The car park at Snipe Dales was almost full just after lunch on Sunday with families picnicking, children playing and in some cases dogs rushing around. We were aghast to see a big group sitting by a barbecue – albeit contained with a ceramic pot. Do people not read warnings of fire risk or even have any common sense? By the time 2.00 pm arrived 17 LWT members were ready to begin our outing. It was good to see new LAG members and to be joined by ladies from other groups. The sun was shining and the paths were quite dry despite the heavy rain that fell on the previous day.
We were very impressed with the knowledge and the gentle presentation skills of Warden James Forrest as he took us up hill and down dale for the next two and a half hours. We learned about the various decisions that had to made before trees could be felled and species replaced together with how many authorities were involved in the control of the felling, cutting, cropping and grazing that went into the process of making this Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust reserve look 'natural'. As well as the Trust, the Lincolnshire County Council, the Forestry Commission and at least two other august bodies could be involved. Even the height of the grass in the rough pasture land was subject to regulation! Thanks to the support of volunteers and school projects many hours had been spent trying to eradicate the invasive Himalayan balsam, clearing paths and sadly picking up dog mess and litter.
The geology of the steep valley that forms the 220-acre Snipe Dales is fretted by chalk streams which have cut through the soft Spilsby Sandstone to the underlying Kimmeridge Clay to give a complex chemical mix to different areas of the soil. This leads to a wide variety of flora that is recorded and carefully controlled. I was fascinated to see that Apple trees had been planted – to attract the bees and other insects - and that the Lincolnshire custom of planting Cherry trees as boundary markers was being followed.
Grants had been received to enable new fencing and paths to be constructed and for a survey of the fauna of the streams to be carried out. The aquatic animals were stunned by a process of electro-fishing. James was delighted to discover the profusion of Brown trout and Bullheads plus a great number of Mayfly and Caddisfly larvae with a wide range of species of other insects and crustaceans. Water vole were identified together with Otter sprint but there was no evidence of the predatory Mink.
James advised us to visit in April to see the Siskins or to join the LWT Dawn Chorus walk in May whilst some of you may be taking your grandchildren to join the 20,000 school children who have great fun at Snipe Dales during the course of the year. They carry out mini-projects and learn 'bush craft' which involves making dens and lighting fires (under strict LWT supervision) to cook food.
A wonderful outing thanks to the time given by our friendly, erudite Warden James Forrester. He, in turn, was impressed by our fitness, knowledge and appropriate footwear! RWW