Sunday, 12 September 2010
Wild flowers of the Edge
As well as woodland Wenlock Edge also has interesting wild flowers. Due to the underlying limestone being so close to the surface along the crest of the Edge there is only a very thin layer of nutrient poor soil. Plants like nettles struggle to cope with such nutrient poor conditions but the more delicate flowers can flourish without being out-competed by such vigorous, nutrient hungry plants. The National Trust cares for six small areas of species rich grassland along the Edge, these are managed in a variety of ways, from cutting a traditional hay crop after the flowering season to removing encroaching scrub. One thing that all these areas have in common is that at certain times of the year they are grazed by our flock of Hebridean Sheep, these sheep help to prevent scrub encroachment and keep the nutrient levels low by eating the previous seasons grass and flowers rather than them rotting down. They are very hardy animals, happy to eat everything from brambles to thistles, they also gnaw at the bark of the young trees that try to establish themselves, eventually killing them and saving us a job! Where scrub has encroached too much for even the sheep to sort it out and it is shading out the wild flowers we need to remove it ourselves and burn it, this is a popular job for volunteer groups, after all who doesn't enjoy cutting things down and having a big fire? After being cut down, the scrub, usually Hawthorn or Blackthorn will try to re-grow. The fresh shoots however are no match for our little black lawnmowers!
Good places to look for wild flowers on the Edge are;
Blakeway Hollow and the Much Wenlock NT car park,
Path along the quarry edge from Blakeway Hollow to Presthope,
A few of the species you may find on the edge;
Orchids, inc Bee, Pyramidal and Common Spotted,