Warsop Footpaths & Countryside Group
The Countryside of Warsop Parish Birds, hedgerows and plants in and around the Hills and Holes CONTENTS How to use this book ..........................................................4 Map of the Hills & Holes and Surrounding Area.............................5 Birds ............................................................................7 Hedges ........................................................................ 18 Plants ......................................................................... 27 Recording Sheets............................................................. 39 Further Reading .............................................................. 42 Warsop Footpaths and Countryside Group ................................. 43
Published by Warsop Footpaths & Countryside Group, 2001
Introduction The area covered by this booklet is some of the most ancient managed countryside anywhere in the North Notts. area. Examining the countryside within the area can lead to a better understanding of the relationship between thousands of years of human activity and the current appearance of the landscape. From pre-Roman times, through Anglo-Saxon and Viking settlers, Norman conquerors, medieval fiefdoms, to coal mining and the present day; fields, tracks and lanes, and their associated boundaries have been functional countryside elements that have developed a character all of their own. Take a gentle walk around the area at different seasons to gain a year round sense of wonderment. Walk in the steps of long dead people and try to imagine how they viewed the wildlife and countryside of Warsop Parish. The Hills and Holes is an ancient quarry site at the centre of this bookletâ€™s area. It was used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years to provide the stone for local buildings. Warsop and Sookholme churches were probably built from the locally quarried stone. It was never quarried on an industrial scale, which is why the plants that exist there today have been able to develop over such a long period. There was always somewhere for the plants to grow. Only with the coming of the coal mines and the railway was large scale quarrying undertaken, even then it occurred only in two places. Now even those sites are being invaded by wildflowers. Where there was bare rock thirty years ago, plants increasingly cover the ground. Warsop Parish is fortunate in that it is situated across two different environmental conditions that are important to plants. Soil is generally made from the underlying rocks, different rocks create different soil-types. The limestone-based soils to the west provide very different conditions to those of the sandy soils to the east. Different groupings of plants are found on each. These two basic groupings are further complicated by the effects of temperatures, rainfall and drainage that further sub-divide the soils. The existing plants in any one place create conditions that affect what other plants can grow there. Over time, all these factors work together to build sets of vegetation that can be
identified and classified according to the environmental conditions in which they grow. However, a final factor, human activity, has become important over the last thousand years, and within the last two hundred years has become the most important factor. The scale and pace of change of land-use has overtaken many plant communities so that in many places they no longer can grow. Warsop Parish is no different, but the Parish has retained some areas that have been affected to a lesser extent. The area covered by this booklet is one such place.
How to use this book The numbers at the right hand side of the text refer to the numbered areas on the plan on the centre pages. It is not possible to give exact locations so the numbers refer to a general area. In order to provide a better guide to location some numbers have a dash between them. This means between the first number and the second number.
Please note: • Not all the paths indicated on the plan of the area provided in this booklet are public footpaths. All land shown on the plan is privately owned. Please respect the owner’s property and follow the countryside code. • Walkers should not go onto arable fields. • The Hills and Holes is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest and the wildlife and plants found there enjoy special protection under the law.
Map of the Hills & Holes and Surrounding Area
Birds For many people, birds provide the most readily recognisable signs of wildlife in an area. They are mobile, often colourful, and their calls and songs punctuate walks in the countryside. Without them our countryside would be a much poorer place. Warsop Parish contains a variety of habitat-types that provide a wide diversity of choice for birds. Each different habitat, from recent conifer plantations to ancient woodland; from ancient pasture to newly ploughed fields; from arid sandy ground to flooded fields and marsh, provides the right conditions for a different grouping of birds. The location of Warsop Parish within the British Isles ensures that birds that are often associated with either more northerly or southerly areas can be seen here. So there is plenty to see for both the expert and the majority who have little or no experience. Since WWII, birds have had a hard time. Pesticide and herbicide usage has increased many-fold, changing agricultural systems and calendars, increased human population and the resultant higher levels of disturbance have affected some bird populations dramatically. While some bird species such as Magpie and Collared Dove have benefited from the changes, many once common birds have declined to the point where they are now considered endangered. Even birds that everyone can identify such as House Sparrow and Starling are now thought to be at risk, yet barely two generations ago, flocks of Starling blackened the skies around our villages. The area covered by this booklet, is special as much for birds as it is for plants. Although there are no large flocks of single species, it is remarkable for the total number of species found. Each part of the area provides a different set of conditions that suit particular birds at different times of
the year. Therefore each visit is an opportunity to see different birds. The area is not managed as intensively as most farmland is nowadays, and that brings benefits to the birds. Whether it is insects in summer, seeds in autumn or berries in winter; there is always some food available for one species or another. This mosaic of grassland, arable fields, scrub and mature trees is a rich source of nesting sites, that suit birds that nest on the ground, in low shrubs, tall hedges or in trees. Summer or winter migrant, or year round resident; birds find the area a welcoming place to visit or stay. We hope you do to. Because birds are mobile, it can be difficult to state exactly where you will see particular birds. Instead the numbers beside the text denote general areas where you are more likely to see particular species. During late summer and early autumn crops are harvested and fields cleared. Seed eating bird numbers build up into flocks to take advantage of the plentiful food that traditionally has been available from fallen corn. The flocks often consist of thousands of birds of mixed species of finches and sparrows. This is the time that birds are starting to build up their body reserves in anticipation of winter after they have completed moulting following breeding. However, more winter cereals are now being grown which are harvested earlier than traditional crops, and seed collection is more efficient so there is less food left in the fields for the birds. The long-term effect of this change remains to be seen. Perhaps alternative crops being grown might provide other opportunities for these birds. Take a closer look at the sparrows. Are they House Sparrows or Tree Sparrows? Both species have suffered serious drops in their numbers. The House Sparrow population has seriously declined in recent years, while Tree Sparrow numbers have been dropping over several decades to the point where they are now considered
endangered. You can tell them apart by the chestnut head and smudged cheeks of the Tree Sparrow. Wagtails are easily recognisable by the mannerism after which they are named. The most common species, the black and white Pied Wagtail is seen year round along the River Meden, especially on shingle banks and bridges.
A second species, the Grey Wagtail is worth looking out for. The name is a misnomer because the bird is recognisable by its yellow and grey colouring. It is most often seen from Hammerwater Bridge looking upstream towards the railway. In late autumn and winter, the Hills and Holes generally, is an important source of food for winter visitors from Scandinavia and Russia. Several members of the thrush family can often be seen feeding off Hawthorn, Elder and Rose hips. Up to 3000 Fieldfare, Redwing, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush winter migrants use this area for feeding and roosting along with Collared Dove. This number of birds attracts predators and you may see Sparrowhawk hunting nearby.
During summer at Hammerwater Bridge, House Martins, Swifts and Swallows can be seen catching insects on the wing. The Swifts and Swallows travel from the surrounding villages and
farms, but the House Martins may be nesting on the railway. On late summer evenings gnats form swarm in columns reaching tens of metres high, rising from the ground. They are continuously attacked by the birds who fly through the narrow columns until it is too dark to see. Perhaps the shape of the swarm provides some protection to the insects as the birds only get the chance to fly through a metre width or less of closely packed insects, whereas if the insects swarmed horizontally, the birds would spend more time in contact with each swarm.
At Sookholme Lane railway bridge during the breeding season, you will see birds entering and leaving a number of insignificant holes in the bridge. These are Tree Sparrows. Traditionally, they are tree hole nesting birds but have adapted to take advantage of nesting opportunities provided by humans in areas that are not well inhabited by the builders. The small gaps within the stonework provide a safe place with a relatively consistent environment for rearing young. Unlike house sparrows, they are rarely found nesting in houses within the urban areas of Warsop Parish.
At quiet times, during spring and early summer, look out for a variety of finches along Spring Lane and the western end of Sookholme Lane. Each species has a slightly different bill design that allows them to feed from different food sources. Finches like all birds from a particular family have evolved so they do not compete with other species from the same family. Complete competitors cannot co-exist in the same place! Avoiding
competing ensures the diversity of life that we treasure. Greenfinch and Chaffinch are common. Look out for the green colour and yellow wingbars of Greenfinch, and the white shoulder patches and pink breast of male Chaffinch. Females are dowdier with an overall brown colouration but still have the white shoulders. You are unlikely to misidentify these birds in summer, but in winter they can be mistaken for the similar looking but usually smaller Siskin and Brambling that are often seen within Warsop Parish as winter visitors from Scandinavia and north Scotland.
Goldfinches occur throughout the lanes locally. Flocks that may number from half a dozen to a thousand may be seen darting about along the hedges twittering. Single birds are more often seen during the breeding season. Goldfinch particularly feed on the seeding heads of plants from the Compositae family such as Dandelion, Teasel, Daisy, Thistles and Knapweeds. So they are usually seen beside grassland areas. Although they can be difficult to identify at a distance, close up they are unmistakable as their gold, black and red colouring sets them apart from any other bird.
Bullfinch is not as common, but look out for a stockier finch-like bird with a broad bill and a prominent white rump. Males have a reddy-pink breast; females have a brown one. They often feed on the buds of trees and shrubs so are rarely seen on the floor except when drinking. You are most likely to see them before the leaves are fully out on the trees. The mature trees on the wide bank of Sookholme Lane provide shelter and food for typical woodland birds. Tree Creeper can sometimes be seen in the wooded bank on Sookholme Lane working its way up the trunks and larger branches of trees. Its stiff tail feathers help the bird to maintain its position upright as it searches for insects in and behind the bark
Great Spotted Woodpecker might be glimpsed flying between the mature trees and along the railway embankment further on. Evidence that they have visited the area may be seen on dead tree limbs adjacent to the lane.
As you cross over Sookholme Brook on Spring Lane take the time to look along the watercourse, you may see Moorhen working its way along the water’s edge perhaps with young hiding in the margins
The small area of woodland beside Sookholme Brook is important for the Marsh Tit and Willow Tit that congregate here. The diverse mix of deciduous trees provides an important food reservoir for these birds in winter. Very difficult to separate, the birds are distinguished from other tits by their black ‘Beatle’ type head colouring and pale breast.
Kingfishers are frustrating birds. They are most often glimpsed as a flash of brilliant blue out of the corner of the eye as they fly overhead at high speed, but have gone by the time you turn to look. This is made worse because the vividness of their blue colouring is even greater than any drawing, photograph or TV picture can show. With a little patience, several individual birds can be seen along the River Meden. Listen out for their piping call. Once you have learned to recognise the call, you are more likely to be ready to see when a bird appears. The best spots are where trees overhang the river at stretches where there is enough water to find sticklebacks and minnows or where the banks are high enough to allow nest tunnels to be
excavated. Wrens, robins and native blackbirds find the area useful for feeding. They are found scattered throughout the area close to the hawthorn that is so important in their lives, providing food and shelter year round. Patches of thick shrubbery prove rich hunting grounds for the small invertebrates on which they depend to survive the winter.
Wrens skulk though the lower branches, picking off tiny insects. The power of the Wrenâ€™s song is astonishing. One can hardly believe such a small bird could make such a loud noise. During the breeding season, listen out for the brief rattle in the middle of a prolonged loud song from within deep cover. Robins are found at all heights from ground to treetop. These birds are optimists, finding food wherever they can. They feed in the same places as both Wren and Blackbird but specialise in neither. The Blackbirds feed on the ground, using the trees and shrubs for cover. They can be seen disturbing the carpet of leaf-litter in Hawthorn thickets searching for worms and other floor-dwelling food. Goldcrest is one of the smallest birds found in the UK. Constantly on the move, these lovely birds can often be seen working through the trees and scrub on the Hills and Holes during the coldest parts of winter after they have moved south to avoid the harsh northern winter. Their high-pitched call often gives their position away. They are often fearless having arrived from poorly populated areas. If you stand still beside or under a tree they sometimes work their way to within a few
feet of your position. Long-tailed Tits nest in several parts of the area. Unmistakable because of their long tails in comparison to their bodies; family groups of up to twenty birds are often seen working systematically through the trees incessantly calling to each other for reassurance. In winter you may see the remains of their domeshaped nests constructed from moss, feathers and cobwebs.
Blue Tit and Great Tit often join with other tits to form feeding parties in winter. Because each species has different methods of feeding they can work together to strip trees of food. The settling ponds below the Rhein o’Thorns have recently been restored. It remains to be seen if Kingfisher and Heron will return. Perhaps you will be one of the first to see their return. Also look out for water birds such as ducks, Coot and Moorhen. They are often the first colonisers of new wetland areas. If sufficient marginal vegetation develops, Snipe may reappear along with other waders. Snipe were common on the Hills and Holes, the loss of an important marshy area in the 1970-80s has meant they are rarely seen now.
The triangular section of the Hills and Holes, known by some as the ‘Dell’ is important for several birds typical of grassland and scattered scrub. Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer and Linnet are constant residents throughout late spring and summer.
Yellowhammer is often heard before it is seen. Listen for the males calling ‘a little bit of bread and chee-ese’. Whitethroats 14
are unremarkable looking birds at a distance, close up their bright breast colours and the pale grey head of the male make them unmistakable. They are known as ‘nettle-pegs’ because of the habit of several birds perching on the stalks of tall herbs and grasses like pegs on a washing line. The Hills and Holes provides a good hunting ground for predatory birds such as Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl and Little Owl. The mosaic of grazed and rough grassland with banks, tall trees and shrubs, and scattered scrub creates a habitat they can all use to find food. The owls are most likely to be seen at dusk. Even the increasingly scarce Barn Owl might be spotted ‘ghosting’ across the more open areas. Kestrel and Sparrowhawk are best seen if you can pick a good spot and sit quietly for a time. The Kestrel is the smaller of the two species and hunts mice and voles. It is known as the ‘windhover’ because of its ability to hover almost motionless in the breeze above a spot where it thinks there might be a meal. Sparrowhawks hunt birds. They use surprise and fear to help them catch their prey. Flying silently between trees, and swooping low over hedges and shrubs they surprise birds who attempt to fly off in fear and are caught as the Sparrowhawk pounces. Sometimes you become aware that a Sparrowhawk is nearby from the alarm calls of birds nearby. They are known to time 15
their own breeding to coincide with the emergence of Blue Tit nestlings so there is a ready source of appropriately sized food for their young. The female is bigger than the male and takes larger birds. Under a tree you might see the plucked feathers that are all that remains of a pigeon. Often the sign of a successful Sparrowhawk hunt. From early spring to the middle of summer, it seems a Cuckoo can always be heard in the area. The large number of birds here provides many opportunities for the Cuckoo to lay its eggs in their nests. At rest this large bird is often mistaken for a Sparrowhawk, however, it does not have the same ‘flap-flap-flap-glide’ flight of the predator when flying over open ground.
In the past, Nightingales were found in the area, but are only rarely found locally. However, other members of the Warbler family can be spotted but they do need to be looked for. Warblers are generally smallish, greenish or brownish birds. Remarkably unremarkable, leaf shaped and leaf coloured; they can sometimes prove impossible to see. But they often have very beautiful or easily recognisable songs.
Four species of warbler are commonly found across the area but particularly in the woodland downstream from the junction of Sookholme Brook with the River Meden. The Chiff Chaff and Willow Warbler look very similar, but the Chiff Chaff’s repetitive call from the tops of trees provides a sure way of identifying at least the males. The Garden Warbler and Blackcap have similar songs. Long passages of lovely warbling song from deep within a thicket or tree. You need experience to tell them apart.
In the arable fields around the edge of the area, Skylark sing almost continuously from dawn until dusk during Spring and Summer. The males are proclaiming their presence and showing other males and females just how strong and fit they are by singing as loudly as they can while flying as high as they can. Donâ€™t be fooled into thinking you know where they are nesting from where they drop to the floor. The birds have a clever habit of moving along the floor some distance after landing. Designed to fool predators such as foxes, it works even better on humans. Keep an eye out for ground-living birds in these areas. Pheasant is common, but you can sometimes see Grey Partridge as they lift their heads above the growing corn looking for predators. In winter some of the lower lying fields attract waders, in particular Lapwing and Golden Plover. Flocks may number several thousand and contain both species.
Hedges Hedgerows represent one of the earliest forms of human boundaries present within the landscape. They have provided shelter to livestock, food and fuel for people, and prevented livestock from straying or mixing. In order to fulfil these functions, their continuing management was important. Laying of hedges developed in western Europe because the tree and shrub species found here grow up from their bases after being cut. By partcutting through tree and shrub stems and laying the branches at an angle along the line of the hedgerow and weaving them around stakes driven into the ground, a thick, stock-proof hedge can be encouraged to develop. Julius Caesar remarked on the difficulty his armies found in penetrating laid hedges during his campaigns against the Belgii two thousand years ago. Laid hedges formed essential parts of the English landscape until the advent of modern farm machinery. The move from labour intensive hedgelaying has seen the loss of both the ancient rural craft and the typical thick country hedge in many parts of the country. Indeed, many hedges have been lost entirely from the landscape. The disappearance of hedgerows across Britain has been recognised as a threat to the wildlife heritage and landscape of Britain. Hedges have disappeared for a variety of reasons. They have been removed: for development, to make fields larger and to give better access for larger agricultural machines. They have also been destroyed by fire and they have been managed out of existence. Laws now exist to prevent the wilful removal and destruction of important hedges; they do not and cannot prevent accidental or intentional damage by fire, by destruction through intense management, by cutting or flailing, or by treatment with fertilisers and herbicides. Economic pressures and financial inducements led to large-scale destruction of hedges following World War II and particularly during the 1970s. These have now been replaced to some extent by financial subsidy and grant aid opportunities to sensitively manage existing hedges and to plant new ones. This has meant that the scale of losses has reduced and is now
balanced across Britain by the creation of replacements, though not necessarily in the same locality. The law now recognises the importance of hedgerows (the hedge and associated features) and hedges as part of our cultural heritage as well as for their environmental worth. Their value to local people should be improved and reinforced through providing information and education about their role, their history, their wildlife and their aesthetic character. Every hedgerow tells a story about the history of the local area. The hedges within the area are rich in shrubs and trees. The age of Sookholme Lane and many of the other lanes is underlined by the number of woody species (trees and shrubs) to be found. Elms survive here as shrubs following the devastating effects of Dutch Elms disease. Many other tree species exist as hedgerow shrubs because of the management that takes place.
Without knowing the names of all the different woody and climbing species within the area it is possible to count them by collecting one or two of each of the different leaves that you see. If you visit the area during the summer you may find 20 or more different leaf types in this way. Blackthorn is common throughout the area, but look out for Bullace, otherwise known as Wild Damson. This shrub was introduced to Britain by the Romans, and is abundant in the hedge adjacent to the Hills and Holes. Very similar to Blackthorn, it has similar shaped, but larger leaves and larger fruits. Both Blackthorn and Bullace flower before their leaves appear providing some of the first colours to welcome spring.
From Warsop to Hammerwater Bridge Sookholme Laneâ€™s hedges contain much Dogwood. The leaves have a network of pale veins. It grows in profusion, and sometimes hides the less rampant, narrower-leaved, herring-boned veined Spindle. The latter was used in furniture making, hence the name. Also look out for Buckthorn. Its toothed leaves have side veins that curve up towards the top of the leaf. All three have leaves that are in
pairs opposite each other up the stem and rather plain white or light green flowers that grow into berries. Dogwood and Buckthorn berries are black and round, Spindle’s are red – purple and have four lobes. Alder Buckthorn is very uncommon within Warsop Parish and has not been found within the booklet area. It is similar to the above trio, but the untoothed leaves are arranged step-like up the stem, with no two leaves opposite each other. Its side veins do not curve up. Along Sookholme Lane you will find sycamore-like leaves with a red tinge to the stems and veins. This is Field Maple, the only native maple species. It must have been well valued in the past judging by the number of place-names that make reference to it. Usually a shrub in hedges, it is in fact a tree species as can be seen by the fine example next to Hammerwater Bridge.
Where steep or tall banks are found, the plants in the hedgerow are often those found within ancient woodland, for example Bluebell, Yellow Archangel and Wood Melick. These plants are indicators that the hedgerows have been in existence for many centuries.
The Hills and Holes’ boundaries appeared on the first maps of the area in the early 1600s. These hedges therefore are older than most buildings in the surrounding villages! Their value as a habitat for wildlife, particularly for birds, and as reminders of our cultural heritage is priceless. At the end of Stonebridge Lane, remnants of the lane’s hedges remain to remind us of its former glory. The bridge was originally a medieval packhorse bridge with a typical arching shape. The lane was probably used by traders and the hauliers of the time when they loaded their animals with goods and led them in trains of twenty or more horses right across the country using the network of old roadways. The bridge was replaced during the 1960s with the current construction. Over
the bridge, the wide hedgerow covers the width of the old lane. Immediately after the bridge, leading away at a right angle to the left, is a hedge line of Hawthorn that because of lack of management was allowed to grow into mature trees. Hawthorns tend to have a lifespan of generally not more than 100 years. These trees have been given another lease of life by cutting them down and allowing new growth to spring up. Perhaps in future years, in a new hedge line will be created. 19
After Stonebridge Lane, the paths fork towards both Warsop Vale and Church Warsop. The Church Warsop path skirts the River Meden flood plain along the edge of a finger of sandstone that sticks out onto the limestone and provides better drained and lighter soils. The bank running through the field to the north is the only remains of a hedge that originally extended north beyond the road. Now called Carter Lane, the road itself did not exist until long after the hedge. Perhaps this boundary had some ancient importance as a marker to people of that time, or was the edge of a medieval field. Further research might show us what its role was. The bank may indicate that the hedge was originally
planted on it, though that would have been long before the Enclosure Acts that divided up most of Britain from the 1700s onwards, or maybe it was created by centuries of ploughing that would have pushed the soil away from the headland beside the hedge. Today, all traces of the hedge have disappeared because of the fires that occur regularly on the well-drained sandy soil here. The hedges that do remain along the Church Warsop path are different in structure to those found elsewhere in the area, but are probably just as old. Here they are often thin and straggly, containing more rough grasses, with bracken trying to take over long sections. Scattered Bluebell maybe found during spring.
From Stonebridge Lane to Warsop Vale, the path temporarily leaves the hedgerow. Passing through a dense thicket of Blackthorn that needs regular cutting to keep the path clear, the hedgerows are rejoined, again at the boundary of sandy and limestone-based soils. Note the difference between the hedges on each side of the path. The eastern side has been repeatedly affected by fire, but is probably the older of the two hedges. The much younger western hedge was probably created to keep people away from livestock in what was a pasture field.
Carter Lane started life as a field track, became a lane and later a road. As it grew, adjacent hedges were moved apart. Most of the current roadside hedges are less than 50 years old. With only one or two woody species, these are poor relations compared to the hedges elsewhere. It will take centuries of growth and good management before they are of equal value for wildlife as those nearby. Sookholme Moor was probably once an area of common grazing with thin, variable, poorly drained soils not suitable for ploughing. The eastern edge was the Parish boundary between Warsop and Sookholme. This area of Hawthorn and Blackthorn scrub has been disturbed by the creation of a drainage ditch taking mine water from Warsop Main Colliery probably along the
line of a natural stream. The dense cover that this area provides is excellent for roosting and feeding birds. It provides good shelter for them from predators and humans. On the opposite side of Sookholme Moor, running between Warsop Vale and Sookholme Brook, the lovely hedgerow includes a bank and a drain that would have taken water away from the medieval open fields that existed where Warsop Vale is now. The drain rarely holds water now, except following periods of prolonged heavy rainfall. The hedge is diverse, wide and provides good shelter for wildlife. Prior to the construction of Warsop Vale and the railway, this Hedge joined with other hedges beyond the current railway line. In acidic soil areas, Gorse scrub has developed, invading the hedge line. Nearer Sookholme Brook, the wet nature of the ground allows Alder to grow as a hedgerow tree. A typical tree of riverbanks, Alder is able to grow in the poor, waterlogged soil because of its ability to utilise nitrogen made available by bacteria growing in symbiosis with its roots. The soil here is acidic and peaty, unlike most of the Hills and Holes which has a typical clay soil derived from the Magnesian Limestone rocks underneath.
Beside Sookholme Brook, lack of management over long periods including the exclusion of grazing animals has allowed the development of woodland between the hedgerow and Sookholme Brook. In places, the hedgerow is indistinguishable from the woodland. Trees have grown-up including mature English Oak, shading shrubs and threatening the long-term existence of the boundary as a hedge. Despite this, the woodland itself provides a rich habitat with many species typical of ancient wooded areas. Growing on the flood plain, with rich moist soils and plentiful shade, the woodland, though small in area, has a special
atmosphere not to be missed. Where the soil is waterlogged and springs arise, a dense stand of willows proves impenetrable. Across the Brook, the very thin soils allow plant roots to easily come into contact with the limestone rock, but here we find shrub species that prefer well-drained acid soils. This is because the good drainage allows rainfall to quickly wash away the soils nutrients. As a result, we can see acid-loving shrubs (Gorse and Broom) growing in close proximity to typical limestone plants. Parts of the hedgerow above have been devastated by fire at one time or another and therefore are very straggly. The abundant Gorse is able to invade the gaps.
The line of Bully Lane is all that is left of what was once a wonderful â€˜Green Laneâ€™ flanked by broad, rich hedgerows. East of the railway, the hedges were removed during the 1970-80s as part of the movement towards agricultural efficiency and increased cereal yields. The remaining section of the lane, west of the railway, is a sad reminder of how hedges can disappear by stealth over a period of time. The occasional Bluebell testifies to the age of the hedgerows, but only scattered shrubs mark their length. Fire devastated these hedges some time ago. Since then, they have been unable to recover due to periodic further fires, too close ploughing and some shrub removal.
Spring Lane has the character of a typical banked country lane. The banks on either side worn down by centuries of use, possibly for as long or longer than Sookholme Lane. Certainly, the lane existed long before Warsop Vale and Williamwood Farm. Perhaps it was the ancient route between Sookholme and Nether Langwith?
A recent fire has damaged one section of hedge but it is possible to see the hedgerows recovering, protected to some extent by the banks restricting access from the field sides. Further down, a large variety of trees and shrubs can be found including Buckthorn, abundant Holly, mature Ash trees and English Oak. Look out for the old laid Ash in the adjoining hedge to the west. This tree was laid as part of the hedge when young and has grown up in a large flattened Y shape as result. Willows occurring near Sookholme Brook may have been planted or encouraged to support local basket making.
Sookholme Lane from its junction with Spring Lane to the railway bridge provides a variety of hedgerow types. Mr. Sharpe of Herrings Farm has managed the laid sections over a number of years continuing an ancient craft that may date back more than 2000 years. The unusual style is due to the use of saplings as living support stakes. Large amounts of hazel have been rejuvenated by laying. The hedge is wide and impenetrable to both livestock and people. Look out for hazelnuts in late summer, they were once collected by countryfolk as a food source for both themselves and their livestock The bank on which the laid hedgerow sits forms the edge of the floodplain of Sookholme Brook. The course of the Brook was formerly winding, but was straightened and the adjoining land drained several centuries ago. The eastern side of the lane contains a wide bank that has protected it from injurious management over a long time. This area contains Bluebell, Wood Melick, mature Oak, Holly, Ash, Hazel, Lords and Ladies and much more. The dead Elms provide a rich habitat for decomposing fungi and invertebrates as well as the birds that feed there. It is well worth spending a little time looking beyond the edge of the lane. In places along the lane, large sections are dominated by Holly. This was once fed to livestock as winter-feed because of the high nutrient value of its leaves.
Plants Around 1400 different species of flowering plants that are considered native grow in the British Isles. The number of plants is considerably lower than that found in continental Europe because of the effects of the Ice Age and the difficulties for plants of re-colonizing our islands. The plants we do have evolved to grow in a variety of environments from seashore to mountaintop and from the extreme southwest of the Scilly Isles to the outermost of the Orkneys, so it is impossible to see all of the different types of plants within any single small geographical area. In the best places to see plants, you can only hope to see a wide variety of those plants that are found within the environmental conditions that exist in that area. This booklet covers one such area. The Hills and Holes is an area protected as part of a â€˜Site of Special Scientific Interestâ€™ or SSSI because of the wonderful variety of plants that grow there. The Hills and Holes, and other islands of diversity elsewhere are important as they safeguard the existence of species that can no longer exist elsewhere. While sites such as this provide a haven for wildlife they are of benefit to people as well. They provide places where we can recharge our personal batteries, take time out from the pace of modern life and simply relax and enjoy our surroundings. It is up to us all, and not just governments, landowners and farmers to ensure that these places are valued and treated with care. Picking flowers, digging up plants and other activities that threaten the area are illegal. Follow the country code and keep the area safe for future generations. The lanes, hedges and field boundaries adjacent to the Hills and Holes are ancient in origin and character, they provide a buffer around the site and add to its attraction. It is equally important that they are protected and managed accordingly. The following section highlights some of the important species and areas 27
that visitors from near and far may wish to see. It doesn’t identify every important area because not everyone reading this will have a sympathetic or caring attitude. We need to protect against them as well! Sookholme Lane contains many typical hedgerow plants that are often found elsewhere. Cleavers or Goosegrass with its sticky seeds and sticky spindly stems, beloved of children, climbs throughout the hedges, but also look out for Black Bryony with its shiny, leathery looking, deeply veined, heart-shaped, pointed leaves and clusters of small white flowers that give way to berries looking like bunches of orange grapes in late autumn. Hedge Parsley and Fool’s Parsley collectively known as ‘Gypsy Bread’ die away in summer but the similar flowers that appear later are likely to be Upright Hedge Parsley. In fact there is a whole family of similar plants that occur in sequence from spring through summer. They are very difficult to identify without using a magnifying glass to study their seeds. The largest of the native family, Hogweed, is easily recognisable though. A bristly sturdy plant with rough leaves. The ridged stems make good peashooters.
Textbooks often state that Red and White Campion grow in different conditions. Well, both are often found growing right next to each other on Sookholme Lane. Both often flower early in spring and again in late summer. A third member of the family is found but only in particular places. Bladder Campion has white flowers but a lime-green colour on the sepals (leaf-like, petal shaped structures behind the petals). It develops a bladder-like seed head that can be popped on the back of the hand scattering the seeds. All these campions have five petals with a tube behind the flower.
Ground Ivy has a minty smell when a stem or leaf is crushed. The ivy-shaped leaves and purple flowers are found tucked right under the bottom of the hedge close to the ground. This plant will grow in more open areas but then usually it has purple or redder leaves. It was used with other herbs to flavour ale and
mead up to and including Medieval times before hops were used to make bitter. As Sookholme Lane widens beyond Hammerwater Bridge, the grass verge contains many wildflowers that are also found on the Hills and Holes. In particular look out for Crosswort south of the railway bridge. This member of the bedstraw family has leaves in distinct whorls of four “honey-scented” yellow flowers that can be confused with the more delicate Lady’s Bedstraw of the same family.
Also note the tongue shaped delicately fernlike leaves of Yarrow here. The flower heads are flat and contain many hundreds of individual florets that can range in colour from white to delicate pink. Further along Sookholme Lane, the bank has a woodland character. Foxglove, Bluebell, the delicate seeding heads of Wood Melick, Wood Millet, Dog's Mercury, Hedge Woundwort and Yellow Archangel (Yellow Dead Nettle) and the tufted seed heads of Barren Brome grass can all be found under the trees. You can see the naturally velcro-like seeds of Wood Avens that follow the unremarkable yellow flowers, sticking to clothing and animals alike with multiple hooks that look wicked when viewed with a magnifying glass. Looked at closely, Yellow Archangel flowers are similar to traditional images of an angel – hence the name. This plant is becoming scarce as ancient woodland disappears. In some places 29
it is being replaced by a non-native variegated variety that has escaped out of gardens. The usurper can colonise more quickly and out-compete the native. Thankfully that has not happened here. The woundworts, as the name implies, were used for healing wounds. Thank goodness the plants were used externally as, despite the beautiful, finely-marked individual flowers on each spike of hedge Woundwort, the plant has an awful smell and taste! Along Spring Lane look out for scattered Bluebell in the areas of densest shade often growing among the more common Dogâ€™s Mercury. Easily overlooked is Three-nerved Sandwort of the Chickweed family. The three veins running from one end of each leaf to the other help to identify this low-growing shade lover. Greater Stitchwort is another member of the same family but is very different in character. The bluey-green, point-ended, rough-edged leaves are not dissimilar to those of a carnation and can be seen growing in distinct patches. All members of the chickweed family have small white flowers with five petals divided at their centre to a greater or lesser extent. Greater Stitchwort can be confused with Lesser Stitchwort which is usually found in more open areas. Sookholme Moor has different character to the rest of the Hills and Holes. It is more open, and the soil is generally acidic or neutral allowing different species to grow. In places the soil is peaty, because it is often waterlogged. The water slows down the decomposition of the vegetation, which builds up in thickness. Acidic soils limit the amount of nutrients available to plants, providing another form of environmental stress that allows slower growing plants to compete with faster growing plants. Many different grasses, sedges and rushes are found here. Where they grow is often determined by small changes in the acidity of the soil, the amount of water in the soil and the depth
of the soil. From Warsop Vale to Sookholme Brook changes can be seen in the type of plants that grow in this area. The north-eastern side has suffered â€˜improvementâ€™. That is it has been fertilised or reseeded or both at some time in the past to improve the yield of fodder for livestock. This has reduced the number of species growing there because traditional meadow and pasture plant species have evolved to grow in low-competition situations. Adding nutrients allows faster growing species to out-compete the slower growing ones. The western and central section is richer in plants. The diversity is maintained by grazing and cutting hay at appropriate times. Wildflower meadows and pastures develop over a long period of time because the traditional cycle of farming remains unchanged. Changing the timing of hay cuts or rotating types of livestock within a field can alter the make-up of the wildflower community that occur. Sedges are often tough-leaved and seemingly hardy plants. But each species only grows in a particular set of environmental conditions. Those found on Sookholme Moor include Carnation, Glaucous, False Fox, Common, Long-stalked Yellow, Tawny and Dioecious. Rushes include Hard, Toad, Blunt-flowered, Soft and Jointed. Closer to the Brook, plants have to be more tolerant of water and acidity, as well as the concentrated trampling and soil disturbance by livestock coming to drink. Tufts of Hard Rush shelter more tender plants such as Celery-leaved Buttercup, Saw-wort, Bog Pimpernel and Lesser Spearwort. The latter can be recognised by its flowers which are characteristic of the buttercup family of which it is a member.
The Rhein oâ€™Thorns is part of the Hills and Holes SSSI because of its wildflowers, but has not been actively managed for some time. Much Hawthorn and other shrubs including Buckthorn are spreading across the area and the value of the site is in danger of being lost. This small area is like a snapshot of the Hills and Holes containing many of the wild plants though in a much smaller area.
Around the settling pond, look out for a large, very robust plant with purplish or red blotched, rough stems. It may grow up to nine feet (almost 3 metres) in height. This is Giant Hogweed and is the largest wild herb growing in Europe. It is not native to the UK; it was introduced from the Caucasus. It was probably introduced to this location during an earlier restoration project. Beware, the plant is poisonous and the sap can cause very severe blistering of the skin. Be especially careful with children who might be tempted to use the stems for peashooters.
The triangular section of the Hills and Holes covers a range of environmental conditions. Though the soils are thin, sandy and well drained, there are areas that hold standing water throughout the year. These areas contain some water-loving plants including Meadowsweet â€“ a typical plant of mineral-rich water-laden ground. This section is not grazed, so the occasional fires that appear to thoroughly devastate it serve to prevent the ranker-growing grasses such as Tor grass and shrubs such as Gorse from taking over. However, over time, the impact of unmanaged repeated fires may be to reduce the overall plant diversity of the area. 32
The dry soils mean that most plants finish flowering early and then the grasses can take over. The range of grasses is superb; you can easily find around thirty different species simply by identifying the different seeding and flowering heads. The late summer flowers to observe include a number of yellowflowered members of the daisy family such as Carline Thistle, hawkbits, hawksbeards, hawkweeds and cat’s-ears Several orchid species can be found including Early Purple Orchid and Bee Orchid. The former are seen most prominently when they grow up after a winter fire. Bee Orchids are difficult to spot among the grasses so be careful where you walk to avoid treading on them. On damper meadow areas in early spring, the delightful Lady’s Smock or Cuckoo Flower can be seen. When held petals downmost, the flower-head’s four pale mauve petals form the shape of a lady’s smock dress – hence the name. Elsewhere you will see the architecturally beautiful foliage of Hemlock rising above the surrounding grasses. However, look but don’t touch. This plant is deadly poisonous. It was a popular poison used by murderers in days gone by. If in doubt, look for the purple spots on its stems.
In damper shady areas, you will find Ramsons or Wild Garlic. The wide, flat leaves disappear during high summer, but not before they provide a magnificent spectacle of drifts of white flowers. Sometimes you can smell the plants before you can see them. If bruised, the leaves give off a pungent, garlic smell. They taste strongly of garlic too. A more delicate taste can be found from Garlic Mustard. The leaves release a mild taste of garlic after being chewed; very tasty on egg sandwiches.
Growing at woodland edges and hedgerows throughout the area, the broad leaves often have a yellow-green colour. As summer progresses, along Sookholme Brook, dense barriers of plants grow up hiding the running water in many places. These waterside plants all look similar but are in fact several different species including: Watercress, Foolâ€™s Watercress and Lesser Water Parsnip. All three have similar leaves and can be difficult to separate. The latter two have leaves that smell of parsnips when crushed â€“ both are poisonous. Watercress is edible but it is safer not to risk it where there is any doubt on identification.
In a few rocky areas, near the water table, water stands throughout the winter and often into spring. Here you can see Lesser Spearwort and Creeping Jenny. Both yellow wildflowers combine to provide a luscious carpet that belies the soggy ground underneath.
The low-lying area south of the River Meden was the site of a marsh until the 1970s. Filled in and drained, its loss provides a lesson to us all. The wildflowers, birds, and amphibians that have been lost to the area are not suitably compensated for by the rather species poor grassland that can be seen now. This area is now being managed to increase its value as a grassland by carefully grazing and taking hay cuts at the appropriate time to reduce the nutrient levels in the soil and create an open grass sward into which new plants gain a foothold. It will take time and will probably never be of equivalent value to what has been lost.
Throughout the area of the Hills and Holes, there are patches of dense shade under trees and hedgerows. Within these areas shadeloving plants are able to thrive. The type of plants you can see depends on the time of year that you visit. Most true woodland plants flower during spring; those more typical of the woodland edge can usually be found later in summer. Perhaps the most common wild flower found under trees is Herb Robert a member of the Crane's-bill or Geranium family. This pretty flower with five pink petals, reddish hairy stems, and delicately cut leaves has seeds with a longer beak that resemble the head and bill of a Stork. Nowhere within the area are true woodland plants abundant. This is because the area has been managed as grassland over long period of time. Where woodland exists it may be the remaining pieces of the original woodland that covered the area. Woodland plant species that do not easily move naturally from one area to another help to indicate areas that have been wooded for longer periods. Therefore where Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Wood Melick and Yellow Archangel occur they are helping to indicate lengthy coverage by trees.
In early spring look out for violets carpeting the ground. They occur in a variety of colours from white to dark blue and purple. There are several different species of violet including Common and Early Dog-violets, Hairy Violet and Sweet Violet.
The thin soils on the tops and side of the hillocks are welldrained and baked dry in summer. This causes stress to the plants growing there. No single species is able to dominate the grassland and a very large variety of wildflowers can be found. In the ‘holes’ between the ‘hills’ moisture is retained and lusher growth of sometimes single species can be seen The best time to view the flowers is in late spring and midsummer.
In late spring cowslips are sprinkled throughout the grassland. Later on they are joined by Pignut, a member of the carrot family that has an edible nut-like bulb deep underground that was once eaten by countryfolk.
Early-Purple Orchids are found in small patches, as are Fragrant Orchid. Their beauty and unusual form are a delight to see however please do not be tempted to pick the flowers. It is worth getting down to ground level to look at the beautiful colouring of the individual flowers on the flower spikes.
During summer the Hills and Holes comes into its own. You will see why it is considered to be one of the premier limestone grasslands within the East Midlands (outside the Peak District). The ground is covered with drifts of different wild flowers in a carpet of grasses.
Look out for: Restharrow, Kidney Vetch, Bird's-footTrefoil, knapweeds, Field Scabious, Daisy, Thyme, Lady’s Bedstraw, Common-spotted Orchid, at least three species of buttercups; Creeping, Bulbous and Meadow, three plantains; Hoary, Ribwort and Broad-leaved, Salad Burnet, Selfheal, St. John’s Worts, Yellowwort, Clover (White, Red, Zigzag and Hare’s foot), Wild Onion, Dyer’s Greenweed, Hoary Ragwort, Ox-eye Daisy, Doves-foot Cranes-bill, Milkwort, Mouse-ears, Biting Stonecrop, and many more. No single species dominates because the environmental conditions do not allow it. Dozens of different grasses provide the canvas within which the flowers grow. Species to look out for include: Quaking Grass, so named because the seeding head held on thin stalks ‘quake’ in the slightest breeze, Tor Grass, with its broad, rough, yellow-green leaves, and Crested Dog’s tail with its flattened seeding head with the seeds lined up it two parallel rows opposite each other either side of the stalk.
The large variety of wildflowers and grasses attract many insects including a large number of butterflies some of which will only lay their eggs on particular plants on which their caterpillars feed. The insects in turn provide protein for birds feeding their young. There are a few areas of bare rock. Here it is possible to see how colonisation takes place by looking at the order in which the plants grow out from a bare area: Rue-leaved Saxifrage, Biting Stonecrop, Doveâ€™s-foot Cranesbill, Wild Thyme, fine leaved grasses, and so on. The true colonisers are plants that can cope with baking, arid conditions with no shade, no soil, and no moisture for long periods. They create the conditions that allow other, less tolerant plants to grow. Each wave of colonisation changes the local environment creating less harsh conditions. Providing there are plants in the vicinity to colonise, creating new patches of bare rock will ensure that these pioneer plants have a niche in which to grow.
Recording Sheets Wildflowers(photocopy before use) Name:…………………………………………………………., Date:……………………., Location……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. Agrimony, Carrot, Wild Flax, Fairy Angelica, Wild
Bedstraw, Common Marsh-
Orchid, Common Spotted
St. John's-wort, Perforate
Grasses, Rushes, Sedges & Ferns Barley, Wall
Grass, Sweet Vernal
Sedge, False Fox
Sedge, Lesser Pond
Sedge, Long-stalked Yellow
Trees, Shrubs and Climbers Alder
Oak, Pedunculate 41
Further Reading Guides â€“ Useful when out in the field. The beginners books often show only the more common plants and so care must be taken when using them to identify plants.
Beginners Kingfisher Field Guide Series on Birds and Trees Fitter, R., Fitter, A. & Farrer, A. (1995) Collins Pocket Guide: Grasses, Sedges, Rushes & Ferns of Britain and Northern Europe, Collins When you want to know more: Rose, F (1983) The Wildflower Key, Warne Hubbard, C. E. (1992 Reprint) Grasses, Penguin Armchair Guides There are a number of very good armchair or coffee table guides with excellent illustrations and text of both the birds and the wildflowers of Britain and Europe. They are not very practical for use in the field but they are books that you can dip into when you sit back and reflect on what you have seen. Two books we have found useful are: Hayman, P. & Burton, P. (1976) The Birdlife of Britain Streeter, D. & Garrard, I. (1983) The Wildflowers of the British Isles
The librarian at your local library will be able to advise you about other suitable books and resources.
Warsop Footpaths and Countryside Group Warsop Footpaths and Countryside Group (WF&CG) are a community voluntary group whose members share a common interest: the countryside. Membership is open to anyone from the local area. The aims of WF&CG are: •
To survey, improve, maintain, restore and where appropriate, recreate the quality of the local countryside,
To help maintain public paths in the local area, and to encourage their use.
To help provide information and education about the local natural environment.
In addition to meetings, WF&CG hold a volunteers work days where they work on local paths and sites. Once per month, an organised walk is held. This may be in the countryside around Warsop Parish or further afield such as within the Peak District. Everyone is welcome to get involved.
Always value and respect the countryside Follow the countryside code •
Enjoy the countryside and respect its life and work.
Guard against all risk of fire.
Fasten all gates.
Keep your dogs under close control.
Keep to public paths across farmland.
Use gates and stiles to cross fences, hedges and walls.
Leave livestock, crops and machinery alone.
Take your litter home.
Help keep all water clean.
Protect wildlife, plants and trees.
Take special care on country roads.
Make no unnecessary noise. Support and financial assistance for the Warsop Parish Countryside Project has been received from:
Awards For All
Nottinghamshire County Council
Mansfield District Council
Warsop Parish Council
Meden Valley Partnership
Published on Jan 27, 2012
Description of the birds, hedgerows and plants found around the Hills and Holes Site of Special Scientific Interest in Warsop, Nottinghanshi...