Weag's Barn SWT Work Party



Pulling ragwort at Weag's Barn

 Today I was out with a small group of other volunteers for the regular Staffordshire Wildlife Trust work party. I've not been to one of these for a while. In fact, because I've been working on the same days as the regular ones, this is the first work party I've been to this year! Today we were at Weag's Barn, just east of Grindon in the Peak District National Park, heading down into the Manifold Valley. We were here to pull ragwort out of the ground, and leave it in a pile for the farmer to collect for burning or composting a little later in the week.

Weag's Barn is a reserve managed by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. It's a combination of grassland and restored meadow, with access for grazing for the local farmer's cattle. Just under 20 hectares, it extends down to the fourth field shown in the photo above. It's what seems like a very small strip of land at the top of the light green field in the middle of the photo - but it actually goes further downhill and is about the same size of the light green field!

© Image courtesy of Alan Shenton
© Image courtesy of Alan Shenton
Ragwort, with its distinctive daisy-like flowers, grows up to 3 feet tall. Whilst it's great for our native pollinators (which are suffering just in case you hadn't heard...) it's poisonous to cattle. It causes chronic weight loss, diarrhoea and jaundice. It also causes liver disease, which causes fluid to accumulate under the jaw and brisket of affected cattle. When it's in the fields amongst the grass and wildflowers, the cattle are intelligent enough to not eat it. However, it's nearly hay making time and once it's dried and turned into hay for the winter, the cows don't know the difference. Therefore, we had to clear two entire fields of it, and it gets everywhere!

Below is how one of the fields looked before we started. It's not too bad, as the trust had been here for the last few weeks removing the ragwort.

© Image courtesy of Alan Shenton
We saw lots of harebell flowers in the reserve today (a photo of which is below), along with some yellow rattle and lady's bedstraw (which I didn't photograph for some reason!) I also saw a pair of soldier beetles - which are also known as 'bonking beetles' as they are commonly seen in mating pairs! The third photo is of a seven-spot ladybird. These used to be our most common ladybird, but the more aggressive harlequin ladybird is causing numbers to fall as it spreads.

© Image courtesy of Alan Shenton
© Image courtesy of Alan Shenton
© Image courtesy of Alan Shenton
At the end of the day, we met some very friendly lambs on the way back to the trust's vehicle.



I always really enjoy these work party days with other volunteers. It's really nice to meet other like-minded people, to share our collective knowledge and to make a difference to our beautiful countryside.

If you're interested in joining a work-party, you can find more information here: 
http://www.staffs-wildlife.org.uk/volunteer. Information for the work parties is under the conservation volunteering opportunities section. You'll meet some wonderful people, learn a little something, and generally just have a good time!

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