Table of Contents


This section holds old news items, articles and photos which you may wish to refer to from time to time. Most items over two months old may be filed here.


The most recent are listed first.

  • Fungi Walk, October 2017
  • Invertebrates Walk, September 2017
  • Himalayan Balsam Control Update, Summer 2017
  • Summer Walk, July 2017
  • Recording of Species, July 2017
  • Bluebell Walk April 2017
  • Arthur Carrington
  • Members' Walk, 1st April 2017
  • South Yorks Nat. History Day, Feb 2017
  • Winter Walk, January 2017
  • Recording Walk, 25 October 2016
  • Fungus Survey, October 2016
  • Recording Update, July 2016
  • AGM, June 2016
  • Moss Brook Weir Collapse, June 2016
  • Recording of Species, May-June 2016
  • Sorby Invertebrates Recording Day, June 2016
  • Bluebell Walk, April 2016
  • RSPB Garden Bird Survey - Results
  • RSPB Garden Bird Survey 2016
  • Himalayan Balsam Report 2015
  • Fungi Walk Oct 2015
  • Norton Ploughing Match Oct 2015
  • Summer Stroll in Moss Valley, Aug 2015
  • Species Recording in Moss Valley
  • Bluebell Walk April 2015
  • Wildflower Seeds
  • Big Garden Birdwatch (Jan. 2015)
  • Winter's Grip, December 2014
  • American Signal Crayfish
  • Fungi Walk, October 2014
  • Himalayan Balsam Pull Report, 2014
  • Recording Walk, Oct 2014
  • Floral Displays
  • 2014 Himalayan Balsam Pull In Full Swing
  • Anston Stones Reserve
  • Sheffield Bioblitz June 2014
  • SORBY Invertebrates Recording Day, June 2014
  • AGM 2014
  • A Walk in Moss Valley, 18th May 2014
  • Bluebell Walk, Moss Valley, 3rd May 2014
  • A Memorable Evening Covering The Forgotten Valley (Shirebrook)
  • One Swallow Does Not A Summer Make
  • RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch
  • Early Flowers & Insects March/April 2014
  • Daffodils
  • Shoo Before Shoot - Bird Control
  • Badger Culling - What Next?
  • Spring Time - Thrush Set To Go
  • Rain -Too Little/Too Much
  • Peter Robinson 1952-2013
  • Winter Walk, January 2014
  • The Jubilee Hedge
  • Further Decline in Common Birds
  • Badger Cull Ends
  • Spider Watch
  • Sorby/MVWG Harvest Mouse Nest Survey Nov. 2013
  • Himalayan Balsam Report 2013
  • Norton Ploughing Match Oct. 2013
  • An Evening in Australia with Keith Pascoe
  • Looking at Fungi Oct. 2013
  • Balsam Pull Nearing Completion
  • Norton Ploughing Match Oct 2013
  • Himalayan Balsam Pull Update July 2013
  • Himalayan Balsam Pull Underway
  • Badgers
  • SWT Community Work Days 2013
  • Birds and Bluebells Walk, 18 May 2013
  • Hawthorn
  • Spring is Coming
  • Springtime in Moss Valley
  • Hazelhurst CSA - Latest Developments
  • Joint Walk with Gleadless Valley Wildlife Trust, March 2013
  • South Yorks Natural History Day, Treeton, February 2013
  • Waxwings
  • Winter Walk January 2013
  • Ash Trees
  • 2012 Himalayan Balsam Report Now Available
  • Mammals With SORBY, 4 December 2012
  • Fungi Walk 2 November 2012
  • Harvest Mouse Nest Survey 28 Oct. 2012
  • 121st Norton Ploughing Match October 2012
  • Summer Rains 2012
  • Charnock Wild Flower Initiative
  • Badgers
  • Ploughing Match
  • Spiders
  • Rooks
  • Moth Watch With Sorby, 27 July 2012
  • Balsam Pull Clearly Succeeding
  • Bioblitz Success
  • The First Cuckoo
  • Joint Walk with Dronfield Nat Hist Society 13 May 2012
  • Birds & Bluebells Walk 6 May 2012
  • Friends Of Charnock Recreation Ground Celebration, 5 May 2012
  • Moss Valley Now Part Of Peak Fringe Area Action Plan
  • Joint Walk With Beauchief Environment Group, 15 April 2012
  • Early Wild Flowers In The Woods & Glades
  • Swallows
  • Possible Solution to the Crayfish Problem
  • New Bridge Installed Over The Moss at Dowey Lumb
  • Presentation at St. Peter's Church, 20 Feb. 2012
  • South Yorks Natural History Day, 18 Feb. 2012
  • South Yorks Wildlife Action Day, 4 Feb 2012
  • February Bluebell Brings Cheer
  • Signs of Old Coppicing in Moss Valley Woodlands
  • 2011 Himalayan Balsam Report Now Available
  • New Certificate Awarded To MVWG
  • Hazelhurst CSA Newsletter January 2012
  • Drought? What Drought?
  • New Year Amble, 7 th January 2012
  • New Management Plan, Moss Valley Woodlands (SWT)
  • Normality Returns To The Moss Brook
  • Moss Brook, Never Fear Dam
  • Hazelhurst CSA Co-op News (Oct. 2011)
  • Harvest Mouse Nest Survey, Oct. 30th 2011
  • Rain Needed
  • Evergreens Come Into Their Own
  • Norton Sparrowhawk
  • 120th Norton Ploughing Match 15 October 2011
  • Indian Summer 2011
  • Moss Brook Drought
  • Fungi Walk
  • Dowey Lumb
  • Sloe Arrival
  • Drought: Recent Observations From Keith Pascoe As The Water Shortage Continues!
  • Swifts
  • Plant Survey
  • Never Fear Pond
  • Spotted Flycatcher
  • Keith Pascoe's Fossil Find
  • Coal Aston Show, 2nd July 2011
  • Cutting The Hay, Hazlebarrow, June 2011
  • Where Has All The Water Gone?
  • Is It All In The Eye Of The Beholder?
  • Himalayan Balsam Pull 2011 Kicks Off
  • Reserves Advisory Group, 16 May 2011
  • Birds & Bluebells Walk, 15 May 2011
  • Bridle Stile
  • Wild Garlic, Water and Bluebells
  • Sheffield Environment Weeks - Bird Walk for Beginners
  • Plant Survey 2011
  • The Oldest Historical Site on the Moss Brook?
  • The Source of the Moss Brook
  • Meetings With Tree Trunks
  • Reserves Advisory Group
  • Sloe Gin Coming
  • New Crop Appears
  • A Tale Of Two Bridges
  • A Ramble In The Lower Moss Valley
  • Group AGM
  • Joint Walk In Shirebrook Valley
  • What Is Himalayan Balsam?
  • Hazelhurst CSA
  • Unwanted Intruders Or Successful Invaders?
  • Bird Migration
  • Big Pull 2 - Himalayan Balsam Pull 2010


An interesting fungi day as always, led by Sheffield City Council Biodiversity Officer Ziggy Senkans, looking at Newfield Spring Wood and surroundings. There was certainly plenty to look at and ponder over, with around 40 species identified on the day - with a few requiring further checking later. Prominent on the day were buttercaps and ochre brittlegills, lots of them in the leaf litter. Also quite common were angel's bonnet, sulphur tuft, the deceiver and yellowing curtain crust. Among the less obvious were holly speckle, earthball and candlesnuff fungus. The highlights for me were a beautiful wood blewit, amethyst deceiver, pink bonnet, wood hedgehog, grey coral, oak bug milkcap and a webcap species with a particularly bulbous stem. A big Thank You! to Ziggy for giving his time and expertise on a tricky subject for us.

Place your cursor over the fungi photos below to see a caption.


wood blewitoakbug milkcapangel's bonnetclustered toughshankwebcap speciesgrey coral


We enjoyed a productive day, recording around 100 species in hedgerows, rough meadow and woodland. Although this date was later in the year than usual for an insect walk it yielded plenty of butterflies, bees, wasps and flies thanks to some sunny spots in sheltered places. A small copper butterfly was a nice surprise, and we spotted small white, comma and speckled wood butterflies. Just a selection of sightings include: longhorn beetle, slender ground hopper, four-spotted orb weaver spider, purple woodlouse, 22-spot ladybird, green shield bug, dor beetle, garden bumblebee, freshwater shrimp, and silk button gall on oak. For me, the star had to be the female southern hawker dragonfly which Derek spotted resting in a hedge - see photo. We were also on the lookout for an ivy bee but did not see one. These attractive bees seem to be moving up from the south so they may reach our area.

As always, hearty thanks to Sorby members and Derek Whiteley in particular for leading the walk and providing expertise.



Please see the BALSAM PULL page for news on what has been achieved in the Never Fear Dam area of the SSSI in summer 2017, and what more could perhaps be done in 2018 with the right support.


Here are a few pictures from a fine evening stroll along Bridlestile near Mosborough, round to Plumbley and Ridgeway. If you place the cursor over the photo you will see a caption.

Meadow, BridlestileGin BankView south looking over Bushes Wood


Our recording team continues to regularly walk in selected areas of the valley, as in 2015/2016, to record any flora and fauna of note and their habitats eg hedgerows, wetland etc. We are now building up a picture of species, common and uncommon, and are looking out for trends. These trends may reflect what is happening nationally, for example the abundance of farmland birds has declined, so too insects, but we have discovered a few surprises and occasional 'peaks' eg butterfly surges. This summer we have seen more ringlet butterflies than usual and lots of bumblebees. Only recently we have seen quite a few linnets, yellowhammers and lapwings, three species of damselfly and a cardinal beetle. This year there seem to have been more skylarks. Today we spotted a whitethroat, swifts and swallows, and were delighted to get good views of a redstart. So it is not all bad news. We have also seen some interesting flora, eg recently harebells and red bartsia. Recording has to be thorough but is enjoyable and will continue into the autumn when we will be looking for fruiting plants and fungi.

Photos below of white ermine moth and meadow brown, both found in grass.

White ermine mothMeadow brown


We enjoyed a fine stroll in the lower Moss Valley on 29th April, starting from Ford and taking in Ladybank, Ince Piece and High Bramley Woods as well as woodland fringing the Moss. Below is a selection of the views, the last one being a striking view north from High Bramley, looking at oil seed rape crops near Plumbley. We looked at various early spring flowers such as dog violet and stitchwort, but insects were a bit scarce due to the cold wind. Bumblebee queens were out scanning the ground for nest sites. A group of blackcaps, a goldcrest and a tree creeper were a treat to watch.


P.S. LONGHORN MOTHS IN WOODED AREAS IN SPRING. Look out for these especially in sunny glades. This photo was taken in late April in Moss Valley, and I am pretty certain it is Adela reaumurella.


It is with sadness that we mark the passing of Arthur Carrington, a person who knew the local countryside and enjoyed it to the full. Born 88 years ago in Halfway, the son of a miner, Arthur was a great nature lover and a true outdoors person who could identify animal tracks, plants, birds and their song. A sociable man who will be missed by many. A man who knew the true value of our local countryside and the need to conserve it for all. Arthur’s example is one we should follow. Moss Valley Wildlife Group is touched and honoured to receive a generous donation from Arthur’s partner Pamela, which we will use to help achieve our objectives in conserving Moss Valley.


Here are a few photos of our short circular walk from Coal Aston on 1st April, a breezy sunny day. The wildlife is certainly stirring in the valley - we saw lapwings, skylarks, yellowhammers and a chiff chaff, to name a few. The bees were busy especially round pussy willow as wild flowers are not abundant just yet. However now is the time to see wood anemonies (photo), lesser celandines and speedwells. Butterflies are starting to emerge eg small tortoiseshell. The Moss Brook is full of interest, and the view from Troway is superb. We were pleased to try the re-instated public footpath running south-west from Povey across the fields, a useful alternative to the bridleway. The woods are full of light as the leaves are only in bud, so it is a good time to visit woodland.


A diary note for all group members, naturalists, conservationists et al, this SORBY NATURAL HISTORY SOCIETY - organised event is the 8th in a successful series of annual events. The theme is: 'What's Going on in South Yorkshire?' Booking is FREE and via SORBY, contact Peter Clegg, There will be plenty of local interest and presentations. MVWG is pleased to attend this event every year.


When we booked this date it was with some apprehension regarding the weather, but we were lucky to have such a calm, mild day. Starting from Ford we followed the Moss Brook before peeling off to the Bowercinder Hill and Plumbley area. We dropped down to the Moss again and crossed near Seldom Seen Engine House before climbing to the woodland at High Bramley. Then back to White Bridge, the Moss and Ford. The views were great but low-lying mist in the valley and on the ponds gave the place an eerie look.

The broken weir near Ford is in a mess but plans are in hand to improve the brook here, primarily to help water flow and drainage locally. It was good to see other walkers out enjoying the countryside, and to see what is about in the woods and farmland. Among the birds we came across were goldcrest, great spotted woodpecker, kestrel, buzzard, heron, fieldfare, mistle thrush and red-legged partridge. Look out for the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch 28-30 January 2017 - to register for a pack/get more info see

Place your cursor over the picture to see a caption.

Flood damaged weir near FordNear the 'Ring Field', lower Moss ValleyDon't look behind you, someone wants your sandwichWeird mist rising near Seldom Seen At Seldom Seen Engine House.Photo, Chris W.



A calm autumn day which started cold then became mild and sunny. We ventured into Stoneley Wood looking for anything of interest, but the day was dominated by fungi as expected, in the woodland and rough grassland. Actually there were still some wild plants in flower, notably red campion, oxeye daisy, hogweed, red clover, wood aven, black knapweed and yarrow.

We began on fungi with a good example of brown birch bolete, then a group of funnels and a deceiver (so called because its appearance varies). We got our eye in, and with Keith's keen spotting skills we found quite a lot, e.g. common bonnet, jelly ear, candlesnuff, turkeytail, birch bracket, southern bracket, sulphur tuft, common puffball, cramp ball and butter cap. There were lots of small brackets and crusts, and others too difficult to identify in the field.

In the sunny glades there were still insects to be found. A large queen wasp, day-flying moths, various flies and spiders. Looking closely at the fungi they attract insects, some of which are tiny.

Not forgetting birds, we noted the arrival of a fieldfare, eating hawthorn berries. Winter thrushes are now roaming the countryside after migrating from Scandinavia. Winter is on the way but many trees are still green e.g. oaks; trees turning gold include sweet chestnut and maple.

the deceivercommon bonnet



A fine sunny autumn day on Tuesday 4th October and a group of MVWG members gathered near Jordanthorpe Parkway to survey fungi in the woods at the western end of the Moss Valley. The team was led by Michael Senkans, head of the Sheffield City Council Ecology Unit, and a very knowledgeable fungi expert. The survey will form part of the formal records for the valley.

We explored Coalpit Wood, Long Wood and Cook Spring Wood.

It has been a relatively dry Autumn to date and therefore fungi were not in over abundance. However, good examples of Scaly Earth ball, Russula, Tawney Grissette, Psathyrella, Dead Molls Fingers, and Birch Bracket were found. And the weather was excellent for the time of year with Autumnal colours just beginning to emerge.

Very special thanks to Michael for once again providing his expert assistance.

We are now looking forward to the next event which is a talk by Richard Hill on the Breeding Birds of the Sheffield Area on Monday 10th October at 7.00 p.m. for 7.30 p.m. at Gleadless Methodist Church, side entrance.

P.W. 07.10.16


At the AGM in June our Recorder summarised the good progress made in 2015, notably the filling of many gaps in less recorded areas, bearing in mind that most walks are confined to public paths. Special permission was obtained for access to some areas, and that will continue in 2016. With around 2,500 records from 112 walks, some assisted by experts from Sorby Natural History Society, this required a huge effort in checking records/locations, entering data and following up queries. There were many highlights, however we now have to make judgements on what to record in 2016 to avoid duplication of effort, eg some very common species. Our recording effort continues in 2016 with encouraging results, and we will continue to send our results to the local records officer.

Our knowledge and skills have improved and the recording walks are rewarded by a reasonable set of data on plants, fungi, mammals, fish, birds and insects, and some interesting photos (thank goodness for digital photography). There are still a lot of unknowns - mostly from the insect world which is vast. We will also be looking more closely at hedgerows, at their condition and quality in terms of wildlife. The removal of Himalayan Balsam has restored biodiversity in key areas especially the wetlands and stream edges, and deep gratitude goes to all those involved over the years.

Below are some pictures taken on recent recording forays. Place the cursor over the photo to see a caption.



The annual general meeting of the Moss Valley Wildlife Group was held on Monday 13th June at 7.30 p.m.

For members who were unable to attend this is a brief summary of the key points.

  • The minutes of the previous AGM were agreed.
  • The treasurer/membership secretary report was delivered and agreed. This showed that although expenditure exceeded income in the past 12 months the finances of the Group were felt to be sustainable going forward. Membership subscriptions are being held at the current level of £5 per household for 2016/17. The Group's income comes primarily from membership subscriptions and donations whereas expenditure relates to room hire for meetings/events, membership of wild life trusts, insurance as required, and incidentals for Group activities. There are currently 22 household memberships. Subscriptions are now due for 2016/17 and should be sent to the membership secretary (details under “membership” shown above) together with any changes to your personal contact details including your e-mail address.
  • The recorder delivered a comprehensive report covering the principal highlights of 2015/16 which included the updating of existing records and the formation of an effective team of members who carry out regular recording walks. Recording highlights have included the identification of a Midland Hawthorn tree, Fairy Flax, a Forester Moth and Gold Spot Moth and the sighting of a Lesser Whitethroat and Barn Owl.
  • There is now substantial evidence of the success of the Himalayan Balsam removal campaign and the full report of this landmark activity in recent years is shown under “balsam pull” above.
  • The current committee members agreed to stand again for re-election for the period 2016/17.
  • The next Annual General Meeting will be held on at 7.30 p.m. on Monday 12 June 2017.

P.W. 14.06.16


The weir in the Moss Brook, two fields below the fishing pond, just past the small footbridge, has collapsed in the recent floods.

The following pictures show the weir when it was intact and what it looks like now.

The Don Catchment Rivers Trust are aware of the situation and have invited the Moss Valley Wildlife Group to a formal site visit on Thursday 14th July to assess the damage and discuss possible options for the future.

P.W. 14.06.16


Our recording walks are now well underway for this year, focusing on previously under-recorded areas of the valley. On 31st May we looked at the Plumbley and Bridle Stile area, recording anything of interest in flora and fauna. Despite the cool, windy weather we recorded a good number of spring flowers such as creeping cinquefoil (photo below), birdsfoot trefoil and white campion. The wind kept the birds and insects down low but we did see a whitethroat, a summer visitor with its scratchy song. I remember hearing skylarks, song thrush and greenfinch singing. Even along the edges of cultivated fields it is amazing how many wild flowers are there, you just need to look.

PlumbleyCreeping Cinquefoil


MVWG members joined a very interesting walk from Eckington led by Derek Whiteley of Sorby Natural History Society. The Moss Valley is within Sorby's recording area. We were looking for anything of interest and we certainly got it as this is a rich area contaning wet meadow, woodland, marsh/ponds and the Moss Brook itself. Some of the stand-out species we looked at were: pied shield bug, azure damselfly, holly blue butterfly, black-headed cardinal beetle, silver ground carpet moth, garden chafer, slender groundhopper, and early bumblebee. Over 70 species noted in all including various molluscs and galls. Many thanks to Derek and the other Sorby members for sharing their expertise and making the walk so rewarding.

MayflyBlack-headed Cardinal Beetle


A bright sunny day with a cold wind (and coincidentally Saint George's day and William Shakespeare's 400th anniversary) saw ten members of the Moss Valley Wildlife Group, led by Keith Pascoe, meet up behind Coal Aston Community Centre to go and view the bluebells in the Moss Valley. This is a popular annual event as the Moss Valley is noted for its spring-time display of carpets of blue flowers.

The bluebells were not quite at their best and perhaps needed another week or two of warmer weather to be in full bloom. Indeed the general perception was that they were not as much in profusion compared to previous years. However, what was apparent was the number of white wood anemones which rivalled the bluebells in their display and opened up when the sun shone on them.

A lunch stop was made at the Dowey Lumb meadow and at mid-day the now obligatory buzzard flew over climbing ever higher on the thermals. Amongst the grass, mason bees (one of the 227 species of U.K. solitary bee) were busy digging out their nesting holes and there was also a great deal of Betony growing (pictured below on the left) although it was not yet in flower. In times gone by Betony was used as a herbal tea to relieve cold symptoms. Keith also noticed a very unusual bluebell flower (pictured below on the right) with bracts coming out of the flowers. On reflection, on the way home, this may have been a hybridised hyacinth, as they are of the same family, and in Scotland bluebells are referred to as wild hyacinths.

At the base of a birch tree this unusual fungus (pictured below on the left) was seen. It looked liked a collection of snails. It was jelly-like in nature and was probably a form of bracket fungi known as Beech jelly. The next drift of flowers (and aroma!) will be the wild garlic which was just beginning to come into bud and is shown below on the right.

The next arranged walks with members in the Moss Valley will be on Wednesday 3rd August (general look-see stroll) and Tuesday 4 October (fungi). Please click on the “events” section at the top of the page for the details of time and location.


The results of the bird survey undertaken nationally in January (see below) have now been published.

The top 5 birds recorded in England were as follows:

1. House sparrow 2. Blue Tit 3. Starling 4. Blackbird 5. Woodpigeon

Extra facts: The house sparrow kept its place at the top spot this year, with around four appearing in each garden. The long-tailed tit was a new entry in the top 10 for 2016, flying in at 10th position. It is possible that January's mild weather meant more smaller birds survived the winter to be counted - explaining the appearance of more long-tailed tits and coal tits. And though natural food sources were plentiful, it is clear these birds still rely on the food we put out in our gardens.

The blackbird was the most widespread garden bird, appearing in 88% of gardens. However, their numbers have declined since the first Birdwatch in 1979.


Yes, the end of January sees the world's largest wild-life survey. The annual bird survey by the RSPB. This will be taking place on Saturday 30th and Sunday 31st January. Respondents are invited to watch the birds in their garden or local park for one hour on either day. They then record the highest number of each bird species that they see at the same time - not the total over the hour (as birds may visit more than once). They are also asked to count only the birds that land, not those that are flying over. They then submit the records to the RSPB.

It is tempting to enter what you know you have seen over the previous week, particularly if it is a bit quiet without much bird life being around. But no, you have to stick to the rules. Remember, it is a survey not a competition!

This survey has been going since 1979. Last year over 8.5 million birds were counted by 585,000 people.

In 2015 the top 10 birds seen in gardens were as follows:

1 House sparrow 2 Starling 3 Blackbird 4 Blue tit 5 Wood pigeon 6 Chaffinch 7 Robin 8 Great tit 9 Goldfinch 10 Collared dove

Of the most common birds seen, the ones causing the greatest concern in terms of falling numbers, are the Song Thrush, the Greenfinch and the Starling.

So why not register. You do not have to be a member of the RSPB to participate.

To join in, and register your interest, go to the web-site at



This report is now available on the BALSAM PULL page and is well worth reading. It marks the culmination of a huge effort spanning several years and outlines new arrangements for 2016.


A grey autumn day but the woods were resplendent in their autumn colours. We set off from Jack Field and into Bridle Road Wood and Newfield Spring Wood, led by our fungi expert Michael Senkans, Biodiversity Monitoring Officer, SCC. After a slow start we got our eye in eventually - difficult due to all the fallen leaves - and started what turned out to be an impressive list of around 50 species. After a series of species recording walks in 2015 when we spotted various fungi but struggled to identify many, it was a pleasure to be with an expert who could explain what we were seeing, eg the identification features, the specialised habitat and changes the fungi underwent as they aged. Thank you to Michael Senkans and to all those who turned up to help with fungi spotting and for a great autumn stroll.

Unlike plants, fungi do not use photosynthesis, but obtain nutrients from the thread-like hyphae below them in the soil, leaf litter or wood. The fungi we see are just the fruiting bodies, consisting of tightly packed hyphae with the purpose of reproducing by dispersing spores. Many have special relationships with trees and soil, exchanging nutrients. The really obvious function is to help recycle plant matter back to the soil eg rotting timber.

Fungi make great subjects to photograph if you don't mind scrambling on the ground a bit! The subject of mycology is quite complex but one spin-off is that you learn more about the habitat that fungi appear in, for example a particular type of tree, woodland or soil type. It is tempting to pick or collect fungi but we would encourage people to admire them for what they are, leave them alone and respect them and the habitat. Like many species and habitats there seems to be a decline and they deserve to be conserved.

Below are a few photos from the walk. To see the caption place the cursor over the image.


Ganoderma species, probably Southern BracketGetting our eye inShaggy ScalycapDryad's SaddleBlack Saddle, or Elfin Saddle


The 124th annual Ploughing Match, held by the Norton Agricultural Show and Ploughing Association, took place in the Moss Valley on Saturday 17th October at Povey Farm, Lightwood Lane.

A dry, sunny day with 32 tractors (yes, I counted them) of all types and ages taking part. They were divided into different classes from vintage to modern with prizes and cups awarded by the judges after 4 hours of ploughing their allotted plots.

The oldest tractor was a little grey 1945 Ferguson and the owner said he was the second owner from new. He said he “absolutely loved it” and it still worked like a ticking watch. There are lots of interesting photos from previous ploughing matches available on their web-site at Just click on “Past Photos”.

The Moss Valley looked wonderful dressed in Autumn colours and on the way home I visited the nursery half way up Hazelhurst Lane, where the co-operative (Sheffield Organic Growers) were having an open “apple day”. Their orchard, planted around 4 years ago, has been very productive this year with an excellent crop of apples and pears. You can find details at

P.W. 20.10.15


Our late summer walk took in Ford, Neverfear Dam, Plumbley, Carterhall and Birley Hay. As it was hot we took our time to spot wildlife and take in the views across the valley. There were lively post-breeding flocks of house martins at Plumbley and Carterhall, even a few late swifts. There were red-legged partridges, a kestrel, yellowhammer, linnet, and even two cormorants (anglers beware). The stand-out feature of the walk for me was the insects, in particular the dragonflies (hawker, common darter) and butterflies (common blue, holly blue, small copper, gatekeeper and others). Standing next to a Giant Hogweed was a weird experience (photo below), as it has a strange presence being about 9 feet tall and poisonous, even to the touch. I still can't identify the colourful bolete fungus we came across. No two walks are the same - we usually see something interesting or unusual.


Near PlumbleyView westwards

Unidentified boleteThe return of the Giant Hogweed


The Group's recording walks are now well under way, yielding some interesting new information and improving our knowledge of the valley. For me, not only have I learned a lot on these mini expeditions, but I have had fun along the way.

This ongoing project started afresh in autumn 2014 when we decided to step up our recording activity, especially in under-recorded areas, to fill gaps in the records and provide new data on flora and fauna for our own records and for other local recorders. This task has presented a challenge as it requires a certain amount of skill to ensure our identification is correct when faced with the more difficult species eg insects and some plants. Luckily we have had expert help from time to time (many thanks) and our recording officer can collate all the information on computer. So, a good start.

What have we been looking at and why are we bothering to record it? It is well known that around 60% of UK species are in decline, even common farmland birds. Local records provide a picture of what is there, what it is that we are aiming to conserve, and show trends over time. Such information is important to conservationists, local people, landowners and planners and can inform local and even national thinking on the state of health of the countryside. As Moss Valley contains a variety of habitats it is a good place to observe and record.

Only recently we spotted holly blue and brimstone butterflies, longhorn and chimney sweep moths, a brown hare, and listened to blackcaps singing. We are interested in the common as well as the uncommon. The variety of bumblebees in the meadows is amazing. Even the edges of cultivated fields can support wild flowers like dog rose and red campion. This year there seem to be more skylarks about, which is good news.

You don't have to be an 'expert' to observe and record flora and fauna. We welcome members and the public reporting what they have seen (see the Recording page on this website). A recent report of a kingfisher was well received indeed. Local knowledge is often best, so we talk to local people where possible. Many people develop knowledge of wildlife just from walking the dog. Even a short stroll can turn up something interesting.

If you spot anything of interest, do drop us an email about it.

Our working recording walks are different from open publicised events, but if you are interested in joining the recording walks team please let us know.


click beetlecommon carpet moth


This walk, part of Sheffield Environment Weeks, started from Coal Aston and took in several ancient woodlands in the western part of Moss Valley. We went in search of bluebells - and found them - but also looked at other early spring flowers such as wood anemone, yellow archangel, red dead-nettle, wood sorrel and cowslip. The spring sunshine brought out small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies. Our summer bird migrants are now appearing - we heard chiffchaff, blackcap, and saw wheatears. Skylarks were singing and robin fledgelings in a hedge showed how early some birds breed. The woods are vibrant just now as the sunlight penetrates the thin canopy, so a walk is recommended!

Watch out for an article in the Sheffield Telegraph in the coming week, focusing on the Moss Valley.

Crossing the Moss BrookBridle Road Wood Bridle Road WoodDowey Lumb


At the Olympic Games in 2012 the area around the Stadium was transformed with the sowing of wildflower seeds. This created quite a lot of national attention. And around other major cities, many derelict areas have also featured wildflower plantings by local councils and environmental groups, including Telford, Leeds, RHS Harlow Carr and the Eden Project.

What is perhaps less well known is that these are a local initiative from Sheffield, based not far away from the Moss Valley

They have all been initiated by a partnership with Sheffield University and an environmental social enterprise organisation called Green Estate. It has a local commercial arm called Pictorial Meadows Ltd. based at Manor Oaks Farmhouse, 389, Manor Lane, Sheffield, S2 1UL, which supplies seeds to commercial and domestic customers. The playing fields off Carter Hall Lane at Gleadless in the Moss Valley featured a planting in 2013.

They have packets of wildflower mixes available on a retail basis, as well as larger quantities of seeds for commercial use, designed to give a balance of colour and display from late June to November.

For those of you who are interested in setting aside part of the garden for wildlife, particularly bees and insects, and who would appreciate an interesting and varied mix of colour, then now is the time to sow some seeds.

My two packets - “Pretty as a Picture” Classic mix and “Pretty as a Picture” Pastel mix have just arrived for planting in April. They contain Bishops Flower, Cosmos, Shirley Poppy, Californian Poppy, Cornflower, and Fairy Toadflax.

If you are interested, then the full details are shown at and seeds can be ordered over the internet as well as purchased on site.

P.W. 29.03.2015


This weekend sees the annual bird survey by the RSPB. It takes place on Saturday 24th January and Sunday 25th January. This survey has been going since 1979. Last year over 7 million birds were counted by nearly half a million people.

In 2014 the top 10 birds seen in gardens were as follows:

1.House Sparrow 2.Blue Tit 3.Starling 4.Blackbird 5.Woodpigeon 6.Chaffinch 7,Goldfinch 8.Great Tit 9.Collared Dove 10.Robin

Respondents are invited to watch the birds in their garden or local park for one hour on either day. They then record the highest number of each bird species that they see at the same time - not the total over the hour (as birds may visit more than once). They are also asked to count only the birds that land, not those that are flying over. They then submit the records to the RSPB. For some reason the birds in my garden seem to know that I am doing a survey and keep well away, and then on the following weekend they all return. Last year I sat for an hour and had a nil return. It is tempting to enter what you know you have seen over the previous week, but no, you have to stick to the rules. I have to keep telling myself that it is a survey not a competition!

You do not have to be a member of the RSPB to participate.

To join in go to the web-site at



Not many people venture out on a freezing cold winter's day but the recent snowfall has made the valley rather magical, especially in the woodlands and along the Moss Brook. With the bright light conditions it was good for spotting wildlife and taking photos. I was rewarded with good views of the winter thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfares, troops of small birds in the woods and hedgerows such as blue and coal tits, nuthatches, robins and wrens. There were woodpeckers, jays, kestrels and sparrowhawks, and overhead a flock of lapwings. Plenty of animal tracks too, and even fungi in places. I had thought that the grey squirrels would not emerge from their dreys on very cold days but I was wrong - there were many foraging in the leaf litter. Here are a few photos, the caption will appear when the cursor is placed over them.


Dowey LumbLong WoodMoss BrookStump Puffball Oyster MushroomView towards Sicklebrook


The fishing club that controls Upper Skelper Pond has recently introduced around 400 Chub into the pond to re-stock it and also as an attempt to control the number of crayfish.

It is known that Perch (who are carnivorous in their diet) will eat crayfish. However, this is only possible for a limited time when juvenile crayfish shed their hard outer shell (they moult three times as juveniles). It is vulnerable at this time and the Perch in the pond have grown much larger than expected and it is thought that they are eating Crayfish at this critical point.

However, although Chub are not as carnivorous in their diet as Perch, and will probably steer clear of adult Crayfish, it is hoped that they will feast on Crayfish eggs and the young juveniles.

On a recent fishing trip to Upper Skelper Pond a Chub was caught and photographed (picture below) so that you can see what a Chub looks like. Time will tell whether this strategy can work in controlling the Crayfish population.

Unfortunately, American Signal Crayfish, which were introduced to Europe in the 1960's and to the UK in 1976, aggressively push out the native Crayfish, and are now in the pond at Ford, down most of the Moss Brook, and are in the River Rother as well. They are classed as an invasive species across Europe.

P.W. 12.11.14


October is one of the best months of the year for searching for wild fungi, and with the warm and relatively dry weather we have experienced recently, this year was no exception.

An enthusiatic group of MVWG members gathered at 10.30 a.m. at Ford on what was one of the sunniest and warmest days, certainly for late October, to look for fungi in the lower Moss Valley.

We were fortunate to have the skills and expertise of Michael Senkans, the Biodiversity Monitoring Officer from the Sheffield City Ecology Unit, who had been invited to lead us. He was excellent in identifying and discussing the wide range of specimens found along the Moss Brook as we walked towards Eckington. A full list of the fungi identified will be added to the formal records by Michael. In the meantime a quick list of some of the specimens identified, which I jotted down as we walked along, is as follows:

Brown Mottlegill, Honey Fungus, Rufous Milkcap, Snowy Inkcap, Oysterling, Glistening Ink Cap, Brittlestem, Blue Round Head, Blushing Bracket, Wood Mushroom, Rooting Brittle Stem, Butter Cap, Crested Coral, Dog's Vomit, Angel's Bonnet, False Death Cap, Ochre Brittlegill, Redleg Toughshank, Mycena Pura, Candlesnuff, Blackening Wax Cap, Blackfoot Polypore, Clouded Funnel, Amethyst Deceiver, Red Cracking Bolete, and Earthball.

To give you an idea of the variety that exists among fungi, here are a few images from the walk. Place the cursor over the image to see the caption.

Shaggy Ink CapAngel's Bonnet Crested CoralLilac Bonnet

And here are pictures of Michael Senkans and MVWG members exploring in the Moss Valley on what was a fascinating and productive expedition. We returned to Ford at around 4 p.m. fortunately just before the first drops from the forecasted heavy rain began to fall.

P.W. & J.W. 29.10.2014


Another successful year and deep thanks to all involved. This report is now available to view - see the Balsam Pull page on this website. Thanks go to Celia for producing this important annual report.


This was a surprisingly fruitful day despite the cold and windy weather. We recorded a wide range of species (well over 100) along the route through Stoneley Wood, Carterhall and Whites Wood, the objective being to have a look at some of the under-recorded 'squares' on the map. Highlights for me were the exceptionally large flock of goldfinches, seeing some wild plants still in flower, and a few interesting fungi. The black four-spot ladybird was a find too. This was a promising start to further walks to be led by our new Recorder, Oliver - the next being from Hazelhurst Lane, 10 a.m. on 16th October. All members are of course welcome regardless of the level of expertise in any field. The photos below have a short descriptive caption - place your cursor over the picture.

Stoneley WoodDead Moll's Fingers

Carterhall, where we found a very hairy caterpillar Bittersweet, or Woody Nightshade


Moss Valley Wildlife Group holds its regular monthly business meetings, to which all members are invited, in a room at the back of Gleadless Methodist Church.

We are very grateful for the use of these premises.

Over the weekend of 12th to 14th September the Church held a floral display for those who have touched our lives in so many ways including Medical and nursing care, Rescue Services, Police and Fire Services, Ambulance Services, Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, and Carers. It also included a posters display from Charnock School, Gleadless School and Valley Park School.

Shown below is a display of gladiolis which were positioned outside the entrance to the Church.

The next Moss Valley Wildlife Group events are:

1. The first of what we hope to be a series of Recording Walks on Tuesday 7th October at 10.00 a.m. meeting at the car park on Bowman Drive Gleadless. The second one will be a walk on Thursday 16th October meeting at Hazelhurst Lane at 10.00 a.m.

2. A talk and slide show by Committee member Keith Pascoe on Monday 13th October at 7.00 p.m. in the room at the side of Gleadless Methodist Church. This is highly recommended as it will cover Keith and Maureen's extensive world travels in recent years.

See full details by clicking on “Events”.

P.W. 13.09.14


This year's project is making good progress thanks to our members, our partner organisations and their volunteers, and of course the co-operation from landowners. THANK YOU ALL! The valley is noticeably in good heart due this determined effort. Although pockets of Balsam remain to be cleared, the problem overall is now much more manageable than it was a few years ago. Looking at Derbyshire Marsh for example (photo below taken at the Pull on 20th July 2014), this is what the Site of Special Scientific Interest should look like in summer, full of native flowers and insects. Having talked to various people, either involved or just enjoying the countryside, it is generally agreed that local action, even on a small scale, makes a real difference.

Derbyshire Marsh, Eckington

Photo of Balsam control on 31/7/14 in the bog below White Bridge. A solid and successful effort to clear this area.



A group of Moss Valley Wildlife Group members, led by Keith Pascoe, visited the Anston Stones Wildlife Reserve (just off the A57 on the way to Worksop) on Saturday 5th July.

The main purpose of the visit was to see the orchids which grow in profusion in the wildlife meadow adjoining the reserve. Early July is when many of them come into flower.

And they were there in all their glory. Pyramidal Orchids (Anacamptis Pyramidalis) which are bright purple in colour and love limestone grassland. Anston Stones Reserve is on a limestone escarpment. This is a typical group of orchids, pictured on the day at Anston, of which there were literally hundreds:

Keith was hoping to see some Bee Orchids. However, an extensive search did not find any and in fact the books say they are very variable from year to year in their appearance. This is Keith pictured on an extensive search:

A visit to Anston Stones reserve is highly recommended. It is a hidden valley, in sharp contrast to the noisy and very busy A57 which runs alongside it. It has a lot of the feel of Cresswell Crags with limestone caves and Yew trees growing almost impossibly out of the rock. There are notice boards at the entrance placed by Anston Parish Council telling you about the valley, the woods, the railway involvement as a railway line runs through it, what to look for in the way of flora and fauna, and indeed the pre-history dating back to the stone age. It was designated an SSSI in 1955. The map reference is SK531831 and it is just past South Anston and before Lindrick (the site of the famous golf club) on the Sheffield to Worksop A57.

Don't forget the Sheffield Bio-blitz event. See below.


As part of the Bioblitz there is a walk from Ford car park on Saturday 12th July, from 10.30 a.m. organised and led jointly by Sorby Nat. History Soc. and the Conchological Society of Gt Britain & Ireland. The purpose is to look for and record slugs and snails of the Moss Valley Woods, however I am sure that any other recording would be well received if any MVWG members wish to join in and look at wildlife in this area. Bring lunch and suitable attire.


A visit organised and led by Derek Whiteley, Sorby Invertebrates Group, on our 'patch', so a few of us joined this short meander from Eckington Church to Never Fear Dam and back. With the marsh, woodland edge and damp grassland this area proved to be very productive and Derek was pleased to see a few species which are new to this area's records. Highlights for me were the Southern Hawker Dragonfly, Forester Moth, Cinnabar Moth, Azure Damselfly, and Garden Chafer beetle. There were many hoverfly species (some rare) and bumblebees including Carder and Tree. Butterflies included Small Heath, Large Skipper and Green-veined White. We spotted a Willow Tit which I haven't seen for a very long time. We also looked at plant life, aided by Jean Glasscock of Sorby. A great way of looking at wildlife when experts are on hand to identify and give background information.

Thanks to all involved!

Tree Bumblebee Young Toad


The Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place on Monday 9th June 2014 at 7.30 p.m.

The minutes of the previous AGM held on 11th March 2013 were agreed and the new constitution, which was adopted at that meeting, was confirmed without any changes being proposed.

The fifteen months since the last AGM represented a period of change and transition for the Group as it adapted to new circumstances since its formation in 1982. An ageing membership, the loss of fondly remembered and key committee members (Roy Kilner, Derek Stevenson and Peter Robinson), a streamlined constitution with more focused objectives, and the transfer to an electronic means of communication, have all presented challenges. However, the Group has responded well with the continuation of regular monthly business meetings, projects within the Moss Valley (most visibly the successful and ongoing himalayan balsam pull programme), and periodic talks (most notably travel presentations by Keith Pascoe), surveys (harvest mouse, invertebrates), walks (bluebells and wild daffodils) and social events. In support of all of this we now have a thriving web-site, thanks to Jonathan Webster, which allows us to communicate our activity and promote ourselves.

The Group has a long history of promoting wildlife conservation within the Moss Valley and this has only been possible with the continuing support of all the group members, which is genuinely appreciated, and those individual members who have given up their time over the years to fulfil committee duties.

At the meeting three reports were presented as follows:

  1. Finances and Membership. Dave Walker confirmed that the accounts had been fully audited and independently checked by Maureen Pascoe. Group finances are showing a healthy surplus and it was confirmed that the current membership fee of £5 per household will be retained. Group membership consists of 39 households with the majority on e-mail. This is estimated at covering approximately 80 individuals. We really appreciate all the work that Dave and Chris Walker do in keeping our finances on track and indeed dealing with the necessary administrative duties that keep the Group functioning.
  2. Recorder's Report. Jean Kilner reviewed the principal highlights of wildlife recording in 2013/14 and the formal transfer of Group records to an electronic basis is being pursued. Interesting sightings included a pair of Gadwall ducks at Neverfear Dam, snipe, grass snakes, the now ever present buzzards, the profusion of butterflies after the mild winter, and wild snowdrops near Bowercinder Dam. Thanks to Jean for not only noting current records but also for her archive guardianship of past records.
  3. Balsam Pull. Celia Jackson updated the meeting on current activity in 2014. The success of this long-term project, which was started in 2008, is fully evident in the Moss Valley and there is an abridged version of the full report on the web-site under “balsam pull”. If evidence is required of how local concerted effort can make a real and positive difference to our environment then this is it. As ever it is thanks to Celia for her pioneering leadership and determination that has made this the success that it is.

The election of Committee Members for 2014/15 took place. The current committee indicated that they were willing to stand for re-election and this was agreed. Celia Jackson indicated that she wished to stand down from her formal committee responsibilities for the time being, and Jean Kilner indicated that she wished to stand down from her recorder responsibilities, whilst remaining a committee member. Two new members, Oliver Blensdorf and Doug Hindmarch, were elected to join the Committee. Formal responsibilities will be agreed at the next monthly business meeting to be held on Monday 14th July.

The Annual General Meeting for 2015 will be held on Monday 8th June at 7.30 p.m.

P.W. 10.06.2014


Another beautiful sunny day and a party of Moss Valley Group Members met at Coal Aston to walk the valley.

Here they are setting off, led by Celia Jackson and Jean Kilner (both on the left of the picture).

As I had to attend elsewhere, all I know at this stage is that they had a plan to call in at the Gate Inn at Troway at lunch-time, which seemed a very good plan. Wild life details will be posted as soon as they are known.

Further walks on the horizon are planned as follows:

o To Anston Stones Reserve in July to see the Orchids

o Looking for Fungi in late October/Early November

Details will be given nearer the time. In the meantime please attend the Annual General Meeting. Details are shown below.

P.W. 19.05.14


As the chorus line of “Elbow's” hit record “One Day Like This” goes:

“So throw those curtains wide, one day like this a year will see me right”

So a party of Moss Valley Group members set off from Ford on what must be the best day of the year so far with not a cloud in the sky and the bluebells at their very best. Photos below - thanks to Phil, Chris and Keith.

The party gathered in the sunshine at Ford car park as Celia quickly updated us all with forthcoming business news:

photo: Phil Wibberley

And again en route with our intrepid guides Jonathan Webster and Keith Pascoe in the foreground:

photo:Phil Wibberley

And this is what we had come to see. The woodlands carpeted in blue, and white (wild garlic), and yellow (yellow archangel)with all the perfumes.

photo:Phil WibberleyHigh Bramley Wood, photo: JW

And on the pond at Ford a group of ducklings (there were 10 in all).

Photo:Phil WibberleyPhoto:Chris Hobson

Here are some photos from Keith Pascoe:

photo:Keith Pascoephoto:Keith Pascoe photo:Keith Pascoephoto:Keith Pascoe

A beautiful day in the valley. Thank you Jonathan and Keith and all who attended.

The next event is a joint walk in the Moss Valley with Dronfield Natural History Society on Sunday 18th May meeting at Coal Aston car park at 9.30 a.m.

P.W. 3/05/14


On Monday evening (14th April) Christine Handley gave a talk and slide-show presentation to Moss Valley Group Members at the Methodist Church Hall, Gleadless.

Along with her duties as events organiser for Professor Ian Rotherham and Professor Mel Jones, and the organisation UKEconet, Christine is also Chairperson of the Shire Brook Valley Heritage Group, and it was in this capacity that she delivered a fascinating talk about this “forgotten” valley as it is called.

From its source near to the Red Lion public House at Gleadless, down through Hackenthorpe and Woodhouse to join the River Rother at Beighton Marsh, the Shire Brook has a wealth of industrial and mining activity that is now becoming a valuable wild-life haven. With the aid of numerous photographs, archive and new, Christine covered the early water-wheels and mine workings belonging to the Hutton and Staniforth families, Birley Spa, Wickfield Heath, plantations and coppicing, Linleybank meadow and Birley East Colliery and railway. Not forgetting the huge sewage treatment works, which has largely disappeared, apart from the manager's office which has now become the meeting point and visitor centre for volunteer groups, exhibitions and rangers.

Shire Brook Valley Heritage Group hold a number of open afternoons and guided walks throughout the summer months. Plans this summer are as follows:

Sunday 27th April : Open afternoon and Guided Walk

Sunday 1st June : Plant Sale and Open Afternoon

Sunday 29th June : Open Afternoon and Guided Walk

Sunday 26th July : Open afternoon

Sunday 31st August : Open Afternoon and Guided Walk

Sunday 28th Sept : AGM and Open afternoon

Sunday 2nd November : Open afternoon and Guided Walk

All of the above are planned to take place at 1.30 p.m. to 4.30 p.m with displays and refreshments at the Shire Brook Valley Visitor Centre, Stone Lane, Woodhouse, Sheffield S13. The Guided Walks start at 2 p.m.

Christine at the Moss Valley Wildlife Group Presentation.

Thank you to Christine for a fascinating evening and to Celia Jackson for arranging it. And to Celia and Jean Kilner for kindly providing the tea, coffee, and biscuits after the event.

The next Moss Valley Wildlife Group Event is the Bluebell Walk on Saturday 3rd May at 10.30 a.m. at Ford car park.

P.W. 15.04.14


That may be so. However, over the next few weeks we hope to see them returning again to the Moss Valley. The earliest personal record was in fact last year on 18th April, flying over Carter Hall Lane.

They will then be followed by Swifts which tend to arrive in mid-May over Ford. As it has been such a mild, albeit very wet, winter to date, their arrival may be much earlier.

Watch out for them and if you are very lucky, maybe even the first cuckoo call.

P.W. 05.04.14

Footnote: Good news: Swallow seen at Norton on 13th April 2014. J.W.


Many of you may have participated in the RSPB's big garden birdwatch at the end of January. The results have now been published.

Nearly half a million people counted 7,274,159 birds over that weekend.

The top ten birds seen were as follows:

1. House Sparrow

2. Blue Tit

3. Starling

4. Blackbird

5. Wood Pigeon

6. Chaffinch

7. Goldfinch

8. Great Tit

9. Collared Dove

10. Robin

Despite being at the top of the list, house sparrow numbers are down by 62% since the first garden birdwatch. And the starling is down by 84%. Both birds are on the RSPB's “red-listed species” with research being carried out into why numbers have fallen so dramatically.

Some of the rarest visitors recorded were the lapwing, waxwing, grey partridge, barn owl and chiffchaff.

P.W 05.04.14


If you walk in Moss Valley, now that the weather is warming up, look out for emerging flowers and insects. I was recently rewarded by good sightings of bumblebees in the valley, the white-tailed and the buff-tailed. These were probably queens looking for nest sites. Bumblebees have declined and need help, and the role of our humble gardens cannot be over-stated. The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has a great website at - very helpful and informative on identification, what we can do as individuals, latest news etc. The Government is now taking the pollination issue seriously - see the website.

I also spotted a honey bee foraging, a large hoverfly and a common wasp. Butterflies are emerging from hibernation. At Dowey Lumb the peacocks and commas were very active. I also spotted a brimstone further downstream, with bright yellow outer wings.

The spring pre-vernal flowers are there, the early flowering lesser celandine and the wood anemone are now widespread. The bluebells are not out yet of course, but look for lesser and greater stitchwort, garlic mustard, daisy and alternate-leaved golden saxifrage. Also look out for red dead nettle and ground ivy in the hedgerows.


lesser celandineopp-lv golden saxifrage with lesser celandine

greater stitchwortbuff-tailed bumblebee worker


With the days now getting longer, as we pass the spring equinox, and the clocks going forward next weekend on 30th March, the weather is getting warmer and spring is almost in the air.

And the main harbinger of spring is of course the daffodil.

A rarer sight these days is the wild daffodil, from which all the cultivated varieties have been developed. The daffodil is a native species to England and Wales as well as most of the continent. And there are still areas in the UK where areas of wild daffodil abound.

However, across Britain native populations of wild daffodils have decreased substantially since the 19th century with the intensification of agriculture, woodland clearance, and the up-rooting of bulbs for use in gardens and for species cultivation. On the North Yorkshire moors, and down in Gloucestershire, there are still large areas of wild daffodils. In South Yorkshire there are still one or two secretive locations where they abound. And in the Moss Valley they are all but absent, whereas once they may well have been a commen sight.

The wild daffodil is much smaller than the cultivated types, standing about six inches in height, with thin greyish green leaves. A picture of a wild daffodil is shown below with the classic yellow, albeit slightly elongated trumpet, and six pale yellow petals around it.

And of course, one of the country's most popular poems is about daffodils, which everbody knows, and starts like this:

I wandered lonely as a Cloud

That floats on high o'er Vales and Hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd

A host of dancing Daffodils;

Along the Lake, beneath the trees,

Ten thousand dancing in the breeze.

William Wordsworth (written 1804)

And the next wild flower to come into its own is the bluebell. And here the Moss Valley excels. Don't forget the Bluebell Walk planned for Saturday 3rd May starting from the car park at Ford at 10.30 a.m.

Hopefully that carpet of blue will be up and ready to greet us.

P.W. 22.03.2014


Farmers should try to shoo away birds such as woodpigeons and crows before shooting them say new Government proposals.

Natural England is seeking views on proposed changes to licences issued under wildlife legislation. Currently farmers need only to be “satisfied” that non-lethal methods of resolving the problem of pest control are ineffective or impractical before reaching for a firearm.

The new proposals are suggesting that land-owners and farmers must be seen to have taken reasonable and appropiate steps, such as scaring and proofing, before they can rely on the general licence to shoot woodpigoens, rooks, feral pigeons, magpies, jays, crows, jackdaws, lesser black-backed gulls and collared doves.

The Countryside Alliance have said the plans are “impractical and frankly idiotic”.

The proposal was attempted by the last Labour Government in 2005 before a last minute U-turn. Farmers and shooting organisations have until 19th May to formally respond.

P.W. 12.03.2014 (reported in the Farmers Weekly)


The future of the badger cull, which was piloted last year in Somerset and Gloucestershire, is being reviewed by an Independent Expert Panel, appointed by DEFRA. Their report, which has yet to be published, has already been the subject of leaks reported by the BBC. These indicate that the cull has not been successful in two respects. The targeted number of badgers was not achieved and the test for humaneness failed as 5% of badgers took more than 5 minutes to die.

Over and above the ethical issues, crits suggest that questions will now need to focus on whether allowing marksmen to shoot free-running badgers at night is the best culling method or whether alternatives such as trapping and vaccination will be considered. An additional factor is the cost. Apparently £2.4m was spent on policing the pilots.

The head of DEFRA has a big decision to take on the wider roll-out of badger control and whether the current policy can proceed. This comes at a time following all of the criticism on flood control prevention measures. Further adverse publicity may not be welcome, and hopefully badger control may slip down the agenda, to the relief of those who objected to the culls in the first place.

P.W. 12.03.2014


Keith Pascoe 27.02.2014


The announcement that this is so far the wettest winter since 1910 makes it hard to believe that in September 2011 we were experiencing the driest summer for 50 years. Remember this picture of the Moss Brook with the level of water reduced to a few puddles and flowing under a walking stick near Dowey Lumb?

Mercifully we have avoided the worst excesses of the winter rainfall in the Moss Valley. Rainfall which has submerged large areas of the Thames Valley and the Somerset Levels with storms lashing the UK coast line.

However, it has also sent the media and politicians into a frenzy with blame being thrown everywhere, and everybody criticising the environment agency. Over and above the huge debate over climate change.

All of this apart it has thrown into stark relief the fact that the management of water drainage, river systems, building development and flood plains has to become a top priority. For too many years the river systems have been asked to do too much and a new way of approaching our attitude to water, whether it is too much or too little, needs to be re-examined. The knee jerk reaction in recent weeks has been to promote renewed dredging. This can only exacerbate the issue in both directions. Faster run-off with desolate, wildlife unfriendly, river channels, and a much reduced water table in the uplands.

This is where rivers like the Moss Brook have such a large part to play. The new thinking amongst many conservationists is to leave small rivers like this as natural as possible with blockages such as fallen trees, scree banks, ox bow lakes and a multitude of small flood planes (or boggy areas if you wish) holding back the water.

So cherish the Moss Brook as it meanders from one side to the other. It may be muddy, unkempt, but it is performing a vital role. Not only for water conservation and flood management downstream but also for all the wildlife that lives alongside it and within it.

P.W. 22.02.2014

PETER ROBINSON (1952 - 2013)

The funeral was held today for Peter Robinson, a long-time, and much valued member of the Moss Valley Wildlife Group. Peter was one of the founding members of the Group back in 1982.

Peter was a passionate wildlife enthusiast and indeed over the years he had travelled to most of the world's continents. We had the privilege and benefit of sharing his wide travel experience as Peter gave the Group a number of slideshow presentations covering his travels. The most recent one covering his visit to India with some superb wildlife photographs. His slide and talk shows were always very popular and informative events.

Indeed it was on one of his travels, this time to South Africa, that Peter suddenly passed away in November.

On behalf of the MVWG committee we extend our sincere sympathies to his brother David, and to his relatives and colleagues.

He will be very sadly missed by all his friends within the Moss Valley Wildlife Group.

The following poem was chosen by Peter to be read out at his funeral today (7th January 2014):


Don’t lay me down in some gloomy churchyard shaded by a wall

Where the dust of ancient bones has spread dryness over all.

Lay me in some leafy loam where, sheltered from the cold

Little seeds investigate and tender leaves unfold.

There kindly and affectionately plant a native tree

To grow resplendent before God and hold some part of me.

The roots will not disturb me as they wend their peaceful way

To build the fine and bountiful, from closure and decay.

To seek their small requirements so that when their work is done

I’ll be tall and standing strongly in the beauty of the Sun.


Well, we expected mud and we got it! Our walking party still had a good day's walk in the valley, starting at Ford and climbing up from Birley Hay to Troway, then on to Owler Car Wood, crossing the Moss at Dowey Lumb, up to Bridle Road Wood, Jack Field, Lightwood, Carterhall Wood and Sloadlane. The day started dull but finished with a wintry sunset. Dowey Lumb

We shall be recording a simple list of species observed, notably some wild plants in flower eg buttercup and daisy. The winter flocks of jackdaws are building up, some giving chase to a buzzard. Other flocks typical of winter included redwings, long-tailed tits and finches. We even looked at various fungi such as jelly ear, witches' butter and brackets, all growing despite the cold.

There was plenty of storm damage to the trees - this picture was taken near Newfield Spring Wood.

Storm damage

JUBILEE HEDGE At Lightwood we had a look at the Jubilee Hedge (picture below), which has matured into a thick stock-proof barrier and wildlife haven. The Group and the Three Valleys Project planted this in 1993 to commemorate the Group's first ten years, planting hazel, hawthorn, holly, blackthorn and cherry. In late 2007 we undertook the task of 'laying' this hedge as it had grown very tall. We were expertly guided with professional help from Jaspa Prachek, a hedgelaying championship winner. The timing of the work was to celebrate 25 years as the Moss Valley Wildlife Group, and we remember this event well. If you look at the Gallery Page there are two photos at or near the top showing the hedge in 2007.

footnote: some of our members are currently helping with the hedgelaying at Bridle Stile, Lower Moss Valley - a Sheffield Landscape Trust project. Well done folks.

Jubilee Hedge, January 2014


An annual stocktake of bird populations by a coalition of nature groups shows that many of the country's 107 most familiar species are suffering plummeting population changes compared with the 1990's. In addition the geographical range of many species is also declining. For example, there is evidence that the yellow wagtail (pictured below) has disappeared entirely from Wales.

Other species which have reduced their range are the snipe and lapwing (although lapwing are still seen in the Moss Valley) which are disappearing from Western Britain and Northern Ireland. The corn bunting is now extinct in Ireland and the cuckoo has disappeared from large parts of South East England and the Midlands although they are being seen (and heard) more frequently in Scotland perhaps as wetter and warmer winters improve breeding conditions. However, the red kite is now thriving in many parts of England.

Overall, and of most concern, the study found that 16 of the most common breeding birds in the UK have declined by more than a third since 1995. These include the starling, willow tit, cuckoo, lapwing, and whinchat, while the number of grey partridges and turtle doves has halved in the past 18 years.

P.W. 11/12/13


The controversial culling of badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire has been called off after marksmen failed to achieve the objective. The objective was to eradicate 70% of the local badger population. However, the number of badgers eradicated fell well below this target, such that Natural England, who issue the licences for the cull, said it was pointless to carry on.

The Government will now assess the trial data from the two counties before deciding how to proceed.

Brian May, rock guitarist and a leading campaigner against culling badgers, said “ Now that the failure of this whole shameful badger cull shambles can be so clearly seen it must be time to abandon the concept, and get on with the only strategy which can succeed in the eradication of bovine TB, which is the vaccination of badgers and other wildlife, and the prioritisation of work to licence the vaccine for cattle.”

P.W. 11/12/13


Committee member Derek Southwood recently reported the siting of a “false widow” spider on his patio which fell to the ground as he opened a garden chair from the garage.

The spiders are originally thought to have come from the Canary Islands, about 100 years ago, in crates of imported fruit. They became established in Devon and in subsequent years have spread across the South East of England. They have attracted media attention this year with more sightings in the Midlands. Reports, like Derek's, of seeing them north of Birmingham are rare.

They are only one of a small group (12) of biting spiders, out of the 640 identified species in the UK. The bite is not life threatening although it can be painful. It looks similar to the black widow spider, which is from the same family but is not in the UK, which is just as well, as this one has a bite 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake. However, even from this spider most people who are bitten suffer no serious damage.



A fine day followed a damp morning, and we had some success, finding seven nests. Some of the site where nests are usually found was under water, so we searched along the steep banks. Here we found one nest constructed from false oat grass attached to brambles (see photo below). Usually harvest mice utilise reed canary grass. This little nest was much smaller than the 'standard' reed canary grass models and more tightly woven. Last year several similar nests were found here, made from false oat grass.

Six more nests were found, these being larger and more loosely woven, all constructed from reed canary grass - see second photo below. One nest was found under water.

It was noted that several nests were located amongst or very near to prickly plants such as bramble, teasel or thistles. Could this be a protection against predators such as raptors, foxes or even grass snakes?

A prior visit to the Moss Valley earlier in the week had ascertained that any potential sites for harvest mouse nests were currently under water. A check was also made at an area in the Shirebrook Valley but nothing was found.

Sorby will be conducting another survey at Beighton Marsh on 13th November 2013 plus a check on other sites close by.

There will be another joint harvest mouse nest survey at Beighton Marsh, led by Derek Whiteley, on Sunday 9th November 2014. All members from both organisations are very welcome to attend.


The abridged version of this report is now available on the Balsam Pull page. It is well worth reading, not only because it is the culmination of over five years of planning and effort, but because the future plans for this excellent project are changing in 2014.

A massive 'Thank you' to everyone involved!


The 122nd Norton Ploughing Match was held on Saturday 19th October at the head of the Moss Valley at Hazelbarrow Farm.

An overcast, albeit dry day , saw a good turn-out of vintage and new tractors competing for the trophy.

Here is the cup for which they were competing.

However, rather than showing you lots of tractors, fascinating as they are, here is a picture of two “Belgian Draft” horses that were busy ploughing in the old fashioned way, probably reminiscent of when the Norton Ploughing match first began in the 19th century. Although being Belgian in origin, their names were Daisy and Stanley, which was a bit strange as you would expect them to have French names. Not as big as the “Suffolk Punch” but beautiful horses and very well turned out. They are both 11 years old.

And the most interesting sight was these two mules, ploughing one furrow at a time. Mules were very common in America, apparently, in the 1800's. They are stronger than a horse on a weight for weight basis. The Amish farmers, who do not use modern machinery, regularly plough with teams of 6-8 mules. These two, who lived near Doncaster, were called Ruby and Queenie. They are both 24 years old. As you will no doubt know, a mule is a cross between a female horse and a male donkey. I was told that they can live for up to 30 to 40 years.

P.W. 19.10.13


On Monday evening, 14th October, twenty members of the Moss Valley Wildlife Group enjoyed a fascinating tour of Australia with a presentation by Committee member Keith Pascoe.

In 2006, and again in 2009, Keith, and his wife Maureen, undertook extensive travels in Australia. They journeyed along both the eastern and western coasts, as well as taking in the centre, at the famous Ayers Rock.

The result was a very interesting travelogue, illustrated with great photographs.

However, these were not the usual tourist pictures of buildings, motorways and mug-shots. Keith and Maureen travelled as they pleased, staying where they wanted to, and therefore really exploring the beauty of the Australian countryside.

Accordingly, we had an evening of glorious landcapes, beautiful beaches, weird and wonderful animals and birds, and a host of butterflies and wild flowers. And at the interval, over tea and biscuits, (thank you to Celia, Jean and Chris), a passionate resume of the plight of the Aboriginees. And, just like he did in his previous talk on New Zealand and the Maoris, Keith had studied this, and therefore he could put into context for us their culture and the difficulties that arose when two cultures collided with the arrival of European settlers. If only those early settlers had been able to show the same empathy then their situation would have been so much better.

A great evening, seeing Australia through the eyes of two seasoned travellers, which really brought home to everybody the fascination of this extensive southern continent.

Keith and Maureen have also undertaken travels in Mexico, Brazil and the USA. Hopefully, there is the possibility that we may enjoy similar evenings in the future exploring these countries.

P.W. 15.10.13


Here are some very recent photos of fungi in the Moss Valley. If you place your cursor over the image you will see the name of the species. These are all quite common but can be difficult to spot until you get your eye in, as the autumn colours tend to camouflage them. Identifying fungi can be difficult (as I have found out!) but don't be put off, just start with the easy, common ones and try to build up from there. A good field guide is desirable of course but the best way is to accompany an expert in the field. We are fortunate to have Ziggy Senkans (Sorby) to lead a fungus walk from Coal Aston on 3rd of November 2013 (see Events). I have enjoyed these walks in the past and I always learn something new.

Obviously we should observe the beauty of our fungi and not pick them; leave them intact for other people to see. Consumption of fungi carries real risks so should be avoided unless you are expert at this - press reports this year highlighted the dangers.

The last photo is a mystery to me, so if anyone can identify it please use the Recording Link (Recording page) to let members know what you think it is.

Happy spotting in Moss Valley. JW

Charcoal BurnerGlistening Inkcap

Clouded FunnelAmethyst Deceiver

Artist's BracketShaggy Parasol

PuffballSulphur Tuft

Beech JellydiscVelvet Shank

What is this?


We spent more time on the SSSI near Eckington on 12th September, clearing well-advanced patches of Himalayan Balsam in a boggy area not far from Eckington Church. A hard day's graft to be followed by another session in the lower Moss Valley at the week-end. As previously reported, this year's Pull has yielded good results, with special thanks to all the volunteers and partner organisations involved. As usual a report will be written at a later date to give an account of this year's project.

One spin-off has been the opportunity for the Group to record a variety of flora and fauna observed on Pull days, including the interesting and unusual. Look out for occasional Hawker dragonflies, butterflies such as the Speckled Wood, and Swallows and Housemartins feeding up before migration. Look out also for fungi. Following the dry summer, new rain may bring out new fungi.

Below is a shot of Balsam pulling and a nice specimen of a fern in a bog - we think it is a Lady Fern.


The 122nd Norton Ploughing Match will be held on Saturday 19th October at Hazelbarrow Farm, off Bochum Parkway, Norton, Sheffield from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Hazelbarrow farm is at the bottom of the lane and there is usually plenty of parking space provided in a nearby field.

Interesting old tractors and sometimes, horses, are in competition for the trophy and prizes. Two pictures from last year are shown below. Details can be found at This web-site, which also covers the Norton Show, includes further pictures from previous ploughing matches by clicking on “Ploughing Match” on the menu, shown on the right hand side of the page, and then clicking on “Past Photos” on the page which advertises the ploughing match.

P.W. 9/09/13


Firstly a big 'Thank you' to the Sheffield Conservation Volunteers for another successful pull on 28th July, this time being at Birley Hay where we cleared some large flowering stems of Balsam (see photo, some over 8 feet tall). Regular localised pulling continues at various sites and anyone visiting the lower Moss Valley will see how much healthier it looks, especially the SSSI. We are now recording significantly more wild flowers and wild plants than a few years ago. The effort has without doubt paid off. Thank you to all volunteers and partners.

The glutinous yellow fungus below, observed on Sunday, is a Yellow Brain, and apparently is parasitic on fungi of the 'crust' type. We also found a swan mussel shell (pictured) - these bivalves inhabit freshwater ponds/slow moving rivers and can grow up to 23cm/9 inches long, living around 11 years. Their larvae are parasitic on fish for a short time while they develop into a tiny mussel, which drops off to live in the mud.


Following some initial surveying in spring it was clear that the growth of this invasive plant has had a slow start this year, however we have already removed it from some areas where it could have taken hold again. The removal of Balsam in the valley will continue throughout the summer, but the task has been made easier by the solid effort put in over the last four years. We are grateful for the practical support of all our volunteers and voluntary organisations, partners etc, without whom the task would be impossible. We are also grateful for the support of the landowners for allowing access.

Looking at one area of Balsam only recently I could see how quickly it grows, some plants being four feet high and developing flower buds. It is obviously important to stop this rapid growth before the plants set their 'explosive' seed.

Here are some photos of Balsam pulling in the valley this year. One spin-off is that we always see something of interest to the naturalist, such as the longhorn moth pictured below. There are several species of this small moth - I have seen two species in Moss Valley. They are active in spring and summer, and prefer damp woodlands.

Longhorn moth


The pilot culling of badgers in Gloucestershire and Somerset has put the issue of how to deal with Bovine TB back on the agenda.

There are very firm and hotly debated views about this issue and over the coming months this will no doubt increase.

To read about the background, have a look at and click on “Key Facts” which covers the objectives of the pilot culls. And then look at “Bovine Tuberculosis in cattle and badgers - Questions and Answers” which quickly covers the main issues.

In the meantime, the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust has launched a campaign to raise £50,000 to vaccinate badgers against bovine TB from 2014-2019. The Derbyshire/Staffordshire border is a bovine TB hotspot and they fear that if culls are rolled out across the country one could take place in Derbyshire in 2014. All 47 Wildlife Trusts are opposed to badger culling and believe there are alternative methods which should be used to tackle this problem. To obtain more information and to make a contribution to this appeal then please visit

And while discussing badgers, this is an oportunity to show the lovely pen and ink drawing by the late Derek Stevenson, a talented artist and sadly missed member of the Moss Valley Wildlife Group.


Here is an opportunity to do some volunteering in the valley and get to know more about the woodland reserves managed by Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. The first date is Thursday May 30th 2013, with other dates following. Our Group has provided regular input to the five-year management plan developed by the Trust for these special woodlands.

For details click on the link below.



The MVWG annual Birds and Bluebells walk took place last Saturday as a joint event with the Sheffield Wildlife Trust (SWT).

Meeting at Coal Aston at 11 a.m. we had the benefit of being led by Hannah Wittram and Julie Riley of SWT.

A day that was forecast to be very wet, fortunately stayed cloudy but dry, as our party of fourteen enthusiasts walked down the Moss Valley towards Cook Spring Wood and then Nor Wood.

And we were not disapponted. This was what we had come to see. Bluebells at their very best, carpeting the woods as far as the eye could see.

Along the way Hannah and Julie shared their expertise with us talking us through:

  • the difference between native bluebells and imported bluebells (spanish)
  • how to spot old hedgerows
  • how to approximate the age of trees
  • the indicators of old woods - yellow archangel, coppicing and bluebells
  • the remains of white charcoal making in Q pits
  • tasting sorrel with its lemony flavour

Unfortunately, bird activity was few and far between. A lapwing, great tits, tree creeper and hedge sparrows was about the limit. But the midday is always a quiet time for birds.

After a pleasant lunch stop at Dowey Lumb, surrounded by bluebells, we walked back to Coal Aston arriving at 2.30 p.m.

A thoroughly enjoyable day. Thank you to Hannah and Julie for making it even better by talking us through the landscape and wildlife habitats as we walked along.

For details of forthcoming events organised by the Sheffield Wildlife Trusts please visit

P.W. 20.05.13


Another snowfall is coming. No not really. Or at least we hope not! No, this one is a welcome snowfall.

The Hawthorn is slowly coming into flower across the Moss Valley and at first glance the hedgerows look as if they have had a dusting of snow.

The hawthorn bush (Crataegus Monogyna) is full of folklore myths and sayings. The most common is an old Yorkshire saying that goes “Ne'er cast a cloot til Mey's oot”. This conveys a warning not to shed any cloots (clothes) before the summer has fully arrived and the May flowers (hawthorn blossoms) are in full bloom. So summer clothes at the ready!

There are also many customs of employing the flowering branches for decorative purposes on 1 May although the tree is rarely in full bloom in England before the second week of May. In the Scottish Highlands the flowers may be seen as late as the middle of June.

The hawthorn has been regarded as the emblem of hope, and its branches are stated to have been carried by the ancient Greeks in wedding processions, and to have been used by them to deck the altar of Gods. The supposition that the tree was the source of Jesus's crown of thorns is believed to have given rise to folklore in France that it utters groans and cries on Good Friday. And probably also to the old popular superstition in Britain and Ireland that ill-luck attends the uprooting of hawthorns. There is also a legend that the tree was originally the staff of Joseph of Arimathea.

It is used extensively as a hedging plant for keeping farm animals under control and is recommended in water conservation areas. It is also a great source of food and shelter for wildlife.

P.W. 15/05/13


And to prove it the first swallow, daffodils everywhere, and frogspawn in the garden pond. All within a fortnight of the snow receding.

The swallow was seen over Carterhall Lane on Thursday 18th April. This is several days earlier to my previous records which have usually been around 22/23 April.

The old saying is “one swallow does not a summer make”. Apparently ascribed to the Greek philospher Aristotle. However, it does give us hope.

The next to arrive will be the Swifts, usually a month later than the Swallows, in May.

20/04/13 P.W.


Six days into Spring 2013 and the Moss Valley looks more like Switzerland. The pictures below show:

1. Icicles on the Neverfear Dam below Ford

2. A view from the White Bridge over the Moss Brook on the way to Eckington

3. If you look very carefully, in the third picture there is a honey coloured dot between the fourth and fifth tree from the left. This is a barn owl hunting along the hegerows at 4.30 p.m. in the afternoon at Ford.

4. Dowey Lumb in the snow looking down on the bridge over the Moss Brook.

P.W. 27 /03/13


Here is an update from Naomi of the Hazelhurst CSA, which we featured last year when the project was still in the development stages (see the Archive page, January 2012). This is an exciting venture within the Moss Valley which bodes well for the future. The concept of growing our own food in a sustainable way appeals to more and more people, and is a good way of using our land resources.

Hazelhurst CSA

Hazelhurst Community Supported Agriculture Co-operative Ltd (CSA) is a project located on a beautiful, rented site in the Moss Valley. Our aim is to reconnect Sheffield people with where their food comes from by growing organic fruit and vegetables. We run a veg box scheme and sell directly to local communities, providing a direct link between the production and consumption of food. There is a paid grower and project manager and a team of committed and motivated local volunteers all working together to create a mutually supportive relationship between local growers and local communities.

The idea to form a Co-operative to produce locally grown, organic food for the local community began with the Heeley-Meersbrook group within Transition Sheffield, in April 2009. Huw Evans' company purchased the 9-acre Hazelhurst site in the Moss Valley January 2010 and generously gave the CSA two years to raise the necessary funds to purchase the land. The first AGM was held in September 2010 and a Management Committee was elected to formulate a business plan and source members and finance the purchase of the land. Membership and Pioneer shares were offered for sale in February 2011. It soon became apparent that raising the substantial funds and managing this much land was too ambitious for the resources of the people involved, so Huw's company offered to split the 9-acre field into 4 separate 5000 square metre plots and rent them out for Soil Association approved organic cultivation. This is the option we went with, by February 2012 we launched our share offer and in March 2012 we employed a professional grower.

By July 2012 we started our very successful veg bag scheme. We have approximately 40 customers in the Heeley/Meersbrook area who all receive veg the same day it is harvested.

I started working as Project manager in November 2012. My remit is to co-ordinate all the business administration side of the enterprise, support the running of the Veg Bag scheme and to ensure smooth communication between the volunteer teams, the Grower and the Management Committee. An exciting part of this post is to develop links locally and globally. I am currently working with Gleadless Valley forum to try to reach out to families on low incomes. We are working together to encourage groups out to the land and share our produce. We hope to run joint grow, cook and eat sessions. I am also about to start making links with one or two similar projects in the southern hemisphere and want to develop ongoing connections with organic food growing co-ops in places such as Sri-Lanka and Zimbabwe.

Get Involved

Our regular volunteer days are a great chance to get involved. You can help to prepare and maintain the site, plant seeds and harvest crops. Wear suitable clothes and footwear and bring a fork or a spade if you have one. The regular work days are:

• 1st and 3rd Sunday of every month, 10am - late • every Wednesday, 10am - late • every Thursday, 10am - late

For more information or if you need a lift please ring our volunteer co-ordinator Stella on 07541 209661.

If you live in the Heeley/Meersbrook vicinity and are interested in a veg bag, email

Each bag will contain some of the following: potatoes, onions, carrots plus other seasonal vegetables and fruit including broad beans, celeriac, purple sprouting broccoli, kale, cauliflowers, salad leaves, tomatoes, courgettes, french beans, beetroot, redcurrants and rhubarb.

Vegbag sizes and prices:

• Large £13 (~ 10 types of vegetables) • Standard £11 (~ 8 types of vegetables) • Small £8 (~ 6 types of vegetables)

To find out more about the project, to arrange a visit or to ask about volunteering opportunities use the details above or email me at


With the cool weather continuing, we had to wrap up warm for this envigorating walk in Moss Valley. It was good to see such a strong turnout and to welcome, and get to know, Gleadless Valley W.T. members. Starting from Ford our route took us through Birley Hay, where there were sightings of Treecreeper, Long-tailed Tit and Teal, then up the steep hill to Troway via an ancient track, to be rewarded at the top by fine views over the valley. I recall Brown Hare, Lapwing and Yellowhammer in this area, and as we descended to the Moss Brook we heard a Tawny Owl. Along the paths and banks the Dog's Mercury, Lesser Celandine, Bluebell and Ramsons were pushing through. On to Povey and Geerlane Farms, where a large number of corvids and Black Headed Gulls had gathered, then at Sloadlane Hamlet three Buzzards were circling overhead with a Sparrowhawk. Our walk leader Celia Jackson pointed out lots of interesting features as we went along - many thanks to Celia and all the participants for taking part.

Uphill to TrowayPanoramic view from Troway Hereford bull at SloadlaneAt Ford



Thanks to The Sorby Natural History Society for hosting another excellent day for local wildlife groups. This was well attended with speakers on various subjects such as wildlife mapping, national badger update, Gillfield Wood, Totley, what is happening to our local museums, wildlife habitats in the Barnsley area, caddis flies, & small mammals. You think you know your local area but it is amazing what you find out by networking at events like this, for example the recent conservation work in the Shirtcliff Valley near Woodhouse.

Moss Valley Wildlife Group was represented and had its stand at the event - picture below courtesy of Peter Wolstenholme.


A visit to the dentist is not usually an attractive proposition.

However, the pain of the treatment, and the accompanying bill, was quickly forgotten this morning.

On the corner of Gleadless Common and Hollinsend Road, in the trees in front of the Methodist Chapel, a tremendous flock of Waxwings eating the Rowan berries. A rough estimate put the flock at about 120 in number.

A wonderful sight.

Waxwings are natives of Northern Europe where they breed in the summer and feed on insects. They only occasionally migrate to Britain in the winter. Irruptions (a sudden invasion of large numbers) occur when Rowan berry crops have failed in the North European forests with birds arriving from October to March and often staying until April or even May.

Sheffield has become something of a pilgrimage centre for Waxwings as most Winters now see small flocks gathering wherever there are berries to be eaten. They often show up around supermarkets and retail parks because many car parks are now bordered with Rowan or Hawthorn bushes and there are plenty of people around to notice these approachable and colourful visitors. A favourite spot is behind the Co-operative Store car park on White Lane at Gleadless Townend.

P.W. 01/02/13


We were fortunate to have such a sunny day for this four and a half mile walk from Ford, the day being especially good for birdwatching. Our route took us to Birley Hay, Sloadlane, Ryall's Wood, Povey, Lightwood, Bridle Road Wood, Dowey Lumb, Sicklebrook, Troway, and Skelper. It was interesting to note some hazel catkins were well advanced, and a dandelion and daisy in flower. Birds of note included a small flock of lapwings, buzzard, sparrowhawk, bullfinch, greenfinch, siskin, grey wagtail, teal, heron, goosander and little grebe. The highlight was a swirling flock of linnets numbering at least 150. Typical of finches in winter, they were flocking together and feeding in the fields, using hedges and trees as vantage points. Keep an eye on alder trees, because siskins are about and they feed on the small cones. Their behaviour suggests a tit flock, but actually they are finches and have a forked tail. They also visit gardens occasionally to feed on nuts. Like many finches they are partial migrants.

Near SloadlaneHazlehurst Dowey LumbTaken in Dec.2012, Fieldfares at Birley Hay


The Chalara dieback of ash is a serious disease of ash trees caused by a fungus called Chalara fraxinea (C. fraxinea). The disease causes leaf loss and crown dieback in affected trees, and usually leads to tree death.

Ash trees suffering with C. fraxinea infection have been found widely across Europe since trees now believed to have been infected with this newly identified pathogen were reported dying in large numbers in Poland in 1992. These have included forest trees, trees in urban areas such as parks and gardens, and also young trees in nurseries.

In February 2012 it was found in a consignment of infected trees sent from a nursery in the Netherlands to a nursery in Buckinghamshire, England. Since then it has been found in a number and variety of locations in Great Britain, including a car park, newly planted woodland and a college campus. All these sites had received stocks of young ash plants from nurseries within the past five years. Further cases have also been confirmed in the nursery trade.

In October 2012, scientists confirmed a small number of cases in East Anglia in ash trees at sites in the wider natural environment, including established woodland, which do not appear to have any association with recently supplied nursery stock. Further similar finds were confirmed in Kent, Essex and other counties in early November 2012.

We have a large number of Ash trees in the Moss Valley and therefore the consequences of this disease would impact the tree landscape in the valley. There has been widespread publicity given to this issue and for full details about the disease, including how to identify symptoms, the action being taken nationally, and how the public can be involved, members are initially invited to visit the following web-site As the situation develops we will, as a Wildlife and Conservation Group, closely monitor this and assist, if possible, with any survey/action requests, as and when required.

One fact to note is that Rowan trees (Mountain Ash)are easily mistaken for ash, but thankfully they are not susceptible to chalara.


The abridged form of the full report is now on the Balsam Pull page on this site. It is quite thought-provoking, considering the long history of the effort put in by volunteers, organisers and partner organisations, and considering what the future may hold for this part of the conservation needs of the valley.

Where would we be without volunteers?


This turned out to be a fine winter walk through the woods and fields on a circuit from Coal Aston taking in Owler Car Wood, Dowey Lumb, Long Wood and Nor Wood. Our leaders were Derek Whiteley (Sorby) and our own Celia Jackson. We were ready to record anything interesting as well as mammals of course, and our total species 'of note' for the day came to approximately 100. Of the mammals, we spotted a brown hare - always welcome - and saw signs of rabbit, mole, fox, badger, bank vole and grey squirrel. There had been a recent report of a weasel, and apparently it may still be possible to see young hedgehogs in early December.

The woodland birds were not very abundant but there were good views of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Goldcrest, and around the fields excellent views of Buzzard and Yellowhammer. There were large flocks of Wood Pigeons, but these were surpassed by a huge flock of corvids mostly comprising Jackdaws. I have never seen so many together on the ground, literally hundreds of birds. Another highlight for me was a large example of Honey Fungus - see below.

Thanks to Derek W and Celia J for leading this walk.

P.S. Watch out for Waxwings and migrant Thrushes as there have been several sightings.

Nor WoodA type of Mycena, probably Common Bonnet Vole platformHoney Fungus


We were led by Ziggy Senkans of Sorby Natural History Society, looking at and recording the fungi in Stoneley Wood and Charnock Wood. We found lots and needed Ziggy's expertise to identify most, in what is a fairly complex subject! Fortunately the day was bright and the recent rain had encouraged the fruiting bodies to grow. The woods looked resplendent in the autumn sunshine and we all had a very enjoyable day. Here are some photos from the walk. A list of the species recorded is now available: click on the Word document below. Many thanks to Ziggy.


There is a caption if you place the cursor over the picture.

A type of MycenaDead Moll's Fingers Amethyst DeceiverSulphur Tuft Brain FungusThe Deceiver Jew's EarScaly Earth Ball Candle SnuffPestle Puffball


This year we concentrated on Beighton Marsh, managed by Sheffield City Council, and Derbyshire Marsh in Moss Valley. Our leaders were Derek Whiteley of Sorby Natural History Society and Celia Jackson of MVWG. Beighton Marsh has benefited greatly from direct action taken to improve the wetland and conserve the marshland vegetation, and the biodiversity has improved. This area near the Shire Brook is worth a visit in summer eg for insect life. Today we found 16 harvest mouse nests in both wet and dry terrain. These are the summer breeding nests which are abandoned in the autumn; they are about the size of a tennis ball and are made from shredded grasses, the favourite being reed canary grass. The harvest mouse, our smallest rodent, may be more widespread than we think, but we are keeping an eye on it as areas of habitat are often changing. We did not find any nests in Derbyshire Marsh, but better luck next time. There is certainly some rough grassland and wetland in the valley which seems suitable.

All the photos below were taken on this date. If you move your cursor over the image you will see a caption.

They must be in here somewhere!Summer nest in reed canary grass This shows the entrance hole at the top of the nestField vole latrine platform. We also found a field vole feeding platform Stump puffball, Moss ValleyA tatty comma butterfly, still alive in late October, Derbys. Marsh


The Norton Ploughing Association picked a fine day for their ploughing match this year, held as usual at Hazlebarrow Farm, Moss Valley. This event has a long history going back to the mid-19th century (the poster below is dated October 1851), with a few gaps due to wartime. We observed over 30 tractors at work, but the stars of the show were two pairs of magnificent Shire horses.

The competition is divided into classes according to the type of equipment, from the very old to the latest four wheel drive tractors. The judges look for even lines of plough entry and exit, the depth and straightness of the furrows which should be at the same height, and the stubble fully turned into the soil. All this seems very difficult to achieve.

Some tractors were very old eg a 1935 Fordson built in Dagenham. Fordson became Ford, then New Holland in 1993. Other old models included early 1950s Fergusons, built in Coventry. These would cost around £600 in the 50s; today the big four wheel drive John Deere tractors cost at least £80,000. As far as we are aware New Holland are now the only tractor manufacturers in Britain. The JCB plant in the midlands makes diggers. There is an army of enthusiasts in this field (!) - try these websites: There are even international competitions under a worldwide ploughing association.

JW and PW


Picture 1: Neverfear Dam, Moss Brook 28th April 2011 Picture 2: Neverfear Dam, Moss Brook 26th September 2012

And with over a month's rain in one day in many areas this is how high the Moss Brook rose in water levels on Tuesday 25th September. Look at the pictures below. On the left the walking stick marks the high water mark. And in the picture on the right, evidence that the water flowed straight over the white bridge.


Included in a number of initiatives (children's playground, running track, tree planting, exercise machines) to re-generate the playing fields at Charnock (overlooking the Moss Valley at Gleadless), the Friends Of Charnock Recreation Ground planted a mix of wildflower seeds on the earth removed for the running track. This has produced a wonderful display throughout the summer months as can be seen from the pictures below.

This idea of sowing wildflower seeds was developed by Sheffield University and has been promoted to council's throughout the country. It was featured on an episode of Gardeners World. You may well have seen similar displays on waste ground around Sheffield over the past 4/5 years. They even did a display around the Olympic Stadium to promote the idea.

Based in Sheffield the idea has now become a business bringing together horticulturalists, designers, ecologists, landscapers and seed dispatch teams. The Company was originally founded by Dr Nigel Dunnett and is part owned by the University of Sheffield and the environmental social enterprise group called Green Estate which benefits from ongoing research from the University.

For more information about this Sheffield initiative, and indeed to purchase wildflower mixes, then visit the following website:


After a long period of public concern, research papers, parliamentary debate and pressure group protests, the decision to cull badgers in selected areas will take centre stage in the coming weeks. A report in the Independent Newspaper (20.9.12) by journalist Charlie Cooper, states that the first trial cull licence was granted to a consortium in Gloucestershire earlier this week. And a second licence to shoot badgers in areas of Somerset is likely to be granted shortly. The first night shoots could take place in a matter of weeks.

Although the Moss Valley and its badgers are not directly affected, due to the fact that it is not a prime dairy farming area, this will be of concern to all wildlife enthusiasts. The cull is aimed at stopping the spread of bovine TB which can be carried by badgers. Dairy farmers have been hardest hit by the disease and many have backed the cull as a method of control.

An alliance of 18 of the UK's leading animal welfare groups have launched a last ditch campaign to stop the trial cull. They aim to attract 100,000 signatures to a parliamentary petition on the matter. Campaigners are also taking their case to Europe, arguing that the cull breaks the Bern Convention which protects EU wildlife.

High profile celebrities such as Brian May, Queen guitarist and head of the charity “Save Me”, together with the RSPCA, are spearheading the campaign. If you have concerns and wish to join in the protest, by adding your signature, then go to the web-site by clicking on to the following web-site address:

Many of you will recall the late Derek Stevenson's wonderful sketches for the Moss Valley Wildlife Group's newsletter in the 1980's and 1990's. It is therefore fitting that we show below one of Derek's most iconic sketches of a badger.


The 121st Norton Ploughing Match is due to be held on Saturday 20th October between 10-2 p.m. at Hazelbarrow Farm (bottom farm on the lane), off Bochum Parkway, Norton, Sheffield. It is advisable to check the web-site in advance ( to confirm this date, and to check if the match will go-ahead due to weather interruptions at other events this summer, not least Ridgeway Show and Norton Show.

Ploughing matches do not appeal to everybody. However, there is always a very interesting range of tractors, old and new, and of course ploughs. Surprisingly, modern arable farming is now experimenting with no ploughing. You just harrow the ground to clear the previous crop, and weeds, and then drill the seed for the next crop. The theory is that repeated ploughing breaks up the soil structure over time and is counter-productive. With no ploughing there is a short-term fall in yields, and then yields begin to increase again as the soil structure builds up again. Many gardeners are advocates of no digging for the same reasons.

Some pictures taken at last year's ploughing match are shown below.

As a matter of interest a brand new John Deere tractor, like the two green ones shown in the third picture below, would set you back around £95,000 with full hydraulics and computerised controls. And interestingly I was talking to a farmer at last year's ploughing match who had a little Fordson tractor that his father had purchased, brand new, in 1938 for £375.

Now a small, newly built, three bedroomed, semi-detached house, cost around £400 in 1938. And today that house is valued at around £100,000. So there seems to be a direct relationship between the price of houses and the price of tractors spanning 74 years.

Or put another way, there seems to be an underlying symmetry going on in economics despite inflation! Indeed economists have what they call the “Mars bar index”. This states that the price of a Mars Bar, at any given time, roughly tracks most other price changes in the wider economy across the years. It seems that there could well be a “tractor/house price index” as well.


Now that Autumn is approaching there are a few things to watch out for as the days shorten and the leaves fall.

On misty mornings there will be cobwebs everywhere showing clearly in the moist air. One of the most fascinating, and indeed most common spiders making these webs, is the Common Garden Spider. However, look closely and see how this spider has a white cross on its back. It looks very much like a “Fleur de Lys” sign - the old French heraldic design. And each one seems to have a slightly different shape. This only appears on the back of the female. The male is much smaller and is brown all over.


And during October one of the most fascinating daily migrations will start up and down the Moss Valley every morning and evening. Rooks. They head out each day from their overnight roosts in Whirlowdale, across Norton and Gleadless, over Crystal Peaks and Rother Valley towards Lincolnshire. And every evening they return home to their roosts. Starting at about 4 p.m. in mid-November.

I have counted over 600 in about 30 minutes of viewing, depending where you are positioned in the valley. A truly wondrous sight. My own personal estimate is that 3,000 to 4,000 rooks pass daily over our heads in the Moss Valley during the Winter months.

This occurrence is mentioned in the book about the famous sculptor (Sir Francis Chantrey) who lived as a boy in the 18th century at Norton. They are referred to as the “Norton Rooks” and were a well known feature. Indeed, in November and December you can practically set your watch by their appearance.


We were lucky to have such a fine evening for this joint event at Sloadlane, led by Sorby expert Frank Botterill. While Frank was setting up his equipment we took the opportunity to listen for bats using our bat detectors, and there was a lot of bat activity near the ford and around the old buildings. Moths there were aplenty in Rosemary's lovely garden, the star of the show being the Poplar Hawkmoth. Moths are a difficult subject (for me anyway) so it was a treat to have access to the knowledge and expertise of Frank Botterill, Paul Ardron and others from Sorby, plus some fantastic close-ups using magnifiers and cameras. Moths are amazing when seen close up. Place your cursor over the photo to see a caption.

Poplar HawkmothOne of the two lighting rigs set up in the garden Brimstone MothDouble Square Spot



These photos were taken by Keith Pascoe in mid-June 2012, and they speak for themselves. These were areas which were once infested with Himalayan Balsam, the invasive plant which was suffocating the native flora on the nature reserves and other places. If it were not for the efforts of the Group, volunteers and others over the last few years, the lower Moss Valley would now be a sea of Balsam with few wild flowers left, and the water courses would be choked. We are continuing to pull Balsam in 2012 - see the Balsam page.



Our contribution to the Sheffield Bioblitz recording spree which took place over three days in Moss Valley in May was a success, with 252 species recorded. Our records have been gratefully received by the organisers. This was an impressive total considering that the weather was cool and damp, and butterflies were sparse. Thanks to all who took part.


One of our members -Rosemary at Ridgeway- reported hearing a cuckoo in the valley on May 2nd. Our members have heard a cuckoo calling several times since then. If you have an earlier record, please contact us!


This turned out be be an excellent excursion just outside the Moss Valley, thanks to Dronfield Nat. History Soc. for leading it and also to the fine sunny weather. Setting off from near the River Drone the route took us over the undulating countryside around Unstone, Hundall and Apperknowle, with clear views across to the fringes of the Peak District to the west. Like the Moss Valley this area has visible signs of an industrial past - we walked along the old railway track which served the mines and coke ovens - but now there is lots for the naturalist to enjoy. The woodlands were full of bluebells, and the spring flowers brought a few surprises such as Common Wintergreen (not so common) and Thyme-leaved Speedwell. A great day out, and we can recommend walks in this area as it can easily be accessed from the Moss Valley. Thanks again to DNHS.

ArumStubbing Wood

Pond near the DroneSpeckled Wood, just emerged


After a cool, grey start to May the sun shone for this walk in Moss Valley, and we were pleased to be joined by members of the Dronfield Footpaths and Bridleways Society. Our route from Coal Aston took in parts of Whinacre Wood, Owler Car Wood, Bridle Road Wood, Long Wood and Nor Wood. The bluebells looked particularly good in the dappled spring sunshine, and we spotted lots of emerging spring flowers eg red campion, tormentil and hedge garlic. We also spotted around 30 species of bird, including Terry's lucky sighting of a lesser spotted woodpecker. A lunch stop at Dowey Lumb saw three species of butterfly: orange tip, large white and peacock. Below are a few photos taken along the route. If you position your cursor over the photo you will see a caption.

Owler Car WoodOwler Car Wood Longhorn moth (thanks Chris)Fumitory


A day of fun and activities was held on Charnock Playing Fields on Saturday 5th May to celebrate the new recreational facilities that have been installed over the past year. These include a childrens' playground, picnic tables, exercise machines, park benches, running track and tree planting. Tremendous improvements organised by the Friends of Charnock Group.

Celebrities attending the launch included Richard Caborn, ex-Sports Minister and Ambassador for the Olympics, and Johnny Nelson, Cruiserweight World Boxing Champion.

The Moss Valley Wildlife Group was present with its publicity stand and Committee members Jean Kilner, Derek Southwood, Philip Wibberley, Hon.Secretary Celia Jackson and Terry Jackson were in attendance.

A cold wind but a good attendance throughout the afternoon with good publicity for the Group. A picture of the publicity stand is shown below.


The Lowland Derbyshire Biodiversity Partnership's Biodiversity Action Plan for 2011-2020 covers several different geographical areas, one of which is the Peak Fringe Area which includes Moss Valley at its northern edge. This is significant because Moss Valley is now recognised, through this document, for its wildlife habitats and its importance to the county's biodiversity. The main thrust of the Plan is to maintain, restore and expand woodland, grassland, heathland and wetland, and to increase the connectivity between habitats. The latter is most important as the UK becomes more urbanised through planning and development.

The Partnership consists of about 90 statutory, private and voluntary organisations which are key to delivering the actions and targets it has set, and it is clear that local groups and other voluntary organisations will continue to have a key role in conserving and improving our wildlife habitats into the future. Debbie Alston, Project Officer for the Plan, recently gave a well-received talk to Moss Valley Wildlife Group in which she stressed the importance of local wildlife records in building the foundations for plans of this kind. Moss Valley Wildlife Group will continue to support the Partnership and its Action Plan in various ways, from influencing and helping others, to recording, to conservation action on the ground.

To see the Action Plan, go to the following link: and click on the LBAP section of the contents page. Within this are the details on the Peak Fringe with references to Moss Valley.


Members of the Beauchief Environment Group and the Moss Valley Wildlife Group met for a joint walk in the Moss Valley on Sunday 15th April. This followed a welcome visit by representatives from the Beauchief Environment Group to the MVWG last Autumn to share their experiences and activities in the Beauchief Area.

The picture below shows members of both Groups gathering at 1p.m. in the car park at Ford on a bright, sunny, Spring day. The purpose of the walk was to highlight and share matters of historical and environmental interest with the Beauchief Environment Group members, as well as to jointly observe the varied plants and wildlife. The walk was led by MVWG Secretary, Celia Jackson, who shared her very interesting and wide knowledge of the lower Moss Valley at relevant points throughout the walk. Celia brought an old photograph of the area below Plumbley showing the dam full of water. This is now a marsh planted with poplar trees.

We walked along the Moss past Neverfear Dam, now back to its normal level, and then to the white bridge and Seldom Seen Engine House. Returning along the other bank, we looked at the well-preserved remains of an old spillway and wheel trough. We heard the unmistakable calls of chiff chaff and willow warbler, also blackcap and nuthtach. A buzzard was circling over the woods. Wild flowers seen included violet, stitchwort, marsh marigold, lady's smock, ground ivy, wood sorrel and wild garlic. One of our group was lucky to find the 'bowl' from an old clay pipe, no doubt smoked by a farm- or mill-worker at least a hundred years ago.

If you place your cursor over the photo you will see a caption.

Gathering at FordNeverfear dam

ground ivymarsh marigold


These photos were taken in Moss Valley on the 3rd of April 2012. Many woodland flowers come into flower before the tree canopy blots out the light - these flowers are called pre-vernals and typical among them are wood anemones. There are signs of many other wild flowers/plants appearing in the woods now, such as bluebell, arum, ramson, dog's mercury, wood aven, lesser celandine and foxglove. Have a look when you are next out and see what is coming up.

Place your cursor over the picture to see the caption.

wood sorrelcowslip, Dowey Lumbwood anemones, Dowey Lumbwood anemone, close -up


Now that April has arrived one of the main harbingers of Spring is expected to arrive any day soon - the Swallow.

Swallows will have already set off from their Winter Quarters in Africa covering about 200 miles per day at speeds of 17-22 mph. In recent years they start arriving at any time between 13th and 26th April. My recent records show it was 16th April in 2011 and 18th April in both 2009 and 2010. It could be even earlier this year with all the good weather we have been having in March.

Look out for the first ones in the Moss Valley, and when you see your first one, then please send in details of your sighting by clicking on the “recording” tab shown above this page.


The Perch is one of the few carnivorous fresh water fish, along with the Pike and the Trout. This fine specimen shown below (about 2.5lbs in weight) was caught last Friday (30th March) in the Moss Valley. However, in the small fishing ponds and streams of the Moss Valley you would not expect Perch to grow to more than 6 ozs in weight. There is insufficient natural food. However, anglers are reporting really good sizeable stocks of Perch of up to 4lbs in weight.

Now the American Signal Crayfish is quite a predator itself. However, once a year, in the Spring, it moults its hard shell and grows a new one. At this point it is very vulnerable. It is suspected that the Perch is taking advantage of this and feeding up on Crayfish in large numbers. Hence the reason that they are growing so well.

This one, shown below, was returned safely to keep on munching!


The bridge over the Moss Brook has been completely replaced at the bottom of Dowey Lumb between Bridle Road Wood and Owler Car Wood. A picture of the new bridge taken at the end of February is shown below. The Moss Brook is still very low in water for this time of year (the second driest winter on record to date nationally with forecasts of water shortgages this summer). However, there are small brook trout still present in the Moss Brook and they have been seen below this bridge.


On Monday evening, Celia Jackson, Hon. Secretary of the Moss Valley Wildlife Group, gave a talk to the Ladies Group at St Peter's Church, Gleadless. Over 20 members of the Ladies Group attended to hear Celia talk about the activities and projects of the MVWG in the Moss Valley, including the success with the control of Himalayan Balsam, and covering key features and history of the valley. The talk was supported by a full and interesting slide show.

The presentation was very well received by all the attendees and the display stand and leaflets attracted a great deal of interest. MVWG Committee members Terry Jackson, Jean Kilner, Peter Robinson and Philip Wibberley were also present.

The photograph below shows Celia taking questions at the end of her excellent presentation.


Some of our members attended the third South Yorkshire Natural History Day at Treeton on Saturday 18th February, and a fabulous day out it was too, thanks to the hosts Sorby Natural History Society. There were numerous information stands including the Moss Valley Wildlife Group; some from well-known groups, some new to us. It was a great way to meet other conservationists from the area such as Thorne and Hatfield Forum, and to really get to know 'what's going on'. The variety of subjects covered by the speakers was amazing and proves there is always something new to learn. Here is a snapshot of our stand.


The second South Yorkshire Wildlife Action Day took place at the Victoria Hall, Chapel Walk, Sheffield at 9.30 a.m. to 12.45 p.m. on Saturday 4th February. The event was led by Professor Ian Rotherham of Sheffield Hallam University, and members of the MVWG Committee attended, along with a number of representatives from other local environmental groups and interested parties.

One of the main themes covered was non-native invasive and problem species, and Celia Jackson, Hon. Secretary of the Moss Valley Wildlife Group, gave a presentation on the Himalayan Balsam Pull Project undertaken in the Moss Valley.

The picture below shows Celia giving her presentation to the attendees, assisted by Christine Handley, who is operating the slide projector. The presentation was well received as a prime example of how concerted and well planned effort can make a real difference in the management of this invasive plant.


These photos were taken in the Moss Valley on the first of February 2012….signs of life despite the cold days and frosty nights. We have had another similar report of a lesser celandine coming into flower near Ridgeway the week before. Walking round the woods the other day I noticed the first signs of bluebells pushing through, and I saw a feverfew in flower.

With many thanks to Chris and Kath G. for the bluebell photos. I took the icy puddle picture on the same day, when much of the earth in the valley was frozen solid. Oh well, cleaner walking boots.

Thank you to members for reporting these things, the more the merrier.

Early February bluebellFrozen puddle taken the same day


If you look at the shape of the trees in our ancient woodlands you are likely to see signs of coppicing which could date back many years. Trees or stumps with multiple stems are an indication of the old practice of coppicing. Even the names of woods can be an indicator - the term 'spring' is said to refer to the uprising of new growth from tree stumps or stools, eg Newfield Spring Wood, Cook Spring Wood. The cut stool produces crops of poles which are cut at intervals of seven to fifteen years. Most tree species can be coppiced - typically oak, hazel, lime and sycamore, but some species like cherry, elm and aspen are unsuitable because they send up suckers from the roots rather than producing good poles.

We already know that the Moss Valley has a long industrial and farming heritage, from old watermills to coal and charcoal. Coppicing would have been a key part of this from very early times, producing poles for light construction, staves, firewood, and charcoal for smelting iron. Going back to medieval times our woods were managed as a 'coppice' of underwood stools with 'standards'. The standards were often oak or ash which were allowed to grow to maturity to produce the 'timber' required for heavy duty construction eg beams, planks and gateposts. An alternative to coppicing was pollarding, where trees were cut at between six and fifteen feet above ground so that grazing animals could not eat the new shoots. Poles would still be harvested as with coppiced trees.

Coppiced woods were often divided into compartments to be cut in rotation, and this continual rotation supported great biodiversity of wildlife by offering different conditions for birds, insects etc. Old coppices usually have an abundance of spring flowers due to the sunlight being allowed to penetrate to the woodland floor. So the presence of large swathes of bluebells, dog's mercury, wood anemones etc suggest an ancient coppice.

If you place your cursor over the photo you will see a caption. JW

Oak tree with signs of coppicingTypical hazel stool, very common Sycamore stool, relatively recentSigns of coppicing on this alder tree


Please go to the BALSAM PULL page on this website to gain a fascinating insight into everything that goes into a project of this nature. As in other years, 2011 was a resounding SUCCESS and our thanks go out to all those involved, especially to Celia and Terry Jackson for their leadership. The valley is a better place as result of the effort put in over the last three years.

The report's recommendations point the way to future control of this invasive plant in Moss Valley, especially in relation to the role of landowners and tenants.


Derbyshire County Council Countryside Service has formally recognised the contribution made by M.V.Wildlife Group through our effective partnership working with the Countryside Service. The certificate marks a long association with what was Three Valleys (Moss, Drone and Rother) whose countryside conservation work continues within DCC Countryside Service. Long may this partnership continue - an example of the statutory and voluntary sectors working together.



Newsletter no 5 January 2012

This e-newsletter brings you a regular update on Hazelhurst Community Supported Agriculture and how to get involved. To subscribe, email our mailing list on Happy New Year, everyone!

Launch event for Hazelhurst share offer We are about to launch our new share offer, which we hope will raise substantial funding to advance the work. We are planning an event on Thursday 2nd February to launch this offer – SEE BELOW. It will be a public showcase for Hazelhurst with talks about the project and a presentation from Rebecca Laughton, who wrote Surviving and thriving on the Land. Do have a look at her book if you can, and if not, look at this: Rebecca has extensive personal and research experience of organic, sustainable cultivation and I think her talk with give us both inspiration and sound ideas for a successful project. There will also be a presentation of the Hazelhurst Oral History project – work that has been done over many months to find out the history of the land at Hazelhurst and the Moss Valley. This includes the experiences of the local farmers – knowledge from which we have much to learn. The evening will be an opportunity to find out about what is involved in investing in Hazelhurst CSA Cooperative, and we hope lots of people will! But please come along to find out about what is happening, even if you have no plans to buy shares at present. Please put this date in your diary: Thursday 2nd February Quaker Meeting House, St James St, S1 2EW DETAILS BELOW

Recruiting the Grower We have just recruited a part-time grower. Shortlisiting and interviews have been done, so there will probably be somebody starting work very soon! This recruitment is being done in conjunction with Heeley City Farm, which is helping the management committee and will provide support for the grower when he/she is in post.

Volunteer days: report from Stella, volunteer coordinator The next volunteering date for your diary is Sunday January 15th and every Wednesday during the week. The volunteering days we have had so far were good fun. On Sunday16th October there were 10 volunteers, who worked 35 hours in total. We raked in the hay, dug out the rest of the potatoes, and prepared wood for kindling. We each took turns at different tasks so that no one was bored. We then had the job of sorting all the potatoes, and trying to identify their variety, some were huge! We took home the potatoes which were unfit for sale, as a reward for volunteers for all the hard work. We enjoyed another successful work day on the 20th of November, with one or two new faces appearing through the mist. We forked up the remaining onions, covered over the green waste compost heaps with hay, and spot-weeded the docks, dandelions, thistles, and twitch. It was very misty. We stopped and had a cup of tea and cake and meditated about the field, visualising the wonderful vegetables we will be growing in the near future. Marion arrived at lunchtime and brought some organic broad beans. We dug and weeded a square of land at the top, added some green waste compost and sowed some of the beans that may or may not survive the winter. The mist cleared by 2pm and the sun shone for a while creating a magical atmosphere, as the sun went down.

Marion said on Sunday that Huw needed volunteers to help wheelbarrow cement for the polytunnels on Wednesday. When we got there Huw, James and Danny were very busy digging out deep holes to prepare the foundations of the polytunnels. This was hard work as the soil is very heavy clay and full of rocks. The cement lorry arrived while we were eating, and we had to grunt up and down the field with wheelbarrow loads of wet cement. We took turns barrowing and digging, barrowing and digging until all the cement was used and the poles were secured firmly, and in line with the strings, before the sun went down.

The volunteering days during the week have now changed to Wednesdays. We have plenty to do: there is cultivation of the polytunnels, more spot weeding and leaf collecting. Rainy day tasks include tool sharpening, making plant labels and marking out the beds. There are now two lock-ups to provide storage for tools on the site, (and shelter in changing weather cycles) with a gas stove to make tea or soup. And a wonderful composting toilet that separates poo from wee. So come on along. Working the land is exhilarating and joyous, it opens your heart and helps you lose your inhibitions and it de-stresses and creates sense of purpose, in being part of the beginning of this exciting community enterprise. So get digging, come on along, volunteer!

Other kinds of volunteering More volunteers are always needed on the land, but this is not the only way to be involved in Hazelhurst. We need more people to help with many aspects of the project. In particular at present we need people to begin planning for marketing our produce and to help with fundraising and publicity. While of course we welcome people with skills and experience, it doesn’t necessarily matter if you have no experience – we are all learning and sharing what we know. It is the essence of a co-operative to share and learn from each other. Enthusiasm and a little time are the important things. Please get in touch either via or by phoning Joan, Chair of the Management Committee, on 0114 249 8613 The committee will next meet on Wed 1st February. Please get in touch if you have any comments, queries or things you think the committee should be discussing. And don’t forget to come to the launch on 2nd Feb!

Who are we? The Hazelhurst Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Co-operative project is based on a nine acre field on Hazelhurst Lane, in the Moss Valley, S8 8BG. Our aims are to grow and distribute organically grown, affordable food for the benefit of the community,using ecologically sustainable methods to protect and enhance biodiversity. What’s your inspiration? Tell us about your ideas for Hazelhurst CSA by emailing Have a look at the website If you want to unsubscribe from this list, and no longer receive updates about Hazelhurst CSA, you can do so by sending email to:

From your Farm to your Fork: Finding out about Hazelhurst CSA

Thursday February 2nd 6.30pm (welcome with home-made food) for 7pm meeting Quaker Meeting House, St James Street S1 2EW

• Presentation of the Hazelhurst Oral History project – finding out about life and farming in the Moss Valley • Launching our share offer, giving you a chance to invest anything from £50 to £5000 • Find out how you can become part of this exciting co-operative venture by investing your time as a volunteer Hazelhurst Community Supported Agriculture Co-operative aims to help reconnect Sheffield communities with where their food comes from, by getting people involved in growing organic food on a beautiful two-acre site in the Moss Valley, just south of Sheffield


After a few weeks with days of torrential rain it is good to see the Moss Brook in full flow again. The Never Fear pond has also filled up nearly to overflowing. A one metre stake placed near the water's edge two months ago is now submerged indicating the rise in level.


On a fine but windy Saturday we were led by Terry Jackson on a short walk of 3 to 4 miles around the area east of Ridgeway. Setting off from the Ridgeway Craft Centre we soon visited the nearby well with its old biblical inscription, then across a stream and up to a fine viewpoint overlooking Ridgeway Moor and Troway. Keeping away from the boggy valley bottom we contoured round to Bowercinder Hill and the site of the old tram track (the incline once used for hauling coal). On to the quaint Plumbley Farm and then higher up the hill to the medieval trackway at Bridle Stile near Mosborough, where we took in great views from the Timeline Sculpture. From here the route took us along the ridge to Haven Farm and back to Ridgeway.

Thanks go to Terry Jackson for leading this enjoyable walk, one of the highlights of which was the sight of two buzzards soaring over the woods. Thanks also to Celia Jackson for pointing out items of interest, natural and archaeological.

If you position the cursor over the photo you will see a caption.

Fields east of Ridgeway villageView across Moss Valley to Troway A hungry donkey at PlumbleyThe Timeline Sculpture at Bridle Stile


SWT have now completed their five-year plan for the woodlands they manage in Moss Valley. This includes Dowey Lumb, the important area of grassland between Long Wood and Bridle Road Wood. The Plan is well worth a look, as is the associated Work Programme for the reserve. Please visit this link for the details, which contain some encouraging results from the ecological survey of Dowey Lumb last summer. The Plan also contains interesting background notes about the history of the area.


After a week of heavy rain the Moss Brook is now flowing again with a high level of water. A picture of the Neverfear dam taken on Friday 9th December is shown below. Even the channel to the Neverfear pond is flowing again and the pond itself is beginning to fill. This is after 10 months of below average rainfall for this area.


For the first time this year the dam at Never Fear is full to overflowing (Saturday 5th November). In addition the channel running down to the Never Fear pond is ever so slowly beginning to fill. If we get more heavy rain then at long last this pond may begin to recover as well. It is too late for a lot of the fish and swan mussels that were dying in July and August. Let's hope some have survived.


Here is the October 2011 newsletter from Hazelhurst CSA in the Moss Valley. You may recall our news item last spring (see Archive) when this local organisation was preparing the land for cultivation using organic and eco-friendly methods. This is a new and exciting project which has already had results, for example lovely potatoes and prize-winning honey. Well done.

Click on the document below and select 'open' to see the newsletter. The MVWG website has a link to the Hazelhurst CSA website - see Links.



This joint annual event, led by Derek Whiteley of Sorby Natural History Society, saw about 16 people, young and not so young, searching the reed canary grass and other habitat around Pebley Pond and Harthill Reservoir. This is not the Moss Valley but we share interests with Sorby. We were looking for the abandoned summer nests, usually to be found near water among the grass stems. The mice split the leaves and weave a beautiful nest about the size of a tennis ball. In winter they nest at ground level or below, keeping fairly active but out of sight.

The results, like last year, were poor, only a few nests being discovered. This survey is now 15 years old, and the statistics show a marked decline from around 2007. The main reason for this decline is thought to be habitat loss as the reed canary grass has receded and thinned due to the encroachment of wet woodland around the water margins.

Reed Canary Grass


You may have the impression that we have had a wet October. The Moss Brook does not think so. Look under the trees and see how dry the ground is. This is a picture of one of the main tributaries flowing from under the Norton Parkway, behind Hazlebarrow Farm, through Newfield Spring Wood and joining below Dowey Lumb. There is less water than a tap with a leaking washer. Just look at those stones and pieces of timber which represent the power and extent of water in previous times.


Most plants die back during the winter months. Deciduous trees lose their leaves to conserve their resources for spring, but a few are evergreen retaining their leaves all year, and they really stand out during this time.

Our native evergreens include Gorse (Ulex europeaus), Box (Buxus sempervirens), although this is very rare in the wild, Yew (Taxus baccata), Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Ivy (Hedera helix).

Unsurprisingly evergreens were seen as symbols of eternal life and possessors of supernatural powers. It was considered unlucky to cut down Holly for this reason. Druids made fires of Scots Pine at the winter solstice to call back the sun. It is not hard to see why three of the above species have all come to be associated with Christmas festivities, namely Holly, Ivy and Scot’s Pine.

HOLLY is a very ancient species that existed before the ice age, native to west Asia and Europe including Britain.It is dioecious, meaning that it has separate male and female plants, with the berries appearing on the female. The berries are toxic to humans but provide a valuable source of food for many birds, particularly after the first frost softens and sweetens them. It is also provides shelter for birds and mammals, particularly where it grows in groves, once considered sacred places by the Druids. The Druids also saw it as a protective plant, and that is why we place holly wreaths on our front doors—they look good too!

IVY flowers late and so provides another wonderful source of food late into the autumn and over winter with more than 70 species of nectar feeding insects recorded visiting the flowers, while many bird species eat the berries which follow, and deer browse the leaves. Like holly it provides shelter for many small creatures. In combination holly and ivy support the Holly Blue butterfly. Once thought to be useful against the effects of alcohol it was often associated with Bacchus the Roman god of wine! Maybe that is why we associate it with Christmas.

SCOTS PINE is the only pine native to Britain, now found only in the north of Scotland where it occupies just 1% of its original range. Valued for its timber(known as Deal) it was felled extensively and died out in the rest of the country between 300 and 400 years ago, although it has since been reintroduced as an ornamental tree. The seed cones support many animals and birds particularly the Crossbill. Sacred to the Druids, who made fires from the wood at the Winter Solstice, so it is not hard to see where the tradition of the Yule Log came from and why it became popular as a Christmas Tree.

(With acknowledgement to Plant Life International to whom we send our plant survey results)


Juvenile sparrowhawk in suburban garden. JW This grainy image was taken on a dull wet day in a Norton garden, on October 27th. It just shows that you never know what might turn up in your garden. This is a juvenile looking for easy prey around the hedges and bushes. It stayed still for ages, but its inexperience somehow showed. The garden went eerily quiet, not a sparrow or blue tit to be seen. Sparrowhawks seem to be doing well in the valley. Being birds of woodland and parkland they have good habitat here, but they are becoming more common around gardens, looking for small birds, though the larger females will kill medium-sized prey like starlings. They are very agile hunters, their short rounded wings being designed to fly through narrow gaps in the branches.


A beautiful sunny autumn day at Hazlehurst Farm in the Moss Valley and the 120th ploughing match is in full swing. Around 24 tractors of all vintages took part. Some dating from the 1940's. A few images are shown below. More pictures will be placed in the “gallery” over the next few days.

And they were competing for this trophy.

And look at the difference that 50 years makes in the size of tractors. The green John Deere tractors either side of this old Fordson are examples of the latest type of tractor and I was told that they cost in the region of £65,000 when new.

And this little caterpillar tractor dated from 1943.


Here are a few photos which reflect the recent hot, dry weather and how the valley looks on an afternoon at the end of September. Leaves are turning yellow early, yet some wild flowers are in bloom. There are plenty of berries in the hedgerows, but somehow the trees look a bit stressed. There is a caption if you place the cursor over the photo. JW

Dowey Lumb in all its gloryHornbeam nutlets - apparently a favourite food of HawfinchesJack Field near Hazelhurst LaneEarly evening light in Long Wood


It is now late September and the Moss Brook still remains extremely short of water. The picture shown below was taken at Dowey Lumb on 25th September and shows the whole of the Moss Brook flowing under one walking stick! This issue, the lack of water in the Moss Brook and its tributaries, was raised by Keith Pascoe (see below) and discussed at a recent MVWG Committee meeting. There is no single solution. And this problem is not confined just to the Moss Valley. There are a number of inter-related factors such as climatic change, rainfall records, improved drainage, lower water tables, water extraction and higher than average temperatures. However, the effects for valleys such as ours, not just on acquatic life, but the whole bio-diversity that is dependent on water channels will be dramatic. This summer has seen the Moss Brook reduced to a mere trickle along its entire length. We are awaiting a response from the Environment agency on the “official view” to see if our local views are shared generally and whether any remedial action can be taken from a Wildlife conservation perspective.

A tributory stream - what stream?


The Fungi Walk took place on Sunday 25th September with 17 attendees led by Ziggy Senkans from the Sorby Natural History Society. Meeting at Coal Aston Car Park the group found over 30 different specimens of fungi which will form part of the formal records for the Moss Valley. A list of the specimens found will be published in due course. Thanks to Ziggy for making the event so interesting and for sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm with MVWG. A picture of the party returning is shown below.


Sheffield Wildlife Trust and volunteers and Three Valleys Project Staff worked really hard on Thursday 15th September clearing bracken and brambles and then cutting the grass on Dowey Lumb, Moss Valley Woodlands. On Tuesday 20th September members of the Moss Valley Wildlife Group led by Celia and Terry Jackson assisted with raking up all of the cut grass. The area is now looking superb as you can see in the picture below taken on Sunday 25th September.


Do you remember that picture, back in April, of the Blackthorn Blossom? It is now in the archive section under “Sloe Gin Coming”. This is a picture of the same bushes 5 months later.

Drought: Recent Observations From Keith Pascoe As The Water Shortage Continues!

To open the article and see this outstanding aquatic specimen, click on either document, Word or PDF.


Ed: This looks like a swan mussel, which happens to be the largest species of bivalve in British waters, up to 9 inches long.


It seems to have been a fairly good year for swifts, at least compared with last year (there have also been good numbers of swallows in the valley). Now the swifts are slipping away southwards, and I have not seen one since 10th August. Swifts are one of our migrant birds which arrive late and depart early, usually arriving in early May, and most of them leaving in August. In their search for airborne insects they are very dependant on the weather, and have been known to travel hundreds of kilometres to avoid poor weather conditions. Insects are caught by scooping with the wide mouth; a marble-sized ball of food is then formed in the throat. Young birds in the nest can survive for many days without food, lapsing into an energy-saving torpor. Watch out for the last few before they leave the valley, and post a record if you see late ones. J.W.

LATEST: Single swift over Norton on 24th August, flying southwards as you would expect. Two swifts observed at Norton on 19th August. There was a feeding flock of about 20 flying very low over White Lane on 17th August.

Plant Survey

The fifth plant survey was conducted today (7th August) at the two sites off Hazelhurst Lane. These surveys are part of the national project run by Plantlife International. MVWG have been allocated a square kilometre and within that area we have, in line with the instructions, selected a centre plot (5m x 5m) and a linear plot (1m x 20m). The centre plot is on the edge of Newfield Spring Wood and looks like this:

And the linear plot runs down the side of the cornfield from Hazelhurst Lane to the footbridge and looks like this:

The aim of the survey is to note the plants identified on a survey form which lists 65 common plants. These plants are chosen by Plantlife International. The objective is not to find rare or unusual plants. The objective is to track the presence and approximate coverage of a pre-selected list of common plants, in pre-defined areas, across the nation, over time. And the pre-selected list does not cover all common plants. It is a deliberatlely selected sample. A control group. For example the list does not include ivies or buttercups. Today the dominant plants were Great Willowherb, Plantains, and Herb-Robert. We regularly identify around 15 to 20 plants. However we were at a disadvantage today as Sue Pethen was unable to attend. Sue has a very good knowledge of our native plants and hopefully the sixth survey will once again have the advantage of her expertise. We did however see a large number of Teasels (Dipsacus fullonum) which are pictured below:

As a foonote to the item on water shortage (see below) this is picture of the stream which is a tributary of the Moss Brook. It has stopped flowing completely! And all the rain forecasted for yesterday (6th August) missed the valley completely and went up the East Coast.

Never Fear Pond

At the beginning of June we were getting concerned about water levels in the Moss Valley after the driest April and May for 50 years.

The situation has deteriorated.

The pond at Never Fear is severely distressed and members have reported seeing dead fish in the water. These are small bream and today (5th August) over 8 dead fish were seen. This is a result of low and stagnant water compounded by two other factors:

- the fishing club was disbanded three years ago, so active management of the pond ceased, and the water plant growth in the pond has become rampant and now covers almost the entire surface.

- the feeder channel (goit) that used to bring fresh water in to the head of the pond stopped flowing some time ago.

The short term solution to this is prolonged and heavy rain. The weed growth in itself is not a real issue as there is plenty of oxygenating weed in the pond and the fish will move around underneath. In fact there are a number of large carp in the pond which are just about coping. However, bream are less able to cope and require higher oxygen levels, and a small flow of water, to survive a prolonged dry spell. It is the bream that are suffering the most.

As far as the supply of fresh water is concerned the first impression is that the pond is fed by a channel that feeds off the Never Fear Dam. Take a look at the picture below of the dam. You will see that the Moss Brook itself is very low indeed and the dam is well below normal levels. In normal times the water would be flowing over those boards that you can see in the picture. The Moss Brook cannot feed a channel. In fact it is barely flowing itself right from its source.

However, a closer inspection reveals that the channel (goit) was never fed by the dam. Even if the dam was full to the brim it would not feed the Never Fear pond. The Never Fear pond is in fact fed by the small stream that runs under the path as you approach the gate on the way to the dam. And this little stream has practically stopped running (5th August). Indeed it has been at a very low level for the past 2/3 years, and even when it was flowing, it has leaked into the Moss Brook before getting to the channel. So even if the channel to the Never Fear pond was cleared out, very little water would make its way to the pond, as the source (the tributary stream) has in recent times had a very reduced flow, and at present has disappeared into just a wet channel between pools.

This brings us back to the issue of the fish. The only salvation in the short term will be heavy and prolonged rain. It is rainfall alone that has been keeping the level up for the past 2/3 years. In the next picture you will see how far the level of the pond has fallen. The black line on the tree is the normal level. The level of the pond now is approximately a metre below.

And in this next picture, look at the bottom post, on this three post fence. It should normally be submerged in the pond to stop cattle getting round.

It is distressing to see fish suffering like this. Holiday weather aside, let's hope there is some substantial rain soon, as even the Moss Brook itself, and the substantial number of fish in there, will shortly be in danger if this drought continues.

Spotted Flycatcher

On a recent holiday in Kent a Spotted Flycatcher's nest was seen on the holiday cottage wall by Philip Wibberley. A picture of the nest with its 4 occupants is shown below. Can you see them all? Tremendous camoflage. They all fledged the next day. The Spotted Flycatcher is one of our smallest summer visitors coming from the southern regions of Africa and nests mainly in the southern counties of the UK.

Keith Pascoe's Fossil Find

Our committee member Keith Pascoe recently found an interesting fossil in the valley, and here is his article. It is amazing what can turn up if you are observant like Keith. Click on the PDF file below.


Coal Aston Show 2nd July 2011

MVWG attended the Coal Aston Show on Saturday 2nd July. Pictures of the display stand are shown below. A bright sunny day and very well attended with lots of interest in our stand. Fly past by a Spitfire at 12.30 p.m. All credit to the show organisers for a successful and well organised day.

Cutting the hay, late June, Hazlebarrow

This is a good time to observe wildlife either disturbed by the tractor, or attracted by the flush of insects or rodents.

Where has all the water gone?

After the driest April and May for 50 years there has still not been any significant rainfall. This is a picture of the Moss Brook, just below Dowey Lumb, taken on 15th June 2011. It is running at less than one third of its normal flow. It should be covering the muddy slopes seen in the picture below at this time of year. And recent showers are not making any difference. Even the pond at Ford Bottom near the Bridge Inn is beginning to drop in level which is a sign of a very dry spell.

Never mind, Wimbledon starts this week (20th June), there are MVWG balsam pull events on Tuesday 21st June and Sunday 26th June, the Glastonbury Rock Festival starts this weekend, the Coal Aston Summer Fair is on Saturday 2nd July (MVWG will be there) and Ridgeway Carnival is on Sunday 10th July, so we should soon be back to normal with summer deluges. Water shortages apart, let's hope not!

IS IT ALL IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER? Two pictures from the Moss Valley taken near the Bridge Inn at Ford in early June.

RIGHT : A Mediterranean View? Olive Trees on the horizon?

LEFT: And perhaps a John Constable picture in the making?

Himalayan Balsam Pull 2011 Kicks Off

On 23 May MVWG Committee members started Year 3 of this project by pulling newly emerging Balsam in parts of the Sheffield Marsh area. This day was also useful in checking how the Balsam had responded to last year's pull. It was pleasing to see the lower valley in good order, with many species of wild flower in evidence where last year there were swathes of Balsam. We will need to be thorough again this year, however we expect less Balsam to pull after two years of hard graft. See the Events page for details of organised Pull dates from late May onwards, and a big Thank You in advance for those coming along to help.

Reserves Advisory Group Site Meeting 16 May 2011

MVWG Committee members met with Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust for an evening visit to the SWT-managed Moss Valley Woodlands reserve, including the meadow at Dowey Lumb, to discuss habitat and path improvements which could form part of the SWT Management Plan for this reserve. The practical suggestions discussed will build on the ideas put forward at the previous meeting at Coal Aston in April, and will hopefully be included in SWT project work plans.

Birds and Bluebells Walk, 15 May 2011

A good turnout of over 20 people enjoyed this annual stroll in the valley. We were pleased to join up with Derbyshire County Council's Countryside Service, led by Gemma Gregory, and people from South Yorks, Derbyshire and Darlington! Unfortunately most of the bluebells had flowered early due to the unseasonally warm weather in April, but we accumulated a list of 30 bird species including the distinct sound of a cuckoo. There were good views of buzzard and kestrel, also many wild flowers could be identified along the route.

Neverfear DamHigh Bramley Wood

Bridle Stile

This ancient pack horse route from High Lane down to Mosborough gives wonderful views over the Moss Valley. It runs along the back of the Ridgeway Arms and is recommended for walking, panoramic views, and bird-song.

And a fascinating point of interest is the “time-line” (see picture below). This is a 360 degree, all weather metal sculpture display, with “story boards” pointing out notable features in the landscape,the history of the area and relevant wildlife information. You will learn how far in miles the Moss Valley is from New York, Jamaica and Chatsworth, read about the industry in the valley, and what sort of birds and animals can be seen. Moss Valley Wildlife Group was part of the group of organisations that made this a reality. The Group was also instrumental in achieving a number of conservation projects in this area that makes it such a beautiful focal point today.


The wild garlic is now in full bloom. The picture below shows bluebells, wild garlic and yellow archangel together below Ford along the Moss Brook. Has anybody used wild garlic in salads?

And after the driest March for 50 years (apparently) there has been hardly a drop of rain in April. And indeed April 2011 has now been declared the warmest since comprehensive records began over 100 years ago. The picture below is on the Moss Brook below the Bridge Inn at Ford at the first dam before Never Fear on 28th April. This would normally be overflowing with water in a white torrent. Predictions of the wettest summer for years are growing as average rainfall is average rainfall, and back to average we will inevitably go.

And finally, bluebell and garlic together, making a blue white mist. This was taken in Cadman Wood, below Bowercinder Hill, along from the bridge with white railings over the Moss Brook.


A bird walk for beginners, part of Sheffield Environment Weeks, was held on Tuesday 26th April. Meeting at the Ridgeway Arms at Mosborough at 10.00 a.m. it was led by Celia Jackson, MVWG Hon. Secretary. A pre-booked group of enthusiasts walked along Bridlestile, down to Plumbley and the Moss Brook, and then back past “The Wheel” and up Bridlestile to the Ridgeway Arms. A cool wind with the threat of showers, although by lunch-time over 27 different bird species had been recorded. Many of these were noted by Terry Jackson who is very good on the identification of birds by their songs and calls. Celia also took the opportunity to talk about the history and bio-diversity of the area as well as identifying the birds seen and heard. We were joined later by Peter Robinson, MVWG committee member, who is also a very good bird identifier. The picture below shows the group about to set off at the Ridgeway Arms. A very interesting morning, made even more interesting by Celia's knowledge of the area.


The fourth plant survey took place on Sunday 24th April. The results will be sent to Plant Life International, the wild plant conservation charity, as part of our continuing survey in the Moss Valley. A total of 15 species identified in the allocated area in Newfield Spring Wood and a further 11 species in the linear area from Hazelhurst Lane were identified. The picture below shows Terry and Celia Jackson on the survey either side of two walkers who expressed an interest in what we were doing and the Moss Valley Wildlife Group.

While on the survey we came across this beech tree which had been hit by a lightning strike. The tree had literally exploded about three metres from its base and crashed down! You can see the scorch marks from the lighting strike. The temperature of the moisture inside the tree must have hit boiling point so that the trunk blew like a steam boiler.


Never mind Renishaw Hall, Eckington Church or Norton. This could well go back to Saxon times. In other words the 9th Century.

This site is on the Moss Brook on the old bridle road running from Norton to Coal Aston. Below Povey Farm the track crosses the Moss Brook. Just up from the ford and the footbridge there is the site of a mill pond and dam. The earliest documentary evidence is from the 12th century when a corn mill on this site passed to Beauchief Abbey which was founded in 1175. In the days of the manors (and Beauchief was a manor) tenants were compelled to grind their corn at the lord's mill. This mill, belonging to William, Baron of Alfreton, was given to Beauchief Abbey about the year 1200.

The Abbey moved the mill from the east side of the Moss Brook, where it was in Eckington, to the west side where it was in Norton. The reason was to build a better mill. The site certainly has evidence of mill sites either side of the Moss Brook. One is rudimentary, taking advantage of the natural drop in the stream, whereas the other is below a dam with evidence of a mill pond above. The first could well be Saxon in origin whereas the second dates from around 1200.

Pictures showing the possible early Saxon mill site are shown below. However, the passage of at least 1,000 years makes the reading of the landscape very difficult and open to conjecture. What you do you think? Are the stones shaped by man or are they the natural bedrock?

Next time you are walking in the Moss Valley near Povey Farm, may I suggest you go down to the Moss Brook and try some archeological interpretation of your own. We could then invite Tony Robinson and his Time Team trench digging team!

Philip Wibberley


So where exactly does the Moss Brook rise?

Firstly, let's establish a few definitions. When tracing a brook, stream or river back to its source you keep coming across choices. These choices are tributaries. Do you follow the one with the most water joining? Or the one that may be smaller but has travelled further? Maps are fine as far as they go. But when looking at the head waters there are no clear indications as the name usually appears well down the length of the stream. The Moss Brook is 4.8 miles in length and good old wikipedia says that the source is in Coal Pit Wood below the Jordanthorpe bypass.

So there are complications and disputes already.

Let's start by standing at Dowy Lumb. Below Dowy Lumb it is the Moss Brook because it says so on the map. But around Dowy Lumb you have five tributary choices. A closer look gives us five options:

1. The direct line along the valley bottom with the most water. This takes you up to Coal Aston just before you reach the Village Hall below Cross and Birches Farm, and leaves you outside a pumping station with a warning notice about deep wells.

And if your definition is most water and a direct line then here is the source of the Moss Brook.

2. Follow Cross Lane, opposite Hen Pepper Farm, parallel to the end of the Jordanthorpe bypass. This tributary rises at the highest point of land between the Drone Valley running West and the Moss Valley running East. This is the furthest point by distance although the brook is by now a wet culvert. And here is the source of the Moss Brook:

3. Uphill to Jordanthorpe Parkway bypass and then under a culvert into the housing estate. And here is the source of the Moss Brook under a man-hole cover just over the bypass and below the large block of flats.

4. Straight towards Norton to the pond behind the Children's nursery at the roundabout at the end of the Norton bypass behind Jordanthorpe House. The pond is shown below. This is also the birthplace of the famous sculptor (Sir Francis Chantrey born April 1781). The cottage in which he was born is now surrounded by school buildings. However, it is still there and when Sir Francis was born he would have seen this pond from the front of the cottage. This must be the source of the Moss Brook.

5. To Hazlebarrow Farm and then under the Norton By-Pass to Oakes Park. This picture shows the culvert just before the Norton by-pass. This water will be coming from the large pond in front of Oakes House - a distance that is further north than the pond behind the Childrens' nursery. Then surely this must the source of the Moss Brook.


We have five choices depending on distance and water. I prefer the romantic version, being the pond at the end of the Norton bypass where Sir Francis Chantry was born. And there is a large clue which made me smile at the end of the investigations. The school is called “MOSS BROOK SCHOOL”. However, if distance is the definition then there are some other contenders, not least that drainpipe on the barn which is exactly on the watershed between the River Drone (hence Dronfield)and the Moss Brook Valley. What do you think, having reviewed the evidence along with the pictures? Romantic, drainpipe, man-hole or culvert? Forget the distance, forget the watersheds, let's go romantic with Sir Francis and say he was looking at it from his bedroom window before the school, the childrens' nursery, the two-lane bypass, and the electricity sub station began to get in the way.

Philip Wibberley

Meetings with Tree Trunks!

Here are a few recent pictures of trees in the Moss Valley which holds a good variety of tree species, some occurring naturally, others planted by man. You would probably look at a tree in several ways to identify it - the leaves, the fruit, the bark, general shape etc. Just by looking at the trunk alone, the character of each species can be surprisingly clear. When you next walk in the valley, see how many different ones you can spot. Place your cursor over the photo for the caption. Brief notes for each of the 12 species shown are given below the pictures. JW.

horse chestnutsycamore hornbeamwych elm silver birchwhite poplar pedunculate oakholly beechrowan hawthornyew


1.Horse Chestnut is native to Northern Greece. Arrived in Britain in 17th century from Turkey where its fruits (conkers) were used to treat sick horses.

2.Sycamore arrived from mainland Europe in the Middle Ages. The wood is used for kitchen utensils and, when it has an attractive grain, for violin backs and sides.

3.Hornbeam produces the hardest native timber. It was used for butchers' chopping blocks, skittles, industrial cogs and pulleys and shoe lasts.

4.Wych Elm (meaning 'pliant') is a native species. Millions have been lost to Dutch Elm Disease. Used for chair seats, boat building and inexpensive coffins.

5.Silver Birch is fast growing and short-lived. Used for roof shingles (wooden tiles) and the sap was used for wine and shampoo.

6.White Poplar is a very early, pre-iron age introduction. The best wood for making matches.

7.Oak (Quercus robar) is one of our commonest native trees. Many introduced species of Oak. All bear acorns. Used widely for ship building, barrels, wheel spokes, and charcoal. Bark was used to tan leather.

8.Holly is evergreen and the foliage was used to feed animals. Popular Christmas symbol. Berries eaten by thrushes and fieldfares.

9.Beech is native to the South and Midlands and has been planted elsewhere. Popular for parquet floors. The bark is like elephant hide!

10.Rowan or Mountain Ash. Planted to ward off witchcraft! Lovely white flowers in Spring with red berries in the Autumn.

11.Hawthorn is the commonest hedgerow species and extensively planted as such in 16th to 18th centuries. Wood used for walking sticks and in homoeopathy as a blood tonic.

12.Yew is very slow growing and long lived. The foliage and seeds (not the fleshy berries) contain a poisonous alkaloid. This is the best wood for long bows (Agincourt). Foliage contains a precursor for a cancer drug. Common in church yards.

Reserves Advisory Group Meeting, 18th April 2011

Members of Moss Valley Wildlife Group, Derbyshire County Council Countryside Service and Hazelhurst CSA attended this meeting which was hosted by Annabelle Kennedy of Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. The SWT's draft management plan for the Moss Valley Woodlands (ie those parts of the valley managed by SWT) was discussed in a series of short workshops. The sessions were designed to update what had gone before and bring in ideas for the next five years. An example of the objectives agreed is to improve biodiversity through the widening of woodland rides in certain areas to allow more light to penetrate the lower levels. MVWG will continue to liaise with SWT and others as practical conservation measures take shape.


The blackthorn blossom is magnificent this year. A good harvest of sloe berries may be on its way in the Autumn. The photograph below was taken alongside Hazelhurst Lane on Saturday 9th April by Philip Wibberley. As a matter of interest, how many trees and shrubs blossom first before they put out their leaves. Obvious candidates are Forsythia, Magnolia, Pear, and Jasmine. Can you think of others?


This tractor was spotted at the Easter weekend abandoned in a field just off Hazelhurst Lane.

It has a large trailor with a settee tied tightly to it.

Is the farmer now cutting out the consumer completely and directly planting couch potatoes!

A Tale of Two Bridges

Phil Wibberley (MVWG) sent in these two pictures and text. The 'White Bridge' crossing the Moss Brook between Ford and Eckington after a tree fell across the bridge in winter gales, damaging the railings. The tree has been sawn in two to unblock the bridge.

The new bridge crossing the Robin Brook between White Lane and Carterhall Lane at Gleadless, installed by the Structures Team at the Environmental Services Department, Derbyshire County Council. The previous bridge had rotted and collapsed.

A Ramble in the Lower Moss Valley, Early April

Wild violets Oak apple

Place your cursor over the photo to see the caption. As you can see, last year's remnants hang on while new growth appears in spring.

What a good time to see the valley, when the lack of leaves in the tree canopy allows lots of light into the woodland to reveal early spring growth. We started from Eckington and climbed up into High Bramley Wood, where we spotted our first bluebell, then on to the White Bridge across the Moss, where a pair of tree creepers were busy. We had by now heard green woodpecker, black cap and chiff chaff calling, and the lower woods had patches of wood amemones and lesser celandines in flower. Over towards Ridgeway three buzzards were circling. Good to see marsh marigolds in full bloom in the boggy areas near Ford, and a patch of violets at Birleyhay. Three swallows at Geerlane Farm, and a skylark singing over higher ground, then a couple of partridges at Sloadlane (these were the red-legged species, but please report any 'English' grey partridges, which seem scarce now). Along the lanes the blackthorns were flowering, and arums, red dead nettle, yellow archangel and stitchwort were pushing through. Not many insects about today, but the bumblebees are out - we spotted a red-tailed one. Sitting in Ladybank Wood for a cuppa, and we got the grand finale, a tawny owl hooting tentatively in broad daylight. JW.

The Group's Annual General Meeting

The Moss Valley Wildlife Group AGM was held on 14th March 2011. We had some lively discussion followed by tea and biscuits! The new website was well received (thank you) and the meeting agreed that all members would receive a shortened newsletter twice a year as an update with key information, which would be posted out to those members without e-mail. The Committee welcomes members' views, also we would welcome any contributions to the website, for example news items, articles, wildlife sightings, photos etc. Members are also encouraged to submit records to our Recorder as we are keen to collect information on the valley's flora and fauna. Spring is on the way, so let's walk into the valley and see what is emerging. A swallow has been seen already, and a few butterflies. We have some events coming up, so have a look at the Events Page. Our Hon. Secretary has reminded us that 2012 will be our 30th birthday year, so we are already thinking of things to do in 2012.

Joint Walk in the Shire Brook Valley, 13 March 2011

Place your cursor over the pictures to see the caption. Photos and article by Dave Walker, MVWG.

Birley Spa Boating Lake Old coppicing at Wickfield Plantation

The Shire Brook Valley, adjacent to the Moss, is formed by the brook from its source at Gleadless Town End, where it runs under the Red Lion Public House, appearing behind the houses of Seagrave and Lister Crescents as it makes its way through the Basegreen Estate to Normanton Springs and onwards to the River Rother; a journey of about 4 miles.

It is an ancient boundary not only between Derbyshire and Yorkshire (which made it interesting in the pub, as one side had licensing hours finishing at 10.30pm and the other at 11.0pm – imagine the exodus from one room to the other when ‘time’ was called), but also the ancient kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria and the ecclesiastical provinces of Canterbury and York.

On Sunday 13 March 2011 nine members of the Moss Valley Wildlife Group met up with members from the Shire Brook Valley Heritage Group for a day exploring the area and learning about the industrial background of the middle part of the Shire Brook. The day’s events had been put together by Christine Handley from the Heritage Group (and also a M.V.W.G. member) and Chris Smith, Project Development Ranger (South East Sheffield Woodlands).

Following a short introduction at the Visitor Centre off Stone Lane, with mention of farming, the water wheels, scythe and sickle manufacture, mining, sewage works and now the Local Nature Reserve we set off to the Centenary Ponds and Carr Forge Dam before going under the newly constructed A57 to the Nether Wheel area opposite the Nether Wheel Row of cottages. Onward and upward, through Wickfield Plantation and Wickfield Heath where areas of old moor heathland still remain with gorse, heather and bracken on the steep hillside, and stunning views across the valley, we found ourselves at the Birley Spa Bathhouse. We were able to view the stone bath, but only by torch light due to squirrel damage to the electrics. The walk back to the Visitor Centre took us through what were the pleasure grounds, past the boating lake and back into the Nature Reserve.

Sandwiches and a refreshing cuppa preceded the afternoon stroll up the valley side towards Woodhouse and across the top of Sally Clark’s Meadow, where cattle grazing has been re-introduced, before dropping back down to the end of Stone Lane among the remnants of the Birley East Colliery. The more modern times took over as we walked up the recently capped ‘Beighton Tip’ a large landfill site, now grassed over but still extracting methane for electrical power. From here we had a 360o panorama coupled with skylarks singing above and views down to Beighton Marsh and the Regionally Important Geological & Geomorphological Sites (RIGS) of the Mosborough Parkway Cutting. We then dropped back down to the valley floor to walk back to the visitor centre, passing Rainbow Dam and remnants of hedges at the side of paths and along the edges of old mill goyts.

There are three information leaflets available focusing on Walks; History; and Wildlife; of the Shire Brook Valley; together with a superb book “Shire Brook – The Forgotten Valley”, that gives an insight to the area, from its geology and wildlife to farming and industry. Produced as part of the Shire Brook Valley Heritage Group’s project The Forgotten Valley it highlights the lives of people who helped make the valley what it is today. More information, details of activities and events, and how to contact the Ranger service are available on the Sheffield City Council Web Site. (See our Links page).

Wickfield Heath, Shire Brook Valley Shire Brook Valley: Heading home


This non-native plant was introduced into Britain in 1839. It escaped from gardens and soon spread along river banks and areas of damp ground. From small beginnings this plant can grow very tall, up to 3 metres! Its flowers appear from June to October and are pinkish, its leaves are mid/dark green and lance-shaped, its stems are pinkish red in colour, hollow and full of sap. Himalayan Balsam spreads rapidly from seed, each plant capable of producing 800 seeds. When ripe the seed pods 'explode' on contact, shooting seeds up to 7 metres away. The plant prefers damp soil, and can even spread into woodland. Seeds are often spread by water and can remain viable for up to 2 years. This plant grows in dense stands that suppress the growth of our native grasses and wild flowers. In autumn the Balsam dies back, leaving river banks bare of vegetation and vulnerable to erosion. This plant is a threat to the biodiversity of the Moss Valley. It is particularly important to control it within nature reserves and other sensitive areas, where we could lose some of our native flora. At a national level, the Environment Agency and others take this matter seriously, along with other invasive species which can harm the environment and cost the country millions in control measures.

Hazelhurst CSA

Working to improve the land at Hazelhurst.

Hazelhurst Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Co-operative has grown from Transition Sheffield and is progressing well. The CSA is planning to buy the beautiful nine acre field overlooking the Moss Valley on Hazelhurst Lane, near Hazelhurst Farm. There is now a fantastic opportunity to join the co-op as a member and to invest in the project which will really help ensure this project goes forward. A bore-hole has been drilled ready for irrigation, our autumn sown onions and beans are coming up. A secure and spacious tool store has been sited discretely and bee hives are in place.

We are very friendly and there are three opportunities for you to participate in this new small co-operative organic farm. You can come and meet us on one of our volunteer days (3rd Sunday of every month) and have fun whilst learning about organic horticulture. This spring we will be enriching our soil, tidying our field boundaries and planting twelve different varieties of spuds as well as other veg.

Or you can join us by becoming a member, getting a monthly newsletter keeping up to date with how we are growing. And if you are willing and have a spare bit of cash, you can invest in this local food Coop and ensure this new endeavour delivers fresh, healthy food to your community well into the future. This is a beautiful example of a growing community with real respect for nature and people. Check out our website or email

Also at Hazelhurst Lane, another local food growing enterprise is taking shape. Hazelhurst Fruitery is based on a 3 acre site and is designed to demonstrate that a wide range of fruit can be grown successfully in this area. Around 250 fruit trees, mainly apples, pears, plums and cherries have been planted this winter, together with many varieties of soft fruit. The produce will be available through a membership scheme, to be set up when the trees come into production, but anyone wishing to support the establishment of this new orchard and to be involved in its life through the seasons, can sponsor or dedicate a tree. For more details contact Huw Evans on 0114 2507644.


This topic is a minefield of anthropomorphism, dubious selection, basic responsibility, ecological balance and mixed facts. We are talking about alien species of flora and fauna in the UK and the attitudes towards them.

On the one hand we re-introduce beavers and golden eagles, while contemplating the culling of badgers. On the other hand we put up with wild boar and deplore the demise of the red squirrel with the introduction of greys. We have seen the spread of signal crayfish, mink, mitten crabs and harlequin ladybirds. We fill our lakes with American rainbow trout, zander and catfish. We have witnessed the alarming spread of Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam, and Rhododendrons. And attitudes are equally diverse.

In short we have very strange ideas about what is “native” to the UK. Pheasants seem to be part of the countryside and yet were introduced by the Normans. What could be more native than the common nettle and yet these arrived from the Mediterranean on the boots of Roman soldiers. We have just 32 trees that have been here since we were separated by the channel from the continent. Some of our best known trees (Sycamore, London Plane, Horse Chestnut) are all recent introductions.

And what about all the pets we keep in cages, aquariums and our homes? Most of them are imported breeds. Not to mention the varieties of farm animals and now the possibility of cloned sheep and cows.

Just how long do you have to live here to be “native”? Or is it more to do with how easily you blend in, how attractive you are, and how quickly you can adapt?

The definition used by DEFRA is fairly general and makes a distinction based on whether they are deemed to be “invasive” or not. The following is an extract from their web-site: “Man first arrived in Britain about 8,000 years ago and virtually all new land animals and plants that have become established since this date have been brought here by man. These are all non-native species. However, we must not think that all non-native species are bad – indeed it is only a minority that have serious negative impacts on our native British species, our health or our economy. These species we call invasive non-native species.”

The definition of “invasive” seems to be somewhat subjective and appears to be based on its impact on the surrounding environment and other so-called native species. At the end of the day it is all about responsibility for our environment. Without doubt nature is ever changing and evolving. But human intervention does have dramatic impact. The latest concern is climate change itself but at a more practical level we have a responsibility at ground level to manage our environment.

Yes, Himalayan Balsam is definitely right there on the invasive species list. It is disappointing to travel round the country and see it everywhere. MVWG members regularly return from holiday amazed at the extent of it (even on the central reservation of the M6—Dave Walker). However, we can make a difference and the fantastic effort in the Moss Valley proves it.


From the birdwatcher's point of view, there are three types of bird visitors: summer visitors, winter visitors, and passage visitors, and they can offer splendid views of large flocks of birds and hundreds of different species. We usually only think of bird migration when the swallows arrive in April. However, migration is a spring, autumn and winter activity.

Migration is the moving from one place to another, usually in search of more favourable conditions for either feeding or breeding. Many songbirds migrate at night and feed and rest during the daytime. The air is also cooler and denser at night and so there is:

■Less risk of dehydration.

■Less energy used to provide lift (the force that acts upwards).

■Less turbulence, caused by thermals rising from the ground, to throw the birds off course.

Other birds fly at very high altitude for a similar effect, for example: airline pilots have observed Whooper Swans at altitudes of 8850 metres (29 000 feet). Scientists believe that the bird's internal clock and cues taken from seasonal events govern the timing of their migration. At the appropriate time, the birds prepare for migration by building up their fat reserves by eating insects and berries. Some species, particularly warblers, complete their migration in one non-stop flight and can double their body weight, while others stop en route to feed. Additionally, some species, such as the Willow Warbler, may moult their feathers ready for the migration, while others will moult only when they arrive at their destination.

The tremendous feat of travelling thousands of miles is all the more miraculous when some species are known to return to the same location year after year. Scientists think that birds use their sense of smell to follow odours, their remarkable eyesight to follow the Sun, the stars, the Earth's magnetic field, and landmarks, and wind directions to achieve navigation. Interestingly, some species take a different route in their summer migration to the one in the winter. In Britain, our summer visitors are birds that have migrated in the spring from around the Mediterranean and Africa. They do this to improve the chances of rearing young. If they stayed in Africa the competition for limited food supplies would be high, but in the more northern latitudes there is more food and more daylight hours in which to search for it. However, staying in Eurasia during the winter months when food becomes short would lead to starvation and death, though some of our traditional migrants, like the Blackcap and Chiffchaff, are now over-wintering in Britain. Our summer visitors include Swallows, House Martins, Swifts, and Warblers (e.g. Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat). Willow Warblers and many other warblers fly non-stop and take 4 or 5 days to complete their migration. On the other hand, Swallows and Swifts can take 2 or 3 months to complete their migration as they stop off every few days to roost and feed.

Winter Visitors. These species migrate from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and northern Europe where food becomes hidden under snow and ice. Examples are the thrush family: Redwing, Fieldfare (see back cover of newsletter) Blackbird and Robin. While some of these are true migrants, we also have native migrants, for example: tits and wrens moving from the countryside to urban areas, starlings flying from their city roosts to suburban gardens during the daytime, thrushes flying southwards from northern Britain.

Passage Visitors and Irruptions. Many passage visitors are sea birds and waders, such as Black Tern, Solitary Sandpiper, but also others such as Serin and Bluethroat. Irruptions are sudden invasions of birds. One of the better known examples are Waxwings, which sometimes move into Britain when rowan berries have failed in Scandinavia and northern Europe. Indeed, one memorable afternoon in 2005 I stood with Roy Kilner at Gleadless Townend watching a small team from Sheffield University catching Waxwings with large fine nets and ringing them as they landed on the Rowan Trees outside the St.Luke’s Charity Shop. Apparently it was part of a continuing bird research survey across Sheffield.


What is Himalayan Balsam? See the short article above.

The wonderful display of flora in the lower Moss Valley during Spring and Summer 2010 bore witness to the very hard work undertaken by everyone involved in MVWG’s “Big” Himalayan Balsam Pull Project during the Summer of 2009. Unfortunately MVWG was unsuccessful in obtaining funding from the Community Spaces Programme administered by Groundwork UK for 2010 but the Committee decided to honour the Group’s commitment to a three year Himalayan Balsam Pull Project in the Moss Valley SSSI.

Thanks to the generosity of the Chair of Three Valleys Project Steering Group, Councillor Steve Pickering, who handed over to MVWG a cheque for £500 from Derbyshire County Council, at a Publicity Day in Ford Car Park on Sunday 23 May 2010, MVWG was able to “buy in” practical help to pull Himalayan Balsam in the North East Derbyshire area of the Lower Moss Valley from Sheffield Conservation Volunteers who gave “best value” for this work.

The task for 2010 could not have been undertaken as successfully as it was without this funding and the work undertaken as a result of same. Derbyshire County Council also kindly awarded MVWG a Greenwatch Action Grant of £350 towards protective clothing for the Balsam Pull.

Thanks to Dave Walker, MVWG’s Hon treasurer, in obtaining grant funding and keeping the balsam pull finances in order.

Many thanks must also be extended to all the MVWG members who took part in, or were involved in any way, in the “Big Pull 2” during 2010, no matter how little time they were able to offer, either in balsam pulling or administrative work, in order to have brought about an extremely, if exhausting, successful outcome to this year’s project. In addition to the work carried out by Sheffield Conservation Volunteers and MVWG, other volunteers provided help.

These included Sheffield Landscape Trust Volunteers and Staff , publicity photographs taken by Pete Wolstenholme, Three Valleys Project Volunteers & Staff, Members of the Eckington & District Rotary Club, Renishaw Hall Gardeners and Enterprise Rent A Car Corporate Volunteers.

Thanks must also be extended to Gemma Gregory of Three Valley Project for background support to MVWG relating to many aspects of the 2010 Himalayan Balsam Pull, liaison work with Three Valleys Project Steering Group, providing accommodation for meetings at the TVP Eckington Office and DCC cover for the Enterprise Rent A Car volunteer day. Unfortunately, a Public Pull Day to be held under the leadership of Three Valleys Project Staff, on Sunday 6 June 2010, had to be officially cancelled literally at the very last minute for Health and Safety reasons due to a heavy thunderstorm including forked lighting breaking out over the Moss Valley just before the start of the day’s work.

Thanks must also be extended to Sally Pereira of Sheffield City Council’s Environmental Planning Department for support relating to the Mosborough and Plumbley areas where Himalayan Balsam grows in the lower Moss Valley. MVWG are very grateful to Arnold Laver & Co of Holbrook who kindly donated new Rubble Bags and gave a generous discount on High Visibility Vests. Wm Morrison also donated £50.00 as part of their Earth Action Heroes Campaign: this money was used to buy first aid supplies.

Before starting the 2010 pull, permission to enter onto land was obtained from landowners and tenant farmers. Local farmers have been very helpful and supportive of MVWG for this Project. Roots already “freshening” from the previous year’s growth were observed in February 2010. Pulling commenced on 13 May 2010 until September 2010 in the Lower Moss Valley, within and beyond the Moss Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)) stretching from Ford in the west to Eckington in the east, a distance of approximately three linear miles following the course of the Moss Brook. This particular SSSI is within the boundaries of both Sheffield and North East Derbyshire. Himalayan Balsam was pulled outside the SSI boundary itself approximately half a mile north and south and along the eastern end of the Moss Brook in order to ensure re-seeding didn't occur inside the SSSI itself.

The whole length of the SSSI from Ford to Eckington, including areas around derelict and water filled dams, was pulled in both Derbyshire and Sheffield at least once. The field hedgerows, “oxbow” meadows, arable field margins, woodlands, track/footpath edges and the banks of the Moss Brook both within and outside the SSSI were “weeded” up to four times until the end of September to ensure that as little seeds as possible managed to disperse. Areas that had been cleared in 2009 received attention to ensure that the work carried out then was consolidated in 2010. Along the “Derbyshire” side several sites along the length of the Moss Brook were visited, except one small section of marsh that was considered too dangerous to enter at the time. Late balsam growth along the south side of the Moss Brook in the area known colloquially as Derbyshire Marsh was dealt with during the second week in September but some heavily waterlogged sections could not be attended to in the time remaining due to lack of personnel being available to ensure the task was undertaken safely. This site will be prioritised at the beginning of the “pull season” in 2011.

The “Sheffield” section of the SSSI, known colloquially as Sheffield Marsh, was fully cleared for the first time in a decade by MVWG volunteers, and in mid September this area looked really stunning. MVWG members haven’t seen the marsh look as good for many years, and this is reward in itself for all those volunteers who have tried to deal with this site in the past. This area took over six weeks to clear, MVWG volunteers returning to the site whilst also being engaged in other “pull” areas. Five months of continuous graft has resulted in the following statistics for volunteer time in pulling the balsam. It is believed that at least 95% of all Himalayan Balsam in the Moss Valley SSSI was pulled during 2010.


Actual pull days from 13.05.10 to 28.09.10: 66

Volunteer numbers (actual attendances) 13.05.10 to 28.09.10: 290

Volunteer hours 13.05.10 to 28.09.10: 1,675

Volunteer days (conversion based on 7 hrs per day): 240

Number of bags pulled based on 1 ton capacity rubble bags x average 4 bags per person per pull day: 1,144 . Rubble bags were used to prevent any balsam and roots being inadvertently dropped onto areas of cultivated fields. All the material was rotted in situ on sites where balsam had previously been growing, thus preventing any further spread of growth and no movement of materials from the site. The residue will be left intact until it has rotted away completely and will NOT be used as compost.

Voluntary MVWG administrative volunteer time amounted to approximately 42 days for the 2010 project.

Although the balsam growth was much weaker where it had been pulled in 2009 and in small areas pulled previous to that, it was imperative to ensure that each section was systematically “weeded” in addition to Himalayan Balsam seed being able to remain dormant for at least four years, MVWG is also aware that this plant also has the capacity for staged emergence and growth during the growing season, that is plants seem to grow in May and flower in June, then another set appears in July, another in August and this year, more in September. So although a section may have pulled in May, the same area needed “weeding” before and/or during flowering for at least another three times during the growing season. The “weeding” will have to continue for several years to deal with dormant seed. The balsam flowered very early this season which resulted in those involved dashing up and down the Moss Valley trying to beat the flowering time. As the Balsam was able to flower on some sites this kept the bees and butterflies happy, and this year these species had the best of both worlds - being able to utilise the improved native spring and summer flora and having the advantage of Himalayan Balsam flowers as well.

Many people have asked us if anything eats Himalayan Balsam and we can now answer, “Yes”. In 2010, three magnificent Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillars were observed chomping away on the leaves and stalks of Himalayan Balsam that was growing alongside Great Willowherb (Codlins and Cream) in the marshy areas. (The Reader’s Digest Field Guide to Butterflies and other Insects of Great Britain 1984 p154 notes that Elephant Hawk Moths feed on Willowherb, Bedstraw, Enchanter’s Nightshade, Fuchsia and Balsam).

When we found these caterpillars, we gently removed the flowers from the top of the balsam plants upon which the caterpillars were feeding together with flowers from balsam growing nearby thereby leaving a small area for these wonderful caterpillars to continue to feed then transform into Elephant Hawk Moths.

In September 2010, members of Moss Valley Wildlife Group and the local community, have had the pleasure of being able to walk along the Lower Moss Valley and the SSSI, seeing hedgerows, wild flower meadows, river banks, marsh and ancient woodland free in the most part, from Himalayan Balsam. Many regular users of the Moss Valley have expressed their pleasure in the results of MVWG’s hard work, and commented that after many years, this area of the Moss Valley seems to be being cared for again. MVWG has proved that Himalayan Balsam can be controlled and are pleased to have been in the forefront of Himalayan Balsam Control utilising holistic methods. MVWG is also proud to have contributed to improving the bio-diversity of the lower Moss Valley during the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity.

Eckington & District Rotary Club have very generously donated £100 to MVWG towards the cost of hiring Sheffield Conservation Volunteers for 2011. Our Hon Treasurer has also applied to the BBC Community Wildlife Fund for financial help with the 2011 project.



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