The new Sandbach Bridges Trail (North) is really the nicest of our Trails at this time of year. Its wildlife is especially attractive in spring. There are, of course, the carpets of golden Lesser Celandines which flower right along the valley, particularly near the roundabout, near Brook Bridge and along the new path right beside the bypass.
But an organised stroll today by a few members of the 'Friends of A Rocha in Sandbach' group discovered quite a bit more. We looked over the upstream parapet of Brook Bridge to see if one of the resident pair of Grey Wagtails was in sight along the stream, but saw none. But then at the bottom of Front Street some slightly unfamiliar birdsong caught our attention and we looked up. On the roof of the end house of the street, a remarkably fine-looking male Grey Wagtail was perched on the ridge tiles and serenading his mate, who was looking up at him from lower down the roof. His black bib was so well marked that for a moment I wondered if he was one of the foreign subspecies which has a black head.
Sadly the uncommon Black Spleenwort fern that grows in the wall at the same spot appeared rather sorry for itself - perhaps frosted?
But when we set off over the fine new footbridge, things looked up dramatically. A pair of Nuthatches and later a Chiffchaff were nice finds. Alongside the new path there are now lovely carpets of Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, a wild flower that thrives in the willow marsh near Dingle Lake. Further along were some rather magnificent clumps of Marsh Marigold, which grows amongst a mesh of fallen branches and sticks.
But the best surprise was still to come. On the right hand of the path, between it and the bypass, a couple of bends before the bypass river bridge, I noticed a curious scattering of little light green objects. Looking closer, they turned out to the the flowerheads of a colony of that curious plant Moschatel, otherwise known (from its square head of flowers) as 'Town Hall Clock'. This is not rare but in my experience is rarely noticed; in the Sandbach area I can only recall meeting it once before, near Wheelock. This is evidence that the new Trail certainly (and carefully) passes through some lovely country.
The only downside of this discovery is that I shall clearly have to amend the new (online downloadable) guide to the Sandbach Bridges Trail (North). That may not be done for a little while; but I thought any readers of this blog might like to know about our new botanical discovery while the plant is still in flower. But I suggest you look Moschatel up in a flower book before you go to find it, and remember that it is small, so that you can locate it. Then just enjoy! George Hill