Monday 18 June 2018

Not a sad flower!

A very nice discovery yesterday was a rather rare wild flower beside the new Dingle Bridge footbridge. No wild flower seed has been sown - or plants introduced - at that spot, but a large and healthy-looking plant (or maybe two plants) of Melancholy Thistle has appeared there. A tall, thornless thistle with big purple heads, Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium heterophyllum) is a rather rare species of damp places on northern hills and mountains and forests. Although it has a sad name, it was not given that name because it made people sad but because the cheerful sight of its big, bright heads was considered good for melancholy!

It was almost certainly introduced with stone or limestone chippings (it grows on the Derbyshire limestones) when the new footbridge was built. It is not, of course, a native species here. But since no-one deliberately introduced it, it counts as a "wild" flower for botanical record purposes.So it has now been accepted as a proper Cheshire record - and Dingle Bridge is now one of only three known sites in Cheshire for this plant. (The other two are  thought to be a site in the eastern hills where Melancholy Thistle is a native species, and another "accidental" site in the middle of Delamere Forest.) - George

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Town Hall Clock!

And one more new flower was found to be a rather pretty feature of the trail past Dingle lake in April. beside the path there grows a small carpet of that odd little plant, Moschatel or Town Hall Clock. I understand Roger Foden has photographed it. His images and more on the Trails will appear soon in Sandbach Town Talk. get ready for your copy!  George

Sunday 15 April 2018

Spring flowers!

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     

Tuesday 13 February 2018

Ongoing projects

Today saw the AGM of the Sandbach Woodland and Wildlife Group, and a Powerpoint display (compiled by Roger Foden) of the amazing work of the Group over the last five years. The Sandbach Bridges Trails, north and south, are now complete (including the brilliant footbridge on the former), and so is the loop around Dingle Meadow. This year's targets, described by Dick Macaulay, include the new path through Filter Bed Wood, and a link to planned new paths through Offley Wood. Watch this space! And look forward to walking them - perhaps when the weather is a little better. 2018 is go!