We thought we would take you for a behind the scenes virtual exploration of this lesser known part of Trentham Estate. You can get superb views from the lakeside walks towards the south end of the lake or from the banks of the River Trent from the southern entrance carpark. We do not have public access in this area being restored for biodiversity.
Little bit of history
The River Trent used to meander across this wetland meadow known as Tagg’s Marsh. Its characteristic curves can be clearly seen on satellite images of the meadow. To the North was an old flint mill, processing imported material for use in the potteries. Powered by the river to turn the mill.
This section of the estate and River Trent were significantly altered by The National Coal Board’s works in 1984 with steep bunds installed to channel the river through the estate reducing its capacity to flood and make good the damage caused to the lake by subsidence.
This swift flowing channel provided poor habitat for fish and other aquatic life as well as denying the flood meadow of its seasonal flushes of fresh water and nutrient deposits. The banks became infested with deposits of non-native plant species including Himalayan Balsam and Japanese Knotweed and North American mink released from local fur farms by animal rights activists flourished in the meadow devouring small mammals and ground nesting bird species, wiping out the last of the resident Water Voles.
Above: images before restoration works from Staffordshire Wildlife Trust.
A recent restoration project delivered with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England has reconnected the Trent with its wetland meadow. During the summer months the first section of soil bunding was removed and recontoured , some 12,000 cubic meters of soil moved to create a lush reed and wetland grass habitat popular with harvest mice. Additional deep scrapes were added to the existing field to further enhance the capacity of habitat for amphibians, invertebrates, mammals and birds that flourish in this type of habitat.
This habitat has now matured, Herwick sheep roam the pasture grazing amongst the reeds. Grey Heron and Little Egret stalk the wetland scrape margins devouring frogs and toads. Damsel and Dragonflies emerge with iridescent wings, crawling up the reeds before darting across the reedbeds. The insect life is plentiful, with camouflaged Shield Bugs and leaf hoppers to vivid flashes of colour from Red Headed Cardinal Beetles and butterflies like Little Skipper and Orange Tip. Pollinating hoverflies and bees feast upon a rich harvest of nectar on the meadow buttercup, cuckoo flower and flag iris. Reed buntings and Spotted flycatchers are darting around feeding noisy fledglings perched in the thorn hedges and young alders, whilst swallows soared overhead in plentiful clouds of food.
Tagg’s Marsh: Can you spot the sheep? The vegetation looks deceptively lawn like but actually is close to 4 foot high!
Staffordshire Mammal Group (www.staffordshiremammalgroup.org) undertook some early season animal surveying. Led by Derek Crawley with Nick Mott from Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, the volunteers set baited live traps to safely monitor species in the area. The ancient dead wood trees whose skeletal forms you can see decaying amongst thickets of brambles, creeping thistles and nettles, are home to wood mice.
Along the drier margins we discover the beautiful russet coloured Bank Voles who forage below the hawthorns and dog roses venturing out into the meadows lush vegetation to forage. Maybe next time we will discover the elusive Water Shrews, Harvest Mice and Field Vole we had anticipated, who all eluded us on this occasion.
A walk along the river banks revealed signs of Trentham’s resident otter with footprints paddling across the sand deposits and spraint marking territory and even the occasional Painters Mussel, harvested from the river bed, cracked open and feasted upon, with the shell discarded on the bank.