Friday 24 November 2023

Climate Walk - Hellifield Flash and Long Preston Deeps - 1 Nov 2023

With showers forecast, our expedition would end up in four parts 

1. Hellifield Flash.

We parked near this lake, on a small side road 100m from the main A65 road. It is in a depression in the big drumlins that were left after the last ice-age. Their deposition separates the Ribble from the Aire and diverted the Ribble south. (Previously it had continued east into the Aire). Until about ten years ago the water table used to fluctuate a lot,  and the lake almost dry up in droughts. The changes in water levels  were good for waders. They have dammed it now somehow so the water table remains high.

Richard had brought his telescope which was helpful. In the distance we could see swans, a merganser (or goosander?) and other ducks.

The heavens opened. Very hard. We decided to support local trade and drove to ...

2. Hellifield Railway Station Cafe. (highly recommended)

Here I could look over the railway track to the far side and slope beside the track  and talk about the yellow Genista tinctoria (Dyers Greenweed)  which used to grow there. (not accessible now). And also remember  the plants that used to grow on cliinker of the old railway yard and auction mart area - which is now a new housing estate.

I used my mobile phone to look at the "Pray and Fast for the Climate" sheet prepared for the 1st of November. We especially remembered the people suffering in Gaza. (Having had no laptop for three weeks in October I have become much better at using my phone).

We drove to the junction at 

3. Cow Bridge.

We looked over the bridge walls to the Ribble now very full of water. 

On the tarmac of the bridge was Puccinellia distans (Reflexed Saltmarsh-grass) and Cochlearia danica (Early Scurvygrass) come in with the salt and gritting of the roads.  

Several years ago I had found Anisantha diandra on the brow of this bridge.  I wonder if there are wind currents that leave seeds on bridge brows of bridges - or maybe the brow is especially dry, and other stuff dies and leaves places for the weeds. 

We walked through the field between the river and the long drainage ditch, then on the embankment to ..

4. The hide. 

We met a man who said he'd seen a marsh harrier over the willows in the distance.

We looked. First we saw three Cormorants in a tree. Then we saw the Marsh Harrier.  It was very pleasant sitting, in the quiet of the early evening (well about 4pm)  on the bench in the hide looking over the wide wide  expanse of the flat bottomed valley.  The Marsh Harrier came quite close soaring above.  (But not close enough for a good picture.)

Time for home. Not quite as good as Leighton Moss or some Scottish RSPB Reserves I have visited.. .. but lovely to think there is a place so close to home where I can see a marsh harrier, just 6km  4 miles from Settle.

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