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A Rainy Day in Rothwell

Posted: Monday 23rd October 2017 by LowerAireValley

Rothwell Pastures

What a day yesterday! The group were playing in the pouring rain at Rothwell Pastures doing our usual site maintenance and a bit of grassland management.

Of course this involved the walk about with the litter pickers and black bags but even this can be beneficial not only for the general appearance of the site but in that it gives us an opportunity to actually have a good look around.

This area has so much potential for becoming a high quality, small wildlife reserve as it comprises of several diverse habitats, stream banks, some wet woodland and what could be an attractive water meadow. These complement the larger grasslands which form attractive havens for many of our butterflies and dragonfly species, pollinators and other invertebrates. These meadows are cut yearly by either the Council Area Teams or that nice chap who can use free hay. We usually pull any ragwort so as it doesn't get baled if being taken for animal fodder or bedding. Even here we are conscious of the need of another which is the cinnabar moth whose caterpillar depends solely on this plant for food, so you can never win completely but by concentrating on the areas which will only be cut and baled whilst still conserving the plant elsewhere we hopefully provide some sustenance for the moth also.

Interestingly enough yesterday whilst on our litter patrol we became interested in some of the trees which grow alongside the path opposite the beck and also in a little spinney up on the plateau. I have seen these before and recognised them as some species of locust tree. One species of this type, the honey locust, Gleditsia triacanthos is in fact from central North America and I recollect, in the past having to remove some of these from a shopping centre estate as they were becoming unmanageable. They are not nice to get close to as the trunk forms clusters of long branched spines growing sometimes up to 30 mm long. There may be some cross pollination here for lower down nearest the beck path there are what looks like another species, also from North America possibly Robinia pseudoacacia or false acacia.

These have pinnate oval leaves growing in up to three to ten leaflets, from twigs bearing pairs of very sharp thorns along its whole length. The difference being in the bark as the locust tree can grow up to 25 metres in height with a very rough, coarse-ridged shredding bark without thorns, whereas the honey locust can be distinguished by the clusters of wicked looking, long branched spines. Both these develop flat fruit pods up to between 50-100 mm in length, but similarly there are differences in the leaves of the honey locust which are more yellowish and elongated. They are not to be confused with Acacias as these are usually associated with Africa but also they would have bi-pinnate leaf clusters different and more easily distinguished.

This just adds to the interest level while volunteering on these reserves and even on a wet miserable day there's plenty to catch your eye, always kept occupied and never getting bored. From strimming/brushcutting, raking and removing cut material, cutting back overhanging vegetation from the paths or learning about unusual tree species all make for an interesting day despite the weather.

There you are if you’re interested in broadening your knowledge of natural history and want to join our little, happy band of dedicated helpers come and give us a hand one Tuesday, though you aren’t guaranteed to see unusual species of fauna or flora every time but you'll be able to share in some good laughs with some great people.

May get to meet you soon,
Pete

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