Mere Sands Wood a Wetland to Be Proud Of-part One

Notes from a Lancashire Countryman.

In my hub " A swift decline and a Wise old Owl" I mentioned in passing the Mere Sands Wood Nature Reserve-the jewel in the crown of the Lancashire Wildlife Trust's Reserves. Today I invite you to visit the locality with me.

A brief history may be prudent at this point to give the reader awareness of its origins. The Lancashire Wildlife Trust {L.W.T.} first became interested in the site when it was declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest,{ the main interest being birds}. Then the site was owned by the Rufford sand company who was given permission to extract sand from a few acres of the site. The company wanted {as companies do} to extract sand from all over the site of this former mere.

To avoid possible objections from the public and the consequential Public Enquiries they invited the L.W.T. to devise a plan that would involve restoration and landscaping where sand extraction was completed. For this cooperation and expertise the company promised to convey in stages the freehold of the site to the L.W.T. The residents of near villages and houses voted in favour of this outcome.

Restoration produced a series of small lakes with gently sloping edges, and tree planting was done on an impressive scale. The L.W.T. took over forty acres in 1980 and after further restoration and landscaping the remaining land was transferred in 1982. In the next few years 3-4,000 trees were planted and the Trust obtained planning permission for offices and a car park in 1984 and 1885. In 1985 a head Countryside Ranger was appointed.

The staff worked hard to encourage the use of the site by the general public and hides were constructed in strategic positions by the lakes. The enthusiasm and dedication of staff and volunteers proved to be successful and this led to a visitor centre, toilets and a network of woodland pathways. Conservation and Maintenance which continues unabated steadily improving the site for wildlife and visitors alike.

The day began in bright warm sunshine after a day of heavy thundery rain. As I progressed on my journey to the Reserve which is situated near Rufford along the Lancashire Coastal Plains. However, before I arrived I could see the clouds rolling in from the direction of the sea, which covered the azure blue background like an advancing grey blanket. The blanket soon blotted out the sun and the threat of rain seemed imminent.

The day was still warm regardless of the lack of sunshine and beneath my feet the ground was dry as I left my car and strolled towards the visitor centre.

Visitor centre

the visitor centre is a welcoming place. Photograph by D.A.L.
the visitor centre is a welcoming place. Photograph by D.A.L.
Staff are always on hand to help with enquiries.Photograph by D.A.L.
Staff are always on hand to help with enquiries.Photograph by D.A.L.
Inside the centre it is warm and inviting. Photograph by D.A.L.
Inside the centre it is warm and inviting. Photograph by D.A.L.
Some of the work on display. Photograph by D.A.L.
Some of the work on display. Photograph by D.A.L.

Roomy and inviting

The center is a rustic building fronted by a pond which is accessed by means of a boardwalk. This pond is adorned with reed, grass,sedge bog bean and water lily under which fish swim and aquatic life goes about its business unseen for the most part. The water attracts ducks and coot and the scarce water vole has been recorded here.

The visitor center offers gifts and shows exhibitions from local wildlife artists and other skilled country crafts which may be purchased. The center offers beverages and snacks. For those that are unable to walk far electric "motorised" scooters are available for a donation which will convey the driver to almost all areas of the Reserve. Any of the network of footpaths that are unsuitable for such vehicles are clearly marked as such.

Bog bean foliage

The trifoliate leaves of the bog bean are plants of ponds and bogs. Photograph by D.A.L.
The trifoliate leaves of the bog bean are plants of ponds and bogs. Photograph by D.A.L.

Wild flower meadow

Departing from the visitor center by retracing my footsteps across the boardwalk, there is a choice of three directions to take. On this occasion I turned immediately right and keeping to the right led me to the wild flower meadow. Now regular readers will know this is an area that I could not pass by. It would be like a child passing a free ice cream.

A pathway runs down the meadow towards the woodlands. Many species of flora tenant the grassland on each side of this pathway but it is in the fenced off meadow land that plays host to the majority of species, along with a plethora of species from insect land that are attracted to the flowers, which is what wild flower meadows do as a natural part of their existence.

Evening primroses stood tall among the herbage which consisted of bird's foot trefoil, greater willowherb,centaury,ragwort,self heal, red bartsia, St, Johns wort,Yellow rattle,Knapweed, and the scarce yellow bartsia. This is one of only two regions in the north west of England where the yellow barstsia thrive. The sandy substrate helps the plants to thrive.

Earlier in the season marsh orchids abound and the scarcer bee orchid, may with careful observation, may be encountered. Yellow wort is another species that brighten areas of dry grassland.

Some of the flowers I invented

Centaury is dotted through out the meadow. Photograph by D.A.L.
Centaury is dotted through out the meadow. Photograph by D.A.L.
Caterpillars of the cinnabar moth feeding on ragwort. Photograph by D.A.L.
Caterpillars of the cinnabar moth feeding on ragwort. Photograph by D.A.L.
This creeping thistle overlooks the meadow. Photograph by D.A.L.
This creeping thistle overlooks the meadow. Photograph by D.A.L.
Selfheal is a simple but beautiful flower of the mint family.Photograph by D.A.L.
Selfheal is a simple but beautiful flower of the mint family.Photograph by D.A.L.
lady's bedstraw is another uncommon plant found at the Reserve.Photograph by D.A.L.
lady's bedstraw is another uncommon plant found at the Reserve.Photograph by D.A.L.

Mangement

Wild flower meadows need to be managed in order to keep them producing the amount of flora we love to see. For were they not, the thugs of the plant world such as docks, bramble, nettle, would soon take over. Thus during the winter the meadow is grazed by Hebridean sheep which removes the vegetation and associated nutrients. Orchids and marsh helleborine thrive on nutrient deficient land. Grazing also prevents tree seeds from becoming established as saplings. Because of this management, records show that upwards of 55 species grow on the meadow land.

Those species from insect land include the more obvious species such as dragon and damsel flies, butterflies, moths and others more secretive and elusive that are too many to name in the confines of this hub. Butterflies-records show that in most seasons 19 of the 59 species that occur in Britain may be encountered at the reserve. The vast majority of these are attracted by the wild flower meadow,{again demonstrating the importance of such habitats.}. These include meadow brown, gatekeeper{probably the most numerous}, the common blue,small copper, small skipper,peacock, comma, and brimstone.


Insect life

Small skipper butterflies are particularly numerous this year.Photograph by D.A.L.
Small skipper butterflies are particularly numerous this year.Photograph by D.A.L.
Meadow brown's are secretive in their grass land home. But very easy to spot as they flit around on the wing. Photograph by D.A.L.
Meadow brown's are secretive in their grass land home. But very easy to spot as they flit around on the wing. Photograph by D.A.L.

Night time

Night time sees a variety of moths take to the air.Again the use of records show that moths were initially surveyed at the Reserve in 1978 and regular moth trapping {they are later released unharmed} started in 1997. It is an interesting fact that moth trapping is done once or twice a month throughout the year. This has revealed that in January only two or three species are caught, while in between the months of July and August there may well be up to 60 species recorded.

The records also reveal that of 750 macro-moths {larger ones} that occur in Britain there have been over 250 species recorded at the reserve. However, in an average year the count of species is around 200. There are public events during the year when the populace can see for themselves the moths being caught and identified.

Such records are invaluable and it is thanks to the staff and dedicated volunteers, that such records are available. For it is these records that monitor the health or otherwise of the species can be ascertained. this can be observed in the following synopsis ---

Large yellow underwing have reduced in number. Setaceous Hebrew character moth is increasing in numbers. The flame shoulder moth the numbers are stable. One species-the yellow horned has shown a trend of increasing population numbers. They have increased from one or two a year when records began up to 40 per year at present. Conversely the buff tip moth numbers have fallen from 40 per year down to 1-4 per year.

The Trust {in common with many monitoring groups throughout the country} send this data to the County recorder, which in turn, incorporate it into a National Data base. It is from the National Data Base that the health or otherwise of a species is determined. Those that show a significant decline of 50% or more over the last 30 years are designated as a Priority Species under the U.K. Biodiversity Action Plans.This is true for all species of wildlife in the U.K., fauna or flora.

Privet Hawk Moth

Macro moths are impressive insects like this privet hawk moth. photograph courtesy of Jdiemer
Macro moths are impressive insects like this privet hawk moth. photograph courtesy of Jdiemer

Finally

In the next hub in this series I will look at the woodlands at Mere Sands Wood which plays host to a diverse range of wildlife including several species of bat, breeding birds and mammals.

More by this Author


Comments 8 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Windy, thank you so much for your kind comments. Will take a look at Wild Pony Tales, as soon as. Best wishes.

Carol, hi, thank you so much for visiting and your always welcome here. Best wishes.


reddog1027 profile image

reddog1027 6 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Again D.A.L. for letting me walk in your reserve. I always learn so much from these strolls and look forward to many more!


VAMPGYRL420 profile image

VAMPGYRL420 6 years ago from The Eastern Shore of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, U.S.A.

Very nice Hub, D.A.L. My more "professional" work is done for an online magazine called Wild Pony Tales. We write a lot about a local wildlife reserve, including the famous Chincoteague Wild Ponies found there. I love to read about England :) Have an amazing day!

Love & Light,

Windy Grace


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

equealla, what a beautiful comment to make . I am honored to share with nature lovers and particularly with people such as your good self who genuinely appreciate it. Thank you for your welcome visit my friend. Best wishes to you.


equealla profile image

equealla 6 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

As always, your curiosity will walk away with my imaginaton, and I enjoy the moments with you.

Even if we are miles apart, your keen eye of observation, just draw me into your experience.

Do you know, I have never even seen an evening primrose, and so many of the plants you descibe, becomes part of my world. I've seen some of them, but did not know what they were.

Some of the plants I have met, but I have never had a companion to teach me like you do.

Your hubs is becomming more and more precious to me.

And God bless those people for doing the wonderful work with so much dedication. All I can say is : Thank you for those of you who care!


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 6 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Darski, thanks for your usual kind and encouraging commments, always nice to hear from you my friend.Love and best wishes.

sun51 thank you too for your kind and appreciated comments.


suny51 profile image

suny51 6 years ago

Simply awesome for some one like me,lots of such beautiful things,full of inspirations.Beautiful


Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Breathtaking, what a walk we journeyed on today, the wild flowers are always so diverse and colorful, the moths would give my cat a high, and the rain could just pour down on me while I walk on this path, this is awesome, and beautiful, thank you my dearest friend...

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