Posted by: lensweb | November 9, 2018

Why are Insects Important?


Insects have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body (head, thorax and abdomen), three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae.

Nearly all insects hatch from eggs.

Constrained by the rigid exoskeleton, insect growth involves a series of moults.

The immature stages differ from the adults in structure, habit and habitat, and can include a passive pupal stage in those groups that undergo four-stage metamorphosis.

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Insects that undergo three-stage metamorphosis develop through a series of nymphal stages.


More than 90% of lifeforms on earth are insects, the number of described species is possibly more than a million. Of the 24 orders of insects, four dominate in terms of numbers of described species, with at least 670,000 species of beetles, flies, wasps and moths.

Insects are an important part of food chains and food webs, they can recycle any type of organic matter (eg dead leaves, decaying animals) as food. Amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals including humans, feed on insects.

Insects have good methods of dispersal and are an important part of nearly every ecosystem. A lot of people think that all insects are pests, but only a very small percentage are pests. Some pests are herbivorous insects that have taken advantage of modern farming practice. Farmers now have large fields of just one crop. These grow fast due to the application of fertiliser and water, so do not have any resistance to insect attack.

To provide food security, farming practice should develop stable, resilient and sustainable systems which incorporate a variety of insects which perform essential ecosystem services.

One of the most important services that insects provide is pollination, insects have co-evolved with flowering plants.

Insects form important ecosystem linkages between predators and prey. Hosts and parasites. They provide control systems of the environment.

Ichneumonidae Cryptinae Kingsmeadow170709 102 copya


An entomologist is a person who studies insects.

Insects are ecosystem health indicators. By studying their response to environmental changes we can predict, diagnose and advise how to resolve problems!

Look out for National Insect Week 20-22 June 2020

Marion Bryce 9 November 2018

Posted by: lensweb | November 9, 2018

Are Woodlice the Cinderellas of the Animal Kingdom?

Now that Autumn is here there don’t seem to be many insects about, so I have been looking at Woodlice. There still seem to be many of these Pill Bugs, Slaters, Hog-lice or Sowbugs (call them what you will), under logs and stones, sheltering from the drying wind and keeping close together to conserve moisture. Although they are mostly terrestrial or land-living, Woodlice are Crustaceans, related to Shrimps and Crabs.

Woodlice have a segmented, flattened body with 7 pairs of jointed legs, two pairs of antennae (one pair is small) and two compound eyes. Under the abdomen there are two pale ‘pseudo-lungs’, connected with pores to the outside air. The ‘tail’ is a small telson flanked by two uropods.

The exo-skeleton is hard and brittle and must be progressively shed as it grows. The moult takes place in two stages; the back half is lost first, followed two or three days later by the front.

Females carry fertilised eggs in a pouch, providing embryos with water, oxygen and nutrients. Juveniles then go through a series of moults before reaching maturity.

Woodlice need moisture because they rapidly lose water not only by excretion but also through their ‘skin’ or cuticle, and so are usually found in damp, dark places, such as under rocks and logs

They are usually nocturnal and are attracted to dead plant matter, feeding on the bacteria and fungi which cause decay. They may also graze lichens and algae from tree bark and walls.

Despite being crustaceans related to lobsters or crabs, woodlice are said to have an unpleasant taste to humans, but they are eaten by a wide range of insectivores (shrews, toads, centipedes and carabid beetles, and even some birds), the woodlouse spider Dysdera crocata preys exclusively on woodlice.IMG_7167aa

Woodlice, like earthworms, are beneficial in gardens for their role in controlling pests, producing compost and overturning the soil.

There are over 45 native or naturalised species of woodlouse in the British Isles, ranging in colour and in size (3–30 mm). Only five species are common, have you heard of the Famous Five?: Oniscus asellus (the shiny woodlouse), Porcellio scaber (the rough woodlouse), Philoscia muscorum (the striped woodlouse), Trichoniscus pusillus (the pygmy woodlouse), and Armadillidium vulgare (the pill bug).

Capturefamous five

Philoscia muscorum, the striped or fast woodlouse, is common. It’s 11mm shiny body is mottled greyish-brown with a dark head. It runs faster than other species; its body raised up off the ground. 12 sub-species are recognised.

Oniscus asellus, the common shiny woodlouse, is widespread and common, and grows to 16 mm. It is relatively flat, and is a shiny grey-brown. It occurs in a wide range of habitats, including some with little available calcium. It is chiefly found under stones, and on rotting wood. It is the only woodlouse regularly found on heather moors.

Porcellio scaber, the common rough woodlouse, has an oval body, up to 20 mm long, and is usually purple-grey. It’s upper surface is covered in a series of small tubercles. It lives in a wide variety of damp habitats but it is less dependent on high levels of humidity than Oniscus asellus. Porcellio scaber is a ‘clinger’ and adopts a posture of tonic immobility when faced with the threat of predation.

Trichoniscus pusillus, the common pygmy woodlouse, is the most abundant woodlouse in Britain. It may be distinguished from other British woodlice by it’s rounded and elongate dark red body and it’s small size, 5 mm, but several former subspecies of T. pusillus are now treated as separate species such as T pygmaea.

There are two distinct reproductive strategies within the Pygmy Woodlouse. Many are bisexual and reproduce sexually; in other cases, females reproduce parthenogenetically, creating clones of themselves. The frequency of males in the population decreases from south to north, with no males observed in most of Scotland.

Armadillidium vulgare, the (common) pill-bug, is widespread. It is the most extensively scientifically investigated woodlouse species. Growing to 18 mm, it rolls into a ball for defence. It can be confused with pill millipedes such as Glomeris marginata but millipedes have 2 pairs of legs per body segment.

It can be distinguished from Armadillidium nasatum and Armadillidium depressum, the only other British species in the genus, by the gap that A. nasatum and A. depressum leave when rolling into a ball; A. vulgare does not leave a gap.

Armadillidium vulgare is able to withstand drier conditions than other woodlouse, and is more restricted to calcareous soils or coastal areas.

Woodlice live for 2-3 years. Some people think pillbugs are cute and keep them as pets but their role in recycling organic matter and maintaining healthy soil structure is probably under-rated.

Marion Bryce 9 November 2018

Posted by: lensweb | September 20, 2018




The Friends of Toton Fields Local Nature Reserve invited LENS to go wild as part of a ‘Toton Go Wild’ Biodiversity Day organised to celebrate the publication of their new  book ‘Wild About Toton’.


This Local Nature Reserve is owned by Broxtowe Borough Council and was declared in 2009. It is managed by Broxtowe Borough Council and Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.  The site is characterised by amenity grassland, small areas of ash/ willow / poplar plantations, and scrub habitats next to the River Erewash. In 2018 two large ponds were dug and a butterfly bank constructed.

We have been here before so we chose a new site close to the bridge over the River Erewash overflow, in long grass near an apple tree and sallows, by the path that leads to Mayfield Grove, Long Eaton. It was accessed from the Greenwood Centre at Chester Green.



Skinner design moth traps were used, which consist of a wooden box with a central wooden crossbar housing a bulb holder and rain guard. Two large, angled pieces of clear Perspex have dual purposes, deflecting moths downwards, and allowing easy visual inspection to find moths which settle into the empty egg boxes which are placed in the box. A 125W mercury vapour (MV) lamp light source was used. The LENS trap was placed out of the line of sight of other traps (5 lights were operated by DaNES and are the subject of a separate report). Light traps were run for 3 hours, it had been a sunny day, but the temperature dropped rapidly in the evening and the moths struggled to get airborne. 


Toton Fields Local Nature Reserve           SK492344
Marion Bryce and Derek Brumbill
Date 1-Sep-18   Time 20.30  – 12.00
125W Mercury Vapour   Temperature 23oC-13oC
Moon Third Quarter- Moonrise 22.37 illumination 70%, clear sky
Eupithecia succenturiata Bordered Pug 2 Common
Notocelia uddmanniana Bramble Shoot Moth 1 Common
Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth 2 Common
Diachrysia chrysitis Burnished Brass 1 Common
Ennomos alniaria Canary-shouldered Thorn 1 Common
Atethmia centrago Centre-barred Sallow 4 BAP Listed
Catoptria falsella Chequered Grass-veneer 1 Common
Cilix glaucata Chinese Character 3 Common
Celypha lacunana Common Marble 2 Common
Amphipyra pyramidea Copper Underwing 3 Common
Xanthorhoe ferrugata Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet 1 BAP Listed
Acleris laterana Dark-triangle Button 1 Common
Agriphila geniculea Elbow-stripe Grass-veneer 2 Common
Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder 2 Common
Xanthorhoe fluctuata Garden Carpet 4 Common
Argyresthia goedartella Golden Argent 2 Common
Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing 8 Common
Acleris hastiana Sallow Button 1 Common
Pleuroptya ruralis Mother of Pearl 2 Common
Mormo maura Old Lady 2 Nationally Local
Donacaula forficella Pale Water-veneer 2 Common
Xanthia togata Pink-barred Sallow 1 Common
Idaea aversata Riband Wave 1 Common
Falcaria lacertinaria Scalloped Hook-tip 1 Common
Scopula imitaria Small Blood-vein 2 Common
Pyrausta aurata Small Purple & Gold 1 Common
Diarsia rubi Small Square-spot 2 BAP Listed
Hypena proboscidalis Snout 2 Common
Xestia xanthographa Square-spot Rustic 8 Common
Rivula sericealis Straw Dot 8 Common
Eupithecia linariata Toadflax Pug 1 Common
Hoplodrina ambigua Vine’s Rustic 2 Common
Acentria ephemerella Water Veneer 7 Common


By the end of the evening, 32 types of moth were trapped and identified but the numbers were low. The cool temperature had inhibited flying by the end of the session. Many of the species caught were those that inhabit damp and marshy places and woodland. The most numerous were the Water Veneer, Square- spot Rustic, Large Yellow Underwing and the Straw Dot. The larvae of the Water Veneer Acentria ephemerella are entirely aquatic feeding on waterweed. The Straw Dot Rivula sericealis is a common resident and suspected immigrant which feeds on grasses in damp meadow and woodland however it has only become common locally in recent years. The Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba is a ubiquitous resident and immigrant species which feeds on a wide range of herbaceous plants and grasses.

All species recorded in the United Kingdom have been given a national status with the most threatened and scarce species assigned to a conservation category, as listed under ‘National status’. Accurate up to date and properly vetted information is difficult to come by the most recently compiled national distribution maps may not include the most up to date information.

The Old Lady Mormo maura is a large-winged, sombre-coloured moth, which is distributed locally throughout much of Britain, and common in places. It hides by day in old buildings and sheds, and frequents damp localities as well as waste ground and gardens. The adults are on the wing in July and August. The caterpillars feed in the spring after overwintering, on blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), and other shrubs and trees. The Old Lady moth has LOCAL status ie records are localised or patchy. All the other macro-moths recorded were COMMON ie well distributed .

Several micromoths were taken to be identified by Dave Budworth, the Derbyshire Micro-moth recorder.

Currently 81 moths (25 micros and 56 macros) have Priority Species status under the UK BAP (following a review in 2006/07). These are the species which require most urgent conservation effort and many occur on a very small number of sites. In addition a further 71 species were added to the UK BAP in 2007 as cause for concern. These are widespread but rapidly declining moths, which were identified in  ‘The State of Britain’s Larger Moths report’ based on Rothamsted data at 430 sites across the UK. Sixty-one species of larger moth declined by 75% or more over 40 years (1968-2007), decreases occurred in some of our most common and widespread species such as

  • Garden Carpet Xanthorhoe fluctuate (foodplant dock, ivy, bedstraws) declined by 74%
  • Pink-barred Sallow Xanthia togata (ash) 58% decreasePink-barred Sallow Xanthia togata23 marl 011009 001

The UK List of Priority Species and Habitats contains 1150 species and 65 habitats listed as priorities for conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP) UK BAP Species Much of the work previously carried out by the UK  BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) is now focussed at a country-level rather than a UK-level, and the UK BAP was succeeded by the ‘UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework‘ in July 2012, however, the lists of priority species and habitats agreed under UK BAP still form the basis of much biodiversity work.  Many of these rapidly declining species are still common and widespread. The inclusion of these moths in the UK BAP was to encourage research by universities and institutes into the causes of decline and ways to reverse the trends. Included in the RED list are:

  • Centre-barred sallow Atethmia centrago (foodplant willow) which decreased by 74%
  • Small Square-spot Diarsia rubi (dandelion, foxglove, dock) a very common moth which has decreased by 87%
  • Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet Xanthorhoe ferrugata (Bedstraw, dock, ivy) has decreased by 91%

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Previous moth trapping sessions at Toton have recorded Beautiful Hook-tip Laspeyria flexula, Sycamore, Chocolate-tip Clostera curtula, Coronet Craniophora ligustri, Scarce Footman Eilema complana and White-streak grass veneer Agriphila latistria (a micromoth). These are moths of LOCAL status with localised or patchy records, Notts Grade 3. The Angle-striped Sallow Enargia paleacea recorded in 2017, is Nationally notable, Notts Grade 2. Dot Moth Melanchra persicariae BAP Priority Species declined by 88%.

Day flying moths which are common in this area are Shaded Broad-bar Scotopteryx chenopodiata BAP Priority Species declined by 88%, Blood-vein Timandra comae (79% decline) and Black neck Lygephila pastinum Conservation Status Local Notts Grade 3. Six belted Clearwing Bembecia ichneumoniformis Local Notts Grade 2 has also been recorded on Toton Sidings (2015) nectaring on ragwort.

The larva of the Toadflax Brocade Calophasia lunula has been recorded on the south end of the Toton Sidings Site at Long Eaton in 2018, the adult was trapped on the Long Eaton side of the River Erewash in 2016. Although it’s high BAP priority was downgraded in the 2007 national review, it is an uncommon moth more usually found on the south coast. Waved Black Parascotia fuliginaria (Notts Grade 1, Nationally Scarce B) is another notable moth which has been trapped nearby. Red Swordgrass Xylena vetusta Nationally local, Notts Grade 2 is thought to be an immigrant species.


Nationally local, Notts Grade 3 species trapped just over the border in Long Eaton include Silky Wainscot Chilodes maritimus Large Twin-spot Carpet Xanthorhoe quadrifasciata, The Tissue Triphosa dubitata, Lilac Beauty Apeira syringaria, Dark Umber Philereme transversata, Yellow-barred Brindle Acasis viretata and Dwarf Cream Wave Idaea fuscovenosa. Northern Spinach Eulithis populate is Notts Grade 3 but nationally common.

According to Butterfly Conservation the total abundance of moths decreased by 28% over the period 1968-2007. Losses in southern Britain were greater, at 40%, whereas in northern Britain losses were offset by gains.

Although many of the widespread and common larger moths decreased in abundance during the 40-year study, a substantial minority (one-third of the 337 species studied) increased. Fifty-three species more than doubled their population levels over the 40 years Many of the species that have become more abundant have also become more widespread by expanding their distributions, dramatically in some cases.

An example of this is Vine’s Rustic Hoplodrina ambigua, a resident and immigrant species found in a wide range of habitats and recently recorded in Toton. It’s population levels have fluctuated from year to year, as expected of a migratory species, but show an increase of 433% over the 40-year period of the report. In keeping with this increase, the resident distribution of the Vine’s Rustic has expanded. However, twice as many larger moths declined as increased in Britain over 40 years.



Moths come in a huge variety of sizes, colours and shapes but most are rarely seen because they fly at night.

There are 2,500 species of moths in Britain of these approximately 800 are macro-moths, the majority are very small and are called micro-moths. Most live here all year, but some visit on migration.

Moths have important roles in the wildlife ecosystem. They pollinate flowers and are vital food for many other animals. Moths are also useful to us, giving vital information about our own environment, especially climate change.

The world is facing a biodiversity crisis with profound consequences for human wellbeing. The decline and extinction of species is occurring at a rapid rate. The results are unequivocal: insect biodiversity is declining rapidly and, in many cases, it is specialist species that are being lost, while a relatively small number of generalist species come to dominate wildlife communities which then are less resilient to change.

Light pollution has long been recognised as a potential problem for moths and other wildlife and this, in addition to agricultural chemicals, increased nitirification of the atmosphere and rivers, habitat destruction and climate change all affect biodiversity.

There are significantly fewer individual moths in Britain now than 40 years ago and, while many rapidly declining moths are still regularly recorded in back gardens and other habitats across the country, their populations are markedly reduced.

The moth trapping exercise has proven there is a valuable biosystem sink for a variety of moths of Local and National Importance at Toton Fields Local Nature Reserve, Toton Sidings and sites nearby in Long Eaton.

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Recently work has been carried out to increase the biodiversity of habitats available for colonisation in the River Erewash Corridor at Toton so it is expected that new species of moth for the area will be found in future moth trapping surveys.

Marion Bryce and Derek Brumbill 1 September 2018


Fox, R., Parsons, M.S., Chapman, J.W., Woiwod, I.P., Warren, M.S. & Brooks, D.R. (2013) The State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2013. Butterfly Conservation and Rothamsted Research, Wareham, Dorset, UK.

Wright Sheila The Conservation Status of Larger Moths in Nottinghamshire

Nottingham Natural History Museum, Wollaton Hall. 2014 update to Third Edition

National BAP status 2007

Wild About Toton by The Friends of Toton Fields 2018


Posted by: lensweb | September 13, 2018

Save Our Sandiacre Beauty Spots

Some of you may already know that Stoney Clouds at Sandiacre is one of my favourite places. I have been there so many times to enjoy the panoramic view. But, earlier this year, I was introduced to more of Sandiacre’s Beauty Spots, the ancient hay meadows of Cloudside Farm and Sandiacre Marsh, a recognised wildlife site alongside Erewash Canal Bridge No 12, by Helen Thompson a concerned local resident. She is supporting ‘Save our Sandiacre Beauty Spot’ a local campaign aiming to minimise the effect of the proposed HS2 high speed train on it’s journey through the green belt between Nottingham and Derby.

Sandiacre smallFirst of all we looked at the hayfield, it had been cut! But a channel running at the edge of the field revealed several unusual plants such as the shining buttercup flowers of lesser spearwort Ranunculus flammula, Tufted Forget-me-not Myosotis laxa, with tiny blue flowers, hoary marsh cudweed Gnaphalium uliginosum and the orange stamened flower heads of Marsh Foxtail Alopecurus geniculatus. Black heads up, out of the water were the barely branched stems of Marsh Horsetail Equisetum palustre.

We climbed over a stile into a flooded meadow which was tufted with rushes, interspersed with sedges. The finely divided feather leaves of Common Water-crowfoot Ranunculus aquatilis were floating in pools and to our great surprise growing on the cattle-poached edges, the angular leaves of Ivy-leaved Water-crowfoot Ranunculus hederaceus, a very rare plant in the Erewash Valley. We were delighted to see dark green grasshoppers with black and white striped waiscoats, Meadow grasshoppers enjoying the sun. Bright yellow daisies of Marsh Ragwort Senecio aquaticus peered over the reeds. A long winged conehead, a female with a curved ovipositor played ‘peek a boo’ on the long hollow cylindrical stems. Two furry caterpillars chewed leaves, careful not to fall into the pools of standing water. Marsh Thistle Cirsium palustre, Skullcap Scutellaria galericulata, Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides, Brooklime Veronica beccabunga , Ragged Robin Lychnis flos-cuculi and Common Bedstraw Galium palustre, were just a few of the water loving wildflowers in this colourful mosaic.

helen bridgesmallAs we crossed Bridge No 12, we looked up to St Giles Church. This is a view that never palls. Helen showed us something special. On a still day the church is perfectly reflected framed in the classic arch of the eighteenth century canal bridge. A narrow boat, chugged it’s way to an evening mooring as we walked along the Erewash Canal towpath to Sandiacre Marsh.

Now colourful canalside flowers captivated our eyes. Glowing orange jewel weed Impatiens capensis amid the flounced leaves of Gipsywort Lycopus europaeus, Blue Skullcap flowers Scutellaria galericulata (the white seeds like little skull caps), ray-less yellow discs of Bur-marigold Bidens tripartita and the bright green spiked fruits of branched bur-reed Sparganium emersum with burnt tipped spear-shaped leaves edging the canal. Striped pike hid beneath the Water-lily pads with yellow waxy flowers Nuphar lutea, purple eyed flowers peeped between the distinctive leaves of arrowhead Sagittaria sagittifolia and the beautiful pink umbels of flowering rush. Butomus umbellatus.

We turned into the dark marsh, where large willows were gracefully reclining. A smattering of Himalayan Balsam Impatiens glandulifera , that pretty pink, tiresome alien plant, and fluffy waving heads of Common Reed Phragmites australis. Great Yellowcress Rorippa amphibia surrounded large remnant pools covered with Lesser Duckweed Lemna minuta. It was very shady but we found Cornmint Mentha arvensis, Wild Angelica Angelica sylvestris, Skullcap Scutellaria galericulata and, a delightful surprise, Enchanter’s Nightshade Circaea lutetiana.

Helen wanted to know if there were any bats, so that evening we went out with our bat detectors. It was a fine warm night and the bats were busy feeding. We counted the bat chatter picked up on our detectors,from Sandiacre Lock Cottage keeping moving, so we didn’t count them twice. Springfield Mill was all lit up. Two large bats near the Mill were brown long eared bats, ‘ the quiet bat’. The straight flight of a bat along the surface of the canal may have been a Daubenton’s bat. The others were a mixture of common and soprano pipistrelles A Bat Group might carry out a survey in which they would record the bats and give a reliable identification but in all, we counted 50 bats, with a higher concentration in the area of Sandiacre Marsh.
It would be such a shame to lose these lovely sites with their fragile wildlife communities. Helen feels the proposed new flyover for the HS2 train might devalue the recuperative powers of the timeless 18th Century landscape, so many people use the Nutbrook Trail and the Erewash Valley Trail cycling and hiking links to ‘Get Away From It All’.
In Autumn the HS2 Environmental team joined us in a walk around Sandiacre Marsh, they were able to highlight the local wildlife site on the HS2 plans. The team showed a real appreciation of the biodiversity value of Sandiacre Marsh and hope to use the opportunity provided by HS2 to improve the amenity value of the area.
Marion Bryce 13 September 2018

DSC_8657Sandiacre small

Posted by: lensweb | August 20, 2018

Have You Ever Thought About Being a Butterfly Recorder?

Aug 13 Monday Butterfly Reserve at Aston on Trent Brickyards

LENS Meet 7pm at Aston Brickyard Plantation. When coming from Derby Road, Thulston, it is on the right after the Aston on Trent sign DE72 2AY.  Leader Ken Orpe Butterfly Conservation.

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Have you ever thought about being a butterfly recorder?  This is how our evening with Ken Orpe started. Ken is the Derbyshire Butterfly Recorder for Butterfly Conservation. He co-ordinates 100 different butterfly transects and keeps everyone up to date with his weekly newsletter.

One of the transects Ken walks is at Aston on Trent Brickyard Plantation a 5a area of secondary woodland plus mixed woodland planting and a wildflower meadow on the site of a former clay pit and brick works, owned by Derbyshire County Council. Since 2012 it has been managed by FAB, a great acronym for the Friends of Aston Brickyard Plantation!

At the entrance is an old office (very similar to a railway goods office) two wych elms here are where White Letter Hairstreak butterflies can be seen dog fighting in June.

Ken proudly showed us a butterfly bank which had been constructed from sub-soil with a topping of limestone chippings donated by Longcliffe Quarries. It sits at the north end of the meadow and  has been planted with cinquefoil for dingy skippers and bird’s foot trefoil for Common Blue and Brown Argus butterflies. A certain amount of ragwort is allowed to flower.

The meadow is managed in two halves, grassland which is cut in alternate halves each September by a reciprocating mower, cuttings are raked off. The other half is a wildflower meadow where knapweed and field bindweed provide a nectar source for many insects. This meadow is kept clear of bramble and encroaching scrub. Derbyshire Wildlife Trust have marked sites for annual quadrat analysis of the species. There are two survey tiles at the edge, which we lifted, to see field vole nests beneath (last time there was a common shrew). Two wonderful carved benches have been donated by a FAB member. Photo posts allow cameras to take a shot from the same position through the seasons.

At the woodland-meadow edge, alder buckthorn has been planted for brimstone butterflies, the caterpillars are so well camouflaged they don’t need to hide and can be seen feeding on the top of the leaves. Specimen trees of Ulmus -Sapporo Gold have also been planted. Arising from a chance crossing of the Japanese and Siberian Elm this has been widely planted due to it’s resistance to Dutch Elm Disease, but does it support White-Letter Hairstreak Butterflies?  It is now known that white hairstreak caterpillars need elm flowers to eat when young, later moving onto the leaves so an elm tree has to be at least 5 years old before it can be colonised. Watch this space!


No cut wood is wasted so the footpath edge is well defined by staked sticks and brash guiding us to the South Pole, where a circle of rustic seats are used for school visits. Autumn seems to have come early this year evidenced by red berries on the Cuckoopint. We were a bit jealous of FAB’s magnificent Bug Hotel and determined to have one at Forbes Hole.

Rides have been created in the adjacent wood which is managed by the Archery Club. There are remains of old plaster pits in this wood and a wharf, where formerly gypsum was quarried and loaded into wagons, to be taken by tramway to the Trent and Mersey canal. The tramway closed about 1925.

We puffed up towards a beaming sun at the top of Aston Hill where we enjoyed a panoramic view across farmland towards Derby and further to Minninglow, Crich Stand and Alport Heights. Ken explained how he had been responsible for an extra curve of the A50 which he had fortunately been able to have re-routed to save the woodland.


There is a lot of sycamore in the woodland but also some mature oak trees, Ken is hopeful of attracting Purple Hairstreak butterflies. Wending our way to the pond it seemed, out of place. Ken explained that after the brickyards closed in the 1950s, the site had been used as a waste tip. This had been sealed before amenity woodland was planted. Derbyshire County Council are wary of penetrating the impermeable layer so FAB been allowed to create a pond at the more obvious damp hollow at the edge of the meadow. Instead, trees had been cleared and the pond dug in a shady area of woodland.

So here we were back in the car park and Ken was still recruiting. Soon he will feature on the TV programme ‘Countryfile’ to tell the tale of the return of the Wall Butterfly to Derbyshire, a butterfly many people have not seen this century. Ken says ‘For once the North has got one over the South, Derbyshire has got them and we’re keeping them to ourselves!’

Marion Bryce 20 August 2018

Posted by: lensweb | July 24, 2018

National Moth Night 2018

The focus of National Moth night 2018 was pyralid moths, which includes members of the Pyralidae and Crambidae families. The pyralid group of moths includes some of the largest and most distinctive of 1,600 micro-moths found in the UK. They occur widely, in a multitude of habitats, are often abundant and include day-flying and night-flying moths, which makes them very accessible to everyone.

‘You don’t even need a moth trap!’

Trowell Marsh Local Nature Reserve was our chosen site. This Local Nature Reserve is a borrowpit, one of the holes dug in the ‘Boards’ during the nineteenth century in the construction of the embankment for the Midland Mainland Railway which forms the northern boundary of the reserve. The Boards is a local name for Trowell Marsh, said to be due to the boards laid to pass over the marsh by foot. The canal here is known as Stanton Hotwaters as it is very close to the old Stanton Ironworks site. Trowell Marsh has pools at the western end with diverse and uncommon wildlife. Crowded woodland separates the swamp from a floristically rich and marshy meadow.

Despite the rash promise made above, a mesh net search revealed nothing except a few cinnabar moths so we determined to use our moth traps. Two sites were chosen, one on the boundary of the meadow and the wood, the other on the meadow, closer to the railway line.


With the mercury vapour lamps on, we were sitting comfortably in our chairs in the exact centre of England watching two bats fluttering above the trees but the mercury in the thermometer zoomed down and it was cold, 14.2C at 20.00 hrs. A slow stream of moths arrived including common and light emerald whose larvae feed on woody shrubs and trees. Burnished brass, unmistakeable, with its shin metallic brassy yellow markings and which has a nettle feeding larva. We were surprised to attract latticed heaths (3) normally a day flying moth which feeds on clover. Our hawk-moth for the night was the Elephant Hawk-moth, which uses Rosebay Willowherb as a larval foodplant. A Peppered Moth was one of the last to arrive, in the white form peppered with black spots, the larva feeds on a variety of trees and shrubs. The highest number of one species was the more notable Beautiful Hook-tip (8), a nationally designated LOCAL species, which feeds on lichens growing on twigs and branches of trees. By the end of the evening although 35 species of moth had been identified only three of these were pyralid moths, the Small Magpie (4), the Mother of Pearl (1) which both feed on nettle and Eudonia lacustrata, the Little Grey, (1) which feeds on moss.

The lights were turned off at 00.30 hrs by which time the temperature was below 10C. Brrr!!

Trowell Marsh Moths 16 June 2018
Laspeyria flexula Beautiful Hook-tip
Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth
Spilosoma lutea Buff Ermine
Diachrysia chrysitis Burnished Brass
Tyria jacobaeae Cinnabar
Lomaspilis marginata Clouded Border
Lomographa temerata Clouded Silver
Hemithea aestivaria Common Emerald
Dysstroma truncata Common Marbled Carpet
Korscheltellus lupulina Common Swift
Cabera exanthemata Common Wave
Apamea monoglypha Dark Arches
Deilephila elpenor Elephant Hawk-moth
Axylia putris Flame
Ochropleura plecta Flame Shoulder
Agrotis exclamationis Heart & Dart
Diarsia mendica mendica Ingrailed Clay
Agapeta zoegana Knapweed Conch
Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing
Chiasmia clathrata Latticed Heath
Apamea lithoxylaea Light Arches
Campaea margaritaria Light Emerald
Oligia strigilis Marbled Minor
Oligia fasciuncula Middle-barred Minor
Pleuroptya ruralis Mother of Pearl
Biston betularia Peppered Moth
Hoplodrina blanda Rustic
Nola cucullatella Short-cloaked Moth
Autographa gamma Silver Y
Xanthorhoe montanata montanata Silver-ground Carpet
Herminia grisealis Small Fan-foot
Idaea biselata Small Fan-footed Wave
Anania hortulata Small Magpie
Hypena proboscidalis Snout
Anania Spotted Magpie
Rivula sericealis Straw Dot
Peribatodes rhomboidaria Willow Beauty

We felt that we had not done justice to the Nature Reserve due to the low temperature. So we grabbed another opportunity to run the moth traps. This was three weeks later and we were in the middle of a heat wave. At 20.00hrs the temperature was 23C!
The traps were placed in the same position as last time. The moths were flying and 70 species were identified. There was a surprise visit from a giant click beetle, Melanotus castanipes and a tiny Agrimony Plume moth. Again the moth trap near the wood caught two hawk-moths but this time they were Poplar Hawk-moths. The overall numbers of moths were higher.

The most common species was a pyralid moth, the Mother of Pearl (12) there were also many Little Greys but they were a bit too quick to count. Other pyralid moths were the Garden Pebble whose larvae feed on crucifers, and the beautiful pink and Gold Triangle which has two distinctly different resting postures. In one, the moth adopts a ‘triangular’ shape, but at full rest, all four wings are splayed out. The larvae feed in dry vegetable matter, such as haystacks and thatch. Another pyralid, the Bee moth has larvae that feed on the comb inside bee and wasp nests. The pretty Spotted Magpie larvae feed on the young leaves of elder.

Out of the swamp came the Reed Veneer which has distinctively long labial palps, it’s caterpillars feed inside the stems of common reed and reed sweet-grass. The Small China-mark is white with a distinctive row of blue-centred black dots on the hindwing. The larvae are semi-aquatic and feed on duckweed. They build floating cases made from fragments of the foodplant. And lastly the tiny Water-Veneer, has fully aquatic larvae which feed on waterweed. There are two forms of the female; one wingless, which lives under the water, and one winged. The fully-winged males mate with the females usually on the surface of the water and some of them visited our moth trap.

Some notable macromoths were trapped including the Beautiful Hook-tip (again) The Dingy Shears (5) (I’d never seen one before) whose caterpillars, like the adults, are rather dull. They feed on willow. A woodland species, the Large Twin-spot Carpet. The larvae feed on bedstraw, and overwinter in this stage. The glossy surface of the wings gives rise to the White Satin moth’s English name, and the black and white striped legs add to the glamorous appearance. The larvae are covered with white heart-shaped blotches, and feed on sallow and various poplars The caterpillar of the Olive also feeds on poplars. Dark Umber was another moth we had not seen before, a large and handsome moth with a dark central cross band and distinctly scalloped trailing edges of the wings. Surprisingly when I got home to Long Eaton, there, was another Dark Umber! The moths were still coming and really we should have stayed all night. When the light was turned off at 00.30 hrs the temperature was still 15.7C but we brushed off all the moths and went home.

Trowell Marsh Moths 07 July 2018
Laspeyria flexula Beautiful Hook-tip
Aphomia sociella Bee Moth
Yponomeuta evonymella Bird-cherry Ermine
Opisthograptis luteolata Brimstone Moth
Habrosyne pyritoides Buff Arches
Spilosoma lutea Buff Ermine
Eilema depressa Buff Footman
Lomaspilis marginata Clouded Border
Epirrhoe alternata alternata Common Carpet
Eilema lurideola Common Footman
Dysstroma truncata Common Marbled Carpet
Emmelina monodactyla Common Plume
Apamea monoglypha Dark Arches
Philereme transversata Dark Umber
Neosphaleroptera nubilana Deep Brown Shade
Eilema griseola Dingy Footman
Apterogenum ypsillon Dingy Shears
Melanchra persicariae Dot Moth
Xestia triangulum Double-square Spot
Gymnoscelis rufifasciata Double-striped Pug
Cosmia trapezina Dun-bar
Axylia putris Flame
Evergestis forficalis Garden Pebble
Hypsopygia costalis Gold Triangle
Crassa unitella Golden-brown Tubic
Tortrix viridana Green Oak Tortrix
Agrotis exclamationis Heart & Dart
Adaina microdactyla Hemp-agrimony Plume
Scoliopteryx libatrix Herald
Agapeta zoegana Knapweed Conch
Archips podana Large Fruit-tree Tortrix
Xanthorhoe quadrifasiata Large Twin-spot Carpet
Noctua pronuba Large Yellow Underwing
Noctua comes Lesser Yellow Underwing
Eudonia lacustrata Little Grey
Acleris forsskaleana Maple Button
Oligia strigilis Marbled Minor
Oligia fasciuncula Middle-barred Minor
Pleuroptya ruralis Mother of Pearl
Prays fraxinella Ash Bud Moth
Drepana falcataria Pebble Hook-tip
Biston betularia Peppered Moth
Laothoe populi Poplar Hawk-moth
Clepsis consimilana Privet Twist
Chilo phragmitella Reed Veneer
Idaea aversata Riband Wave
Aphantopus hyperantus Ringlet
Crambus perlella Satin Grass-veneer
Odontopera bidentata Scalloped Hazel
Scotopteryx chenopodiata Shaded Broad-bar
Nola cucullatella Short-cloaked Moth
Cataclysta lemnata Small China-mark
Idaea biselata Small Fan-footed Wave
Anania hortulata Small Magpie
Hydrelia flammeolaria Small Yellow Wave
Mythimna impura Smoky Wainscot
Hypena proboscidalis Snout
Abrostola tripartita Spectacle
Anania coronata Spotted Magpie
Ourapteryx sambucaria Swallow-tailed Moth
Oligia latruncula Tawny Marbled Minor
Aethes cnicana Thistle Conch
Aplocera plagiata plagiata Treble-bar
Acentria ephemerella Water Veneer
Spilosoma lubricipeda White Ermine
Pterophorus pentadactyla White Plume Moth
Leucoma salicis White Satin Moth
Pandemis cinnamomeana White-faced Twist
Epiblema foenella White-foot Bell
Peribatodes rhomboidaria Willow Beauty


Marion Bryce 24 July 2018

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’.

2a9yre (1)

Marion Bryce 14 May 2018

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