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Moseley Bog Friends' Blog 09/06/15

Posted: Wednesday 10th June 2015 by Joe.P

Bee on yellow rattle - Mary GirvanMeadow wildlife

These blog posts are sent in by Mary Girvan of the Friends of Moseley Bog & Joy's Wood to give a personal perspective of a day in the life of a volunteer. She also does the twitter feed for @mosbogfriends.

It's a beautiful day. A bit cool in the shade and a light breeze - perfect for working out of doors. I arrive early and go for a stroll in the big meadow. It's an explosion of yellow, awash with bees and echoing with warblers - blackcaps I think. The yellow rattle is in flower, it's a great year for buttercups, and within seconds I saw white-tailed, red-tailed, and tree bumblebees; not to mention numerous brightly coloured hoverflies. There's so much to learn.

Today's work turns out to be two lovely walks. In the morning we lop, shear and saw our way around the reserve's walkways trying our best to clear vegetation away from the paths without giving them a manicure. The blackthorn are heavy with sloes, which brings on much discussion about gin. Elderflower is abundant and we debate whether it's best to take the flowers or wait for the berries, cordial wine or tea. Given its many potential health benefits I guess the method is purely taste dependant.

We cut back brambles and talk of berries. One of the team describes how the roots of Wood Avens taste of cinnamon or cloves and can be added to soups or drinks. Later research tells me they also have a long list of medicinal properties, and I think twice about ripping them out as weeds from the garden. The most dominant plant we cut back is nettle - another source of wine or soup!

We loosely plan a picking and foraging day, with cherries (we have plenty) for dessert. Then Tom shows us how to make nettle string. We wend our way back through the victorian gardens and old woodland, taking out sycamore saplings, as they take out too much moisture from the bog, and remove a cracked willow that has fallen across the sleeper path. On our route we see a mother Robin feeding her chick, and two grey squirrels tumbling over each other, in play.

Our afternoon walk is a meadow survey. We do this once a year, looking for positive indicators like yellow rattle, and negative ones like thistle and ragwort, as well as documenting and quantifying any other species we can see. We use the DAFOR scale, which stands for dominant, abundant, frequent, occasional and rare. It's not difficult to do, and I'm delighted to say that all meadows we surveyed showed a marked improvement in positive indicators, and we classed the yellow rattle as dominant in places. 

Among other wild flowers we saw; lesser stichwort, a stunning tiny white star-like flower on delicate pea like stems, not to be confused with it's chunkier lookalike the chickweed; birdsfoot trefoil sometimes called the bacon and eggs plant as it has both pink and yellow on its flowers; common vetch, bush vetch and meadow vetchling. We studied beautiful grasses with exotic names like crested dogs tail and meadow fox tail. We looked for the stripy pyjamas at the base of the Yorkshire Fog. To return to the foraging theme we found wild sorrel and horseradish.

All too soon it was time to leave, with our heads packed full of new knowledge and our cameras of photos.

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