Category Archives: A – Z

A-Z of Chadkirk: B is for Biodiversity

Chadkirk is an attractive place to visit, whether you come for a daily walk, or enjoy family time, visit for the Festival, Bat and Bird Box making or one of the other events. Part of the pleasure of this unique place is intangible: the beauty of the landscape, the buildings, the walled garden, all contribute.

However the Country Park at Chadkirk has another key aspect. Conservation. It is a place where wildlife habitats are managed to enable flourishing biodiversity. It was set up , in part, as safe place for wildlife. Whereas hedges and meadows, ancient woodlands and ponds have been disappearing from the British landscape, here there is a strong intention to protect and enable wildlife to flourish, to manage and protect.

In recent decades Friends of Chadkirk, Stockport MBC, the Ranger Service and other environmental groups have made significant contributions. During that time, there have been many projects, big and small, that have enabled the biodiversity of Chadkirk to increase.

Each of these projects has played it’s part in making Chadkirk the special place that it is today. None more than the Coronation Meadow.

Meadows

The Coronation Meadows Project is led by Plantlife in partnership with The Wildlife Trusts and The Rare Breeds Survival Trust. By establishing a meadow in every county as a way to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation, each meadow is a living breathing link from the past to our shared future.

Here’s how Plantlife describe the project:

97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s.

Inspired and initiated by HRH The Prince of Wales, the Coronation Meadows Project is:

Celebrating our surviving meadows – identifying a flagship Coronation Meadow for every county in the UK.

Creating new meadows by using the seed or green hay from these Coronation Meadows at receptor sites in the same county.

Increasing the area of this valuable habitat provides new homes for bees, butterflies and other pollinators and helps to secure our wild flower heritage for the next 60 years and beyond.

There is only one Coronation Meadow in Greater Manchester. It’s here. At Chadkirk. This 13 hectare site is a rare gem in an increasingly urban environment. With so many green spaces trampled or degraded because of a variety of pressures, this site is unique in the area.

Friends of Chadkirk have been involved in it’s growth and development. In 2015 volunteers will work closely with staff of Stockport MBC Ranger Service to collect seeds, so that plug plants can be grown and planted out in other locations.

Volunteers monitoring species richness in this part of Chadkirk have noted an increased diversity. They say:

The diversity of Coronation Meadow is growing year on year and in the past couple of years a large colony of Six-Spot Burnet moths has developed and plants such as Birdsfoot Trefoil have helped support Common Blue Butterflies.

In the autumn and winter months Coronation Meadow at Chadkirk provides winter grazing for cattle. The sight of a small herd of cattle grazing on meadow land is rare. A reminder of traditional links between wildlife and farming practices which allow rich biodiversity.

The three wildlife ponds in Coronation Meadow also support a large variety of aquatic wildlife including water beetles, dragon flies, frogs, toads and newts.

The successful management of the Ancient Woodland of Little Wood and Kirk Wood, the ponds and meadows at Chadkirk are testament to the careful and wise stewardship of a few which enables the many visitors to enjoy all this precious gem has to offer.

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A-Z of Chadkirk : Bees

For now there are no honey bees in the hives.
Instead you will see bumble bees, mason bees and solitary bees feeding on the flowers of the walled garden.

Bees and welsh onion flower

Bee on sage flowers

Red tailed bumble bee ?                       Photo: Artemisia

Ligularia and Bumble Bee           Photo: Artemisia

The latest news from the BumbleBee Conservation Trust tells us how bees have fared during the spell of weird weather we have experienced over the last 12 months.

 
Coldest spring in 50 years!

Following on from the wettest summer in 2012 since records began, bumblebees have been hit again by the slowest start to spring in recent times. Although temperatures were lower than average in both April and May, March was the coldest since 1962. The average temperature of 2.2°C in March was a full 3.3°C below the long term average, according to the Met Office.

This has had a huge effect on bumblebees and their usual life-cycle. During a warm spell in February and the very beginning of March, the first Queens emerged from hibernation. Very soon freezing temperatures left us struggling to see bumblebees again until the weather broke about mid-April! Thankfully bumblebee queens have the ability to re-enter hibernation when conditions change dramatically.

The bumblebee life-cycle could now be between one to two month’s behind depending on location and species. Records for Tree bumblebees started to trickle through to BeeWatch towards the end of May, compared to last year when they were at their peak at this time. Similarly Early bumblebee males should be plentiful now. Although the first record was added to BeeWatch on the 5th of May, further records accumulated slowly. Just in the last week or two, the bumblebee season seems to have finally got underway with lots more records of Tree bees, Early males and new cuckoo queens.

Bumblebee Conservation
Trust
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ID Tips from Bumblebee Conservation Trust

As the bumblebee season is finally hotting up, you should start to see more males and even male and female cuckoos if you are lucky!

Males can be distinguished by their longer antennae, thinner hind legs as they don’t possess pollen baskets and general fluffy appearance. Males of four of our common species, very helpfully, also possess extra yellow banding and yellow moustaches! Three of these species are shown below. The Heath bumblebee (Bombus jonellus) is missing.

Cuckoo bumblebees are much stronger and tougher than our social species and use this strength to overpower and often kill the queen in her nest. They are therefore longer, have dark wings, have hairy hind legs as they don’t possess pollen baskets and their fur is much more sparce and scruffy in appearance.

A-Z of Chadkirk: Ancient Woodland

Kirkwood and Little Wood have both been designated as SBIs. They are sites of biological importance. The presence of indicator species such as Dog’s Mercury tell us that this area has been woodland for many centuries. During that time the composition and the structure has changed. For centuries it seems likely that they would have been dominated by oak trees. Place names locally are reminders of that: Oakwood Hall, Oakwood Mill.

In the past, oaks have been felled for timber. Instead of more oaks, beech trees were planted. Why beech trees ? They grow faster and can be cropped earlier. However, while they do support wildlife, the ecosystem can be less diverse than an Oak Woodland. As a result, the management of Kirkwood involves active intervention to increase the possibilities for an extended range of plants and animals.

The current management plan has attracted grants from the Forestry Commission.

Visitors can see evidence of the work being done throughout Kirkwood.

By the walled garden, the felled beech tree is part of a strategy to increase biodiversity.

By the walled garden, the felled beech tree is part of a strategy to increase biodiversity.

Overlooking the Walled Garden, a Beech tree has been felled.
The standing stump and the logs around it’s base will provide a microhabitat for a range of plants and animals. Over time the wood will rot. Fungi will germinate and spread contributing to the decomposition and decay. Beetles will make their homes in any crevasses that develop. To give this process a helping hand and accelerate colonisation, cuts have been made into the stump with a chain saw. Starter homes.

Beetles attract birds. They will forage among the stumps for food. Stumps, rotting wood and the beetles, all part of the mix for a woodland rich in wildlife. This woodland ecosystem provides a valuable habitat for birds. Some are resident, others passing through; siskins feed here, blackcaps breed. Mandarin ducks nest high in the branches. Flocks of hirondelles 60 strong swirl above the river feeding.