Nature Between the Fences
*UPDATED 6 APRIL 2022*
As the seasons change, the flora and fauna between the railway's fences adapt to survive, grow or reproduce. Each season this page, written by knowledgeable members of the railway's Lineside Clearance Team, will tell you what nature is up to between our fences.
Lineside Clearance Team Diary - Spring through to Summer 2022
Here in the Northern hemisphere, Spring officially starts either on, or a day either side of my late Mother’s birthday, 21st March. Her joyful singing would brighten up any day, as have done the sight of daffodils and blossom on our cherry and other trees. Who needs to fly to Japan for a blossom festival? Now we can step onto a GWSR train and see it from the carriage windows! Also, some unusually warm days have caused butterflies to be seen on our lineside - Peacock, Brimstone, Tortoiseshell and best of all, a Comma (right). Spring brings colour to our lineside and also growth.
Some areas that we have cleared only two years ago are now a bank of grass rather than the overgrown mass that was there when we started. This is good for wildlife and the travelling public. It suits us, too, as it is much easier to maintain. It also allows us in areas such as embankments, cuttings and the wing walls of Greet tunnel, to examine for rabbit or badger evidence and to ensure our railway earthworks are safe to support or contain the trains passing.
Ash die-back is, and will continue to be, an issue in the UK. Our local ashlings have seemingly not had the memo, so continue to grow with verve. They need trimming before they become large trees, impeding the views. They are also adept at blocking our many drains and culverts – a large quantity of water flows off the Cotswolds and our railway acts as a barrier as the water flows towards the Severn Vale.
Even though the weather can sometimes be cold and wet, lately we have had very enjoyable days working in bright sun and blue skies. As it is bird-nesting season now, work areas are carefully chosen to avoid disturbance. Some birds we would hope to see, but according to Worcestershire Wildlife, swifts and house-martins “were recently added to the UK's Red List for birds, meaning that they've suffered severe declines and require urgent action to help them” and are what one would have thought of as “normally seen”. So look out for these and celebrate (but don’t disturb) them.
At the beginning of April, we spotted at Gretton lots of wild flowers: bugle, buttercup, coltsfoot, cowslip, dandelion, ground ivy, primrose, speedwell, violet, white deadnettle, with the following trees in flower: blackthorn and pussy willow. There's also a wonderful show of primroses in Dixton cutting (see right). Wildlife spotted includes: lots of small bird activity (no nests found), pheasants (male & female) and red kites (two circling each other). Our local deer population isstill thriving and can occasionally be seen even between trains, as they use our track-bed as a pathway, leaping fences with grace and ease.
So, as we move into the growing season, we hope to see more wild flowers thriving where once was just line-side bramble and impenetrable thicket. We accept that even some of the latter is useful to some species, so we are aiming to maintain a balance. Even humble ivy is a bustling, essential habitat for insects of all kinds. We try to maintain a balance.
As Spring progresses to Summer, our train service also comes to life and so please enjoy the wonderful flowers, birds, trees, bushes and all the nature that exists line-side as you ride along on the trains. Please look and enjoy – but you must not trespass between the fences: leave it alone for others to do the same.
If you appreciate what we have done, please mention it to one of the GWSR team. If you have alternative ideas for, or even criticism of, our line-side garden, please also voice these, or better still come and join us!
We hope you enjoy the views of Nature between the Fences.
More terrific lineside photos are available on the page set up by Mike Peers on the image-hosting website, flickr.
Dr Ian S Pogson and Rose Phillips.