Monday, 27 April 2009

A Glimpse of the Mersey Valley 50 years Ago - Hilda Broady's Journal

I’m a day late posting Hilda Broady’s entry in her journal for 26th April 1959. The reason for this is that I had an opportunity to visit Barlow Wood today so thought that it would be interesting to compare what’s there today with what was there 50 years ... and one day ago. First, Mrs Broady’s journal entry:

It poured with rain today but I made a very brief visit to see whether any effect had been made on my stream. To my disappointment there was merely a little mud in the lower part of the stream bed, but numerous small flies hovering in this part.
The tree was in leaf half way up the tree, and I now recognise it as Sycamore. The numerous shoots mentioned on my first visit are also Sycamore shoots, many of which are in leaf.

Interestingly (not to mention soggily), it poured with rain on the morning of 27th April 2009 as well – some aspects of our climate don’t change much!

You may remember that Barlow Wood, and Mrs Broady’s plot, is now within the boundaries of Chorlton Golf Club and that there is no public access to it.
A few weeks ago I met Ted Brooks (the bird photographer – see FoCM blog 24.03.09 ). Ted told me that he was a past Captain of Chorlton Golf Club and I mentioned to him my interest in Barlow Wood. Ted suggested that I contact Ian Booth, the Club Secretary, and Mr Booth very kindly allowed me access to the grounds of the Club today.

To be quite honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had seen the wood very briefly about 20 – 25 years ago as the guest of a friend of mine who was, then, a Golf Club member. At that time it had seemed a bit sparse and a bit tired – so I wasn’t prepared for the astonishing transformation! Here was a very healthy looking piece of ancient woodland. There were, as in 1959, many Sycamores (some of them quite old) but also thriving populations of Oak, Hazel, Willow and Birch. Many parts of the woodland floor were carpeted with Bluebells and nearly all of the spring plants that Mrs Broady mentions were present in abundance (plus some that she doesn’t mention). Her stream now drains the Golf Course and is full of water. It seems to me that the whole area is in much better shape now than it was in the 1980s and probably the 1950s.
I think that I may even have identified Mrs Broady’s ‘plot’ – see the photograph above.

I would like to thank Ian Booth for giving me access to the wood and to Ted Brooks for the introductions. I would also like to thank Chorlton Golf Club and their grounds staff for treating Chorlton’s only remaining piece of ancient woodland with such sensitivity. It is through their stewardship that this unique habitat has survived into the 21st century. I’m sure that Hilda Broady would be thrilled!

Oh yes, and if you’re interested in golf (as opposed to my mad enthusiasm for plants!) you can find out more about Chorlton Golf Club at: http://www.chorltoncumhardygolfclub.co.uk/

Dave Bishop, April 2009

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