Sookholme Lane and Hammerwater Bridge

Hammerwater BridgeSookholme Lane was once part of a coach road between Derbyshire and the Great North Road at Tuxford. It has changed little over the years and It is notable for its old hedgerows.

Hammerwater Bridge over the River Meden has views over the Hills and Holes Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is a fine place for watching birds or just relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere.

Click below for more information about this area.

Plants
Birds
Hedgerows
Map

 

The Plants of Sookholme Lane and Hammerwater Bridge

These are some of the plant species that can be found along this section of Sookholme Lane-


Cleavers or Goosegrass
Black Bryony
Hedge Parsley
Fool’s Parsley
Upright Hedge Parsley
Hogweed
Red Campion
White Campion
Bladder Campion
Ground Ivy

Sookholme Lane contains many typical hedgerow plants that are often found elsewhere. Cleavers or Goosegrass with its sticky seeds and sticky spindly stems, beloved of children, climbs throughout the hedges, but also look out for Black Bryony with its shiny, leathery looking, deeply veined, heart-shaped, pointed leaves and clusters of small white flowers that give way to berries looking like bunches of orange grapes in late autumn.

Hedge Parsley and Fool’s Parsley collectively known as ‘Gypsy Bread’ die away in summer but the similar flowers that appear later are likely to be Upright Hedge Parsley. In fact there is a whole family of similar plants that occur in sequence from spring through summer. They are very difficult to identify without using a magnifying glass to study their seeds. The largest of the native family, Hogweed, is easily recognisable though. A bristly sturdy plant with rough leaves. The ridged stems make good peashooters.

Textbooks often state that Red and White Campion grow in different conditions. Well, both are often found growing right next to each other on Sookholme Lane. Both often flower early in spring and again in late summer. A third member of the family is found but only in particular places. Bladder Campion has white flowers but a lime-green colour on the sepals (leaf-like, petal shaped structures behind the petals). It develops a bladder-like seed head that can be popped on the back of the hand scattering the seeds. All these campions have five petals with a tube behind the flower.

Ground Ivy has a minty smell when a stem or leaf is crushed. The ivy-shaped leaves and purple flowers are found tucked right under the bottom of the hedge close to the ground. This plant will grow in more open areas but then usually it has purple or redder leaves. It was used with other herbs to flavour ale and mead up to and including Medieval times before hops were used to make bitter.

The Birds of Sookholme Lane and Hammerwater Bridge

These are some of the birds that may be seen in this area. Click on a bird for further information.

House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Pied Wagtail
Grey Wagtail
House Martin
Swifts
Swallows
Greenfinch
Chaffinch
Siskin
Brambling

During late summer and early autumn crops are harvested and fields cleared. Seed eating bird numbers build up into flocks to take advantage of the plentiful food that traditionally has been available from fallen corn. The flocks often consist of thousands of birds of mixed species of finches and sparrows.

This is the time that birds are starting to build up their body reserves in anticipation of winter after they have completed moulting following breeding. However, more winter cereals are now being grown which are harvested earlier than traditional crops, and seed collection is more efficient so there is less food left in the fields for the birds. The long-term effect of this change remains to be seen. Perhaps alternative crops being grown might provide other opportunities for these birds.

Take a closer look at the sparrows. Are they House Sparrows or Tree Sparrows? Both species have suffered serious drops in their numbers. The House Sparrow population has seriously declined in recent years, while Tree Sparrow numbers have been dropping over several decades to the point where they are now considered endangered. You can tell them apart by the chestnut head and smudged cheeks of the Tree Sparrow.

At Sookholme Lane railway bridge during the breeding season, you will see birds entering and leaving a number of insignificant holes in the bridge. These are Tree Sparrows. Traditionally, they are tree hole nesting birds but have adapted to take advantage of nesting opportunities provided by humans in areas that are not well inhabited by the builders. The small gaps within the stonework provide a safe place with a relatively consistent environment for rearing young. Unlike House Sparrows, they are rarely found nesting in houses within the urban areas of Warsop Parish.

Wagtails are easily recognisable by the mannerism after which they are named. The most common species, the black and white Pied Wagtailis seen year round along the River Meden, especially on shingle banks and bridges.

A second species, the Grey Wagtail is worth looking out for. The name is a misnomer because the bird is recognisable by its yellow and grey colouring. It is most often seen from Hammerwater Bridge looking upstream towards the railway.

In late autumn and winter, the Hills and Holes generally, is an important source of food for winter visitors from Scandinavia and Russia. Several members of the thrush family can often be seen feeding off Hawthorn, Elder and Rose hips. Up to 3000 Fieldfare, Redwing, Blackbird and Mistle Thrush winter migrants use this area for feeding and roosting along with Collared Dove. This number of birds attracts predators and you may see Sparrowhawk hunting nearby.

During summer at Hammerwater Bridge, House Martins, Swifts and Swallows can be seen catching insects on the wing. The Swifts and Swallows travel from the surrounding villages and farms, but the House Martins may be nesting on the railway.

On late summer evenings gnats form swarm in columns reaching tens of metres high, rising from the ground. They are continuously attacked by the birds who fly through the narrow columns until it is too dark to see. Perhaps the shape of the swarm provides some protection to the insects as the birds only get the chance to fly through a metre width or less of closely packed insects, whereas if the insects swarmed horizontally, the birds would spend more time in contact with each swarm.

At quiet times, during spring and early summer, look out for a variety of finches along Spring Lane and the western end of Sookholme Lane. Each species has a slightly different bill design that allows them to feed from different food sources. Finches like all birds from a particular family have evolved so they do not compete with other species from the same family. Complete competitors cannot co-exist in the same place! Avoiding competing ensures the diversity of life that we treasure.

Greenfinch and Chaffinch are common. Look out for the green colour and yellow wingbars of Greenfinch, and the white shoulder patches and pink breast of male Chaffinch. Females are dowdier with an overall brown colouration but still have the white shoulders. You are unlikely to misidentify these birds in summer, but in winter they can be mistaken for the similar looking but usually smaller Siskin and Brambling that are often seen within Warsop Parish as winter visitors from Scandinavia and north Scotland.

The Hedgerows of Sookholme Lane and Hammerwater Bridge

This section of Sookholme Lane is flanked by very old hedgerows including many species such as-

Blackthorn
Bullace
Dogwood
Spindle
Buckthorn
Elm
Field Maple
Hawthorn

The hedges within the area are rich in shrubs and trees. The age of Sookholme Lane and many of the other lanes is underlined by the number of woody species (trees and shrubs) to be found. Elms survive here as shrubs following the devastating effects of Dutch Elms disease. Many other tree species exist as hedgerow shrubs because of the management that takes place.

Without knowing the names of all the different woody and climbing species within the area it is possible to count them by collecting one or two of each of the different leaves that you see. If you visit the area during the summer you may find 20 or more different leaf types in this way.

Blackthorn is common throughout the area, but look out for Bullace, otherwise known as Wild Damson. This shrub was introduced to Britain by the Romans, and is abundant in the hedge adjacent to the Hills and Holes. Very similar to Blackthorn, it has similar shaped, but larger leaves and larger fruits. Both Blackthorn and Bullace flower before their leaves appear providing some of the first colours to welcome spring.

From Warsop to Hammerwater Bridge Sookholme Lane’s hedges contain much Dogwood. The leaves have a network of pale veins. It grows in profusion, and sometimes hides the less rampant, narrower-leaved, herring-boned veined Spindle. The latter was used in furniture making, hence the name. Also look out for Buckthorn. Its toothed leaves have side veins that curve up towards the top of the leaf. All three have leaves that are in pairs opposite each other up the stem and rather plain white or light green flowers that grow into berries. Dogwood and Buckthorn berries are black and round, Spindle’s are red - purple and have four lobes.

Alder Buckthorn is very uncommon within Warsop Parish and has not been found within the booklet area. It is similar to the above trio, but the untoothed leaves are arranged step-like up the stem, with no two leaves opposite each other. Its side veins do not curve up.

Along Sookholme Lane you will find sycamore-like leaves with a red tinge to the stems and veins. This is Field Maple, the only native maple species. It must have been well valued in the past judging by the number of place-names that make reference to it. Usually a shrub in hedges, it is in fact a tree species as can be seen by the fine example next to Hammerwater Bridge.

Map