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This autumn, help us find the Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
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This year we welcomed a new nature reserve to our growing network of sites around the UK – Three Hagges Woodmeadow in Yorkshire.
Site Manager Kara shares what the volunteers have been up to, from coppicing to nature surveys, and how you can get involved.
Volunteers have been helping to care for the woodmeadow for over 10 years. The group was founded by residents in surrounding villages joining forces to turn a 10ha arable field into the Three Hagges nature reserve that we know and love today.
We meet every Tuesday morning, rain, shine, or snow, and we do a range of practical conservation tasks to keep the woodmeadow a pleasant place for visitors and a thriving habitat for wildlife.
Tasks change from season to season but include:
This winter we are coppicing areas of Hazel and we will use the material to create dead hedges throughout the site. Last year we used the hazel to create a woven story-telling den which was great fun.
There’s always a long list of jobs to do so we never run out of tasks!
We’re lucky to have a wonderful network of volunteers who help survey and record the different species here. Volunteers regularly do moth trapping, as well as bumblebee, bird, reptile and plant surveys. This helps to understand the biodiversity this special place supports.
The woodmeadow is incredibly diverse – you may be lucky enough to come across a basking Grass Snake or see a Buzzard circling overhead as you explore Three Hagges and the pond is teeming with dragonflies and damselflies in the summer.
We can even keep track of weather conditions and water levels on site too through our recently installed weather station. None of this monitoring would be possible without the expertise and dedication of our survey volunteers.
The whole of Three Hagges Woodmeadow is incredibly special. There are surprises around every corner to enjoy, such as a bee hotel, Crombie Roundhouse (a traditional shelter made of materials found in the wood) and wildlife pond.
I love how the site changes throughout the seasons. In spring, the meadows and woodland are coming alive, with early spring flowers. Looking closely in the woodlands you can spot Violets, Wood Anemone and Stitchwort.
As summer moves closer, the wildflower meadows burst with colour and are truly breathtaking as a sea of purples and yellows take hold with species like Field Scabious, Common Knapweed and Bird’s-foot Trefoil.
There’s always something interesting to see although I must admit it is rather nice to sit on a haybale in Bodger’s Den, cup of tea and biscuit in hand, and chat through the morning’s work!”
Without the volunteers, Three Hagges Woodmeadow would simply not exist. Volunteers have worked tirelessly growing hundreds of wildflowers a year so that the meadow is bursting with colour, and cutting back vegetation from benches and interpretation boards so that the site can be enjoyed by visitors.
I would be completely lost without my team of volunteers – I couldn’t enhance and maintain Three Hagges on my own.
The volunteers are the heart and soul of the woodmeadow and they turn up, whatever the weather, to work hard, laugh hard and go home tired and happy.
If you’re interested in joining our volunteer group at Three Hagges Woodmeadow, let us know by sending us an email!
Find other volunteering opportunities here.
A recent fungi fanatic, Plantlife’s Sarah Shuttleworth, has been exploring the wonderful world of fungi with her family.
Fancy a half-term adventure for the whole family, that gets the kids outside and interested in nature? Well, the answer is on your doorstep…fungi hunting.
Fungi are one of our most fascinating creations, and best of all, they are right under our noses – perfect for children to spot. You don’t even need to go to a nature reserve, the hunt for fungi can begin in your back garden or local greenspace.
With autumn well and truly here, I have found myself delving into the weird and wonderful world of fungi – very much aided by my children’s interest. The questions about what is this strange looking mushroom, what are these neon blobs, or gelatinous goo on the log – prompted my own interest in jolly-well finding out.
As it turns out, fungi are as diverse and complicated a group as one might expect. And it’s quite astonishing how brilliant children are at spotting them. (I suppose being that much closer to the ground and having 20:20 vision is probably a large amount to do with it!)
You can find fungi in so many places, here are just a few:
On our first trip out, we found more than 30 species in just one hour, ranging from the colourful circus like fungi, to the downright weird freak show of stinkhorns and slime moulds. We have been to woods in the Blackdowns, Dead woman’s ditch in the Quantocks and even round the corner at Thurlbear. All of these places gave us a range of fascinating finds, just by stepping off the path and looking around. Even if you don’t know the species, a few quick photos from different angles and a social media post, will soon increase your knowledge.
I think the children particularly like the sheer surprise element in fungi finding, you really don’t know what could turn up. Plus, the names are a delight – from The Sickener Russula Emetica, Green Elfcup Chlorociboria Aeruginascens, Amethyst Deceiver Laccaria Amethystina, Bearded Dapperling Cystolepiota Seminuda, Snapping Bonnet Mycena Vitilis, Yellow Brain Tremella Mesenterica and Turkey Tail Trametes Versicolor. Some of them ooze blood like droplets, turn bright blue when sliced, smell like honey or puff magic smokey spores when prodded! There are literally so many reasons for not only kids but the kids in us to be fascinated by this world of mycelial magic in the woods.
Here are some top tips for those first-time fungi hunters:
This Autumn, we’re also asking for your help to find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps. Click here to take part and find out more about our #WaxcapWatch– and you might even be able to help us find some important species-rich grassland in the process.
Every autumn one of the UK’s most colourful natural displays takes place: jewel-coloured waxcaps emerge through the grass across our countryside, cities and even some of our gardens. Let’s find them!
Watch Sarah Shuttleworth record her first waxcap find on the Waxcap Watch app.
A place of like-minded enthusiasts where you can share knowledge and photos of waxcaps and related species.
Lisa Gardner, Plantlife’s Artist in Residence, shares her summer journey across some of our magical Plantlife reserves, the rare species she discovered and some top tips for aspiring botanical artists.
I always thought that I was someone who immersed themselves in nature. The entire ethos of my work is inspired by the natural world; it’s the seeds that allow my paintings to grow. However, my life-changing trip this summer exploring IPA sites across the UK has opened my eyes. It’s shown me what truly settling into stillness and absorbing the magic of nature really is.
As part of my Artist Residency for Plantlife – and supported by Arts Council England’s Developing your Creative Practice Fund – I set off on a wildflower treasure hunt back in May to uncover rare species; many of which are currently living on the edge.
I have always been fascinated by the juxtaposition of a wildflower, how its strength can rise through rubble and yet its fragility can break at the lightest of touches. A wildflower experiences birth, growth, transformation and decay, often in a thimble of time. It shows courage, hope, resilience, a contentment that is enviable.
Being amongst wildflowers I feel joy, strength, grief and an easeful glimmer of peace. With every wildflower season, I am able to experience this cycle of emotions. I am my raw, honest self, no hiding, nature welcomes you as you are, inviting you to be part of the purposeful chaos. My art helps me grow down through my layers and expand my roots.
My journey started at Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve in Kent. And what a start to the trip! I pulled up in the smallest of car parks where I was met by Ben, the site manager. He was excited to show me the incredibly rare Man Orchid: a handful of this endangered species had decided to make a verge on the side of a busy road their home.
If he hadn’t pointed them out, I would have walked straight past – but the moment you notice them, you cannot look away. Milky lime yellow with stripes of burgundy and tongues like snakes; they were utterly divine.
The juxtaposition of this rare, beautiful flower with the frantic hum of traffic continuously passing by felt like a metaphor for human nature. How much do we miss out on because we’re simply too busy?
My visit up to Scotland was the biggest part of my trip. The colours here were like a symphony; vibrant pops against a rugged landscape. Shades of storm grey into an icy blue, merging into crystalline greens. Soft lavender and silver ribbons. All these colours merged together against the textures of the flagstone rocks and the wildlife that burst from them.
And you had to work to find the rare species among this incredible palette! At one point, I had to lean right over a cliffside to spot the tiniest deep pink Scottish Primrose; it was so small and fragile – around 5cm tall – that you had to seriously tune your eye in to find it.
But I was so glad I made the effort. The Scottish Primrose can only be found in Orkney and the northern coast of Scotland. If it disappears from these sites, it’s gone forever. Our discovery, therefore, felt enormously poignant.
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Learn about why our Munsary Peatlands reserve is being put forward for inscription as the world’s first peatland UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Plantlife’s Artist in Residence, shares her summer journey across our reserves and some top tips for aspiring botanical artists.
Spring is an exciting time to be on our nature reserves. This is the season when the meadows really burst into life, with lush growth and seasonal flowers.
Grasslands like meadows and parks are not just home to wildflowers, they are also an important habitat for a colourful type of fungi which prefer farmland to forests – waxcaps.
Waxcaps are types of mushrooms known for their shiny-looking caps. Together with other types of fascinatingly named fungi called pinkgills, earthtongues, club and coral fungi – they form a group called “grassland fungi”.
Waxcaps and grassland fungi come in a rainbow of different colours including vibrant violets, yellows, greens and pinks.
They also come in weird and wonderful shapes, which can help you to identify the species you’re looking at.
Chris Jones is the Warden at the Kenfig National Nature Reserve, one of our Dynamic Dunescapes sites, and has worked as a practical conservationist for over 25 years.
Kenfig is one of the largest sand dune systems in Wales and provides a unique habitat for a variety of rare and specialised species, including over 20 species of Waxcap fungi.
‘Waxcap fungi are commonly found in grasslands and meadows, and they are known for their ecological importance. They are often found in areas with short, grazed vegetation, but they can also occur in disturbed habitats, such as lawns and roadside verges.
Waxcaps are mostly found in the late summer and autumn, typically from September to November, depending on the local weather – but you can find them all year round.
The meadows where waxcaps are found are known as ‘waxcap grasslands’. These grasslands need specific conditions for waxcaps to thrive and are becoming rare.
On waxcap grasslands, waxcap fungi form partnerships with plants, where they exchange nutrients with the roots of host plants, benefiting both the fungi and the plants. This only happens in habitats with a high level of biodiversity, which the aims to identify.
Waxcap fungi are fascinating not only for their vibrant colours but also for their significance as indicators of healthy grasslands. Their conservation is important for maintaining biodiversity and preserving these unique and beautiful fungi for future generations to enjoy.
Many waxcap species are considered rare or threatened, primarily due to habitat loss and changes in land management practices such as tree planting and intensive agriculture. If you find any, please record them on the Waxcap Watch app.
I LOVE Waxcaps, they are AMAZING! It is ridiculously hard to pick a favourite, but if I had to choose it would be… all of them.’
This autumn, help Plantlife find Britain’s most colourful and important fungi – waxcaps.
How Plantlife is moving one of the most endangered wildflowers in Europe off the Red Data list for Great Britain.
The Fen Orchid Liparis loeselii, is one of the most endangered wildflowers in Europe, but successful conservation efforts have given hope for its survival. The orchid is only found in two areas of the UK:
We believe that the orchid could finally be removed from the Red Lists for both England and Great Britain.
After a decade of research and partnership work, the orchid has been re-discovered at former sites in the Broads, and the total population has estimated to have risen to over 15,000 plants through proper management.
The orchid has also been reintroduced to its former sites in Suffolk, and the signs are encouraging that it will become established in some of its old homes.
In South Wales, the conservation effort to restore the fragile dune habitat at Kenfig and to rediscover the plant at former dune locations.
At Kenfig numbers had dropped from a conservative 21,000 at the end of the 1980s to just 400 when conservation work began.
After almost 10 years of work, over 4000 Fen Orchids have been counted, more than double the highest number seen in the last two decades.
The orchids once grew at eight dune sites along the south Wales coast, but a lack of active management led to their disappearance. The success at Kenfig gives hope for other dune sites like Whiteford and Pembrey, the former of which the plant has recently been re-found after searching.
Chris Jones, the Warden of Kenfig National Nature Reserve, recently found the very rare fungus, during a routine survey.
Plantlife and WWF study on grassland demonstrate how wild plants and fungi are at the heart of climate crisis. Calling world governments to recognise sites for wild plants and fungi
The effort Greena Moor Nature Reserve management team put in place to save the Three-lobed Water Crowfoot.
If you’re looking for a wilder summer holiday for you and your family, here’s some inspiration for natural beauty spots around the UK where you can discover the breathtaking nature on our doorsteps.
Nature reserves aren’t just a thriving space for biodiversity, they’re a place to explore, an area which is scientifically proven to improve our well-being, and a magical experience to make memories.
Here are 5 ideas for you to add to your summer staycation mood board. Pack your picnic blanket and sensible shoes – it’s time to get out and explore!
Discover a purple sea of Devil’s-bit Scabious at this mountain hay meadow in late summer on the edge of the Pennines. For the more adventurous among you, why not follow the steep path where you can discover an old lead smelt mill that dates from 1843?
Star summer species to look out for: Globeflower Trollius europaeus, Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia conopsea (June), Greater Butterly-orchid Platanthera chlorantha (June) and Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis (August)
Location: near Brough, Cumbria (OS: NY 816146, ///tinkle.resist.dictation)
If you’re looking for a rainbow of wildflower colour to be the backdrop to this years staycation, this is the spot for you. Look out for delicate Mountain Pansy on our walking route, which passes through spectacular limestone scenery with an exceptional wealth of ﬂowers. Along the way is the picturesque village of Sheldon which is a good lunch stop, before discovering ancient woodlands to explore.
Star summer species to look out for: Mountain pansy Viola lutea (May-July) and Grass-of-Parnassus Parnassia palustris (July-Oct)
Location: Sheldon, Derbyshire. (OS: SK 165 698, ///announced.hangs.paradise)
Follow our walking route here.
In English, Caeau Tan y Bwlch means ‘the fields below the mountain pass’, and you’ll get spectacular views of the Eryri National Park which won’t disappoint. The reserve is a nature lovers paradise, with an array of different habitats, from meadows to bogs, which are home to Butterfly Orchids and other rare plants. Perfect for anyone looking for a wild weekend in north Wales!
Star summer species to look out for: Greater Butterfly-orchid Platanthera chlorantha (Jun-Jul), Intermediate Lady’s Mantle Alchemilla xanthochlora (Jun-Sept)
Location: Capel Uchaf, near Clynnog Fawr, Gwynedd (OS: SH 431488, ///lotteries.dusted.birthdays)
During the summer Greena Moor is a hot spot for butterflies such as the Marsh Fritillary, which are drawn by the purple pom-poms of Devil’s-bit Scabious on the reserve. As well as being one of the best remaining examples of the rare Culm grassland habitat, this idyllic reserve is perfect for a tranquil wander due to its isolated location just off the Cornish coast.
Star summer species to look out for: Meadow Thistle Cirsium dissectum (June-Aug) and Whorled Caraway Carum verticillatum (July-Aug)
Location: Week St. Mary, Cornwall (OS: SX 234963, ///wobbles.cats.digs)
Follow our wildflower walk.
Seaton Meadows is steeped in history dating back to medieval times, and the perfect spot for an afternoon walk alongside the dramatic purple spikes of Great Burnet, framed by the arches of the impressive Welland Railway Viaduct. Throughout the summer you can step back in time and watch as the meadow is managed in traditional methods that haven’t changed in centuries.
Star summer species to look out for: Great Burnet Sanguisorba officinalis (June-July) and Common Meadow-rue Thalictrum flavum (July)
Location: Near Harringworth, Rutland (OS: SP 913979, ///shun.theme.retailing)
Did you know we had rainforest in the UK? Barnluasgan is where lochside meets these rare and wild temperate rainforests. Look out for lichens, mosses and liverworts; tiny plants that make Scotland’s rainforest internationally important. But be careful, don’t stray too far off the path, as Ghillie dhu, forest sprites restricted to the west coast forests of Scotland, protect these ancient woodlands fiercely!
Star summer species to look out for: Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum (June-Septemer) and Tree Lungwort Lobaria pulmonaria
Location: Lochgilphead PA31 8PF
Follow our walk which takes you through these magical rainforests.
When visiting nature reserves and other green spaces, don’t forget to follow the countryside code to protect these special places.
Discover how you can identify the mosses where you live, and read about Lizzie's challenge to learn 10 mosses!
The Joans Hill Farm reserve has been celebrated as a Coronation Meadow, but did you know it’s also home to royalty? The rare Noble Chafer beetle!
Find out how our work restoring orchards is helping to save this beetle from extinction.
The Wye Valley AONB Partnership are running a project aimed at reversing the decline of the Noble Chafer beetle. Despite extensive surveying on suitable habitat in summer 2022, the beetle was found at only 2 sites in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with one of them being the old orchard at Plantlife’s Joan’s Hill Farm nature reserve.
Fruit trees may live for roughly 100 years and provide decaying wood habitat during the last third of their lives. It’s important that we plant regular replacements and manage our older trees to prolong their lives, ensuring a variation in age and the continued presence of wood-decay habitats.
Last week we were delighted to receive 10 young plum and damson trees for Joan’s Hill Farm, thanks to the Wye Valley AONB Partnership. Not only that, but 2 AONB staff helped our Reserve Manager to plant them and to build substantial guards which will protect them from cattle. Although plums and damsons are some of the fastest species to produce decaying wood, it may be 60 years before they become suitable for beetle colonisation. In the meantime, we will be putting up some artificial ‘beetle boxes’, filled with wood compost, to increase the available habitat, and to act as stepping stones between the two orchard areas at Joan’s Hill Farm.
The Noble Chafer Gnorimus nobilis is a beetle about 20mm long with a metallic green body, speckled with white. The whole body displays a brilliant iridescence which can flash copper, gold and even violet. The adults emerge in June or July and feed on pollen and nectar from a variety of umbellifers, before laying their eggs in the decaying trunks of old trees. The larvae feed on the decaying wood, emerging after 2 to 3 years.
The beetle’s numbers have declined in parallel with the loss of veteran trees and traditional orchards, and it is now classed as Nationally Scarce.
Noble Chafer beetle found at Joan’s Hill Farm by Ellie Baggett – Wye Valley AONB
Only 3.2% of England’s land and sea is protected. This is why nature reserves are so important.
They are protected havens for wild plants and wildlife. Will you help keep them flourishing?
Every day, our wild plants and fungi are put at risk from planning decisions, chemical sprays and more. Find out what you can do to help protect nature.
Discover 4 new walk ideas and Scottish spring adventure inspiration from Plantlife Scotland’s Communications and Policy Officer, Erin Shott.
Nature Reserve Diary
Our Augill Pasture reserve is a shining example of mountain hay meadow habitat in Cumbria which needs careful year round management by the Plantlife and Cumbria Wildlife Trusts team. We hear from Nature Reserves Manager Andrew Kearsey about how we’ve been working to protect the reserve this winter.
One of the biggest issues facing our nature reserves is the ongoing management of Ash trees suffering from dieback – Augill is no different as the woodland there is about 10% Ash. Some of the ash trees were identified through our tree safety surveys as being diseased and close to footpaths and the car park.
Two of the diseased trees were overhanging the Augill Smelt Mill. Any limb shedding would cause further damage to this structure, which is on the Historic England Scheduled Monument At-Risk register.
We made the decision to employ a local firm of tree surgeons to remove both these trees and several other ash trees around the car park. This work was delivered working with our tenant for the reserve; Cumbria Wildlife Trust.
The trees were removed in Mid-January and I went recently to check on their progress. When I arrived they had cordoned off the car park and footpaths and had their climber in the larger of the two trees removing the higher limbs. By the time I left about 2 hours later, they had removed the majority of the limbs, while the ground crew had processed the brash and timber into log piles and brash windrows
Pony grazed meadows at Augill Pasture Nature Reserve. Image by Andrew Kearsey Andrew
The grassland at Augill Pasture is managed by grazing and unusually for our reserves it is grazed by ponies. Two small ponies were put on the reserve in October and were taken off recently, as the weather became very cold at the beginning of January. This grazing will have controlled the growth of the grass species, allowing the forb species enough space to grow as the weather turns warmer.”
Plantife’s Meadows Hub has everything you need to help you manage your meadow or grassland including practical step by step advice, resources, links to training days and expert knowledge
Saving the endangered Three-lobed Water Crowfoot plant, which is considered as an aquatic buttercup species.
New pools are being created at Greena Moor, a secluded Cornish nature reserve, for the endangered Three-lobed Water Crowfoot Ranunculus tripartitus.
The work was funded by Natural England through their Species Recovery Programme and charitable trusts including the Stuart Heath Charitable Settlement. Nature Reserves Manager Jonathan Stone have been working to protect the ‘star’ of Greena Moor.
Three-lobed Water Crowfoot is an aquatic member of the buttercup family, the plant has small, white, starry flowers. Like most crowfoots, it has two kinds of leaves; the surface leaves are three-lobed and broad, but the underwater leaves – rarely seen with this species but seen here in this photo – are finely divided and feathery.
In March 2020, Three-lobed Crowfoot occupied only two small pools near the ford, covering an area of just 7m2, and it was clear that a lack of suitable shallow water bodies was preventing further spread of the species at Greena.
Grazing also plays an important role, helping to control competing vegetation and distributing seed. The cattle grazing at Greena appears ideal, and on the Cornish Lizard heaths Three-lobed Crowfoot has become far more common under similar management conditions.
The nature reserves management team have created 10 new pools to encourage more Three-lobed Crowfoot plant. We are very hopeful to seeing similar increases of this beautiful endangered plant over the coming years.
Some of our plants in Wales are threatened by extinction, but here are 3 species that are being brought back from the brink of extinction.
Did you know some of our plants are threatened by extinction? Here are 3 species that are endangered in Scotland and the work that’s being done to bring them back.
Plantlife’s Cairngorms Project Manager Sam Jones reveals how a tiny flower in Scotland is fighting back against extinction in the UK.
In the UK we have over 45 species of orchid – which might be more than you thought! Learn more about this wild and wonderful family of plants with Plantlife wildflower expert Sarah Shuttleworth.
Plantlife’s Vascular Plants Officer Robbie Blackhall-Miles finds an exciting new plant species for Wales.
Dave Lamacraft, Plantlife’s Lichen and Bryophyte Specialist, heads out to discover a wealth of extraordinary lichens which call Wales’ rainforests home.
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