Since our Louth Area Group (LAG) outing to the Coronation Meadow last year and the Louth U3A trip in June of this year members have responded to Harry Turner's requests for seed harvesting.
On the 6th and 20th of August members, including John and his grandchildren, and Dennis, Avril, Peter, Alan, Catherine and Ray, collected Cowslip and Scabious seeds. We all enjoyed the work and Harry was delighted with the results.
The forecast was dreadful. Luckily we had only a few drops of rain whilst the rest of the county enjoyed Summer downpours. So it was a select band of 13 who benefited from the tour of part of the storm damaged reserve with Warden Kevin Wilson. It was walk, listen and look. We heard and saw how far the 5 December tide had reached and were fascinated to see where the flood water had broken through a 200 year old dune to pour along the road and to form – for a short time - a sea water lagoon. Kevin pointed out a Red-banded sand wasp that lays its eggs in a moth caterpillar where they develop as the host dies. We saw Yellow wagtails and Linnets flitting over. There were Cinnabar moths on the Ragwort and the ground hugging brambles were in fact Dewberries. Essex skipper, Gatekeeper and Ringlet butterflies were sucking up nectar in profusion. Over the dunes a Marsh harrier was being mobbed by Meadow pipits – it did not seem to take any notice of them as it flew majestically out to sea.
It was not until we reached a stand of sycamore trees, looking sad after a salt water soaking, that have been left to thrive in contradiction to most reserves where sycamores are removed, that Kevin was asked what he had been doing on the time of the flood. Quite unassumingly he told us that by night he was constantly assessing the water levels and warning local residents of the imminent dangers. By daybreak – sleep was a couple of hours - he had been up to his chest in water probing with his feet to find sluice gate controls to ease the flow of water.
There was a lot of property damage at Gibraltar Point. The Visitors' Centre and accommodation block were made uninhabitable which had a direct impact to the reserve. No place for full time volunteers to reside and the possible loss of employment for the canteen staff. No services for visitors or teaching groups with a loss of revenue from the café and shop and no hay crop from the meadows. The various article in Lapwings chronicle in detail the changes that have come about since that night. The long term plan is to manage this changed habitat and to make the location safe and welcoming for visitors by replacing board walks and by installing more substantial toilets and a shop to replace the temporary Portaloos and refreshment wagon.
As somebody who has always been interested in the zonation of the seashore and the development of salt marsh from beach to sand dune I was very excited when we reached the area to the north of the Fenland Lagoon. Here the sea had broken through from the lagoon and had scoured a pathway through a wild flower meadow. Well, it was a wildflower meadow last summer!Now it is covered with the bright green Sea club rush and in the salt water path there are the classic salt marsh colonising plants of Common orache, Glasswort (our old friend Samfer), Sea purslane, Annual sea blite and Scurvy grass. From the location of the plants the seeds must have come with the tide rather than having laid dormant in the meadow which would have been salt marsh many years ago.
The verges still had colour from Knapweed, Wild carrot, Bartsia, Betony and Bird's foot trefoil. The Yellow rattle had lost its yellow but was rattling well in the breeze. We 'hide-hopped' back to the car park. The lagoons that are overlooked by the hides on the West side of the road were unaffected by the flood and as ever were supporting loads of ducks, waders and noisy Black-headed gulls. The Black-tailed godwits looked handsome in their chestnut Summer plumage, the Avocets were dainty whilst a young Great crested grebe looked rather lost on an island on the mud. Turtle doves used to be common in this country and are now quite rare – but we saw and heard one sitting on the top of a Hawthorne bush twenty metres from the road.
We finished off our outing with a rustic picnic under threatening clouds.