13 Sep 2011

The Wrekin Wakes Sept 10th, 2011

The WuFuV's had a very busy weekend - no - I mean a VERY busy weekend!

But let's get the silly stuff out of the way first...

And not wishing to appear out of place by not donning a very colourful head garland... 

The weekend started on Friday for the WuFuV's as we made our way to Forest Glen and then on to the Ercall's Quarry 5 to clear the areas of scrub, bramble, litter and pooey dog stuff in preparation for the next day's Wrekin Wakes.

Following a full day of that the WuFuV MuGs (for the uninitiated that's Wrekin Forest Volunteers Moth Group) had a moth night planned at Granville Nature Reserve so for some of us it necessitated a quick change, gathering up of moth equipment, moth pavilion and a bite to eat in order to be on site an hour before nightfall - but we all made it and the fact that none of the 27 keys given to me opened the main gate to the reserve didn't really matter at all!

We had a contingency plan - we headed for the furnaces where I've always wanted to run a moth-trapping. Incredibly one of the said 27 keys did in fact open the gate to that part of the reserve so it all fell into place really and in no time at all we were ready and waiting for the arrival of those little fluttery things of the night.

Enter Tony first though, flapping his arms to demonstrate to newcomer Becky how moths prepare for flight!

Or was that when we were getting ready to do the okey cokey? I forget. Margaret and Steve certainly seem to be up for it - oh... by the way you two; we made it for the Amen Corner/Searchers gig Saturday evening too - didn't spot you though!

Anyway the moth night passed all so quickly as we had to leave at midnight to be fairly fresh for the following morning and what in future years, I'm sure, will become a famous gathering of cheerful souls...

The Wrekin Wakes

There was a definite happy and somewhat nostalgically 'hippy' feel to the day

There was so much happening with 4 live acts on stage throughout the day including the wonderful harmonies of Luke + Cath, the superb voice and guitar playing of Claire Shaw, the great duo that are The Medicine Boys, The Vagabondi Puppets - great fun for all the little people and finishing with the very wonderful, the very tuneful and talented Day Level.

   Luke + Cath

  Claire Shaw

   Day Level

And there was so much else going on too!

Did someone just hit the ball over the boundary?

No! That was the WuFuV's bug hunt, which started with just a handful of people and suddenly exploded! In the stampede to find what was in the undergrowth this little monster almost got trodden to pulp...


Ooops sorry - wrong pic - here's the little monster:-

This is an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar which looks quite menacing with its big bold eye markings, but it is, of course, completely harmless. This little chappy was getting ready to pupate and will then emerge as the beautiful olive green and pink adult moth next spring/summer.

We also had our own fire-maker who demonstrated how to light a fire with a string bow which was amazing to watch. I actually resisted the urge to produce a box of matches.

We then had a tug-o-war but we had to make our own rope first! From grass!

We started with just two rows of grass taken from the roadside and then each side was twisted in opposite directions. Matt takes some time to think about this...

The two strands were then twisted together and we formed two teams and pulled!

Incredibly the twisted grass strands took all the strain of 8 people either side - some quite hefty blokes too. Great fun although the team I found myself on lost 2-1. Oh well - perhaps the WuFuV's should get a team up for next year and get some practice in. First though we have to work on the photo shoot for the forth-coming semi-nude (we're not doing the full monty) WuFuV Calendar.

Belly dancers! Let's not forget the belly dancers!


Bryony complete with little pink skirt takes to it like a fish out of water. Not sure about Pete though! Although to be fair he wasn't given a little pink skirt.

So an excellent day at The Ercall eventually drew to a close with the only rain descending right at the end when Day Well sang two songs about rain - well we definitely need the wet stuff! So any farmers out there who are worried about the lack of rain just employ the services of Day Well, stand them in the middle of your crop and they will summon up a heavy downpour just for your fields, thereby keeping your neighboring and competing farmers very worried!

I think everyone who attended would agree it was just a fab day and thanks must go to Pete Lambert and the rest of the crew for organising this superb event and massive thanks also to the organisations who funded it because without them it just wouldn't have happened. So BIG THANKS to Shropshire Hills, Defra, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, the Rural Development Programme and Advantage West Midlands. 

Looking forward to next year's Wrekin Wakes already! If you were there aren't you glad you were at the very first one? In 10 years time as the crowds build to 150,000 strong and Pete worries about taking the right key to open the gate we'll be able to say we were there. We were there at the start of it all. This could be the next - and better - Shropshire's own 'V' Festival.

Catch you all soon

Paul Watts

5 Sep 2011

September Nature Notes from Pete Lambert

Nature Notes – September 2011

At long last the final camping gizmo was put back into the camping cupboard, and the warm mist of remembering took me back down the Anglesey lanes. Wall brown, Meadow brown, Gatekeeper and Red Admiral butterflies had risen as I pedalled past. Small delicate micro-moths took short hesitant flights when disturbed and a Small Copper butterfly had a narrow squeak with my rolling front tyre. This very pretty small creature enjoys flowery places though its larval food-plants are the undistinguished docks and sorrels. The Small Copper has dark chocolate hind under-wings fringed with a bright orange ripple and the forewings are a kind of negative with a striking orange centre marked with black spots and edged with brown. When the adult is in the early stages of its flying life it is a very tidy butterfly which cannot be said for location that day.

The untidy hedges of Ynys Mon do provide plenty of colour, the aged wrinkly leaves of Woods age are paired below spikes of tiny yellow flowers, bold purple ‘Hardheads’ of the Knapweed, Red Campion still in flower, flaming nodding spikes of Montbretia [a man made hybrid though to my delight this was everywhere], button blooms of rich yellow Tansy and green rosettes of what at a glance looked like Rusty back fern added depth to the hedge plant parade. The hedge shrubs of hawthorn or blackthorn invariably grew on top of banks or loose dry walls inter-filled with soil. There were none of the unbearably neat, flailed and tamed hedges here, but an older, wilder and unruly network of field divisions.

I was on my way to Cemlyn Bay to visit the Tern colony, apparently the third largest Sandwich tern colony in the UK. Terns like to roost and breed on shingle beaches and here at Cemlyn an artificial shingle ridge has been maintained by the North Wales Wildlife Trust and the National Trust. I had not seen a tern colony before and heard it first before seeing the busy thin winged birds feeding. Arctic Terns have reddish beaks and a neat grey, black and white plumage. Sandwich Terns are our biggest resident tern, my best views were of individuals returning from the open sea with a fish clasped firmly in their black and yellow tipped beak, a rakish crest clear to see, flicking cavalier like from their aerodynamic heads. Around the lagoon Oystercatchers hung around, their simple black white body pattern and bright red-orange beak reminding me of the bad penguin in The Wrong Trousers. A solitary Dabchick or Little Grebe pottered around another pool close by, with the ubiquitous Coots in the far distance.

The coast is a harsh place for plants to survive, adapting as they must to inundation by salt water, coated in briny spray or blown flat by unrelenting winds. On the banks and salt marsh flats I encountered the sea hardened cousins of our milder local plants. Sea mayweed, tall bobbly spikes of Sea Arrowgrass, the maritime Rush and the rubbery Spear leaved orache were easily found. Each subtly evolved to cope with the stress imposed by saline exposure. One of our commonest groups of native plants are the plantains, tolerant of a wide variety of soil types and trampling, they are found everywhere. Out of the six UK plantain species I found four together, Greater, Ribwort, Sea and Bucksthorn plantain. The last two very much associated with coastal locations and surprisingly main roads and motorways, the connection being salt in this case winter cast rock salt. Each plantain has a rotund spike of very tiny flowers best appreciated with a hand lens, that day they were shyly at their best.

Much of bays history as a wildlife site is tied to the story of a wealthy eccentric bird enthusiast, Captain Vivian Hewitt who first came to Cemlyn Bay in the 1930’s. He constructed a dam and weir, replacing tidal salt-marsh with a large and permanent lagoon which he intended as a refuge for wildfowl. He also had a scheme to nurture an area of woodland within the grounds of Bryn Aber, his home, to attract smaller birds. To this end he began construction of an imposing double wall, which was intended both as a wind-brake for the trees, and a means for observing the birds – the gap between the two walls had viewing holes. After Captain Hewitt’s death the house was left to his housekeeper’s family, but the walls themselves remain, and lend the site its mysterious, even foreboding presence. I enjoyed and treasured my day at Cemlyn and only yesterday did I clear away the last dried stem of rush, plucked and tucked in a forgotten pocket till now.

Happy wildlife spotting, Pete.  

If you would like to share your wildlife encounters please feel welcome to email me at petewoodman@thewoods12.fsnet.co.uk