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.

Related Stories

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?

Molly Dancing in Moston

Nobody appears to know the origins of the Manchester version of Molly dancing. It seems clear that ‘our’ Molly dancing had no connection to the East Anglian custom where adult males dressed in female garb, performing to earn a few precious pennies when times were hard.

Some two hundred years ago, the word ‘Molly’ was a term used for an effeminate male. Molly houses were popular bawdy establishments where what we now refer to as -‘cross-dressing’ was a feature. Female dress was also used to conceal or disguise males not wishing to be identified, especially when they were engaged in sabotage or intimidation.

In America, the “Molly Malones” were notorious for their brutality but to us, Molly dancing was an innocent way of persuading grown-ups to part with a few coppers.

In my search for the origins of Molly dancing, I used to make a nuisance of myself at every local history class or event I attended. I pestered people to find out whether they had gone out Molly dancing, and what the money they collected was used for.

My researches led me to the conclusion that, wherever it originated, in Manchester, the practice was confined to the old township areas until the newly built council housing took it out to places like Moston. All the people I questioned had families who came from either Ancoats or Collyhurst, with a single mention of it in Chorlton on Medlock.

Adults took no part in organising children’s games or street activities in the 1950s. It was left up to the older girls who played together to instigate Molly dancing and the May Queen each year.May Day and Whitsun required the best dresses; perhaps the proceeds from Molly Dancing helped. Photo provided by Alan Hampson

In our bit of Moston, it was only the girls who took part, but my father assured me he had been an enthusiastic Molly dancer in Harpurhey in the 1920s. We moved to New Moston in 1956, and I was dismayed to discover Molly dancing was unknown to those who lived on the far side of the Broadhurst Fields divide.

April was Molly dancing time, and as far as I recall, we would go out about half a dozen times each year. Our patch was Honister Road, Bordale and Hesford Avenues with a bit of Brantwood Terrace. If we didn’t do too well, we might include Holmfield Avenue and some of Church Lane, providing no other group had done those streets first.

With rouged cheeks and dressed in frocks, hats and anything else our mothers would allow us to borrow, we set out. One of us knocked on a door with an open handbag thrust out in front of her. As soon as we heard footsteps approaching, we went into our routine.

Jigging about on the spot, we sang (to the tune of “London Bridge is falling down”):-

Molly dancers kicking up a row, kicking up a row, kicking up a row,

Molly dancers kicking up a row, my fair lady.

Cheese and bread, the old cow’s head, put it in a lantern,

With a bit for you and a bit for me and a bit for Molly dancers.

(Optional finale – Cross a molly, cross a molly dancers.)

Boys invariably blew their ill-gotten gains in the nearest sweet shop. But apart from one goody-two-shoes who said she gave it to the Red Cross, the money collected by girls was invested in preparations for their May Queen celebrations. I will keep ‘May Day’ until next time…