June 19 Monday Wildlife at Mercia Marina
Mercia Marina 1 mile from A50 & A38 Findern Lane, DE65 6DW, follow brown signs in Willington.
Leader David Boddy
Mercia Marina opened in September 2008 in the 24-acre Willington Lake, surrounded by another 50 acres of countryside for dog-walking fields, a wildlife lake and holiday home development. In building the marina, twelve islands or promontories were added to the natural contours of the lake thus creating a green oasis for people and wildlife alike. This was enhanced by a £85,000 planting scheme, featuring wildflower banks, reed beds, semi mature trees and native plants. LENS last visited in 2012 and we were keen to see what was happening at the site.
The car park was colourful with bands of flowers screening the vehicles. We could hardly recognise the site everything and it had grown so much, there were hundreds of boats moored up. Underneath each quay were hundreds of young fish including perch and roach, Waterside flowers reed sweetgrass, yellow iris, monkey flower, purple loosestrife, birdsfoot trefoil and marsh woundwort, grew on bank extensions. The poisonous hemlock water dropwort was frequently seen.
A lot of the site is open to the public with a café, shop and restaurant, but the wildlife sites are restricted entry. David took us under a road tunnel to see where the water exits the marina into the Trent and Mersey Canal, a black and white bridge made of old railway sleepers carries a public footpath past the site. We were there to see the island which is totally left to nature. Southern hawkers patrolled and blue damselflies busied amongst the reeds. The air hummed as we wilted and watched a family of adolescent coots catching fish.
We walked back through the lodges, each with a tree, the eponymous name sake, Cedar lodge, Spindle lodge, Hazel lodge hidden among the flowers bursting in sprays from the front gardens. We saw a rainbow garden of roses. A tribute to Clarice Cliff, a zig zag of stones on a steep bank is filled with daffodils in spring, David is a horticulturalist, the original site plantings were all native but now the site has been enhanced with unusual and choice plants such as arcs of Rubus Betty Ashburner, Rosa pteracantha (winged thorn rose), Viburnum White Beauty and Summer Breeze (we wish), Spanish gorse, oak leaf hydrangea and autumn flowering camellias. Three full-time gardeners look after the site.
We stopped to look at some speckling on the leaves of the young lime trees it looked like a rust fungus. A lot of the trees had been moved and each tree had been plugged into the ground and the line where the soil plug meets the undisturbed earth is favoured by many field voles.
The Met Office has a network of around 200 automatic stations across the UK. Alongside these automatic stations there are manual stations, the marina hosts an official Met Office Weather Station. Every day, at 0900hrs UTC one of a team of a dozen volunteers visit the station to note data from the previous 24 hours – the amount of sunshine, rain, minimum air temperature and grass temperature. This then gets put onto the Met Office site.
It was the hottest day of the year 33C and we were glad to shelter in a small woodland with bee houses and bird boxes and a living bench. We were joined by ringlet, meadow brown and large skipper butterflies. Active wildlife groups on site cover birds, bees, butterflies and moths.
Fortified by Roe’s kale juice we headed towards a large slope. There are various banks on site used to cut out sound from the nearby A50 or to separate commercial from living areas from wildlife areas. These banks are colourful displays of poppy, scarlet pimpernel, cut leaved dead nettle, the arable weeds that favour disturbed ground and depauperate soil.
This was just a taster for the amazing prairie flower display on the wildlife meadow. What a wonderful site. We could see corn chamomile, cornflower, and corn marigold we had a good look for the squinancy wort but I’m not certain that we found it. Difficult to ID all the flowers which were such a varied mix of native and non native flowers.
We then went to look at an old kneed, hawthorn hedge, with oak trees and crab apple and tried to guess the age, deciding 150 years old and possibly a nineteenth century enclosure hedge. Passing through a willow arch, we hurried past the butterfly garden with it’s orange balls of globose buddlia and pink sedums and past more choice plantings of clary, we were overtime, thirsty, and glad to sit sipping cool drinks under the shady umbrellas looking out over the magnificent marina.
Marion Bryce 20 June 2017