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Friday, August 7, 2009

Wed 5th Aug 2009 - Afton Nature Reserve, Freshwater.

Our first visit to Afton Nature Reserve in Freshwater for some time, helping Bob the Countryside Officer. As usual there were several tasks, the main one being clearance and widening of the footpaths to provide access for a mini digger which will be removing the old damaged boardwalk so they can replace it with a new one, and also to improve access to the footpaths for walkers. This involved a lot of cutting back shrubs, nettles and marsh plants, as well as removing overhanging trees. We also completed a section of path by spreading two piles of limestone chippings, and also removed a section of wall and loaded all the concrete blocks into the trailer. Previous work on the marsh is starting to bear fruit, with lots of plants and flowers re-generating, including the fairly uncommon species marsh fern and marsh marigold.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson - two for the price of one this week, the first being Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum), a tall plant covered in soft downy hair, having deep purple-pink flowers with creamy, arched stigma standing proudly from the top of the stems. The opposite, lance-shaped leaves clasp the stem, and in the wild it is found along river banks and in marshy areas. It is an ideal plant for a large bog garden, although it needs keeping in careful check, and is a rich provider of pollen and nectar for bees. Next we have Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium Cannabinum), a plant which grows in pond margins, damp woodlands, marshes, fens, ditches and disturbed ground throughout England. It is a tall erect herb growing up to 1.2m, and from July onwards the stems terminate in large flowerheads of tiny, soft pink flowers which are extremely attractive to insects, including many colourful butterflies such as the small tortoiseshell. The leaves are deeply divided into three leaflets in opposite pairs on the stem, and this plant will tolerate most soils that are not to acidic or dry.
Many thanks to Cub Reporter Carrie for this week's pics and text.

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