Nature’s all around us

Wasn’t Easter Weekend fabulous! Glorious sunny seaside weather. Who’d have thought a few days after going for a paddle you’d need a paddle just to get about.

On Friday 26th April I stood in the car park next to the Moston Fairway Nature Reserve wondering what on earth I was doing there. It was bucketing down, blowing a gale and freezing cold.The group, believe it or not there were others, were wellied and sporting water proofs and seemed oblivious to the rain. We huddled around while Martyn Walker, the man in the know about plants, like this guy really knew his ribworts from his ramsons, gave us a bit of history about the reserve. It was once a busy and industrious railway siding but is now transformed into an inner city haven for wildlife.Martyn doing his stuff

Hilary Wood, from the Lancashire Wildlife Trust, thanked us all for turning out on such an inclement afternoon. Then we set off down the path heading for the marsh area of the reserve first.

I should explain why we were there; it wasn’t just for the fresh air. We were taking part in a Global, that’s all the world, City Nature Challenge; competing to make as many observations of nature and find the most species.

To be fair, I’m clueless. I know the difference between a rose and rodent but I can’t remember the names of my fellow humans never mind rare plants.

We’d been asked to download an app onto our mobile phones beforehand. A young lady from the trust helped me out and explained the obvious. Easy – you find a plant, bug, bird, butterfly etc., get close, choose ‘new photo’, aim and click. The app saves the picture, helps match it to a species and pinpoints the location – techno magic!

… and I was off. A dodgy leg (I broke it last year) left me keeping to stable ground so when the group wandered onto the marsh I kept to the path. Two hours flew by, the wind and rain kept coming but we hardly noticed.Moston Fairway Nature Reserve is a naturalist haven.  A mixture of grassland, marsh and woodland, with a diverse range of plant and animal life. It’s unique in Manchester and therefore very special. It forms part of the Moston Brook Corridor; four areas of green space right on our doorstep. Open all year round and free.

At home, my soaking clothes went straight into the washing machine and, hot brew in hand, I got clued up about the City Nature Challenge. This quote from their website sums it up…

There is nature all around us, even in our cities! Knowing what species are in our city and where they are helps us study and protect them, but the ONLY way to do that is by all of us – scientists, land managers, and the community – working together to find and document the nature in our area.

By participating in the City Nature Challenge, not only do you learn more about your local nature, but you can also make your city a better place – for you and other species! 

The challenge takes place over 4 days. I was totally hooked on the iNaturalist app anyway so I carried on taking snaps all weekend and the weather even picked up.My favourite shot…

If you missed the event, don’t worry, you can take part in Lancashire Wildlife’s Trust brand new initiative “My Wild City – reconnecting people and wildlife in Manchester”. Click here for the details and have your say.

Also, feel free to take a look at the iNaturalist webpage for other projects.

Or just take a stroll around Moston Brook Green Corridor, relax and enjoy the space. Up-coming events around the brook can be found on their Facebook friends page.

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A cure for “rose black spot”

I have trialled this over about 2 years and I am convinced it works.

In June 2017 one of my climbing roses was ravaged by ‘black spot’ and it was completely devoid of foliage.

The pundits reckon that the fungus is splashed onto the plant when it rains but I don’t agree. The black spot was on leaves 8 feet up, and I was not convinced that the spores blow about on the wind either. Another climbing rose about 12 feet away was unaffected. I came to the conclusion that the fungus is getting into the plant through the root system.

I make home brew wine and thought that if the “Campden Tablets” stop wild yeast and prevent fungal growth they might stop the black spot. I had nothing to lose by trying out my theory; the rose would have died off anyway.

I cut the rose back to about 3 feet high. Then I dissolved two Campden tablets in a drop of water, put the solution in a gallon watering can and filled it up. I drenched the remaining stems and the soil around the roots. I did this every 3 days to make sure any fungus was not missed. If it rained after I’d watered the rose I did it again – just in case the treatment had been washed away.

After a few days new growth appeared. It looked very healthy, the leaves were lush and there were no signs of any black spot.I then watered it once a week for 6-7 weeks with the solution. Once it was obvious the rose was free of any infection I reduced the treatment to every 2-3 weeks. The rose looked very healthy and seemed to thrive on the Campden tablets. As autumn arrived I stopped.

Around February of 2018 I noticed that moss on the path was starting to sprout which made me think that the black spot might be waking up as well so I mixed the same solution as last year and watered the rose again, treating it roughly every 2-3 weeks.Throughout 2018 the rose remained clear of black spot. I did the same again in February of this year, (2019) and I will keep up the same routine as before. You can see from the pictures the rose looks healthy.

The time period I chose is not scientific. If you try it yourself use your own judgement as to what feels right. Only you can gauge the results on the plant you’re treating.

Campden tablets do not dissolve quickly. Put two tablets in a meat paste jar with about 1 inch of water in the bottom, seal it up and leave for ½ an hour. By then, they will have dissolved and the solution can be poured into the watering can.

Additional tips for rose care:-

Cutting them back will take away a lot of the infected wood so for a season or two they should stay cleaner. Removing fallen leaves promptly to prevent them rotting back into the soil will also help limit the spread and keep black spot at bay.

Try a watering feed that’s high in phosphate, such as Uncle Tom’s rose tonic. Alternating every couple of weeks with an organic seaweed feed should not only boost healthy growth but also keep disease at bay. The seaweed seems to harden up the foliage which drives a lot of fly / aphid activity away, leaving other softer leaf plants as an easier target for them.A healthy rose in full bloom – what’s not to like?

Spring into… Boggart Hole Clough

It wasn’t part of the plan. I was only in the Clough to take few photos and the next thing is I’m fly fishing. Well, learning how to cast. It’s a start!Me and a very patient Danny Williams

The week before I was at the clough for an event attended by Diane Modahl, Olympic runner and winner of a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. I’m a cautious fairweather walker so I started gently on the 2K, then, accidentally, joined the 5K group and I ended up doing a random distance somewhere in the middle. I’m claiming it as a 5K anyway.The sun was out, it was a smashing turn-out with all ages from tots to totterers (aka me) and everything in-between. Runners, joggers, amblers and dog walkers were all welcome.

North Manchester Fitness, who organised the event, meet every Saturday. You can run with Donna, walk with Lorraine or just chat in the cafe. If you’re an early bird, Jason does a sprint session at 7:45am. I’ve never met Jason as I’m never early and don’t ‘sprint’ on principle but I’m sure he’s dashing(?).

Oh yes, back to the fishing. On 30th March the King William IV Angling Society hosted their annual event called ‘Spring into Fishing’. It sort of launches their junior season starting in April.I can do no better than share this information from their website:

King William IV Angling Society as a club hold special events in association with The Angling Trust. We also provide free junior coaching sessions every Saturday mornings from 9:30am-12pm April to the end of September all events are held at Boggart Hole Clough.

Once again the weather was kind. Individuals and families signed in and fishing coaches were on hand to help set up participants along bank and show them what to do.Danny Williams (Angling Trust Development Officer) and Duncan Mottershead (King William IV Angling) set up some fishing rods

The enthusiasm of everyone was contagious so when Danny suggested I give it try, I swapped my camera for a fishing rod in a flash. Bearing in mind my knowledge is limited to watching ‘Mortimer and Whitehouse Gone Fishing’ on the TV, I did my best. It was great fun and I loved it.

What’s better than sitting peacefully on a sunny day listening to water slapping gently to a background of bird-song and the hushed discussions of fellow anglers?A ripple in the water gives way to excitement as a fish is caught, photographed and then released back into the lake

I’d left my husband in the café but he emerged to take the pictures I was supposed to take. His ears pricked up. “Did I hear someone mention sea-fishing? Brilliant! When are they going?”

I think he’s planning something.

For details of all of North Manchester Fitness activities and events check out their website.

To read more about the fishing event at Boggart Hole Clough and the coaches read Danny Williams’ account here.

Information about King William IV Angling Society is on their Facebook page and there’s lots of information on the Get Fishing website too.A happy angler…