Thursday, 30 September 2010

Quarry clearance

We spent Tuesday of this week clearing an old quarry of scrub as it had become overgrown and difficult to see some of the interesting geological features. It is called Knowle Quarry and is located near the Presthope car park, it is probably one of the best exposures around and it is easy to see how this area was formed under a shallow sea.

Most of the work was straight forward and simply involved cutting Hazel and Sycamore re-generation down on the quarry floor, however some was growing in the rockface itself and required Alistair to abseil down to cut them off. It always amazes me how trees can grow in such tough environments with so little soil.
To see this quarry in its full glory simply park at the Presthope car park and follow the Lime Kiln walk, this takes about 30 minutes to complete. There is an interpretation board at the quarry which describes all the features of note so even people who aren't geologists can understand it.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Bird news

Birds seen this week,
Ravens performing acrobatics over Lea Quarry,
Large mixed Tit flocks forming,
Tawny Owls, very vocal,
Great Spotted Woodpecker,
Chaffinch,
Bullfinch,
Song and Mistle Thrush,
Blackbird,
Robin,
Lesser Black Backed Gull,
Buzzard,
Still a few Swallows and Martins about.

This list is by no means comprehensive,
Please feel free to let me know of any species that you see whilst out and about on Wenlock Edge in the comments page below.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Walk 4 life

I have added a few walks on Wenlock Edge to the Walk 4 Life website. This is a site that allows you to print out maps of walks, do them and then add the mileage covered to your personnal page. The miles are added up and you can see a graph with the distance covered each week, month or year. This is a great way to motivate yourself to get fit, adds interest for children or maybe just encourages competitiveness between other users of the site. Two of the walks i have added are waymarked routes that are already well used, the other one links the car parks at Much Wenlock and Presthope effectively linking two existing walks together, giving a walk of just under 5 miles.
The trees are just starting to show the first signs of Autumn with the leaves beginning to turn all shades of yellow, orange and brown, this will keep getting better over the next few weeks. Its a fantastic time for getting out for a walk, excellent routes to make the most of the colours are, Lea Quarry walk from Presthope car park and either of the two waymarked routes from Wilderhope Manor. I'll add some photos as Autumn progresses.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bird Hide

I would like to thank Shrewsbury School 's Ornithology Group for their help today in getting our bird hide project underway. We cleared the area where the hide is going to be constructed and also a pathway that will link the hide to a well used footpath. It is hoped that the hide will be well used once constructed by both locals and visitors to the Edge, there will also be a Winter feeding station to help the birds through the cold months and also to offer good views from the hide. Chelmarsh Bird Ringers will hopefully carry out some bird ringing demonstrations so that members of the public can get closer and learn more about the birds. The hide will take shape over the next couple of months, i will keep updating on the progress here.




Once we had finished clearing the area of scrub there was still a little time before the group had to leave so we made a few bird boxes, some of which they took back to the school to put up in the grounds.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

What a difference a day makes

 Had a fantastically productive and enjoyable day with 11 members of Wolverhampton National Trust Conservation Volunteers . We were working in Lea quarry on an area of Limestone grassland, clearing scrub including Hawthorn, Ash, Elder and Bramble. This scrub shades out the wild flowers if it is left to become established and the area would eventually become woodland. Once we have cleared it the sheep will nibble any re-growth and keep it from returning to how it was.

Just getting started this morning
The area is very steep and therefore difficult to work on but the group had plenty of enthusiasm end considerable experience of this type of work, in just a few hours they had already cleared a large area and the fire was roaring down at the bottom of the slope.
After lunch, which involved at least 3 types of home made cake and a birthday sing song it was back to work.The size of the scrub being cut down was smaller but unfortunately it was all further from the fire so a little more dragging was required, probably not such a bad thing after the cake!
 Suddenly it was time to clear up, i really don't know where the time went, the fire was loaded for the final time and we enjoyed looking back at what we had achieved. I really am thrilled with how much was cleared and am looking forward to next time in just a couple of weeks.

All done, now its your turn sheep!






Caption competion ?

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Volunteers

Volunteers play a massive part in the running of National Trust properties and this is no different at Wenlock Edge. We are very fortunate in that we have a small team of regular volunteers who come out with us every Tuesday, carrying an ever expanding range of jobs. Throughout Autumn and Winter jobs such as clearing vegetation from footpaths and geological exposures take priority as birds are not nesting. During Spring and Summer installing gates, clearing drains on footpaths and fencing are just a few of the tasks that keep us and them busy.
We also have volunteers who give their valuable time as and when they can, these volunteers tend to help out more with forestry operations.
Some of the jobs that need doing are ideally suited to big groups of people, clearing scrub from the limestone grasslands requires a big fire and many people to cut, drag and then load the fire. Fantastic results are always achieved, even in a single day, many hands definately make light work. Some of the groups that we have worked with recently include 20, 12-16 year old members of the Greek Orthodox Church and a group of teenagers from Much Wenlock.
We are regularly visited by the Wolverhampton National Trust Conservation Volunteers who carry out many different tasks, they recently made 50 bird boxes for our ongoing nest box project and seem to really enjoy scrub clearance and fires.

Geological Exposures



We spent the day clearing scrub from one of our geological exposures with the help of our regular team of volunteers. The exposure is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and therefore it needs the vegetation clearing from around it every few years. To be honest it was hard to see the rock face when we started this morning so it was really gratifying to see it gradually revealed.


This exposure is located above the dis-used railway tunnel at Presthope, all the brash was thrown down from the top to the volunteers who were eagerly awaiting it near the tunnel entrance. A good fire ensured that all the brash was quickly reduded to little more than a pile of ash. Seeing the smoke rising from above the tunnel it was easy to imagine a train passing through on its way to Much Wenlock.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Wild flowers of the Edge


As well as woodland Wenlock Edge also has interesting wild flowers. Due to the underlying limestone being so close to the surface along the crest of the Edge there is only a very thin layer of nutrient poor soil. Plants like nettles struggle to cope with such nutrient poor conditions but the more delicate flowers can flourish without being out-competed by such vigorous, nutrient hungry plants. The National Trust cares for six small areas of species rich grassland along the Edge, these are managed in a variety of ways, from cutting a traditional hay crop after the flowering season to removing encroaching scrub. One thing that all these areas have in common is that at certain times of the year they are grazed by our flock of Hebridean Sheep, these sheep help to prevent scrub encroachment and keep the nutrient levels low by eating the previous seasons grass and flowers rather than them rotting down. They are very hardy animals, happy to eat everything from brambles to thistles, they also gnaw at the bark of the young trees that try to establish themselves, eventually killing them and saving us a job! Where scrub has encroached too much for even the sheep to sort it out and it is shading out the wild flowers we need to remove it ourselves and burn it, this is a popular job for volunteer groups, after all who doesn't enjoy cutting things down and having a big fire? After being cut down, the scrub, usually Hawthorn or Blackthorn will try to re-grow. The fresh shoots however are no match for our little black lawnmowers!
Good places to look for wild flowers on the Edge are;
Blakeway Hollow and the Much Wenlock NT car park,
Ippikins Meadow, opposite the Wenlock Edge Inn,
Path along the quarry edge from Blakeway Hollow to Presthope,

 A few of the species you may find on the edge;                                
Orchids, inc Bee, Pyramidal and Common Spotted,
Common Gromwell,
Lady's Bedstraw,
Scarlet pimpernel,                                                     
Yellow Wort.
Dyers Greenweed,
Cowslip.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Woodland Management

The woodland on Wenlock Edge that is looked after by the National Trust is made up of a wide variety of species, the most common is Ash and this tree accounts for most of the high canopy in the woodland. It occurs naturally here, enjoying the calcareous soils. Other naturally occuring species include Sessile Oak, Elm, Willow, Yew, Large Leaved Lime, Small Leaved Lime and the occasional Wild Service Tree. Wild Service Trees are an indicator of Ancient woodland this is because it only regenerates very slowly, through suckers as its seeds do not germinate in this part of the world. Alongside these native tree species there is an assortment of exotic conifers that have been planted to produce quick growing, valuable timber. Conifer species include, Larch, Douglas Fir, Norway Spruce and Sitka Spruce.
The trees need re-spacing at regular intervals, this gives the better quality trees more space and light so that they can continue to develop in good health. This work, when carried out sensitively in small areas creates more open woodland for a few years until the canopy closes up and the understory regenerates, this benefits both the trees that are left and certain species of wildlife that favour the open conditions. This work is carried out by the National Trust Rangers based on Wenlock Edge, sometimes with the help of contractors. Felled trees are later winched out of the wood and stacked at trackside for either our own use or for selling on.
Understory species include Hazel, Holly and Guelder Rose, the most prolific being Hazel. The Hazel has been coppiced in the past, this is the act of cutting the shrub down near the ground to produce multiple stems that can then be harvested for the use in hedgelaying, roof thatching and other rural tasks. Coppice is re-cut on about a ten year cycle, this practice has been re-introduced in the last 20 years. It keeps the Hazel vigorous, breaks up the woodland structure, provides open areas for butterflies and woodland plants as well as producing useful products. This work is carried out by skilled contractors and volunteers. Most woodland management work is carried out during the winter months to minimise disturbance to wildlife.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Walking on the Edge

If you are a keen walker then Wenlock Edge is an ideal place for either a gentle stroll or a longer more strenuous outing. There are waymarked trails from the National Trust car parks at Wilderhope Manor, Presthope and on the outskirts of Much Wenlock. These trails range from 1/2 mile to 2 &1/2 miles, are generally on good footpaths, offer panoramic views and an abundance of wildlife. A walks leaflet which compliments these walks is available from the tourist information centre in Much Wenlock and from a leaflet dispenser near the entrance to the car park on the outskirts of town.
If you prefer to plan your own walk then you'll need the OS Explorer 217 map, using this map it is possible to walk the length of the Edge (19 miles) by parking a car at each end. It is also possible to make an interesting circular walk, linking the Edge with the network of footpaths to the South including the Shropshire Way.
If you like to leave the car at home it is possible to travel by bus to Much Wenlock from Shrewsbury, an easy walk out of the town leads you into the woods and onto the Edge. This is an excellent way to visit the area as a walk on the Edge can be combined with a tour of the town with its interesting history, shops, tea rooms and pubs.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Bird box project

The Trust have been working with Chelmarsh Bird Ringing Group to help the birds on the Edge, by providing nest boxes for them to raise their young in. Much of the Trust owned woodland is fairly young, around 50 - 100 years old. These trees are nowhere near maturity and are therefore lacking in natural holes and crevices that birds use to nest in. There is plenty of natural food available in Spring however for a wide variety of species to feed their young, catterpillars and spiders for tits, flies for pied and spotted flycatchers etc.
By providing nest boxes it is hoped that we would see an increase in the bird numbers on the Edge and also be able to learn more about them and their movements. The Trust have provided all the timber from our foresry thinnings, we have then made the boxes both ourselves and with the help of volunteers. Once erected the boxes are then monitored by members of Chelmarsh Ringing Group and the chicks are ringed, this means that any chicks that are subsequently caught can be traced back to their point of birth.
Last spring we had erected 32 boxes and a total of 100 chicks were ringed from a total of 16 of the boxes, this was a brilliant start to the project and really got us excited about getting more boxes put up for next spring. Species that raised young in the boxes last spring were, Marsh, Great and Blue tit.
We have recently put up the 100th nest box and are hoping to get species such as Redstart and Pied Flycatcher breeding in them.
I will keep updating on the project and hopefully get some great photos in the Spring.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Birds of Wenlock Edge

The various types of woodland that can be found along the edge, together with the areas of open grassland provide valuable habitat for a wide range of bird species. From Buzzards and Ravens circling noisily overhead to Dunnocks and Wrens flitting through the undergrowth there is always something to see. Some species can be viewed all year whilst others only visit for either the Summer or Winter, adding seasonal interest to bird watching.
Species present all year round include;
Buzzard                    Dunnock                                   Greenfinch                        
Raven                       Jay                                            Marsh Tit
Kestrel                     Jackdaw                                    Great Tit
Tawny Owl              Crow                                         Blue Tit
Song Thrush            Nuthatch                                    Coal Tit
Mistle Thrush           Treecreeper                                Chaffinch
Robin                      Great Spotted Woodpecker       Yellowhammer
Wren                       Green Woodpecker

Summer visitors include;
Redstart                   Whitethroat                                Cuckoo
Swallow                   Blackcap                                   Willow Warbler
Chiff-Chaff               Swift                                          

Winter visitors include;
Redwing                   Fieldfare                                     Woodcock

Please feel free to submit any sightings on Wenlock Edge in the comments section with a rough location, this will help us to build up a better picture of the birdlife that we have.