Ashfields and Half Moon

Rosebay willowherb and goldenrod
Rosebay willowherb and goldenrod

Ashfield signThe Ashfields, between Heath village and the River Calder (OS ref. SE 353 206), were settlement lagoons for the pulverised fuel ash from Wakefield power station which was decommissioned in 1991. In the past thirty or forty years the process of natural succession has transformed them from silty open ground to orchid meadow and then from scrub to woodland.

speckled wood
Speckled wood
A leafy stemmed hawkweed, common valerian, ribbed melilot and hare's-foot clover.
A leafy stemmed hawkweed, common valerian, ribbed melilot and hare’s-foot clover.

Longhorn Beetle

longhornlonghorn beetleTwo longhorn beetles, Stranglia maculata, rest on umbels of hogweed and in a sheltered clearings there are a few speckled wood butterflies but the most common and persistent insect is the mosquito.

Half MoonHalf Moon

bur reed

The Half Moon (SE 358 208) between Heath and Kirkthorpe is a cut-off meander of the Calder. A hundred or more whirligig beetles gyrate in a group on the surface close to the bank. Branched bur-reed grows amongst sweet-flag.

Whirligig beetles
Whirligig beetles

Amber Snail

amber snail
Amber snail, probably Succinea putris.

Amber snails graze on the sweet-flag. These snails are unable to fully retract into their shells. Their lower tentacles are much reduced.

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  1. It is very nice to read about Ashfields. So good to see nature returning to an area that has been depleted or destroyed. The plants, butterfly and beetles are lovely. I wonder why the amber snails have evolved in this way, not being able to retract completely inside their shell. I must read up on them. Thanks for another interesting subject and lovely photos.

    1. The amber snails are halfway house to becoming a slug. Some of their relatives carry just a vestigial shell, like a little hat, so they’ve almost dispensed with it altogether. Photographing them, I thought that the amber snails were quite speedy – for a snail!

    2. I read that habitat destruction has made the amber snails threatened in Great Britain and much worse in Switzerland and Poland. If only nature could be left alone to recover.

    1. It shows the value of a place like the Half Moon, it’s not easily accessible and, as far as I can see, has been left to natural succession.

    2. I’m still on a learning curve with my new camera, an Olympus OM-D E-M10II which is lightweight and, big plus for me, it has 5 way image stabilisation. Ideal for natural history. The Olympus 60 mm 1:2:8 Macro that I bought with it is also taking a lot of getting into. I’m getting good results but I still haven’t quite worked out the ratios that it offers from 1:1, filling the whole sensor, to 1:4 which I guess fits more of the sensor.
      One of the reasons that the camera is lightweight is that it has a smaller sensor than a standard SLR, I think it’s two thirds the size, but there are plenty of pixels in the image, so I can crop in to details.

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