Thursday, 29 October 2009

Book Review

‘Call Back Yesterday: Northenden Remembered’ by Winifred A. Garner, pub. Neil Richardson, 2nd Edition 2002 (ISBN: 1-85216-147-7), 67pp, £5.75

I found this book in a newsagent’s shop, in Northenden, a few weeks ago. It’s a volume in Neil Richardson’s extensive series on local history. It was first published in 1986 and re-published in 2002. I confess that I bought it for the illustrations, but on reading the text I found it very interesting and affecting.

It is an autobiographical account of a young girl growing up in the Mersey Valley village of Northenden, between the First and Second World Wars. Winifred A. Garner née Payne was born in 1910 and died in 1992. In her book she outlines the lives of her parents and grandparents and then describes her childhood, teenage years and early twenties. The account ends with the birth of her daughter in 1935, two years after she and her new husband had moved into a (then) new house in Baguley. In a sense this is recent history – but it’s already a time that is rapidly passing out of living memory.

The first section of her book describes social relationships which would be inconceivable today. Winifred’s maternal grandfather secured himself a position as coachman-handyman with a well-off Northenden family. One of the daughters of the well-off family married a rich Manchester businessman. When the businessman’s family moved to Marple they took Winifred’s grandfather’s family with them and provided them with a cottage. Winifred’s mother, Deborah, worked as a ‘between-maid’ for the rich family and they paid her medical bills when she fell ill and advanced her education by allowing her to read all the books in their house. Later Deborah secured herself another position, with another well-off family, and this relationship seems to have been equally paternalistic.
Of course, paternalism was probably not always as idyllic as the above account suggests. In fact, at one point Deborah found herself working for a “very bad-tempered lady” – and soon left that employment. In addition, for every working class family who secured themselves a position with rich paternalists, there must have been hundreds who didn’t. But I believe that, when reading accounts such as this, one should be careful not to criticise the past by the standards of the present. By the time that Winifred came of working age these paternalistic relationships had largely broken down, and rather than go into service like her mother, she worked for a number of commercial enterprises in Manchester and Northenden.

Winifred seems to have had a very happy childhood and obviously grew up in the bosom of a very loving family. Both her father and uncle saw service in the First World War – but both returned safely. Winifred recalled spending a weekend sitting outside the Post Office waiting for her father to alight from a bus. Unfortunately, he actually returned on the following Monday afternoon, while she was at school.

Winifred tells us that in her childhood most children were expected to run errands for their parents and other adults. She seems to have relished this aspect of her life – and, if nothing else, it was probably very good for her socialisation. Writing about these errands gives Winifred the opportunity to describe various Northenden shopkeepers and tradesmen and their various wares, services, foibles and eccentricities.
Northenden, like most communities, seems to have had its fair share of eccentrics. One of these was old Tim Bardsley who would sit outside his terraced house in Church Road and wave his walking stick at passing (errand running) children and shout, “I’ll have you!” Winifred imagines him chuckling to himself at the memory of the children’s “scared faces and scurrying legs”. Another was the village constable, PC Scragg, who invited himself to a family party and left with his helmet on back to front!

Through the media of local folklore and events Winifred was also aware of a darker side to life. Eight years before her birth a seventy year old butler shot and killed his ex-employer and was himself shot dead by a policeman. By the time of Winifred’s childhood this murder had attained a prominent place in local legend. Another gruesome murder occurred in the 1920s.A 14 year old lad was abducted from Manchester and stabbed to death in a local wood. She also tells us that people often drowned in the highly polluted* river Mersey: children playing, rowing accidents and suicides. Bodies tended to be recovered from the Cheshire side of the river because the authorities on that side paid more for recovery than those on the Lancashire side!

Winifred witnessed the transformation of Northenden from a rather pretty, rural village to a Manchester suburb and in reading her book we witness her own transformation from a country girl to a rather fashionable young woman who obviously revelled in all the cultural delights that a big city, like Manchester in the 1920s, had to offer.

Sadly, time has not been too kind to Northenden. The major changes began in the late 1920s/early1930s when the neighbouring Wythenshawe estate was purchased from the Simon family by Manchester Corporation and developed into the vast housing estate that we know today (a transformation which Winifred and her family benefited from, of course). Because Winifred’s book ends in 1935 we learn nothing of subsequent changes: the rather brutalist town planning of the latter half of the 20th century, the motorway building which has left Northenden an island surrounded by roads and the river, and the laissez-faire developments of the last couple of decades which have relentlessly filled in many of its remaining open spaces. Still, in a few spots (Ford Lane, Boat Lane, St. Wilfrid’s Church and churchyard) we can still catch a glimpse of the village that Winifred knew and loved.

This is a delightful book, written in straightforward and eloquent prose; highly recommended to anyone with an interest in social history, local history or the Mersey Valley.
You can obtain a copy of this book by sending a SAE to Neil Richardson, 88 Ringley Road, Stoneclough, Radcliffe M26 1ET. I also note that you can buy all of Neil Richardson’s books via the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society website (http://www.mlfhs.org.uk/).

Dave Bishop, October 2009

* Earlier this year, on a walk from Northenden to Didsbury, I was amazed to see huge shoals of small fish (gudgeon?) in the river all the way from the Tatton Arms to Simon’s Bridge. Obviously the river is much, much less polluted now than it was in Winifred’s day. This has to be a very definite improvement!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Michaelmas Daisies

Last week I went for one of my regular rambles. I headed along the river bank towards Urmston, then into Urmston itself for lunch. Because of the lateness of the season it wasn’t a particularly exciting walk, from a botanical point of view, but it was relaxing and peaceful and the weather was good.

I walked home again by following a rather obscure path along the northern edge of the old Stretford tip. There is a dense tangle of willow scrub in this area and the path is very muddy underfoot. About half way along the path I suddenly came upon sheaves of a tall plant with reddish stems and small, whitish daisy flowers. I recognised this plant as a Michaelmas Daisy (Aster sp.). After consulting my Field Guide (ref. 1) I decided that it was Narrow-leaved Michaelmas Daisy (Aster lanceolatus). This is just one of at least six Michaelmas Daisy species and hybrids which are naturalised aliens in the UK, but are originally native to North America. In that continent A. lanceolatus grows in: “Moist soil in New Brunswick to W. Ontario and Montana, S. to New Jersey, Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana and Missouri (ref. 2).”

There are around 250 species in the genus Aster, many of them North American. We only have two native species in Britain: Sea Aster (A. tripolium) which is, as the common name suggests, a seaside plant, and Goldilocks Aster (A. linosyris) which is a very rare plant of limestone cliffs of western England and Wales.

Two other of the naturalised North American plants that I have found in the Mersey Valley are: Confused Michaelmas Daisy (A. novi-belgii) and Common Michaelmas Daisy (Aster x salignus - which is the hybrid between A. novi-belgii and A. lanceolatus). The name “Confused Michaelmas Daisy” always makes me laugh – but it should be noted that North American botanists tend to use the more dignified name, “New York Aster” (“novi-belgii” = “new Belgium” - which was an early name for New York). I state, with seeming confidence, that I have found these taxa but they can be difficult to identify and can form complex hybrid swarms – so I don’t actually feel 100% confident in my identifications.

Another American species that is naturalised in Britain, but which I haven’t found in the Mersey Valley yet, is Hairy Michaelmas Daisy (A. novae-angliae). Again, North American botanists use a more dignified name, “New England Aster” – which is, of course, merely the English translation of the scientific name. The following passage from the American gardener, Hal Bruce serves to demonstrate the impact that Asters, and related plants, make in the autumn landscapes of eastern North America (ref. 3):

“Until I took a trip by auto to Toledo, Ohio, in late September, I thought I lived in New England Aster country, but on the coast I have never seen the species in the abundance with which it grows from Pittsburgh west. Meadows, banks, roadsides wet and dry along the Pennsylvania and Ohio turnpikes, were bright, whole fields as purple and gold as Byron’s Assyrian hosts with this aster and various goldenrods.”

Aster novi-belgii was introduced into Britain in 1710 (ref. 4). The name ‘Michaelmas Daisy’ refers to the fact that the plant is in flower on the Feast of St. Michael (29th September). It is thought that this name was probably coined after 1752 following the change to the Gregorian calendar. I am guessing that the other Aster species were probably introduced somewhat later.
Cottage gardeners loved to grow A. novi-belgii with Chrysanthemums (ref. 5) but as every serious gardener knows Michaelmas Daisies (at least the ‘old-fashioned’ kinds) can be invasive and prone to mildew – so many must have been thrown out over the years.

A. novi-belgii and other Michaelmas Daisies are now well established on waste ground, roadsides and railway embankments everywhere, along with their American relatives, the Golden-rods (Solidago spp.).

Interestingly, they are rarely condemned as being invasive aliens - but that’s probably because they flower late in the season, when not much else is in flower, and they also represent an excellent late source of nectar for butterflies and other insects. I’ve often wondered if Michaelmas Daisies and Golden-rods have, in some sense, ‘slotted back’ into similar niches to those that they once occupied (not man-made ones, of course). Perhaps before the last Ice Age we had more species of Aster and Solidago in these islands but they failed to return before the North Sea/English Channel opened up ... but that’s just speculation at present.

Dave Bishop, October 2009


1. ‘Wild Flowers of Britain & Ireland’ by Marjorie Blamey, Richard Fitter and Alastair Fitter, A & C Black, 2003.

2. ‘The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Asters’ by Paul Picton, David & Charles, 1999.

3. ‘How To Grow Wildflowers And Wild Shrubs And Trees In Your Garden’ by Hal Bruce, Alfred A. Knopf, 1976.

4. ‘The Origins of Garden Plants’ by John Fisher, Constable, 1982.

5. ‘The Cottage Garden: Margery Fish At Lambrook Manor’ by Susan Chivers and Suzanne Woloszynska, John Murray, 1990.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Harlequin Ladybirds by Polly McEldowney

The word 'Harlequin' sounds innocuous enough, conjuring up images of a diamond-clad theatrical clown. But the Wikipedia entry reveals the character may have been originally based on a more sinister figure from medieval French passion plays. 'Hellequin, a black-faced emissary of the devil, is said to have roamed the countryside with a group of demons chasing the damned souls of evil people to Hell. The physical appearance of Hellequin offers an explanation for the traditional colours of Harlequin's mask (red and black).'

A slightly less frightening new visitor to Chorlton is the Harlequin ladybird, but it is not without negative connotations of its own. Harmonia axyridis is a new species to the UK, having arrived in the South of England in 2004 and rapidly spread across the country. I have seen it in Manchester for the first time this autumn, and it is quite possible you have too, as it has made a rather dramatic entrance. It is much bigger than most of the other 25 species of ladybird native to the UK, and is rarely seen alone, sometimes aggregating in groups of thousands or even tens of thousands. There have been scenes around Chorlton recently that are reminiscent of the summer of 1976, when unusually hot weather led to an explosion in the population of the 7 spot ladybird, Adalia 7-punctata. A brief stroll round my back garden has just revealed a cluster of 30 on a green surface. The harlequin ladybird's success arises partly from having a longer breeding season than other ladybirds, such as the 7 spot which has only one generation a year. But the harlequin will continue to breed as long as it is warm enough and there is food available, having two or more generations a year. I've spotted harlequin larvae in my garden this week, and it's nearly the end of October. Most other ladybirds will have sought out places to hibernate by now. Another huge advantage is that it is more of a generalist feeder than other ladybirds, which tend to stick to aphids as a food source. The harlequin is a highly effective aphid predator but can also broaden its diet when aphids are scarce, eating the eggs and larvae of other species, including butterflies and other ladybirds. It will even suck the juice from soft fruit.

So, outcompeted and outnumbered, our hitherto common species of native ladybird could be in big trouble. Is there anything we can do? The best thing for now is probably just to monitor sightings on the UK harlequin ladybird survey website. Identification isn't straightforward as there are over 100 colour patterns of the harlequin ladybird. They can have black spots on a red background, or red spots on a black background. The main giveaways are the size (6- 8mm) and the fact that they're wandering round in October. Another common characteristic is an M-shaped mark on the pronotum (the back of the head). Be careful when getting close to them though; they have a defence mechanism where they exude a toxic chemical, 'reflex blood', which can be quite painful to humans. This creature is best admired from a distance!

Polly McEldowney, October 2009

I learned that Polly had an interest in this subject last week and asked her if she would consider contributing an article to the blog. She tells me that she "finally cracked" when she found a Harlequin Ladybird in her hairbrush! - Ed.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Walking the Old Road by Andrew Simpson

The old road must be as old as the township. It ran from Hardy Lane past farms and cottages, cutting through the village before heading off across the flat lands beside the Mersey and onto Stretford. It may always have been a dark and slightly mysterious place.

Any one starting out along the road as it left the village would have to pass Sally’s Pond. The spot is secluded and just to one side of the track. It is easy to feel that something is not quite right about the place. On a wet autumn afternoon with the light fading and the leaves heavy with rainwater you begin to feel very alone. But landscapes change and Sally’s pond was not always shrouded in undergrowth. For most of its existence it was just an open space, a stretch of water more than likely created by farmers hollowing out the clay which then filled with water. Its end was no less mysterious. Sometime in the late 60s it had become a dumping ground for old bikes prams and the odd milk crate and was filled in. The hollow can still be seen through the trees just beyond the stumps. And the stumps themselves have passed into folk memory. My friend Tony and Oliver the son of Bailey the farmer remember freewheeling down to those very stumps on warm summer days and of the time one lad miscalculated and took his bike and body into the stump.

The old road has had many names. Before it arrived at the edge of the church yard it was called Brookburn, beyond the Green it took several more names before becoming Ivy Green and then as it passed out of the village settled on Hawthorn or Back Lane.

Not much moves along it today, but in the past it would have busy. Old farmer Higginbotham will have used it to drive his cattle home to his farm on the Green. Farm wagons would have trundled in the opposite direction on their way to the Canal to offload their produce on the barges heading for the Manchester markets and perhaps collecting a portion of night soil emptied the day before from the city’s privies.
A sight guaranteed to offend the more delicate wealthier villagers who chose the same route to pick up the Dukes fast packet boats. These were still until the 1840s the marvel of the age. Fast and comfortable our passengers could be in the heart of Manchester in just under half an hour.
The walk would also take us past the stone weir built to guard the Duke’s canal against the threat of being swept away by the sudden flash floods which burst the banks of the Mersey. These were awesome events and took the township by surprise. So sudden and unforeseen was one flood in the 1820s that one farmer just had time to unloose his horse from the cart before being engulfed by flood water. And the same storm swept the haycocks of Henry Jackson and Thomas Cookson’s from their meadow land up by Barlow Hall down to Stretford while the fierce winds drove the very same haycocks back a few days later.
Not that the weir proved steadfast. It too was lost in a torrent of storm water and had to be replaced. Today you reach the weir along that part of the track which runs beside the tall banks that separate it from the Mersey and which offer some protection from the danger of flooding.
By the time the old road reaches the weir the journey is nearly at an end. Here the track opens up a little and the curious might stop off at the cemetery. Close to where we walk and about as far away from the church and its respectable dead are the graves of paupers. Their headstones lie in rows of six and reveal that each was a multiple grave. In some as many as six or seven were interred.

There is it seems a close density in death as there was in life. For many would have come from mean humble dwellings of wattle and daub and later cheap brick. Their lives lived out in small places crammed into two or them rooms before old age or poverty drove them into the workhouse and a pauper’s grave.
And as if this was not grim enough, just beyond is another multiple grave. In this case to those who died during the blitz and in particular to the night when the nearby church was hit and those sheltering inside were blown away. So final was their end that many could not be identified.

But the road does not end at the cemetery; it runs a short distance more. First under the arches that carry the railway which arrived at Stretford in 1849. The road occupies just one of the arches, the others are for the overflow from the weir should the Mersey ever breach its banks. This railway arch is wide and shows the evidence that the railway line had been extended. The canal arch with stone facing is still more impressive. Perhaps I suppose because of the volume of water that flows above it. Here and only here beneath this arch is a raised section of pavement, perhaps recognition that pedestrians need some form of protection in the confined space when the farm wagons rolled past.This is where the road ends. Beyond is Stretford. Above just a few yards away on the canal is the Watch House, with its white walls. It is easy to romanticise the old road but for hundreds of years it was one of the only routes in and out of the village. More than likely those bringing the news of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar would have passed on along it into the village as would an obscure soldier fired by missionary zeal to preach the Methodist message about the year 1770.

Andrew Simpson, October 2009
Editor's Note: The illustration is a painting of Sally's Pond, which was not far from the Chorlton end of Hawthorn Lane (on the right hand side if walking from Chorlton to Stretford). The painting was by a local artist called Montgomery. Andrew is not entirely sure who Mr Montgomery was; if anyone has any information on him we would be delighted to hear about it.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

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

7th October, 1959

A large patch of ground around the Sycamore was smouldering to a depth of about twelve inches, roots of plants could be seen to be burning. As leaves fell to the ground from the Sycamores, many of them could be heard crackling from the heat of the ground. The stems of plants still standing were very dry and brittle to the touch.

I walked along the golf links beyond my plot today and noticed that while the higher parts were brown and dry, the low lying ground was quite green. I took a sample of Sheep’s fescue from the bed of a stream, and while the grass was really green, the bed of the stream had shrunk away from the banks leaving a space on each side. I also took a specimen of fungus growing near some rotting wood.

Posted by Dave Bishop, 8th October 2009

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Autumn Crocuses Re-visited

Last year I posted an article (20.09.2008), on this blog, about the Autumn Crocus (Crocus nudiflorus), which is such a feature of the Mersey Valley, especially the river banks, at this time of year. I related how this species is not native to Britain but comes originally from South West Europe. The conventional theory is that these plants were introduced into Britain by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem – one of the Military Orders, formed after the Siege of Jerusalem. The Knights of St. John were a medical order, also known as the Knights Hospitallers, who may have used the saffron from the Crocuses in herbal medicines. The Knights had holdings in the Southern Pennines, around Halifax, Oldham and Rochdale, and our plants may have been washed down the Pennine watershed in winter floods.

In a later article (12.03.2009) about the Spring Crocus (Crocus vernus) I related the alternative theory that our Crocuses were introduced by the Cluniac monks of Lenton Priory in Nottinghamshire. It’s interesting to note that the Lenton Priory monks had an isolated hermitage near Salford – Kersall Cell in the Irwell Valley. Earlier this year Prestwich local historian, Ian Pringle showed me the unmistakable leaves of Autumn Crocuses in the Irwell Valley near St. Mary’s Church, Prestwich, which certainly lends some credence to this theory.
There’s no reason, of course, why both theories can’t be true and maybe Autumn Crocuses were introduced by more than one religious order.

A lady named ‘Polly’, from the Halifax area, emailed me about my article and she reminded me that saffron not only has medicinal uses but can also be used for dyeing textiles. Buddhist monks, of course, wear ‘saffron robes’ – but I shudder to think how much saffron would be needed to dye a monk’s robe and how much it might cost! Nevertheless, Diana Downing, of the Manchester Field Club, has recently supplied me with a copy of a paper by the Halifax botanists, W.B. Crump and W.A. Sledge (ref. 1); this is a classic paper on C. nudiflorus in England and was originally published in 1950. This paper first proposed a link between C. nudiflorus and the Knights of St. John in the Halifax area. It also suggests, almost in passing, that saffron was used as a textile dye in Britain – and they present historical evidence from Nottinghamshire where C. nudiflorus can still be found. I don’t really need to remind readers that West Yorkshire and Lancashire were, until recent times, extremely important textile areas - so has too much been made of C. nudiflorus as a medicinal plant, and was its most important function as a source of dye for dyeing cloth with?

Leaving aside these baffling historical conundrums for a moment, let’s look at Crocuses themselves and where they come from. The genus Crocus has an entirely Old World distribution, ranging from Portugal and Morocco in the west, east to Russia and China. The majority of the 80 recognised species occur in the Balkans and Turkey, the numbers diminishing rapidly on either side of this area (ref. 2). Much of the area has a Mediterranean type climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters and these plants are adapted to such a climate. Many lie dormant in the hard-baked, dry earth all summer and are brought to life by the first winter rains. Some members of the genus are mountain plants and it is water from the spring snow melt which revives them – I have seen the Balkan species, C. sieberi ‘burning’ its way up through the snow on a Macedonian mountainside. Members of the genus flower between September and April with some species being autumn/winter flowering and some spring flowering. I suppose that in Britain (where none of these plants are truly native) gardeners are most used to spring flowering species such as C. vernus and its cultivars or the yellow flowered C. chrysanthus and its cultivars. Autumn flowering species, like C. nudiflorus, can come as a surprise to those British gardeners who tend to think of Crocuses as spring bulbs.

Last Sunday, and one day last week, I spent several hours recording colonies of C. nudiflorus along the banks of the Mersey between Stretford and Didsbury. I found several dozen such colonies with the number of blooms varying from just one or two to at least 100. The most intriguing site of all is on the north bank of the river, adjacent to Withington Golf Course and about a quarter of a mile from Simon’s Bridge, Didsbury. At this point the colonies of C. nudiflorus suddenly give way to three small colonies of a second species of autumn flowering Crocus, C. speciosus (Bieberstein’s Crocus)! These, like C. nudiflorus, are leafless at flowering time but with darker coloured flowers and rather exquisite ‘pencilling’ on the petals (a very handsome plant indeed). Whilst C. nudiflorus is from S.W. Europe (either side of the Pyrenees), C. speciosus is native to the Crimea, the S. Caucasus, Turkey and Iran (ref. 3). I should add that I didn’t find these plants in this locality but they were first found there, in 2006, by the Chorlton botanist, Priscilla Tolfree. I can only speculate as to how these plants arrived in that spot and my best guess is that some gardener threw the corms out near the river, they were then swept up in winter floods, deposited by the receding waters and naturalised (most modern floras include alien species, and C. speciosus is listed in most of them – so it’s probably not particularly uncommon).

My feast of Autumn Crocuses was completed when I went for a cup of tea in the café in Fletcher Moss gardens. Underneath the trees, near the site offices, I saw that the species C. pulchellus had been planted and naturalised in the grass. Although it is apparently easy to grow this species does not appear to be very common, in wild situations, in the UK. For the record it is a bit like C. speciosus but smaller, slimmer and quite pale in colour (almost ‘ghostly’). Like a number of Crocuses it was first named by William Herbert who was a Crocus expert and a 19th century Dean of Manchester.

The left hand photograph shows some fine specimens of C. nudiflorus that I found on the edge of some playing fields near Fletcher Moss and the right hand photograph shows C. speciosus.

Dave Bishop, October 2009


1. ‘The History and Distribution of the Autumn Crocus (Crocus nudiflorus Sm.) in England’, by W.B. Crump and W.A. Sledge, ‘The Naturalist’, October – December, 1950.

2. ‘The Crocus’ by Brian Mathew, Batsford, 1982.

3. ‘Bulbs’ by Roger Phillips & Martyn Rix, Pan Books, 1981.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Gatley Carrs in September by Peter Wolstenholme

Here is another of Peter Wolstenholme's reports from Gatley Carrs:

As the leaves begin to fall and change colour we realised that by mid month autumn was with us. Early in the month House Martin, Sand Martin and Swallow hawked for insects over open water and the trees, but they have all become scarcer as the month progressed.

Bird song during the month has come from Robins, Wren and Coal Tit, even an occasional burst of song from Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Blackcap has called. From mid month in early morning there have been Meadow Pipits as they fly south from northern and southern Europe. Bird feeders this month have begun to attract Bullfinch, Greenfinch, and Titmice. Juvenile Goldfinch and Longtailed Tits mirror the effects of a successful breeding season on the reserve.

The pool has attracted Heron, Snipe, Moorhen and Little Grebe. Up to 20 Canada Geese have overflown our reserve on their way to regular feeding grounds such as Poynton Pool. There have been up to ten Mallard on the pool, the males are coming out of drab non breeding, or eclipse, plumage and regaining the brighter colours of autumn and winter. In tall trees along the pool edge Great spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Tree Creeper have called and fed. Grey Wagtails have been appearing along the stream edge and there have been a couple of reports of up to three Kingfishers.

Birds of prey this month have included Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk and a pair of Buzzard.
Jays are patrolling the oak trees for ripe acorns and they are now burying them for a later feed as autumn turns to winter.

Insects this month have been a little less obvious than in the brighter sunnier days of summer. Dragonflies have included a Brown Hawker early in the month and several Common Darters over the pool. Butterflies seen have been scarcer but we have had Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Large White and, on the woodland edge, the Speckled Wood.

A recent film on television showed Himalayan Balsam on the upper reaches of the River Ganges in India. The cotton bales, and Balsam, brought in from the orient during the 19th and 20th centuries ended up here on the Mersey and its tributaries so that Himalayan Balsam is now widespread in Gatley Carrs!

By mid month Pinkfeet from Iceland and a few Whooper Swans have already reached Martin Mere on the Lancashire coast, so that soon there may be Pinkfooted Geese winging cross country towards East Anglia over Gatley. Towards month end Siskin appeared, a winter visitor from further north, feeding among the Alders.

Best wishes

Peter Wolstenholme RSPB, Manchester and SK8