NATURAL WALNEY ISLAND

It is within this section of the site that the natural aspects of Walney Island will be displayed, albeit in a vastly reduced form, as for me to list every last form of life and flora of the island would be far to time consuming. That said I hope that you won't be to disappointed by what is represented. If you do feel strongly enough that something should be displayed that isn't please feel free to mail me your thoughts. If it's detail you desire than I can recommend nothing better than Tim Deans publication ' The Natural History of Walney Island' an extremely concise book - ISBN No. 0 948558 04 0. 

Walney has two recognised nature reserves, that of North Walney and the other of South Walney and both of which are administered by the Cumbria Wildlife Trust

South Walney Reserve became designated as such during 1963 and is probably most famous for having the largest mixed ground-nesting of herring and lesser black-back gulls in Europe. South Walney has a number of purpose built trails, clearly marked for visitors to follow . There is are observation hides positioned around the reserve where visitors can view Walney's wildlife.

North Walney Reserve has been considered as being populated by man from prehistoric times due to a number of archaeological findings including Mesolithic, Neolithic, bronze and iron age. As well as flints and pottery a rare stone axe has been discovered. Mans last disturbances of the area for working were done so by McLung's gravel works, which operated until its closure in the early 1970s and also by the towns shipbuilders Vickers Shipbuilding & Engineering Ltd (now better known as BAE SYSTEMS Submarines) until the late 1980's. The area of the reserve covers almost the entire north end of Walney with the exception of just two fields, which are still being used to this day. The area consists of sand dunes, slacks, wet and dry heath, salt marsh, and grassland. There are also many rare plants can be found in the area including dune and green-flowered helleborine, seaside century, coralroot orchid and variegated horsetail. The wildlife can consist of knot, redshanks, ringed plovers oystercatchers, dunlins, curlews, pintails, shelducks and red-breasted merganser. Also the area caters for as much as a 25% of the UK's entire natterjack population.

A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z

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FOXGLOVE

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(Digitalis purpurea). Foxglove is common throughout the British Isles , especially in woods and scrubland from June to September, often becoming the dominant plant when damaged or cleared areas are regenerating. The Foxglove, known in Somerset as ‘Fairy Bells’ are a tall downy biennial herb with a stem reaching 500mm to 150mm high. The plants leaves are soft and hairy and its flowers are produced in a long tubular to narrow bell shape. Each flower are approximately 40mm to 50mm long and are displayed as mauve with dark purple spots ringed with white inside.

The Foxglove is also cultivated commercially as a field crop for the pharmaceutical industry in for production of the drug digitoxin. As a note: Digitoxin is highly poisonous but is used as a heart muscle steroid which is taken to increase the heart beat to cure / alleviate heart failure The toxicity of the plant is unaffected by drying, storage or boiling.

 

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GLASSWORT

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(Salicornia europaea) sometimes referred to as samphire or poor mans asparagus An annual light green, fleshy plant which almost takes the form a miniature cactus, growing up to a Height of approximately 30cm. flowers appear between August ­ September time at stem junctions. Typical of salt marsh location the plant will tolerate immersion in saltwater.

If you collect them when still very young and tender, just 5cm or so high and steam them (not for long, they're best eaten almost raw) you will have wonderful ‘salty’ tasting plant.  Please be careful when picking though, if you snip a few bunches with a pair of scissors and are careful not to uproot it, for your own use as has been done traditionally, then you won't be subject to a potential £20000 fine for harming the flora in a site of special scientific interest (SSSI).  I doubt however that this will be the case if you are intending to farm it in large quantities?

 

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HOUSE SPARROW

 

The male house sparrows plumage is best described as brown with grey underside, white cheeks, grey crown and black bib, which signifies the males ranking within its society, the blacker the bib the more dominant the bird is considered.  Females are slightly more plain than the male with a buff coloured underside, pale band behind eye and buff coloured wing-stripes make them more distinguishable. The house sparrow is normal abundant wherever there are humans present i.e. towns, villages and countryside.  Although still a common bird in many areas, recent decline is considered enough of a serious proportion to be worrying. Breeding often in colonies, mainly in small crevices of buildings and also is known to thieve nests of species.
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NATTERJACK TOAD

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(Bufo calamita)  The natterjack's most common feature is  that of a distinctive yellow stripe which runs down the length of  its back. It is accepted that the average Natterjack can grow to between 60mm to 80mm (approx 3") and that females are the larger of the species. Natterjack's are mostly nocturnal although it is possible for them to be found resting under large stones, or in crevices and burrows during the daylight hours. Contrary to popular belief these toads would prefer to run rather than jump, due to the shortness of their limbs, hence calamita, which is Latin for 'Running Toad'

This breed of toad likes to inhabit sea level areas with sandy soils where it can  easily burrow and where shallow pools for breeding, such as those found on Walney can be easily accessed. Coming out from hibernation around about March adults will feed on insects; moths as well as spiders would be their preference although woodlice, snails and worms would not be omitted from the menu. The Natterjacks breeding season is from April to July, with the female laying c3500 eggs.

Since c1900 the toads preferred environment has become more and more scarce, mainly due to mans ever increasing desire to build and develop, which in itself is blamed for a serious decline in the Natterjack's population, so much so that the Natterjack has now been declared an endangered species within the UK allowing it to become a recognised priority for conservation action/s.

Although Natterjack’s can live for approximately 14 years they have many predators, which mean that only a few would survive to this age. It is worth noting that the Natterjack is now protected through Law, (1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act) therefore it is illegal to disturb, or harm this toad, or to damage or destroy its habitat in any way, shape or form. 

 

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OYSTER CATCHER

 

(Haematopus ostralegus) Resident and widespread, with a further influx from Europe during the winter this distinctive black and white plumaged wader with a red bill and its considerable noisy piping call draws all the attention. Mainly considered a shorebird by many, it isn't a rarity to see the oyster catcher breeding inland by rivers, lakes and similar, although in winter it tends to stick with the coast.
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COMMON RAGWORT

 

Generally considered  a wasteland and pasture weed that is found growing everywhere throughout the United Kingdom, this species natural habitat is sand dunes, but is also prevalent on certain light and airy soils and over-grazed grasslands, further, as it can't tolerate cultivated soils it is rarely a problem in arable fields. This weed frequently grows at roadsides, paths and on manure pastures such as those at the now abandoned south Walney landfill site. Plant numbers have been noticed to suddenly increase or decrease for no 'apparent' reason. It is possible that a recent decrease in the ragwort may be associated with very hot / dry summers?
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SEA HOLLY

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(Eryngium maritimum) A distinctive perennial of coastal areas, the Sea Holly thrives at North Walney because of it's abundant sandy and shingle beaches although there is little trace of this species to be found at the south of the island. The Sea holly has a greenish-grey leaf and blue flowers during July to September.
COMMON SEA LAVENDER

 

(Limonium vulgare) These widespread perennial plants are common place at salt marshes around the England and Wales coast line, growing to a height of approximately 30cm and flowering between July to September, its leaves take on a spoon like stalked shape, with lilac flowers borne in branched, arching sprays of flat capped heads,
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VIPERS BUGLOSS (TBC)

 

Need of help with this. Can you identify this plant? It grows somewhat similar to a foxglove, not quite having the same flower makeup as that of the Viper Bugloss as it is takes on more of any open star formation. Maybe a varient?
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WALNEY GERANIUM

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Sanguineum var. striatum (formerly G. s. lancastriense) Originally discovered on Walney Island during 1732 it consists of dark-green leaves covered with attractive pale-pink saucer shaped flowers veined with a darker pink. Blooms June - September and can grow to a height of 20cm (8"). 
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YELLOW HORNED POPPY

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(Glaucium flavum) Has a desire for the Sun. Its almost phallic looking seedpods, the ‘horns’ become the equivalent of very female-looking round pods of other poppies and can grow up to 30cm long. They grow out from the flowers centre and when they are ripe, they split open to release their seeds. Although it does not like to get too cold this poppy is a native of European coastal areas such as Walney Island . Its latex is very harsh and was once used to eat away warts; it does not contain any opiates.  The seeds in the past have been used to provide long-burning oil for lamps and although this plant is a perennial, it is often grown as an annual, as the flowers will appear within its first year.
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See also: English Nature and North Walney Nature Reserve

 

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