A Walk on the Wild Side

Simon Winter

Welcome to this week’s blog, focusing on the nature reserves of mid-Lincolnshire.

Hi everyone, welcome to this week’s blog - the nature reserves of mid-Lincolnshire.

Monday

I’m lucky enough to have Mid Lincs Warden, Kev James as my expert guide. Kev is a tremendous character – imagine if you will a hybrid of Mick Jagger/Keith Richards with a zest for wildlife!

We start the day at Red Hill.  The reserve is a grassland habitat featuring a disused quarry and a former barley field. The quarry is well known for its fossil rich Red Chalk. The former barley field which lies to the east has recently been restored to meadowland.

Red Hill

Red Hill - Simon Winter

The complex process involved spraying, ploughing, sowing red fescue and hand pulling ragwort. The field was then reseeded with kidney vetch, bird’s foot trefoil, field scabius, knapweed and ladies’ bedstraw. Cattle and sheep regularly graze the area to help maintain floral diversity. Red Hill is a huge success story, it’s now helping to increase species variation by distributing seeds to other Lincolnshire reserves.

Next, we visit Woodhall Spa. The area epitomises the Living Landscapes scheme, whereby a series of interconnected reserves allow free movement of wildlife. It’s a great opportunity to experience a mosaic of new landscapes - acid grassland, heathland, woodland, bog and open water. It’s also interesting to witness Woodhall Spa Airfield’s early transformation from quarry to picturesque nature reserve. The evolutionary process will take years to complete.

Penny Royal

Penny Royal - Rachel Shaw

Tuesday

We’re at Whisby’s Education Centre. The site is surrounded by grassland, woodland and Thorpe Lake. My senses reach overload. There’s the addictive mint-like smell from a lilac carpet of pennyroyal. There’s also an inviting selection of woodland trails. And of course, the neighbouring Canadian geese are only too keen to offer their vocal support.

We meet Suzanne Fysh, Whisby’s Education & Community Officer. Suzanne and I opted for an Environmental Studies route into conservation. We compare notes on how the syllabus has changed. I feel reassured that social sciences clearly have a role within modern conservation.

Anyway, back to the task in-hand… Catherine and I start pruning the undergrowth. Whilst the reserve’s brambles taste delicious (believe me they do), the accompanying rampant and thorny shrubs can prove a menace. Equipped with gauntlets and secateurs we tame the wilderness. We reuse cuttings to form dead hedges, which create an excellent wildlife habitat and also restrict visitor movements. Suzanne’s thrilled with our efforts.

Whisby wilderness day

Whisby Wilderness day - Simon Winter

Wednesday

Whisby hosts a ‘Wilderness Day’ - a community outreach event organised by Mansions of the Future in partnership with the LoveLincsPlants project. It’s an excellent opportunity for many families to engage with nature, some for the first time. Despite the inclement weather, our visitors arrive bright and early.

The varied events unite the environment with the arts. Catherine and I become temporary tattoo addicts. We also try our hand at making beeswax wraps – a fun and reusable means of covering food. Cling film is now banished forever.

The floral printing and drawing classes prove popular. We also make badges to display our randomly chosen wilderness names. And finally, no woodland-based event is complete without building a den! Now we can escape the rain, if I can remember the secret password!

Simon (AKA ‘Autumn Dragonfly’ – my wilderness name)