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Doodling in the margins

Posted: Thursday 12th April 2018 by LowerAireValley

We've been out and about at it again, with winter (mostly) behind us, it's time to scatter the seeds.

Now I’ve mentioned recently in these ramblings about the signs of spring emerging, and if you’ve been keeping an eye out you’ll have noticed the swathes of wild garlic leaves shimmering underneath the trees, the birds bleating, and one of my favourites, the greeny yellow hues of willow in flower dotted across the landscape. But there’s also another little creature that’s beginning to stretch it’s legs at the arrival of spring, one that we rarely consider. Which isn’t surprising, as these little critters are creatures of the night, seen flitting across the twilight sky on fine evenings, and if you’re of a younger age and haven’t quite lost your high-pitched hearing yet, you may hear odd little squeaks as their silhouettes dart by.

These are our friendly little neighbourhood bats, and after hibernating over the winter they are absolutely famished. And so in we step with our volunteers to give them a helping hand.

Now this might surprise you but bats rather like lines, studies showing nearly all of our 17 resident species use linear features such as hedgerows and tree lines as foraging and commuting sites. So we are quite optimistic that The Lines Way, our railway-come-nature-reserve, could be well favoured by our furry little friends, particularly as multiple species have been found in Owl Woods and Pit Plantation close by. So it is along this old railway that we have been busy of late transforming some rather mundane grass verges into little islands of wildflowers, which in return attracts insects, notably moths, which are a particularly scrumptious and energy-dense snack for these bats.

Our volunteers had but a relatively thin layer of topsoil to flip, which we found to be directly on top of the old railway rubble, thus making this (hopefully in our eyes) some potentially poor soil, which would favour our wildflowers over the grass which so likes to dominate. Onto this we sprinkled an assortment of native wildflower seed and plugged in our 100 ‘plug plants’ of the same.

Upon our second visit to complete these highway improvements we were greeted by a mini-forest of emergent wildflowers which had delightfully managed to germinate in the two weeks since our first outing!













This should be quite a transformation for those who remember the railway in action, if you happen to have a peek in ‘The Leeds, Castleford and Pontefract Junction Railway: The Ledston Branch’ by Ron Rockett – which one of our volunteers did – then you’ll see how the old signalling box used to sit right in that very spot!













By the middle of summer this year we should see many of the flowers here in full bloom, and so those wandering pipistrelles, Natterer’s and Daubenton’s – along with their little bat pups, might just be that little more prepared for next winter when it comes around, they may even like it so much they start to think about roosting around here – more on that soon.

If you would like to be in with a chance to see and learn to hear these elusive beings with a bat detector, then why not book yourself onto one or two of the bat walks we have lined up for this year. There’s Rothwell Country Park on the 15th June, followed by Townclose Hills and The Lines Way on the 22nd June, then Owl Wood and Pit Plantation on the 10th August, which you can book onto at or call 01904 659570.

















Happy wanderings,

Peter Gurney, Lower Aire Valley Trainee

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