MONDAY 10TH AUGUST 2020

ANCASTER, LINCS +DCW

A return to Lincolnshire after just less than one week and we parked up outside Ancaster Church where a plaque draws attention to the Roman origins of this village at the crossing of Ermine Street (which I heard of when I was at school) and King Street (which I’d never previously heard of).

I had also heard of the Ancaster Gap, indeed it probably cropped up in some 1968 geography exam as being the place where the River Trent once flowed until a glacier blocked the passage and the mighty river had to find a new course to the sea – northwards to the Humber, which it subsequently found to its liking and has followed ever since.

The Ancaster Valley is another thing altogether. It is dry and its origins seem bathed in the mystery of ancient history, though melting glaciers may have played a part.

It is now an attractive nature reserve and SSSI that hosts a good selection of calcicolous plants; many that a botanist might predict and a few that a Nottinghamshire one might not be accustomed to.

Thus Dwarf Thistle, Common Centaury, Saw-wort and Agrimony were on the scene but Squinancywort (Asperula cynanchica) almost evaded us and Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis comosa) (which evaded us last week) appeared readily once we had been enlightened.

Squinancywort
Horseshoe Vetch

Horseshoe Vetch is a favoured food-plant of both Adonis and Chalkhill Blue and Ancaster is the last known site in Lincolnshire for the latter species of butterfly. With the good management of the grasslands around Ancaster, might this species return?

Meadow Grasshopper

This one became quite a companion and continued to enjoy the valley from its elevated position during an interesting and prolonged discussion with an Ancaster resident and her Border Terrier (the latter contributed little to the conversation).

Some of that discussion related to bush-crickets, of which I have a working knowledge but it is rusty when it goes beyond coneheads and Roesel’s. So this one, I have only seen once or twice before and I’ve always understood it to be an inhabitant of shrubs and trees – they occur at Rushcliffe Country Park; this one was in the hot grassland.

Speckled Bush-cricket

Apparently quite common, its call is an intermittent beep, and hard to hear and hard to locate from a bat detector.

Ancaster is rightly proud of its Tall Thrift distinction (though BSBI online maps suggest there is at least one other plant just outside Aldershot).

MOOR CLOSES
For the last few hours we wandered the nearby Moor Closes nature reserve, which is a wetland site with Ragged Robin, Fen Bedstraw and a range of sedges as well as Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succissa pratensis).

Devil’s-bit Scabious

The final hour of so involved this incapacitated calf in a muddy drain. It had made a couple of attempts to get out but seemed tired and irretrievably stuck. My pulling on its neck and Dave lifting its haunches had no impact at all and following a message to the Lincs Trust we called 911 unsure as to whether we would be convicted for the abuse of public services but within moments Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue were on their way.

Emergency sirens were heard in due course and ultimately 13 personnel, two fire engines and a rescue boat were on the scene.

The calf seemed to know full well that all this commotion would see it freed from the mud and it contentedly chewed the cud like a wallowing water buffalo while beefy firefighters heaved and moved on to plan 2…… and 3…..

I was hoping to capture the moment that the grateful beast was released but tea-time tempted, and on the way back a Roe Deer played chicken on the A52, getting bowled over twice but seemingly getting to the other side with just a few bruises.