America's famous Route 66 runs east-west between Chicago and Santa Monica, a distance of 2,448 miles. Our, slightly less famous (some would say infamous) A66 also runs east-west, covering the 115 miles between Redcar and Workington but, to get one up on my American friends, ours does traverse the whole country from coast to coast. The main reason for bringing you this week's blog from a lay-by on the A66, is that our Intrepid Local Guide and I have been out buying a bee hive and visiting a garden centre in an attempt to make her garden a bee's paradise. The other reason is simply to chat about roadside verges as a habitat in their own right. Britain's roadside verges cover a land area about the same as the whole of The Lake District National Park. There are over 300,000 miles of them which is more than twelve times the circumference of the Earth. They provide corridors for small mammals such as mice and voles, which is why you often see kestrels like this one hovering over our trunk roads.
This particular verge has a small area of woodland adjoining it, containing a couple of ponds, so let's go and investigate. No frogspawn or tadpoles which is a bit surprising as they seem ideal (apart from their proximity to the road). We do have some Whirligig Beetles which are fascinating insects as they have two pairs of eyes: one pair on top for seeing through air and one pair below for seeing through water. We also have quite a colony of Amber Snails on the Flag Iris leaves and a fair bit of Duckweed on the surface of the water. This is an important plant for waterfowl (such as that Mallard which Jack the Navigator Hound has just flushed) and is also perfectly edible for us humans with more protein than soybeans.
There are a couple of plants in flower around the edges of the ponds. We have some Marsh Marigolds, Caltha palustris, which is poisonous when raw but can be eaten cooked, and some Cowslips, Primula veris, an old, country favourite for making cowslip wine.
Returning to the roadside we have some more winemakers' favourites in a host of golden Dandelions. They are also attracting a lot of pollinators. There's a Ladder-backed Hoverfly to the rear, possibly a Fungus gnat diving into the flower in front of it, and down here at my feet, a Drone Fly of some description. Roadside verges are now the go to places for flowers and their pollinators, as we lost about 97% of our traditional grasslands during the 20th century. Nowadays 45% of UK wildflower species can be found on roadside verges.
And finally, a tiny mushroom has pushed its way up through the grasses and leaflitter and even that has attracted a minute insect. So small, in fact, that I didn't even notice it until I looked at the photograph, and it's not in focus enough to be able to tell you what it is (even with my handy copy of The Quick Guide to Creepy-Crawlies) If you haven't got a copy yet, I do urge you to buy one. It makes such a difference to your nature rambles when you know what you're looking at, and at £14.99 it won't break the bank. Go on, treat yourself!
As usual, theres more stuff throughout the week on my website, Steve's Nature Plus,
All the best
I have put selected pictures up for sale as digital downloads or prints, for both private and commercial use. I shall be concentrating on the pictures which show relationships between organisms (including ourselves) and their environment and interspecies relationships. Gallery.
The Quick Guide to Creepy-Crawlies
All you need to know to identify any type of insect, spider, worm or snail very simply and find out more about it.
Yvonne: This was a gift for a family so that the children can understand what they see on days out. The second was for me. Logical and easy to use. If you know anyone who likes nature you can be confident that gifting this book will give years of pleasure.
The Eggs of Saramova
You can listen to this book for FREE as it is being serialized on the podcast The Author Reads
£7.50 Paperback edition
Not Just For Twisted Women by Steve Daniels
A light-hearted look at life through the eyes of the fairer sex.
Janet: If you are short on time but enjoy reading and are maybe not into long extended novels then Not Just For... Twisted Women provides readers with concise stories that stand alone and most certainly entertain with their ultimate twists. Loved it.
Helen: A very good read! Well written and entertaining!
Margaret: Each quick tale gives a glimpse into a character's life and has an often humorous twist at the end. I would love to read more.
Yvonne: These days many people find it hard to find the time to read a novel, so this book of short stories is ideal to dip into. It is also makes a good gift.
£4.99 Paperback edition
Crete Nature Catch-up
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