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Friday, 15 June 2018

Beech Leaf Miner

I am noticing many Beech trees that look to have brown leaves from a distance. On closer inspection parts of the leaves look to have been eaten out by a leaf miner and the remaining healthy tissue has many holes.

It isn't just confined to young saplings but old Beech are badly affected as well. It could be the result of the Beech Leaf Miner--Orchestes fagi. I can't say I have noticed this much damage to the leaves in previous years.

Less Chlorophyll will mean less photosynthesis and progressively weaken the tree. In combination with this lengthy dry spell and Beech having a shallow root system, it is not looking good.

Is this type of leaf damage noticeable throughout the valley or is it just Todmorden? Can anyone confirm this weevil is the culprit?

Balsam Bashing at Hardcastle Crags

Natalie Pownall, Academy Ranger at the National Trust, has asked us to advertise the forthcoming balsam bashing days which start on Monday 18th June.  Many HSS members volunteered last year to do this.  You can stay for as long or as short a time as you wish. 

This is what she says:

'We want as many people bashing at the Crags as possible to increase biodiversity and reduce flood risk. The aim is 1000 people!

The sessions are in the day this year instead of the midgey evenings!

Here’s the link to our balsam bashing drop in sessions which gives full details of timings, dates etc.
There are 6 sessions in the next two weeks 

Hope you can help us spread the word – share with your friends!'

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Tree planting--what's the plan

Shedden Clough near Hurstwood has had a lot of tree planting that also includes the open moorlands. Most of this was done as part of the now defunct "Forest of Burnley" scheme.  Some trees lower down the valley sides may create a good effect but I do wonder what they are trying to achieve when saplings are planted on the moorland, especially as there are many Small Heath butterfly and quite a few Skylarks. Many of these saplings  are looking distinctly unhappy and will not survive. I am sure that wasn't the intention although it could be seen as a good outcome.

Within Shedden Clough there is a lot of Rhododendron that is spreading quickly. Some of this Rhodo was cleared about 10 years ago. As the photo shows, the resultant bare soil has created a great opportunity for a forest of self-seeded Birch. Note how this Birch has established without the assistance of tree tubes and stakes; perhaps it prefers to do what it knows best, which is grow.

Of the planted saplings, Hawthorn and Willow seem to be doing well. If these were planted as a kind of first wash on the landscape canvas, niches would be created for trees to arrive naturally and create a more structured woodland over time.

Instant woodland is fostered by the grant schemes and impatience but the question has to be asked---what will be the result?

The prospect of the "Great Northern Forest" sounds appealing but if it is like many other planted schemes that are done and then forgotten, the results may be the opposite of what is wished for. 

Anyone who is interested in how successful landscapes can be created, that work for all species, should 'Google' Knepp Wildland and watch the 15 min video. It is a revelation how such a landscape can evolve from a previous intensively farmed one.
                                      Natural Birch regeneration after Rhododendron removal

                                    Rhododendron invasion which needs removing

                            Tree planting on moorland--but what about the habitat?

                                        Tree planting at Clough Foot, Todmorden
                                       Nearly 5,000 trees and tubes--some effort

Sunday, 3 June 2018

House Martin Nests 2nd June

A whole terraced street full of House Martin nests at Portsmouth, nr. Todmorden. Lennox Rd. near the level crossing and the former Roebuck Inn. About ten nests and about 30 birds flying around, many building, others clinging onto the walls under the eaves, chattering.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Withens Clough and Cragg Vale

I went to check to see if there were any surviving butterwort after the wall collapse and subsequent repairs.  Sadly I couldn't find a single star of leaves and it looks like it is lost.  Having known it at this site since a lad in the 1980s, I don't mind admitting I feel gutted about it.  Some consolation was the Jacob's Ladder nearby, which I first saw at this location in the 1980s too (the bumblebee is Bombus pascuorum).
Below Little Manshead Hill, the hay-meadows looked stunning with their displays of meadow buttercup.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

HSS walk 5th May to Windy Harbour

This is a digression but I hope anyone interested in maps, history and myth may find it of interest. (Google 'National Library of Scotland Maps" and you will have free access to 1st and later editions of 6" and 25" ordnance survey maps for the whole of England as well as Scotland--a fantastic resource).


The 5th of May meeting was at Windy Harbour Lane above Todmorden, just south of the Blackshaw Head road, to accomplish a plant survey in the nearby fields.

Later, I looked at old maps to see how the area had changed.

The 1st edition of the ordnance survey map (6" to a mile) was surveyed in 1848 and it shows the land area near Windy Harbour is named as "Olymphus". But in the second edition of 1889 the name has gone, never to reappear. However, the local farmer today still refers to the field by this name.

One of the survey fields has a number of scattered trees, mainly in one half towards the clough. Back in 1848 the whole of this field was covered in trees, both conifers and broadleaf. It was named as "Black Cam".

By 1905, half of Black Cam had been made into a meadow again and the remaining trees were known as "Black Common Plantation". The situation today has not changed and the same trees occupy the same half of the field. Which makes some of the trees not less than 170 years old.

There is mention of the word "Olymphus" in the book "The Travels of Sir John Manderville", which he wrote in about 1356.

"And there is a great hill, that men clepe Olymphus---And it is so high, that it passeth the clouds. And men say in these countries, that philosophers some time went upon these hills, and held to their nose a sponge moisted with water, for to have air; for the air above was so dry.  And above, in the dust and in the powder of those hills, they wrote letters and figures with their fingers.  And at the year’s end they came again, and found the same letters and figures, the which they had written the year before, without any default.  And therefore it seemeth well, that these hills pass the clouds and join to the pure air."

(clepe is now an archaic word but means 'give something a specified name')

Also of interest; there is a standing stone in the middle of the Olymphus field at Windy Harbour, which is not shown on the 1848 map but first appears on the 1905 map. This stone is still there.

It makes you wonder if the land owner took the Olymphus reference at face value and decided to mark the highest point as the home of the Greek Gods.     And why not.

                                           Black Cam trees and 2 botanists

                             Sycamore that is probably over 170 years old. 

The Guardian of the Olymphus Stone

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

A call to act on bloodsports, unless you believe they are harmless or beneficial.

I just signed the petition "Richard Flint, CEO: End grouse shooting on Yorkshire Water moors" and wanted to see if you could help by adding your name.

Our goal is to reach 2,500 signatures and we need more support. You can read more and sign the petition here:



(Brian is a trusted source for me - SB, and the link seems fine, not that I'm an expert.)

Colden Clough

The packhorse bridge at the top end of Colden clough has lost one of its giant slabs from the deck. A sycamore tree fell over due to waterlogging of its roots and knocked the slab into the water, breaking the stone in two.

Scaffolding and planks have made the bridge secure to use but there seems no sign of any repair work. It is a listed bridge.

I was enjoying the fields on the upper edge of the wooded clough, with all the buttercups--a sea of yellow. But not for long, as the farmer was busy with his tractor spraying all the fields via a long boom. Dare I hope it wasn't weed-killer?

Unhealthy Conifers

Walking in Colden Clough today I noticed many of the conifers on the opposite side of the valley looked unhealthy. As you can see from the photo, many are brown and possibly dying.

They would need a closer look to see what is happening but they don't look as they should.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Where are the bees and pollinating insects?

I reported on this blog a few days ago about the lack of bees and insects. I have spent time since then looking at all flowers I come across and have not see any of them with a pollinating insect. For instance, Rosa rugosa is normally full of bumble bees rolling about in the nectar but this year--none to be seen.

All the vast number of Hawthorn blossoms that I have looked at are totally lacking in anything--nothing at all is to be seen in any of their flowers.

I looked on the web and found an article from entomologists in Australia who are puzzled by the widespread decline of insects in their country. They have spoken to entomologists in other countries, who have reported the same decline in insect numbers.

No-one seems to have a clue why this is so, particularly as it is a worldwide phenomenon and so cannot be related to specific circumstances in one area.

Has anyone else noticed this lack of pollinating insects, or is it just me that is being unlucky at finding them?

A study from Germany was reported last October "In just 3 decades, insect populations in German nature reserves have plummeted by more than 75%, according to a new study".

Here is an extract from the Australian report, where even the controlled breeding of a butterfly species is failing.

"The Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda, west of Cairns, has had difficulty breeding the far north's iconic Ulysses butterfly for more than two years.
"We've had [the problem] checked by scientists, the University of Queensland was involved, Biosecurity Queensland was involved but so far we haven't found anything unusual in the bodies [of caterpillars] that didn't survive," said breeding laboratory supervisor Tina Kupke.
"We've had some short successes but always failed in the second generation. "Ms Lupke said the problem was not confined to far north Queensland, or even Australia.
"Some of our pupae go overseas from some of our breeders here and they've all had the same problem," she said. "And the Melbourne Zoo has been trying for quite a while with the same problems."
I find all this extremely worrying. But where is the concern? Are we so enthralled by modern life that it doesn't matter to us? But matter it will, whether we like it or not, when the impact shatters our complacency.
Link to full article here http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-24/decline-in-insect-population-baffles-scientists/9481136