Hay Meadow Survey (Saturday 27th May, 10am)

Graeme Skelcher will do the first survey of the Hay Meadow at 10am on Saturday 27th May.

Volunteers are welcome to join him, including accompanied children. Meet on the Fauna path at the gates into the Hay Meadow, just by the corner of Carr House Meadow at the Cromwell Rd end.


Flax Seal

Ruth referred to the flax bale seal found on the Flora Fields in her talk at the Storey ( slides and podcasts available shortly). She has discovered that there is reference to flax processing on Aldcliffe Lane, now Aldcliffe Rd. Joy Greenwood who was at the lecture has dug deeper with the following result:

Raw flax had to be retted, that is soaked in slow-moving water for about a fortnight after which it was raked out and put on banks to dry before heckling – releasing the fibres ready for spinning.Mary Higham ( History of Linen in the North West) describes a system used in the Ribble valley in 1765 consisting of a series of pools fed by a small stream. Could this have been used in Lancaster?

Later in the book, Margaret Robinson, talking about the flax trade, mentions imports from Baltic states and St.Petersburg to Lancaster in the 1700s as local production of the crop could not meet demand. She says that by 1750 there were flaxdressers in Lancaster, preparing it for the spinners. She quotes a Robert Green of Lancaster as an excellent example of a flaxman at that time. (If I remember rightly it was a ‘Green’ who owned the land alongside Aldcliffe Lane – any connection?)

On the 1840 (and 1890) map there is a Queens Mill shown on Aldclife Lane, probably where B & Q is now. On the strip fields to the east of this there is a path, shown in 1840, passing north to south through woodland. On the 1890 map I think this is labelled ‘rope walk’, and flax (and hemp) were used for ropes.
> Today this is approx. Blades Street.

According to Mary Higham, the linen industry sites are often associated with place names containing ‘lin’ , old english for flax. Just north of Queens Mill, on the 1890s map there is Lindow Street/Lindow Square – is this a coincidence – the rope walk’s northerly end is almost in a line with these?

Can anyone add to this?

June Nature Notes

The fine sunny days this month have seen the insects and bees busily visiting flowers collecting pollen and nectar. On a warm evening as dusk approaches have a look at the perfumed honeysuckle. You may spot a moth or two.

Bumble Bees
Bees are not as common as they once where in our gardens and countryside. Fortunately, places such as our nature reserve provide food and a safe habitat for them. It may be just an old wives tale but the word ‘bumble’ is thought to describe their erratic flight as they stagger from flower to flower with their ‘shopping’ baskets full of pollen. Take a little time to watch them, as they sometimes struggle to take flight.


Bees are superbly adapted for collecting pollen. One pair of legs have baskets in which to put the pollen, a second has a comb with which to brush the pollen off their bodies and transfer it to the basket. On the third pair of legs is a hook, presumably used to scrape the pollen out of the basket when they arrive home! There are several species of bumble bee, some social and others solitary. Visit the website of the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust for more information and downloadable identification charts:
Bumblebee Conservation Trust

June Bug
And talking of bumbling, You may have had one of these bump into you as you walk or cycle along on a warm evening! Its flight is very erratic and it often flys into doors and windows!
Also known as a May bug the Common cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha) emerges in early May having spent up to three years underground as larva and pupa. This shiny brown beetle is about 4 cm long and easily recognised by its long feathery antennae.

Last week I observed a robin trying without success to get one into its beak. It did of course give up and go off in search of a meal of more manageable size!

Tony Finn

Beaver Scout Visit

Our local 13th Beavers visited the Fairfield Nature Reserve on the weekend of 8/9th June. The group were overnight ‘camping’ in their HQ and came to visit on Saturday afternoon and again on the Sunday. Surprisingly, they were still full of beans on this morning after their night’s camp!

The weather was warm and sunny and just ideal for spotting lots of wildlife.


On Saturday the Beavers went on a sensory exploration of the reserve looking for textures, shapes and colours. This was followed by a well deserved cool drink and snack.

The children then set about a technology task in which they had to find their own way around the orchard using iPods and QR-codes, part of activities needed to complete their IT badge.

The afternoon finished with a wildlife game and another IT activity, before tired little Beavers left for their HQ and a fish and chip supper. Yummy!

On Sunday morning, using binoculars provided by the Fairfield Association, the group went birdwatching around the reserve. Lots of birds to be seen. After looking at some old bird nests, the morning at the Orchard finished with an active ‘bird’ game. The Beavers then took part in follow-up IT activities at their Scout Hut, using photos and videos they had taken in the Orchard to create their own PowerPoint presentations.

A very busy 24 hours, happy Beavers and badges earned!

Tony Finn

May Nature Notes

Hedgerow Flowers
The last two weeks has seen the appearance of our hedgerow flowers, several of them already mentioned in other blogs. It may just be my own perception of this but there seem to be more of them appearing in new places following the hedge cutting.
Blooming May
An English hedgerow would not be complete without the snowy white scented May blossom of the Hawthorn. The blossom attracts many insects and the tree itself provides a habitat for many animals; nesting birds, spiders and other invertebrates on the leaves and in its furrowed bark.
The young leaves have a slightly nutty taste. When I was a child we knew them has ‘bread and cheese’. No idea why!
Hawthorn Mythology
Hawthorn trees can live for many years, some are hundreds of years old. So it is no surprise that the ancient hawthorn features in centuries of myth and legend.
Fairies are said to live in and around them. Anyone falling asleep under the hawthorn tree could find themselves carried away by the fairy people.
Have you ever wondered why one sometimes sees one or two isolated gnarled and windswept hawthorn trees in a field or on a hillside? These ‘lone trees’ are the fairy trees. Cut one down at your peril!
Britain’s most famous hawthorn is the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury. Legend tells of how Joseph of Arimathea arrived at a hill overlooking Glastonbury Tor with a few disciples and two sacred vessels containing the blood and sweat of Jesus. Where he thrust his staff into the ground it sprouted and grew into a thorn tree. Though the original is obviously not there any more, one of its supposed descendants does still stand on the hill.
May blossom featured in early May festivals. Before the calendar changes of the C18 it would have been in flower earlier in the month.
Marsh Marigolds
In the marshy area near the middle entrance to the Orchard is a wonderful display of yellow marsh marigolds. Quite an abundance following the cutting back of the dogwood earlier this year.
Help with identification
Don’t forget, the Association has a selection of ID charts (birds, insects, trees etc) which you are welcome to borrow.

April Nature Notes

After the unusually cold weather in March, we are still waiting for its wildlife to appear! A solitary Brimstone butterfly was spotted in the sunshine last Saturday morning. The few days of relatively warmer weather have encouraged the appearance of some tentative leaf growth. So optimistically, here are a few things that may be seen in the coming weeks:

Spring Flowers and Blossom
The delicate white flowered wood anemone and the first blossom of the year, the buckthorn and blackthorn should be making an appearance this month. The celendines are now beginning to appear.

Summer Visitors
As you will see from our blog entries the summer migrants are beginning to arrive. For many people the first swallows are signs of summer to come. As you enjoy their aerobatics as they swoop across the meadows, it is sad to think that only 1 in 4 of their chicks will make the journey to S Africa and back again for next year.

Already here too is one of the first arrivals, the little chiff chaff having made its long journey from West Africa. It is often to be seen and heard in a morning or evening in the tree tops at the north end of the Orchard. And yes, its very recognisable call is a repeated ‘chiff chaff’! For me, the melodic down the scale song of the willow warbler heralds the arrival of spring as it sits at the top of one of the tall trees.

Frogs, toads and newts are coming out from their winter inactivity and searching for suitable ponds in which to lay their eggs. Young frogs and toads are called tadpoles. Of course you know that but did you know that baby newts are called newtlets!

Spring is on its way!

Hazel Catkins

Hazel Catkins

Time to get Wildlife spotting. Let us know what you see around the Fairfield Orchard and FAUNA Nature Reserve.  Remember – wildlife is both animals and plants!

Keep your eyes open for the first hazel catkins and spring flowers …

Have a look on the Wildlife Blog to see what other people have been spotting around the Orchard and FAUNA …