Friday, 5 May 2017

Nature journaling - on a former landfill site!

Almost 10 years ago I had to move from a tranquil spot in the Gloucestershire countryside to live on the outer edge of a city. Culture shock was immediate, traffic, people everywhere - and so much noise! Accustomed to roaming through fields, bluebell filled woodland and past gentle streams,  I felt bereft. Desperate to find green space, I had to explore!

We live on the floodplain of the River Severn. Behind our home appeared to be an area of waste ground, close to the industrial site of Avonmouth, and adjacent to a roaring stretch of the M5 motorway.  I was told the area was a landfill site until 1988! Despite this not being the most appealing idea, my natural nosiness got the better of me.  I followed the decommissioned tarmacked road,  past fly tipped rubbish, and found, to my delight, a wealth of nature. 

This site, (now renamed Saltmarsh Drive Open Space) is indeed, old salt marsh. It's crossed by drainage ditches called rhines (pronounced rheen). Some of these watercourses date back to the medieval period. The Merebank Rhine, is actually a Scheduled Ancient Monument!

A few quick sketches managed this week!

The watercourses, and the scrub land surrounding them are a magnet for wildlife, and the soil of the former landfill site has allowed a unique diversity of plant life to emerge, including  stunning wild orchids.

This is one of the few places in Bristol which is home to the delightful water vole. 'Ratty' from The Wind in the Willows. A common sight in my childhood, spotting one is now rare - and a thrill. Otters have also been observed using the rhines.

Small groups of our shy native roe deer frequent the scrub, and  kingfisher and heron are regular visitors to the waterways. There's a wealth of bird life, ruled over by the resident buzzards, who soar above like miniature golden eagles.

 My journaling has changed  a lot in the last 3 years!

No one visits here much. There is litter from the motorway, and strange items which pop up from the landfill. Dog mess, ignored by careless owners, is a hazard; and tuning out the noise from the busy motorway, (and sometimes off road motor cyclists) is a necessity.

Nature, however, ignores these minor irritations; she goes about her work, making this unlikely spot a very special place indeed.

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