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28 October 2015

Orles Wood, the Bearse

Grid Ref SO573058


We last cleared the ride at Orles Wood in 2006 and it was totally smothered in young trees again! Luckily, the contractors had been along with their chain saws and the tractor to mow down the smaller plants so our job was to remove the debris and burn it off. Around half of Orles Wood is registered ancient woodland, however there is a strong semi-natural character as well as high conservation value.






23 species of butterfly and numerous moths have been recorded throughout the woodlands and the ongoing ride side and coppice cutting programme is helping us to ensure a dynamic woodland suitably good for lepidoptera.






We really need a lichen expert on this!

Is it blue lichen? Is it algae?





Over 3,000 flints dating from the Mesolithic (10,000BC - 4,000BC) to the Bronze Age (2,500BC – 700BC) have been recovered from the very edge of Orles Wood.

Mallards Pike/Moseley Green

Grid Ref SO637088


On the same day a smaller group went out to plant the ground at Moseley Green with Marsh Violets.

In the morning they focussed on planting Marsh Violets that had been specially grown and prepared as these would not keep fresh for long - the growing compost had been washed off to encourage the plants to establish their root system once planted.


The afternoon task was to continue sowing wild flower seed. Work being done in this area should help to provide nectar for a wide range of butterflies including the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary but this species is in severe decline in England. Numbers have dropped in this location over the last five years and it is hoped that additional stock might be reintroduced asap to provide diversity in the gene pool whilst it is still possible to sustain the genetic code of the local specimens. These will have developed local adaptations which could be lost if their numbers drop too low.







These plants are a key food source for the larvae of the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary (Clossiana selene) and were sited in the boggy areas:

A) close to reeds or bracken so that caterpillars would have stems to crawl up/into for overwintering. The larvae of this butterfly overwinter as a caterpillar and hibernate before they are half grown. 

B) in spots where sphagnum moss was growing as Marsh Violets seem to do better where this moss is present ( not sure whether this is an indicator of ideal growing conditions  or a direct relationship between the two species?)


The caterpillars do eat other violets so we also planted Dog Violets on drier banks.

The caterpillars of this species tend to climb leaf stalk and nibble a crescent shaped chunk out of the leaf near to stalk rather than crossing the exposed leaf. However this in itself is not conclusive evidence of their presence as other caterpillars may do similar.






Our butterfly expert showed this to us with dire warning of its potency - and it is growing in abundance at this site!

The seeds on the grass stalk have been colonised by a fungus called Ergot.

Ergot has an interesting history. During the Middle Ages, ergotism, a severe reaction to ergot-contaminated food (such as rye bread), was common and was known as St. Anthony's fire. This illness was often cured by visiting the shrine of St. Anthony, which happened to be in an ergot-free region of France.

Additionally, some historians believe that ergot played a role in the Salem witch hunt of 1692. They think that some women in Salem developed peculiar behaviors and accused other women of being witches as a result of eating ergot-contaminated food.

Despite serious safety concerns, ergot has been used as medicine. Women use it to treat excessive bleeding during menstrual periods, at the start of menopause, and before and after miscarriage. They also use ergot after childbirth to expel the placenta and contract the uterus. Historically, ergot was used to speed up labor, but its use was abandoned when people made a connection between the use of ergot and an increased number of stillbirths.

Certain chemicals in ergot are used in prescription medicines.

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