steep banks along the eastern side of this section of Sookholme Lane contain
plants often found in ancient woodland, for example, Bluebell, Yellow Archangel
and Wood Mellick. Mature Oak, Ash, Holly and Hazel grow beside the lane.
The hedge along the western side has been recently laid by Mr Sharpe of Herrings Farm.
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
Upright Hedge Parsley
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
Fools 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
You may see these birds along this section of the lane-
Great Spotted Woodpecker
throughout the lanes locally. Flocks that may number from half a dozen to
a thousand may be seen darting about along the hedges twittering. Single
birds are more often seen during the breeding season. Goldfinch particularly
feed on the seeding heads of plants from the Compositae family such as Dandelion,
Teasel, Daisy, Thistles and Knapweeds. So they are usually seen beside grassland
areas. Although they can be difficult to identify at a distance, close up
they are unmistakable as their gold, black and red colouring sets them apart
from any other bird.
Bullfinch is not as common, but look out for a stockier finch-like bird with a broad bill and a prominent white rump. Males have a reddy-pink breast; females have a brown one. They often feed on the buds of trees and shrubs so are rarely seen on the floor except when drinking. You are most likely to see them before the leaves are fully out on the trees.
The mature trees on the wide bank of Sookholme Lane provide shelter and food for typical woodland birds. Tree Creeper can sometimes be seen in the wooded bank on Sookholme Lane working its way up the trunks and larger branches of trees. Its stiff tail feathers help the bird to maintain its position upright as it searches for insects in and behind the bark
Great Spotted Woodpecker might be glimpsed flying between the mature trees and along the railway embankment further on. Evidence that they have visited the area may be seen on dead tree limbs adjacent to the lane.
Long-tailed Tits may be seen along the lane. Unmistakable because of their long tails in comparison to their bodies; family groups of up to twenty birds are often sighted.
The Hedgerows of Sookholme Lane
The eastern side of the
lane contains a wide bank that has protected it from injurious management
over a long time. This area contains Bluebell, Wood Melick, mature Oak, Holly, Ash, Hazel,
Lords and Ladies and much more. The dead Elms provide a rich habitat for
decomposing fungi and invertebrates as well as the birds that feed there.
It is well worth spending a little time looking beyond the edge of the lane.
In places along the lane, large sections are dominated by Holly. This
was once fed to livestock as winter-feed because of the high nutrient value
of its leaves.
Where steep or tall banks are found, the plants in the hedgerow are often those found within ancient woodland, for example Bluebell, Yellow Archangel and Wood Melick. These plants are indicators that the hedgerows have been in existence for many centuries.
Sookholme Lane from its junction with Spring Lane to the railway bridge provides a variety of hedgerow types. Mr. Sharpe of Herrings Farm has managed the laid sections over a number of years continuing an ancient craft that may date back more than 2000 years. The unusual style is due to the use of saplings as living support stakes. Large amounts of hazel have been rejuvenated by laying. The hedge is wide and impenetrable to both livestock and people. Look out for hazelnuts in late summer, they were once collected by countryfolk as a food source for both themselves and their livestock The bank on which the laid hedgerow sits forms the edge of the floodplain of Sookholme Brook. The course of the Brook was formerly winding, but was straightened and the adjoining land drained several centuries ago.