**Summer Walk 2019**

                             MVWG Summer walk 9th July 2019

Although few attended it was a very select group. The day was close and warm so it was decided to keep to the open and explore the ancient tracks and paths. Our route was thus Gear lane, Doe lane up to Trowey over to Sicklebrook lane via the old pack horse bridge, down Owler Carr lane to the ford over the Moss then up towards Povey Farm. From there, down the field to the base of Ryalls wood, onto Doe lane and up to Litfield farm down the fields to join almost where we started at Gear Lane. Pleased that we decided to keep to the open because it was not long before we all got a bit of a dab on. Along Gear lane and down Doe Lane there were numerous butterflies but nearly all were ringlets. When we got up to Trowey, the cloud base was so low you could barely see the opposite side of the valley. Shortly into the walk we were delighted to see the orchid meadow in full bloom. One is beautiful to see but a whole field full is a treat. Most were purple spotted but some may be crossed with Marsh orchids. Below Sicklebrook farm we passed a new bungalow. Celia, on behalf of the MVWG, objected to the construction of yet more stables in the Sicklebrook area and jokingly commented that the ground plan looked more like a dwelling. A few years after the stables were constructed, permission was granted to convert the stables into a bungalow. Its now up for sale, two bedrooms in 8 acres of countryside, yours for £650K. So much for the Green Belt. Shortly after that we had lunch in a field containing cylindrical bales of hay. Marie recalled reading about somebody being killed by such a thing but could not quite figure how a ball of grass could kill somebody. Trying to push one made us all realise that these things probably weighed half a ton and if one rolled over you it would be like being rolled over by a car. Along Doe Lane Oliver and Marie were in discussion about the Saxons which all started when Oliver comment that this track/hedge row could be Saxon in origin. Sounds fanciful but the standard method of dating hedge rows is: number of species X 110 plus 30 This hedge contained hazel, field maple, oak, holly, ash and hawthorn, so this dates it to at least 700 years old. Perhaps our hedge saw the transition from Saxon England to Norman England which at times was extremely violent. The Domesday book recalls that a farm at Norton with 8 acres was valued at 20 shillings but after the uprising by Saxons in the north (now the land of the republic of South Yorkshire) and its brutal suppression by the Normans who burnt the farm, smashed the farm tools, destroyed the crops and livestock, the farm was revalued at a mere 18 pennies. Further down the sunken Doe Lane track where the sides were about three foot higher than the bottom of track and with three foot of hedge on top, even I at 6' 2 could not see over the top. It was like walking down a green corridor; it was warm, humid, still and quiet, Oliver made the comment that if we went back to Saxons times the view would probably be the same. Not quite sure though whether a Saxon would have had the opportunity to stop and sample wild raspberries as we did, but perhaps they saw a yellow shell moth just as we did. On to Litfield farm and every step we took disturbed a host of butterflies but unlike before these were nearly all meadow browns. Two hedges within half a mile of each other yet hosting two different species. So our walk drew to a close, very enjoyable but with a tinge of uneasiness. It was noted that many fields which in previous years had been closely grazed appeared now to the overgrown, abandoned. Meadow sweet was dominant in some fields suppressing other flora. Change of owners, farmers getting old, can’t make livestock pay? In spite of its apparent permanence, the valley is changing.

**Bluebell Walk 2019**

MVWG Bluebells 2019

Our bluebell walk was on the 23rd April 2019, the earliest we have ever had it. About a dozen of us met at Coal Aston but it was cold, fortunately, since some had come just in shirt sleeves, it soon warmed up and by around eleven some were stripping off fleeces, come lunch time, it was positively exotic. Just about 10 minutes into our walk the excitement began. Passing a field of hard baked earth, sparsely covered with brown, withered grass, it drew our attention because this field is normally green with thick coarse grasses and a fair selection of wild flowers. Closer examination revealed that through the hard almost bare earth emerge adders tongue ferns and they were all over the place. Yet this species, classified as uncommon, should only emerge in June to August !

As we progressed other surprises, normally when bluebells are in full bloom, wood avens and celandine are effectively over, but not this year, they were all in bloom. It was noticed how dry everything was with very little under storey. Wood avens , celandine and bluebells flowering in clumps amongst dry leaves, normally these are trying to burst through a carpet of grass, but there was virtually no grass anywhere. Through Whinacre and Owler Car woods bluebells were in full bloom. Often against this dry, brown floor there would be a slash of brilliant blue, a very striking picture. Dowey Lumb and Bridle road wood displayed massed bluebells at their best. Long wood showed some vasts carpets of blue bells as did Cook Spring wood.

We started off the day with a surprise, the adders tongue, so almost home, we ended with a surprise. On a young beech, a swarm of longhorn moths, These are very small and the bottom half of their wings are made from burnished gold which glistens in the sun. Again, this species does not normally gather until May June. Those who recall my Christmas quiz on collective nouns should add this one; a shimmering of longhorn moths.

DON NETWORK REPORT ON THE MOSS VALLEY WORK SEPT 2018

Moss Valley Article Habitat improvements to the Moss Brook

Over the last year our organisation, the Don Catchment Rivers Trust, has been undertaking a small project in the Moss Valley to make some habitat improvements to the Moss Brook, thanks to help from locals, the Moss Valley Wildlife Group and the Wild Trout Trust and funding from Yorkshire Water and the Don Network. This article gives an overview of what has been achieved.

Removal of obstacle to fish movement

Several years ago, Neverfear Weir breached, leaving an unsightly pile of debris. Unfortunately, despite collapsing, the weir still presented a partial barrier to the movement of fish due to the way the debris blocked the river. The loss of the weir was regretted by some as it was an attractive spot and it gave the Moss some of its character as a site of early industry. Furthermore, the loss of deep slow flowing river habitat upstream meant that this river stretch was no longer suitable for the coarse fish species that had for many years been fished for by locals. However, from an ecological perspective the collapse of the weir was more positive. The weir presented a major barrier to the movement of fish like Brown Trout that would naturally be found in the Moss. Such barriers suppress fish populations as they inhibit their ability to move through the river system to forage, breed, shelter and disperse. Through a combination of manual clearance and the employment of a digger and drill we were able to clear the debris and rubbish at the weir. Fish can now easily pass upstream of the weir, and many think the spot looks better now it has been cleared.

Reinstate Flow to Never Fear Dam

A problem caused by the loss of Neverfear Weir is that it stopped diverting a flow of water into a goit that had previously fed Neverfear Dam. An attempt had been made to rectify this by diverting a stream into the goit, but over time the bank wall had eroded away allowing water escape back into the main river. During this last very dry summer water levels in the dam dropped very low.

Water began to flow out of the goit and down the side of Neverfear Weir. Before long all the water began to take this route. We rebuilt the goit bank using stone from the concrete capstone and used the digger to deposit clay and soils to reinforce the bank walls. To prevent erosion we secured coir netting to the soil and spread grass seed to knit the soil together.

Another issue occurred during high water/winter conditions with a lot of water pooling around the footbridge over the goit. This was due to the water in the goit needing to pass through a small pipe that was very easily blocked. We decided to replace this footbridge with one that allowed the free flow of water underneath.

We also created a spill way from the goit upstream of the bridge to allow water to be released back into the main river during high flows.

Improving in-stream and riparian habitat

Habitat in the Moss Brook was improved in over-widened sections through the installation of fixed woody debris and the creation of ‘tree kickers’. These increase natural processes such as sediment sorting, scour, flow heterogeneity, as well as introduce micro-habitats that would be much more common in natural river systems. A small amount of thinning of the riparian canopy was done, as a mixture of tree cover and canopy improves biodiversity.

The riparian fen at the bottom of the Moss Valley SSSI was becoming increasingly overrun with trees and scrub, which Natural England had identified as a threat to the conservation value of the spot. Over nine days we worked with volunteers to clear small trees, scrub, brambles and Himalayan Balsam.

The last job: Introducing marginal plants to Neverfear Dam

Now that water levels in Neverfear Dam have been restored we intend to finish our Moss Valley Project by introducing a mixture of marginal plant species to Neverfear Dam. This will include Yellow Flag Iris, which is known by the MVWG to have once grown in the area.

RSPB BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH FROM JANUARY 27TH TO 29TH 2018

We are asking members, and anyone really eg schools, to take part in this simple annual garden birdwatch which can be completed online or by freepost. See www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatchhowto for further details. The RSPB are asking for one hour of your time to make a simple record of what you see in your garden or park. This year is as important as ever due to national concerns about declines in bird species, so please have a go, it's really easy.

UPDATE: Look at the RSPB website www.rspb.org.uk for this year's results, which indicate a positive outcome for house sparrows which have declined in recent years.

TESTING WATER QUALITY AND CONSERVING RIVER HABITATS

During the latter part of 2017 the Group (MVWG) has been testing the water quality in different areas of Moss Valley in an effort to check for any areas of concern in Moss Brook, its tributary streams/inflows and ponds. So far we have tested at 20 sites and we will add a few more on our next recording walk before the survey closes for 2017.

This work stems from an initiative set up by The FRESHWATER HABITATS TRUST www.freshwaterhabitats.org.uk which has run the Clean Water for Wildlife Survey over the last two years. The survey’s aim is to raise awareness of the threats to our natural fresh water habitats and identify clean water habitats in England and Wales. Its ultimate aim is to help to protect freshwater biodiversity.

The Trust provides free testing equipment and the current survey ends at the end of 2017. The test only covers pollution from nitrates and phosphates, so cannot test for other forms of pollution. So far MVWG has found only moderate traces of these chemicals, however we may see fluctuations at times of the year when chemicals are applied to the land more frequently. Nitrate contamination comes mainly from artificial fertilisers via run-off from fields. Run-off becomes more of a problem if the soil lacks sufficient organic material to hold moisture. Phosphate contamination comes mainly from sewage including animal dung, because artificial phosphate fertiliser is less soluble and tends to stay in the soil.

It has been striking to see how short a distance can show fluctuations in contamination levels, possibly due to natural filtering and the influx of clean water. We have a lot to learn, but we know that some species are particularly sensitive to pollution. The above website contains useful information.

The DON CATCHMENT RIVERS TRUST www.dcrt.org.uk has acquired funding to work with others to improve the water environment and deliver environmental benefits for people and wildlife. The Moss Brook, as a tributary to the rivers Rother and Don, forms part of the overall plan drawn up by DCRT. In 2017 MVWG accompanied DCRT staff on a walk along the Moss Brook to look at ways in which the Brook could be improved, for example by removing blockages to help the movement of fish. DCRT has secured funding for conservation work on Eckington Marsh and has applied for further funding to support conservation work in the Don Catchment area. We continue to follow this welcome initiative and will contribute where we can.

MayflyYoung toad

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