Welcome to the Greenslate water meadows. August





Taking a look at the location.

Now and again during the course of my ramblings I happen upon a diamond of a habitat-Greenslate Water Meadows is just one such location. The land as always existed as part of the countryside and many years ago held a reservoir which was relatively narrow but of a decent length. Slowly over the years the reservoir was drained and trees were planted or allowed to grow along with other vegetation, making it a pleasant area in which to stroll. It is situated close to arable land and is a haven for wildlife.

Over the last two years the whole area has been transformed into a wetland area, funded jointly by the National Lottery Fund, Wigan Borough Council and the Wildlife Trust. It is in fact an extension of the Orrell Water Park, in the county of Greater Manchester { which was part of Lancashire until boundary changes were introduced for political reasons in the 1980s}.

It is a delightful setting to enjoy. The beauty is in its pastoral gentleness with tranquil ponds surrounded by sentinels of reeds and regiments of sedge, which form a seclusion to each of them. Each of the ponds are interconnected by narrow water channels that meander through the vegetation in a continuation of the wetland theme.

It is a creation of life and beauty, it soothes and stimulates, it is a thing of simplicity, idyllic, yet so effective in its aim to attract wildlife to its confines. In the relative cool of the morning I commenced my visit, as cool lemon sun rays twinkled on the water of the ponds and channels, which were soft unruffled and calm.

Looking through the tall stems of the sturdy sedge I observed one of the most elusive of our water birds-the water rail. It was but a glance {often this is all that is afforded to the observer} as it tipped toed in and out of the vegetation where he loves to dwell. He resorts to places of seclusion, and how he harmonizes with the places of his choice. The plumage is of a brown colour, streaked with black above, with grey on the cheeks and breast, its flanks and belly are barred black and white. Its relatively long bill is red tipped with brown. Its long legs give it a miniature heron like appearance.

Among the thistles the tinkling call of a gold finch attracted my attention. I always consider it a privilege to encounter this colourful bird at this time of the year. Later in the season they will form small flocks known as charms that will roam the countryside as one as they quest for the seeds of thistles.

The Goldfinch is a beautifully coloured bird. Courtesy of  Francis C Franklin.  CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Carduelis carduelis close up.jpg

Another privilege ---

Another privilege was bestowed on me this fine morning by way of the spotted fly catcher, a summer visitor to our shores. This species does not aspire as a songster but is regarded as being a most useful taker of insects. He takes off from his favoured perch  with little sorties in order to take the insects from the air, then he returns to his original starting point with his gain. The number of insects taken by this bird and others of his ilk is incalcuable.

This charming member of the feathered fraternity needs to be sought out as he is another secretive bird. The insignificance of his brown and whitish garb is only broken by his spotted breast from which the bird takes its common name.

A dragonfly hovering with invisible wings over the water lilies soon darted off, lost in the sunlight to my view.This brought to mind a verse by Walter Savage Landor, I will share here.----

"Life {Priest and Poet say} is but a dream;

I wish no happier one than to be laid

benaeth a cool syringa's shade,

or wavy willow, by the running stream,

Brimful of moral, where the dragonfly,

Wanders as careless and content as I."

Wild flora

The wild flora that tenants this watery kingdom are also a delight for the nature lover to observe and study. The spearwort is a wetland member of the buttercup family, and sports large buttercup like flowers. It takes its name from the spear shaped foliage which are arranged in twos and threes. The basal leaves are long stalked and simple { not toothed}. The flowers are borne singly in loose clusters, the flower being 1-2cm wide. The five petals form an open saucer like shape.

BELOW---TOP-The spearwort. Middle--yellow loosestrife.  Bottom-purple loosestrife


Below---top--the green berries of white beam. middle --mimulus flowers. bottom--the foliage of watermint.


Purple and yellow loosestrife--

Purple and yellow loosestrife enhance the margins growing among the grasses and reeds. From a distance the spires produced by the purple loosestrife have a superficial resemblance to those produced by the rosebay willowherb.. However, closer observation will reveal this beautiful plant has salient differences to the former.

The stems are erect and ridged and are capable of reaching the height of 70-150cm. The stems are adorned with foliage that is arranged in wholrs {rings} of three below which are stalk-less but in opposite pairs above. The stem branches towards the top, bearing layers of flowers, themselves arranged in tight whorls of about 6 flowers per whorl. Each flower has five narrow petals. The flowers are about 1.5 cm wide and of a lovely reddish purple colour.

The yellow loosestrife is capable of attaining the same height as the former species and the flower spikes can be equally impressive. This species has its common name suggests have 5 yellow petals which are often tinged with an orangy colour at their bases that form the center of the flower. The lanced shaped foliage are often dotted with black or orange coloured glands and have a bluish-green tinge on the underside. they are arranged in the manner of the former species.

Water mint foliage was in evidence, however, a return journey  would be required  to encounter them in flower. Bullrushe's with their new flower heads stand tall in the margins of the many individual ponds. The green berries of Guelder rose are forming as are those of the whitebeam, both will be bright red by the time autumn steals in dewy footed.

The hazel was also developing her fruits and bramble flowers have given way to the hard green fruits that will darken and will become the nuts familiar to most of us if they are left to mature by the squirrels and jays who like to eat them in this green stage of their development. I spent a couple of more hours in this location and have made a mental note to revisit this site more often to observe the changing seasons and the wildlife has to offer. 

Thank you for visiting.