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Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Fauna and flora of Cheshire

In 1900, Thomas Coward described the county of Cheshire in his book Birds of Cheshire (Ref: 011889) as consisting of three distinct areas; The Central Plain, The Hill Country of the East, and the Wirral Peninsula and Marshes of the Dee, all varying greatly in character, and providing maritime habitats for wildlife as well as a farmed landscape. The county has changed much in the century since Coward wrote his work. This blog uses items from our collections to explore the fauna and flora of Cheshire, both past and present.

Like many other areas of the United Kingdom, local names for wildlife developed in Cheshire, including an “urchin” (hedgehog), a “mouldywarp” (mole), “spadgers” (house sparrows) and a “gil-hooter” (owl). What animals do you think the below are local words for?! Answers can be found at the bottom of the blog post! Many more local names for wildlife can be found in Vertebrate fauna of Cheshire and Reptiles and amphibians, both by T. Coward (Ref: 011896).

1. Snig

2. Rabbidge

3. Tummuz

4. Windhover

5. Dabchick


Cheshire is linked with several renowned naturalists. Charles Tunnicliffe (1901-1979) was an artist of natural history, born in Macclesfield. He illustrated Henry Williamson’s Tarka the Otter (see Ref: 112994), as well as Ladybird books and Brooke Bond tea cards, specialising in British birds and wildlife. A collection of his work can be found at Macclesfield Library. He also illustrated books by his friend “Nomad the Naturalist”, the alias of another local naturalist, Norman Ellison.

Ellison was born in Liverpool in 1893, and worked as a radio presenter and author, making programmes about nature and the countryside. His uncle, George Ellison, was also a local naturalist. “Nomad” wrote A Naturalist’s Notebook column for Cheshire Life magazine between the 1940s and 1970s.

 
In The Wirral Peninsula (Ref: 010568), originally published in 1955, Ellison embarks upon walks in the area, from Parkgate to Neston, describing the marshy grassland on the other side of the sea wall, looking out towards Wales. He describes the marsh as treacherous, with deep gullies and clinging mud. He also records wildlife he sees on a walk around the gardens at Ness; willow warblers, a great spotted woodpecker, martins and swallows, and a badger sett.


Ness Gardens was established by the Liverpool Cotton Broker and keen naturalist Arthur Kilpin Bulley in 1898. Bulley was interested in the “acclimatisation” of plants from abroad and opened his gardens to the public. A. K. Bulley died in 1942, and in 1948 his daughter presented the whole estate to the University of Liverpool, to be kept as a botanic garden, with the condition that public openings of the grounds continued.

Our next local naturalist to introduce to you is George Bramwell Evens (1884-1943), also known as “Romany”, who lived for a time in Wilmslow. He was a radio broadcaster and naturalist, writing on nature and the countryside, producing many Out with Romany programmes. His first book A Romany in the Fields was published in 1929 (see Ref: 401720, held at Willmslow Library along with several other items of his work).


And finally, we also hold the records of Arnold Whitworth Boyd (1885-1959) at Cheshire Record Office (Ref: D 5154), an ornithologist and naturalist born in Altrincham. Like Ellison, A. W. Boyd also wrote wildlife columns, including for the Manchester Guardian. A reprint of Boyd’s weekly nature notes from this newspaper can be found in The Country Diary of a Cheshire Man (Ref: 200208), published in 1946.

If you feel inspired by our Cheshire naturalists and some of the wildlife mentioned here, Cheshire is a fantastic county to explore, with many popular walking trails, including the Sandstone Trail and the North Cheshire Way.

The Sandstone Trail


The Sandstone Trail explores 55km (34 miles) of Cheshire’s central sandstone ridge from Frodsham to Whitchurch. The highest point is Rawhead, near Bickerton in central Cheshire, rising 227m (746 feet) above sea level. It is one of the earliest middle-distance ways in Britain and was conceived by the Cheshire County Council in the 1970s, officially opening in 1974. Along the way you may see peregrines, which have returned to nesting in Cheshire. Look out for mature deciduous woodland across the Peckforton and Bulkeley Hills. The marshland around Frodsham provides habitats for wildfowl such as teals, shelducks, redshanks and dunlins. The woodland paths of the trail are lined with wildflowers such as celandines, wood anemones and bluebells in spring and early summer. Delamere Forest is an ideal place for fungal forays during the autumn. The steep, wooded Peckforton Hills are home to a range of mammals and birds, with buzzards, ravens and sparrowhawks 
nesting in the woods, and an increasing number of polecats.


See
Walking Cheshire’s Sandstone Trail by Tony Bowerman (Ref: 222267) to learn more about this route and the wildlife which can be found along it.

The North Cheshire Way

The North Cheshire Way is Cheshire’s longest long-distance footpath, running for 114km (71 miles) from Hooton Station to Disley Station, crossing the county from west to east. On the way you might see “herb Peters” (cowslips) or “paigles” (primroses).



For further information, see The North Cheshire Way, a slice of Cheshire (Ref: 219999), published by the Mid-Cheshire Footpath Society.

Whilst walking, keep an eye out for the following fauna and flora common to Cheshire: 

  • Butterflies, such as the holly blue, red admiral and orange tips.
  • Mammals, including common pipistrelle bats, hedgehogs and red foxes.
  • Trees, including English oaks and holly.
  • Wildflowers, such as bluebells in spring, wild garlic, and the common poppy.
  • Reptiles and amphibians. Look out for adders, common toads and common frogs. Locally tadpoles of the common frog have been known as “bull-heads”.
  • Birds such as robins and tiny wrens. We love this quote from Coward in Birds of Cheshire (Ref: 011889): “Mr. F. S. Graves saw a [wren’s] nest at Capesthorne in the spring of 1899, built in the head of a Brussels-sprout”! Coward also reports on a swallow, one of our migratory birds, seen flying in Delamere, completely white in colour.


ANSWERS: 1. Eel, 2. Rabbit, 3. Toad, 4. Kestrel, 5. Moorhen

View more images of Cheshire’s landscape online at www.cheshireimagebank.org.uk

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