This week I made my 1st trip to Bennery Viaduct near Ikeston in England. Bennerley Viaduct is a grade 2* listed railway viaduct built in 1877 by the Great Northern Railway Company. The viaduct was in operation for 90 years until 1968 when the national railways were restructed.
From a distance the viaduct looks much the same as it did when the trains stopped crossing in 1968.
Not surprisingly, a closer inspection shows the rails are long gone and the ironwork is in a poor state. On the horizon you can see Cotmanhay.
The viaduct crosses the flood plain for the River Erewash. Running in parallel to the river are two canals and an operational mainline railway.
These pillars which hold up the main platform were clearly designed to last.
The shelter given by the viaduct is now a host to nature which is gradually fighting back and reclaiming the area. Throughout the length of the viaduct there are trees which have established themselves and looking really happy. Unfortunately, the tree on the right has been vandalised with a fire.
There are a number of small ponds at the base of the viaduct. These and the river Erewash support much of the rich wildlife in the area.
Bennerley Viaduct Restoration
For fans of the viaduct The Friends of Bennerley Viaduct are currently restoring the structure so that the public can walk across as a part of the pathway network in the area. However, I can’t help thinking that in the long term nature will win out.
There are always flowers to be found in woodlands. However, the most most spectacular time is from mid-April through to May. The days are longer, the waether is warmer and the insects are more abundant. The flowers have their best chance of seeing the essentail sunlight at this time of year before the tree canopy becomes too thick.
Here is the forest floor with masses of Bluebells and Wood Anemones filling every available space.
These Wood Anemones are the early starters and can be seen from March. By early May the flwoers start to die back and the Bluebells become the dominant flower.
The easiest flower to spot is the Bluebell with its uniques shape and color.
Essential to all pollenating flowers are the insects. It’s always entertaining to watch the bees trying to squeeze their large bodies into the flower head.
Here are some attractive white flowers. Starting with a nettle and followed by Wild Garic. When I see these I also think of the edible forest. Freshly picked young Nettles will make an excellent sauce or soup. Like shop bought garlic, Wild Garlic offers endless posiiblites for enhancing your cooking.
This low growing yellow flower is the Lesser Celandine is another of the first spring woodland flowers and is a member of the buttercup family.
Celandines are mentioned in ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ when Aslan returns and the wood turns from winter to spring: “Edmund saw the ground covered in all directions with little yellow flowers – celandines”.
To finish we have some of the most vibrant flowers. There is the blue Wood Forget-me-not. The pink flower is in fact called a Red Campion. Like the other flowers in this blog they provide vital food for Bees, Butterflies and Moths.
One of the first signs that the spring growth is truely established is the appearance of the Wood Anemones on the wooland floor. They are normally found in ancient woodland such as these in Swithland Wood in Leicestershire in England. Like all flowers they need lots of sunlight so these flowers appear in late March before the leaves get established in the tree canopy above. They are at their best around mid April but the weather can make a difference.
Its seeds are mostly infertile and it spreads slowly through the growth of its roots.
The Wood anemone is named after the Greek wind god, Anemos, who sent his namesakes, the anemones, in early spring to herald his coming. This legend gives the flower its other common name of ‘Windflower’.
Of course the wood anemone is a vital source of early pollen for insects and bees.
After the long winter and as the days start to lengthen the woodland starts to renew with the first signs of new growth. The images here were all captured in Swithland Wood in Leicestershire in the UK. As with all woods it has it’s own unique characteristics. It is recognised as a site of special scientific interest.
Many of the buds on the trees are visisble throughout the winter but the emergence of the new leaves is a joy.
Another early apperance in the woodland are these hazel catkins. They are in fact flowers but without petals.
Of course the mosses seem to thrive thought the winter. A close inspection in spring will show some clesr new growth.
The most noticeable new comers in the spring are the low growing woddland flowers. They are successful at this time of year becuase they don’t have to compete with a heavy tree canopy which block the sunlight. They are also vital in supporting early bees, butterflies and moths. The purple flower is an early dog violet. The yellow flowers are Lesser Celandine.
There is a section of Swithland Wood called Stocking Wood where some species are very prolific. In late March and April the whole floor is covered in these Wood Anemonies.
Another vital element to the ecology of the woodland are the pollen bearing trees. Here is the fabulous Hawthorn Blossom.
My next blog will be when the Bluebells are fully out.
One very good way to spend an hour or two is to explore the many Ancient Oaks in Bradgate Park in closeup. I find the shapes and colours generated by over 500 years of growth totally absorbing. I don’t think any particulrly commentary is required here. I hope you can enjoy the images for what they are.