of the 296 UK species of liverwort. Recording bryophytes is a winter activity and amateurs can contribute to the recording effort and may well record a species new for the county. A copy of the Mosses and Liverworts Field Guide is essential and you really need a x20 hand lens to see this minute world of very pretty organisms. Unthwarted by footpath closure we enjoyed a walk down the Nottingham Canal to the Bennerley site.

In the lead-in woodland, Frullania and Metzgeria liverworts coated willow trees in green slime. Centipedes of Hypnum crawled up the cracked birch trunks, Lophocolea swarmed at the base. Dark green furry globes of Orthotricum (or was it Ulota?)  had lodged in the fissured elder bark. Elder is an especially good host so old elder should not be ‘weeded out’.

The golden tips of Aulocomnium palustre with red-brown hairy arms reaching to the water, attracted our attention to the Gilt Brook. It was a wonderful splodge through the soft spongy colonies of Sphagnum and Polytrichum. We tried to decide if the individual fronds of sphagnum had the appearance of a drowned kitten?  Well being was factor 20 as we appreciated the fine filigree  fronds of Thuidium tamariscinum and we discovered delicate Calypoegia, Riccardia and Lophocolea liverworts in the drawdown line of the rusty brown brook.

Bright green pointed arrow tipped shoots of Calliergonella cuspidata  were ubiquitous by the settling ponds. A sign of a good meadow, the yellow green shoots of Pseudoscleropodium purum have a stout, fat appearance, at the tip of the stem and new branches, the crowded points of the leaves protrude like a miniature crown. ‘Our old friend’ Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus is distinctive in the way the limey leaves bend back at a right angle to the red stem giving shoots a star-like appearance. There was also plenty of two very common mosses, Brachythecium rutabulum and a great deal of ‘I’m afraid it is Kindbergia praelongum again’.

The exciting cement outlet from the settling ponds to the River Erewash had a good display of fruiting acrocarps some with gemmae, tiny green balls on the leaves and some with bulbils fatly nestling in the leaf base. Acrocarps are tiny and difficult to identify but Margaret rose to the challenge. These seem better able than pleurocarps  to cope with  drier conditions as could the tiny Christmas trees of Polytrichum juniperinum,  a very pretty moss.

In the shaded environment underneath the giant shoes of the viaduct, little lettuce leaves of Pellia endivifolia edged the marshy pools. Plagiomnium undulatum, with wavy leaves, it’s (tall for a moss) stems up to 15 cm long and branched, like a tiny tree in grassland. Steep banks of coal measures clay supported combed furry carpets of Amblystegium serpens and shiney sheets of tiny fern-like Fissidens, so grateful these have been cleared of bramble by the Bennerley Friends.   Bryum capillare bulging green nerves to a hair point on blue brick stamped in Derby.

Dicranum scopare formed green cushions in a patchwork of Bryums. An alien invader, a pioneer of bare peat, formed dark green almost black carpets on the industrial apron. Multitudinous sporing capsules of  Campylopus introflexus curve and twist on a swan’s neck seta or stalk. Black carpets seem frosted due to the white leaf point.  

Barbula, Didymodon, Plagiomnium, Schistidium, Tortula, Syntrichia the poetry of mosses, why do  the Latin names persist? It seems bryophytes are species who have been given the most awkward of long winded common names and the Latin names have a commonality so that we all know what we are talking about. There is no doubt that post-industrial or brownfield sites are productive for bryophytes.  Nature reserves and nature corridors are important refugia for bryophytes. The UK hosts two-thirds of European bryophyte species and they are rare globally, so we have a burden of responsibility to look after them.

Marion Bryce 5 December 2017

Posted by: lensweb | November 24, 2017

LENS Hedgelayers

Try out Hedgelaying on the Nutbrook Trail. 24 November 2017 Sustrans Greener Greenways.

Solitary persons are sideing up the hedges and thrusting the brushwood in the thin places and creeps which the swine made from one ground or field into another and stopping gaps made by gleaners and labourers – Hedgelayers by David Morley

We’ve heard a lot about hedge funds although no-one seems to know what they are. However now we are all expert on hedges, thanks to Ecologist David Watson of Sustrans, the charity that’s making it easier for people to walk and cycle.

Hedgelaying is carried out in autumn or winter, outside birds nesting season and while trees are not growing. The tools of the trade were all laid out: secateurs, saws, bill hooks , cutters and wooden mallets and we were shown how to use them safely. Bill hooks have been in common usage for over 3000 years! Fluorescent yellow Sustrans tabards and protective gloves were issued, then we set to work trimming the side branches off a double row of hawthorns in a hedge by the side of the Nutbrook trail. This great 10 mile traffic free path runs between Long Eaton, Shipley Country Park and Heanor. Cyclists young and old whizzed by as we diligently shaved the hawthorn, leaving bare stems with a top knot of spindly twigs. Midland hedgelaying means that only one side of the hedge is trimmed, the other side is left for forage.

Then we were shown how to pleach the main stem, the billhook cutting through the base of the young hawthorn at 45 degrees until the satisfying crunch of split fibres as the young hawthorn keeled over down towards the centre of the hedge. The saw was then used to carefully trim the heel, to discourage fungal infection and injury. There followed a tougher battle as the laying of an older hawthorn was demonstrated, David won.

Meanwhile Sim was trying to light the Kelly Kettle.

We set to work pleaching the hawthorn, it was tough work and then the branches were tangled, the thorns were vicious and blood was drawn, making the first aid kit a very useful accessory. We stood back to admire the formerly upright, re-angled pleachers.

After the lunch break we went to collect some stakes and heathering. The stakes were good stout sticks about chest height which were then sharpened like a pencil, using the billhook. We used sawn off willow being careful to sharpen the top of the willow as, when placed in the ground upside down, the willow won’t grow. The ideal heathering would be long hazel whips, at least 2 meters, but we had to make do with notchy wobbly willow which was also a bit cracky.

Meanwhile Sim was trying to light the Kelly Kettle.

David told us about the elephants. Straight-tusked elephants probably lived in small herds of about five to 15 individuals. They preferred warm conditions and flourished during the warmer periods. It is assumed that they preferred wooded environments. The straight-tusked elephant became extinct in Britain about 115,000 years ago. Elephants feed on the leaves from the top of trees by leaning against the trees and knocking them over.  Good hedging plants like hawthorn and hazel may have developed their quick growth habit as a survival response to foraging elephants!

Heathering is used to bind a series of stakes together which all help to keep the pleachers in place and make the hedge stockproof. Heathering the hedge was like a Rubrik’s cube, some people can do it, some cannot. The stakes are carefully aligned a forearm’s length apart and knocked firmly into the ground, through the middle of the hedge. Seen as three stakes, the middle stake is the leader, the second is threaded behind first , then the heathering goes behind the leader and in front of the third stake  but somehow the heathering leads are always in front.

We didn’t get it all done but it was a lovely day, everyone had enjoyed themselves and Swan Lake couldn’t have looked more beautiful in the glittering sunlight.

I here reproduce information from the Kelly Kettle’s manufacturer’s instructions in the hope that with practice we will have boiling water for tea at our next hedge laying session on December 15th and that the manufacturer appreciates the free publicity.

The Kelly Kettle® will boil water in 3 to 5 minutes, in all weather conditions, using virtually any fuel you can find…..The Kelly Kettle is a double-walled chimney with the water contained within the wall.  Once the camp kettle is filled with water, start a very small fire in the base, set the kettle on the base and drop additional fuel such as twigs, leaves, grass down the chimney. Within a matter of minutes, the water will come to a rolling boil.  It really is that simple!

Marion Bryce 24 November 2017

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