The Dell

View of the Hills and HolesThis triangular area between Stone Bridge and Warsop Vale is part of the Hills and Holes and Sookholme Brook Site of Special Scientific Interest and is protected due the to the variety of its plant life. The Hills and Holes’ boundaries appeared on the first maps of the area in the early 1600s. The hedges therefore are older than most buildings in the surrounding villages! Their value as a habitat for wildlife, particularly for birds, and as reminders of our cultural heritage is priceless.

As with the the other parts of The Hills and Holes this is an ancient quarry site. From 2007 Natural England started to manage the grassland with an annual cut.

 

Plants
Birds
Hedgerows
Map

The Plants of the Dell part of the Hills and Holes

Plants found here include-

Meadowsweet
Carline Thistle
Hawkbits
Hawksbeards
Hawkweeds
Cat’s-ears
Early Purple Orchid
Bee Orchid

The triangular section of the Hills and Holes covers a range of environmental conditions. Though the soils are thin, sandy and well drained, there are areas that hold standing water throughout the year. These areas contain some water-loving plants including Meadowsweet - a typical plant of mineral-rich water-laden ground.

This section is not grazed, so the occasional fires that appear to thoroughly devastate it serve to prevent the ranker-growing grasses such as Tor grass and shrubs such as Gorse from taking over. However, over time, the impact of unmanaged repeated fires may be to reduce the overall plant diversity of the area.

The dry soils mean that most plants finish flowering early and then the grasses can take over. The range of grasses is superb; you can easily find around thirty different species simply by identifying the different seeding and flowering heads. The late summer flowers to observe include a number of yellow-flowered members of the daisy family such as Carline Thistle, hawkbits, hawksbeards, hawkweeds and cat’s-ears

Several orchid species can be found including Early Purple Orchid and Bee Orchid. The former are seen most prominently when they grow up after a winter fire. Bee Orchids are difficult to spot among the grasses so be careful where you walk to avoid treading on them.

The Birds of the Dell part of the Hills and Holes

These are some of the birds that can be seen in this area-

Whitethroat
Linnet
Long-tailed Tit
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Yellowhammer
Kestrel
Sparrowhawk
Barn Owl
Little Owl
Cuckoo

The triangular section of the Hills and Holes, known by some as the ‘Dell’ is important for several birds typical of grassland and scattered scrub. Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer and Linnet are constant residents throughout late spring and summer.

Long-tailed Tits nest in several parts of the area. Unmistakable because of their long tails in comparison to their bodies; family groups of up to twenty birds are often seen working systematically through the trees incessantly calling to each other for reassurance. In winter you may see the remains of their dome-shaped nests constructed from moss, feathers and cobwebs.

Blue Tit and Great Tit often join with other tits to form feeding parties in winter. Because each species has different methods of feeding they can work together to strip trees of food.

Yellowhammer is often heard before it is seen. Listen for the males calling ‘a little bit of bread and chee-ese’. Whitethroats are unremarkable looking birds at a distance, close up their bright breast colours and the pale grey head of the male make them unmistakable. They are known as ‘nettle-pegs’ because of the habit of several birds perching on the stalks of tall herbs and grasses like pegs on a washing line.

The Hills and Holes provides a good hunting ground for predatory birds such as Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl and Little Owl. The mosaic of grazed and rough grassland with banks, tall trees and shrubs, and scattered scrub creates a habitat they can all use to find food. The owls are most likely to be seen at dusk. Even the increasingly scarce Barn Owl might be spotted ‘ghosting’ across the more open areas.

Kestrel and Sparrowhawk are best seen if you can pick a good spot and sit quietly for a time. The Kestrel is the smaller of the two species and hunts mice and voles. It is known as the ‘windhover’ because of its ability to hover almost motionless in the breeze above a spot where it thinks there might be a meal.

Sparrowhawks hunt birds. They use surprise and fear to help them catch their prey. Flying silently between trees, and swooping low over hedges and shrubs they surprise birds who attempt to fly off in fear and are caught as the Sparrowhawk pounces. Sometimes you become aware that a Sparrowhawk is nearby from the alarm calls of birds nearby. They are known to time their own breeding to coincide with the emergence of Blue Tit nestlings so there is a ready source of appropriately sized food for their young. The female is bigger than the male and takes larger birds. Under a tree you might see the plucked feathers that are all that remains of a pigeon. Often the sign of a successful Sparrowhawk hunt.

From early spring to the middle of summer, it seems a Cuckoo can always be heard in the area. The large number of birds here provides many opportunities for the Cuckoo to lay its eggs in their nests. At rest this large bird is often mistaken for a Sparrowhawk, however, it does not have the same ‘flap-flap-flap-glide’ flight of the predator when flying over open ground.

The Hedgerows of the Dell part of the Hills and Holes

The Hills and Holes’ boundaries appeared on the first maps of the area in the early 1600s. These hedges therefore are older than most buildings in the surrounding villages! Their value as a habitat for wildlife, particularly for birds, and as reminders of our cultural heritage is priceless.

Path from Stone BridgeAt the end of Stonebridge Lane, remnants of the lane’s hedges remain to remind us of its former glory. The bridge was originally a medieval packhorse bridge with a typical arching shape. The lane was probably used by traders and the hauliers of the time when they loaded their animals with goods and led them in trains of twenty or more horses right across the country using the network of old roadways. The bridge was replaced during the 1960s with the current construction. Over the bridge, the wide hedgerow covers the width of the old lane.

Immediately after the bridge, leading away at a right angle to the left, is a hedge line of Hawthorn that because of lack of management was allowed to grow into mature trees. Hawthorns tend to have a lifespan of generally not more than 100 years. These trees have been given another lease of life by cutting them down and allowing new growth to spring up. Perhaps in future years, in a new hedge line will be created.

After Stonebridge Lane, the paths fork towards both Warsop Vale and Church Warsop. The Church Warsop path skirts the River Meden flood plain along the edge of a finger of sandstone that sticks out onto the limestone and provides better drained and lighter soils.

Dell TunnelFrom Stonebridge Lane to Warsop Vale, the path temporarily leaves the hedgerow. Passing through a dense thicket of Blackthorn that needs regular cutting to keep the path clear, the hedgerows are rejoined, again at the boundary of sandy and limestone-based soils. Note the difference between the hedges on each side of the path. The eastern side has been repeatedly affected by fire, but is probably the older of the two hedges. The much younger western hedge was probably created to keep people away from livestock in what was a pasture field.

 

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