D and I paid a visit yesterday to a small nature reserve we have been meaning to explore for ages.
The reserve comprises part of the River Blythe (a Site of Special Scientific interest as its a superb example of a lowland river on clay), hedgerows, wet woodland (carr) with many alders and willows and a waterside meadow.
The Reserve is situated on the other side of the Railway line to Marsh Lane NR and you can make out Marsh Lane reserve in the distance through the arch of this bridge.
The Packhorse Bridge itself is interesting - it was built in the fifteenth century and has 3 stone segmented arches. Its fascinating to stand on the bridge and think of all the many people who have passed this way over the centuries.
There were dozens of Banded Demoiselle damselflies on the river bank. Unfortunately, apart from wading across the river, there was no chance of getting a photo.
The HB engraved on this stone marks the boundary between the Hampton and Berkswell Parishes.
Himalayan Balsam and Meadowsweet
Unfortunately, there were many many Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) plants along the side of the river. This is a non-native invasive plant which has spread from gardens along river banks and damp areas. It is very attractive to pollinating insects but there are concerns that this may result in less pollination of native plants. The plant, which grows up to 2.5 metres high, spreads quickly forming dense thickets which suppresses the growth of grasses and native British plants. It is listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and it is an offence to plant or cause this plant to grow in the wild.
There have been several attempts in and around the Coventry area to eradicate Himalayan Balsam and replace it with native plants to help water voles.
We saw many butterflies on the walk - Peacocks, Whites, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood and this Comma which was the only species prepared to pose for a photo!
We walked along a public bridleway.
Lots of Meadowsweet flowering here and this lovely purple flower - I am not sure of the species but I do know I have seen it in marshy areas at Brandon Marsh in the past.
It was quite a surprise when the path emerged at Barston Lake - I hadn't realised this was so close to the area where we were walking.
Bindweed was trailing along the sides of the paths and among the hedges.
White Dead Nettle
On the way home we made a detour to a public footpath not far from the airport (where we waited recently for a Spitfire to appear in the skies). We walked through crop fields - in the distance you can just see an area known as "Castle Hills" which I've noticed from another local blog is a very good site for butterflies. It was further away than we thought and we were running out of time but I will return to this area at some stage in the future.
Ragwort - no sign though of any Cinnabar moth caterpillars
The usual planes going over en route for Birmingham International Airport!
We stopped off at the village of Bickenhill on the way home - this telephone box has an interesting story. A few years ago BT were thinking of removing phone boxes as, due to the advent of mobile phones, they were no longer used. The villagers were reluctant to see their local telephone kiosk disappear so the Parish Council bought it from BT for a £1.
The good news for English wildlife is that a certain Owen Paterson has been given the boot as Secretary of State for DEFRA but the bad news is that Elizabeth Truss, Paterson's replacement, is determined to continue to treat badgers as scapegoats and plans to continue with this year's pilot culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire. Anyone who has read the IEP Report following the badger cull last year will know how inhumane and ineffective the slaughters were. I've done several posts in the past on this topic so I won't be ranting on again too much about this issue. A quick look at the DEFRA twitter feed suggests that the vast majority of the new SOS's trips and meetings so far have been connected with farming, Game Fairs and fishing so it doesn't take much imagination to see where her sympathies lie. I can't see one mention of a meeting with an environmental/conservation/wildlife group.
I find it very sad that the Wildlife Trusts who have a combined membership of over 800,000 (and yes I am one of them!) have only managed to get 5,563 people to send an email to David Cameron urging him to drop the badger cull. So, please, if you are against the slaughter of badgers in the misguided attempt to prevent bTB then please visit www.wildlifetrusts.org/dropthecull and send an email - it really does only take a minute or so. Thanks so much.