Home   What's On   Article

A wealth of wildlife to enjoy on a walk around Thorley Wedge in Bishop's Stortford





Nature Notes columnist Jono Forgham covers your fortnightly look at nature around Bishop's Stortford...

Having spent the last few Nature Notes wanders in rural and agricultural habitats I thought a change would be good, so I went for a suburban environment and selected Thorley Wedge as the area to take a walk around last week and see what could be discovered.

Thorley Wedge refers to the area of green space stretching from The Harvest Moon to Thorley Hill and, as I discovered, it has a lot to offer.

Achillea millefolium (59841029)
Achillea millefolium (59841029)

Once parked at Sainsbury’s, I enjoyed a coffee in Albert’s café before setting off towards The Harvest Moon, listening out for bird calls as well as checking the vegetation for insect life. Magpies, wood pigeons and carrion crows sauntered around the children’s play area as a great spotted woodpecker called unseen from deep in a field maple. Specific vegetation attracted my attention, namely buddleia and flowering ivy as these are favourites of insects, but so far none was found and it was probably too early for them as the temperature was not too high.

A small Prunus avium (wild plum) showed that micro moths had been busy feeding upon the leaves where gallery mines created by the caterpillar were clearly evident. These were the work of the moth Lyonetia clerkella, a small moth with a wingspan of no more than 8mm.

The acer tree species (sycamore and field maple) were just beginning to change their leaf colour into splendid golds and reds. They will become spectacularly bright in the next fortnight until the first frosts cause them to drop.

Autumnal acer leaves (59841063)
Autumnal acer leaves (59841063)

I crossed the road by the pub and checked the grass in front of the community centre. Here, hedgerow cranesbill, yarrow and dandelions were all still in flower. A pair of collared doves checked out the pub car park before I arrived at the football field and adjacent trees. Not too much here, even though stands of ivy were discovered – still not enough sunshine to get the bees on the move.

A wren rattled off an alarm call before I returned to the other side of Villiers-Sur-Marne Avenue as the watery sun broke through. It is well documented how important such open spaces are for locals, both for physical and mental wellbeing, and this morning there were plenty of folk out walking their dogs, jogging, cycling and just wandering around. Clearly a well used place.

In front of me, a large shrub, fully in flower, with its trailing white flowers tumbling down a hedgerow. Russian vine adding a bright splash of colour. Great tits and blue tits busied themselves in a fully-laden apple tree, searching for insects and spiders.

In the centre of this area is a small, muddy brook, so I stopped to see what was about. Goldfinches fed on seedheads, a pair of mallards waddled in the shallow water and, best of all, a grey wagtail wandered along reed leaves, picking off insects from the surface. A good bird to see in such a habitat. Fortunately, it came relatively close for a photo just as I disturbed a very healthy-looking dog fox from its sleep. He trundled off rather indignantly, too quick for a photo.

Apis melifera, the western honeybee (59841031)
Apis melifera, the western honeybee (59841031)

One of the reasons I decided upon this area is that there are plans to put in wildflower areas all along the Wedge, with plenty of notices upon stakes informing all of this initiative. It is hoped they will be created this autumn and should improve the quality and range of insect species present. Be good to follow this up and return when the flowers are blooming. Hopefully they will all be native species upon which bees can nectar and moths can lay eggs upon the leaves and flowerheads. This area will need an occasional helping hand, so perhaps a group of volunteers can band together to keep an eye on developments to make the whole plan a real success.

By now the sun was out, so I returned to the car to leave my woollen jumper which was now surplus to requirements. I walked through the underpass and followed the left-hand side all the way to Thorley Hill. A patch of ivy was now alive with feeding insects. Apis melifera (western honeybee) was the main species, but also two types of hoverfly were present. A colourful Myathropa florea, a relatively easy hover to identify as it has a Batman-like logo upon the thorax. Also roosting on the leaves, a Heliophilus pendulus. This hoverfly, also yellow and black, displays broad black streaks upon the thorax. Weaving its way through this ivy was hedge bindweed with its large goblet-shaped white flowers. A small white butterfly came in to rest and I wondered if this would be the last butterfly of the year that I shall report?

I moved on. Ten magpies on the grass near the allotments and a party of house sparrows in and on a bramble patch. Another patch of ivy, but the only new sighting was a large Araneus diadematus spider sitting in the centre of a well-constructed web. This species, the garden cross spider, is a common arachnid for autumn and a little searching in gardens will probably uncover several. It shows a clear white cross on its back and tends to build its web near plants that attract insects, particularly fly species.

Araneus diadematus (59841035)
Araneus diadematus (59841035)

I was impressed with the amount of wild food that was present here for wildlife. Plenty of apples, a full cherry tree, loads of hawthorn berries, acorns in abundance, teasel seedheads and blackberries all explained why there were so many grey squirrels present. Over the next few years I am anticipating the arrival of the rose-ringed parakeet, now breeding around The Hadhams. With these fruits available, Thorley Wedge looks like an ideal place for them to reside. Listen out for their screeching, incessant calling and, if seen in flight, their bright green plumage and long pointed tail.

Apple overload (59841033)
Apple overload (59841033)

I arrived at Thorley Hill and returned up the other side of the Wedge. Some spectacular dahlias in the allotment. The path here winds through mature trees, mainly oak, hornbeam, field maple and hazel. I stopped to check on the health of the ash trees also present. Whilst some showed no signs of chalara (ash dieback,) clearly others were already infected with the fungal disease. They will, sadly, over the next few years succumb to the disease and will require felling. They have no way of fighting off the disease which arrived in the UK nearly 30 years ago on imported ash from the Far East. There, the manchurian ash has evolved to live with the outbreak, but not so our own ash.

Cherries (59841193)
Cherries (59841193)

It is predicted that 80% of all ash in the UK will be lost in the next 10 years. It is already present in Millennium Wood, Bury Green, a wood that I tend to. Over the next month I shall have to remove more than 20 dead and infected trees and burn the twigs and branches as they can release the spores even after they have been felled. I hold out little hope that there will be any ash present in the wood soon and shall need to look into what other species I can put in to replace them.

Grey squirrel (59841197)
Grey squirrel (59841197)

Another great spotted woodpecker flew overhead as I enjoyed my picnic. High above, four herring gulls circled as a party of long-tailed tits commuted to and from another apple tree.

Grey wagtail (59841199)
Grey wagtail (59841199)

Having finished lunch, I took another quick wander around the overgrown verges backing on to garden fences. A wide variety of plant species were present, along with several more garden cross spiders, before I headed back to the car and home to process many photos.

Hedge bindweed (59841008)
Hedge bindweed (59841008)

Over the few hours I had been present I had recorded and observed a great deal, showing what a healthy environment it is, so it would indeed be really useful if a small group could get together to begin recording all that is present, tend to the planned wildflower areas and generally monitor the site. I am sure there are plenty of surprises to be found, like the pleasing grey wagtail in the brook.

Hedgerow cranesbill (59841010)
Hedgerow cranesbill (59841010)
Leaf mine of Lyonetia clerkella on Prunus avium, wild cherry (59841012)
Leaf mine of Lyonetia clerkella on Prunus avium, wild cherry (59841012)
Myathropea florea (59841016)
Myathropea florea (59841016)
Russian vine (59841024)
Russian vine (59841024)

Got a story for the Stortford Indie? Email us at newsdesk@bishopsstortfordindependent.co.uk



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More