Wild Spies

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If you go down to the Turnpike Fields one day, you're be in for a big surprise. No, it's not bears, but people peering intently on the ground, or up a tree or into the water.

The AWEG Spies

They will be part of our team spies — AWEG (Audlem Wildlife and Ecology Group) members recording the species of plant, bird, insect and animal that they see in a walk around the fields. This is part of an extended survey that is being undertaken to understand and appreciate the wealth of nature present in the fields. Now that we can get round the fields without sinking in the mud, we are beginning to discover what a rich and varied natural habitats the fields contain. Field edges, open pasture, stream banks and ponds, floating bog and spoil mound all are proving home for a variety of plants and creatures.

Within a few weeks of beginning our wild spying we have recorded over 30 different species of flowering plants. Casual looking will just see common flowers like Buttercup but there are in fact three variety of Buttercups in the field. The little blue Speedwell are present in at least two varieties.

Then if you venture onto the mound in the middle of the upper field you will find some surprising occupants who have gone wild from domestic gardens. See the patch of Dame's Violets — some white, some pink and the chirpy cheeky-faced purple viola, the blue flowered Green Alkanets, and a member of the poppy family, Greater Celandine.

Wander down to the new pond and you will see that it already has water beetles and water boatmen skimming about with the first water plants emerging. Along the stream bank Red Campion abound together with White Dead Nettles. Crossing the stream and venturing through the grass alongside the stream, watching out for Common Frogs hopping through the grass, the sorry sight of newly sprouting Himalayian Balsaam is in much evidence while our native Ramson (otherwise known as Wild Garlic) and Lady's Smock (otherwise known as Cuckooflower) compete for ground and air. Continuing to the bottom of the field sharp eyes will notice yellow flowered Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) and the delicate white flowers with a purple tinge of Large Bittercress. Looking across to the floating Bog, the mass array of Marsh Marigolds are still singing with brightness. With luck you may see also dragonflies.

If you still have the legs walk up the field towards the canal and look our for little white headed flowers of Pignut. I am told that the roots of these plants, of the carrot family, are edible and digging for these 'nuts' was once a popular pastime among children — though never eat wild plants unless you really know which one you're choosing, as some are poisonous!

I'm now exhausted so home for a cuppa, wondering what I will I-spy next time I go down to Turnpike Fields. It's bound to be a big surprise!