Blackleach Hibernaculum

Blackleach Country Park 29th November and 27th December 2020

This task falls under the category of pond work even though there was no pond to work on. Instead we were both clearing an area to create a pond and building a hibernaculum. A hibernaculum is a structure in which amphibians can safely hibernate. The word comes from the Latin phrase meaning a winter camp, originally used by Roman soldiers but now the word has been re-purposed for conservation.

This particular hibernaculum is made from a linear habitat pile made from brash with logs at either end. Ultimately the structure will be covered in yew branches (removed from a nearby hedge where it was causing problems), and finally covered in the soil that will be dug out to create the ponds.

Great Crested Newt
Great Crested Newt

29/11/20 – Today’s work involved our chainsaw operator cutting down some big old willow trees before the rest of the volunteers arrived. By mid-morning our chainsaw guy had finished work and left, leaving the site open for the safe six to come in and begin their work. This was mostly cutting up the brash for the habitat pile and stacking the logs for the hibernaculum’s entrance structure. The gaps between the logs will let the amphibians in but keep everything else out.

27/12/20 – Another team returned today to finish off moving the pile of brash and covering the the structure in yew branches. The structure had been widened a little to accommodate the remaining brash, well done Clayton.

10/04/21 – Finally, after several months, we were able to get a digger on to the site to dig out the figure 8 ponds and cover the hibernaculum with a layer of soil. This will both protect the amphibians from disturbance during hibernation and also protect the hibernaculum from vandals. So, job done. Photo of the the completed work supplied by Richard Marshall, the hibernaculum can be seen in the the final photo just next to the trees.

Back to Blackleach

Pond work at Blackleach Country Park, Walkden, Salford 05/07/20 to 12/07/20

Pond work at Blackleach Country Park, Walkden, Salford 05/07/20 to 12/07/20

Blackleach was originally an industrial site. Built in 1778 the reservoir was used to power mining machinery but later the site was used for brick making and finally as a chemical factory making Salford’s distinctive magenta dye. Industrial activity ended in 1976 and the site was abandoned to nature.

In 1987 the reservoirs were earmarked for housing but a campaign lead by local action groups saved the site and in 1992 the Salford Rangers Service began to transform Blackleach from a desolate wasteland in to its premier wildlife reserve. The Greater Manchester Ecology Unit designates Blackleach as a Site of Biological Importance because of its habitats and resident species, and 2004 English Nature declared it a Local Nature Reserve.

BCV has had a long association with Blackleach working with both the site’s first warden and developer, Annie Surtees, and later with warden Richard Marshall. This time our socially distanced and volunteer numbers restricted task involved pulling out Typha latifolia, aka reed mace, aka bull rush.

Brown Hawker
Brown Hawker
Reed Mace
Reed Mace
Great Crested Newt
Great Crested Newt

As Typha spreads it closes ponds down, reducing the area of open water available for amphibians and insects such as great crested newts and dragonflies. Blackleach is hotspot for the UK’s largest newt, the great crested newt. GCN are highly protected and should only be handled by authorised licence holders.

Photos below supplied by Caroline, common hawker by Francis. Posts now show a Like button, also feel free to leave comments.

Being There

Walmsley Unitarian Chapel 14/06/20 – 28/06/20

Our last normal task before lockdown was at Firwood Fold on 23rd March. Since then our volunteers have been busily doing nothing Zooming the whole day through, not to mention WhatsApp, Skype, and that quaint practice, telephoning. None of these are any substitute for being out in the open with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, no substitute for being there. So, our first task after lockdown was Walmsley Unitarian Chapel.

We have been working at Walmsley Unitarian Chapel since 2010 and over that time we have turned the site, also known as Spring Meadow, from a swampy patch of willow carr into a wildlife wonderland, home to numerous species of dragonflies, amphibs, and orchids. However, like all things it needs looking after. So, over three weekends, between 14th and 28th June, three teams of socially distanced six tidied up the ponds, unblocked culverts and slashed the Himalayan balsam to within an inch of its first node.

Common Spotted Orchid
Common Spotted Orchid

Pulling out excessive vegetation such as typha creates more open water for amphibians and dragonflies and stops the ponds succeeding to swamp then to dry land. Himalayan balsam is another species that displaces native flora, over the years we have knocked it back considerably but there is still a long way to go. The 28th was supposed to have been our big push against the balsam but rain (lots of rain) stopped play. What we did do you can see in the photo gallery further down the page.

Himalayan Balsam
Himalayan Balsam

Over the last few months many of our members have experience tragedies, illnesses and injuries, but despite the distances imposed by lockdown they have never had to endure their hardships alone, so a big thank you to all our members who helped out and gave their time to those in need. Thank you for being there.

To go with our new website there is a new gallery feature, clicking/tapping an image opens a lightbox where you can move through photos by swiping or using the arrows at the sides. There is also an button to show full screen and an arrow to start a slideshow. Enjoy.