Saturday, 19 February 2011

Flooding and Gulls at Fletcher Moss

I took a walk along the river bank to Didsbury and Fletcher Moss park the other day. The sports fields on either side of Stenner Lane were still under water as a result of the heavy rain and flooding of a couple of weeks ago. I must say that the whole scene looked dramatic and spectacular but what added to the drama were huge flocks of gulls which had congregated on the fields. I think that they were mainly Black-headed Gulls - but I'm not too hot on gulls. They were extremely noisy and were occasionally 'spooked' by something and then took off in great wheeling clouds. I assume that they were feeding on worms and other invertebrates driven to the surface by the flood-waters.

Of course these fields were once water meadows and have been regularly inundated like this for centuries. Water meadows used to be among our most biodiverse habitats, but a few decades ago these particular meadows were converted into regularly mown sports fields - which are virtual wildlife deserts. I wouldn't mind but they don't even seem to get used much - perhaps a few hours a year by a few young men. After the recent floods they are bursting with life (i.e. bird life) again, for a few weeks, before going back to boring, lifeless mown grass.

But I believe that the Environment Agency have now got plans for massive engineering works to 'protect' these sports fields from flooding. Several of these fields are rugby fields and, like golfers, rugby players tend to be influential people - so their playgrounds need to be protected, at all costs, from the inconvenient 'forces of nature' (even though it could be argued that establishing a playground in a floodplain, and expecting it to remain flood-free, is arrogant and silly!).

I feel more sympathy for the allotment holders of the adjacent Stenner Lane Allotments whose plots were also flooded. At least growing vegetables on an allotment is a healthy and sustainable activity and allotments are also much richer in wildlife than sports fields. I believe, though, that the allotment holders have been told, by the EA, not to eat their carefully nurtured vegetables because they might be contaminated by sewage and heavy metals. And there was I thinking that the Mersey was now a clean and healthy river - silly me! Perhaps the EA should be expending more effort in stopping sewage and heavy metals getting into the river, rather protecting a few rarely used sports fields ... ?

Dave Bishop, February 2011

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