This was Bees second visit to Healey Dell and the first for many of our group of 11. It is a local nature reserve situated in the Rochdale area and managed by the warden Richard. He gave us an insightful illustrated talk on the industrial heritage of the Dell followed by a walking tour. This oak/beech woodland is situated on the steep sided gorge created by the River Spodden with its waterfalls and pools. The industrial heritage, of which evidence remains, is linked to the woollen industry and quarrying in the area. The flagstones produced in the Dell were used to pave Trafalgar Square. There was a munitions factory here in WW2.
Our extensive walk involved in part following the disused track of the Lancashire Yorkshire railway, Rochdale-Bacup section. As well as the spectacular natural and man made features, the reserve had much to offer of wildlife interest. We enjoyed the flora of the woodland edge and glades, wildflower meadows as well as pond and heathland habitats. A total of 128 flowering plants, 121 in flower or fruit were recorded by our botanical specialists. The woodland gave us Broad-leaved Helleborine, Wood Avens and its more robust hybrid, Enchanter's Nightshade and Dusky Cranesbill, all surrounded by an extensive cover of Blackberry. The ferns (10 in total) including Harts Tongue, Hard, Lady and Male looked down on us from the rock crevasses while the majestic Royal fern grew on the old railway platform.The wildflower meadows including the railway sidings held Knapweed, Giant and Nettle-leaved Bellflower, Purple Loosestrife, Tutsan, Musk Mallow, Betony, Field Scabious, Marsh Woundwort and Square-stalked St John's wort. In the surrounding area we saw Golden-rod and Teasel. In the pond area Water Mint and Flag Iris were growing. Whereas on the heathland surrounding our lunch spot were Heather, Bilberry, Hemp Agrimony and Tormentil. Some of the flowers had burnt edges, many had gone to seed but there were good numbers still in a good condition despite the prolonged drought conditions.
Of the Lepidoptera we saw Green-veined Whites in good numbers, also Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, and Small Copper (also Straw Dot moth). Southern and Brown Hawker dragonflys were seen as well as numerous Common Blue damselflies above the pond. Birds heard or seen included Nuthatch, Dipper, Mallard, Moorhen and a Heron flew overhead. Fungi: Chicken of the Woods and various bracket fungi were seen. Richard touched on aspects of management including methods of treating Himalayan Balsam. He demonstrated the effects of ash die back disease on young ash trees. There is also considerable dead wood in the woodland which needs to be managed for the safety of walkers and for wild life. The 2015 winter floods which brought down an arched bridge necessitated considerable work in the reconstruction of footpaths.
This enjoyable day out was conducted in pleasant weather conditions - none of the high temperatures we had experienced over the last few months. We rounded off our day with tea and cake at the Healey Dell tea rooms. We were especially grateful to Richard and Lisa (the tea room lady) for their generosity. Also thanks to Stuart for navigating those horrendous potholes and to Alice for making the arrangements for our visit.