Category Archives: Garstang

Decapitating orchids in Lancashire. Environmental vandalism

Being retired I go out most days for a cycleride near Garstang in Lancashire. Usually I cover 20 to 40 miles and average about10 mph. I don’t cycle for speed but to explore and make great use of OS maps.

Recently I have been looking more and more at verges with their variety of flowers and change of flora during the seasons. Often it is fantastic to see what is there. I also note mammals and birds,and had a close shave last year when a buzzard missed me by inches!

Sadly in the last few months I have a spate of phantom mowers who strip the verges of all greenery and don’t give a damn about flowers.

As a result of finding so many flowers decapitated and mangled I wrote a blog last month

I often end up in Lane Ends Amenity area near Pilling, which is totally man-made and has two lakes. The material was used to make sea defences. At any time of the year there is something to see but the best is March to July as these photos show


In March and April the central “meadow” is covered in cowslips and then other flowers take over, most notably Southern marsh Orchids and some hybrids. There are a large number of them, but some vandal dug up the biggest clump in May.


There are also scabious, poppies, red and white campions. moon daisies, bacon-and-egg and other flowers


I visited again on Thurs 11th June and enjoyed the various flowers. I then cycled out of the entrance where a week earlier I saw these lovely southern Marsh Orchids in short grass on the verge.


i have to admit I felt a sense of foreboding  as I cycled out on to the road (entrance is by the clump of white moon daisies at the end of the road.) Sadly my foreboding was justified. Gone were the 25-30 orchids and only two were still standing.

This photo shows the area mowed – just a narrow strip of grass, no more than 9 inches high.


Here is the damage.

The left photo shows one survivor and the right a mangled orchid.


Here is a flower I put on top of a post – rather like an executioner’s block and another lying forlornly on the ground..


More decapitated orchids


These two photos are looking eastwards to the Lane End’s entrance. It was mowed on both sides, but on the left they stopped before the daisies. Even so there was no need to more.

The second shows the strip with orchids with another survivor.



Another view looking east, with the large white clump of moon daisies in the distance.

It shows the contrast of the mown and unknown verge and the height of the original verge.


While taking photos a dog-walker went past and she told me that the Environment Agency had come to mow it in the morning. I am not convinced that it was the EA, as if so some of their operatives will be in serious trouble. I hope.

I peddled off in a filthy mood and later looked at the flowers on the embankment beyond Fluke Hall.

On Friday I sent another email to my Wyre Councillor and hope for an explanation .

I put details on twitter so various councils and environmental groups could see yet another example of damage caused by mowing.

Mark Billington Corporate Director Environment tweeted to me on the matter twice on 12th June;

Michael – I understand your concerns but I do not believe that this work has been undertaken by Wyre Council.

It appears to be a highway verge@wyrecouncil do not control all grass cutting within the Wyre area.

At present I cannot find out who mowed it. Maybe an FOI to Wyre council may help?

This spring I have been appalled at the vandalistic mowing of verges in my part of Lancashire – Fylde and Wyre Council areas.

The decapitation of these orchids is only the worst example I have found on my travels.

Only on occassion did I see Wyre workmen mowing – with limited sensitivity.

Most of the time I cannot work out who did the mowing but it is often excessive cutting 6 feet or more of verges when 2 to 3 foot would be ample by any standards. The usual answer is for safety and visibility, but that would only apply to verges by road junctions.

Sadly this story is repeated throughout the country.

It does seem that those who mow have had no training on the value of wildflowers and other flora, not only in themselves but also to encourage bees , other insects, small mammals and birds, and don’t seem to get beyond “tidiness”.

I also reckon that local councils are shirking their responsibilities.

Landslides in Norway and the Forest of Bowland.

On 3rd June 2020 a remarkable landslide occured in Norway when a slice of land complete with houses slid into the sea. The poor owner videoed it and I hope he got something for that. Later you can read a geological blog on it and see the whole video. It is both awesome and sad. Fortunately there was no loss of life.

Here is the house almost entering the sea.

Alta quick clay landslide

I live on the edge of the Forest of Bowland which I explore on foot and bike. It is a fascinating area and luckily many drive past without stopping! As a result it is not very crowded. I often don’t meet a soul on a walk.

My favourite cycle ride is over the Trough of Bowland, through Whitewell and Chipping and thus back to Garstang. There are several variants and when I did it this May I covered 40 miles. When I do it clockwise I always stop by Smelt Hill having done the major climb. A few centuries ago lead ore from the limestone anticline at Sykes was smelted here. Just above the old smelting area there is a bend with convenient stones. Thus I stopped here in May for my lunch. I just love the view.

But look carefully, a few hundred yards upstream you can see a tongue from the left sticking out towards the river.


This shows it more clearly and it is the debris from a landslip many thousands of years ago. I suggest about 20000 yrs.


To summarise the geology the area is of Carboniferous strata , with Bowland Shales capped by Pendle Grit as in the cross-section below ( which is for the area at bit further on.).

geo2 - Copy

This blog of the section of Bowland Shales on Pendle hill gives more detail

The shales are soft and the grit hard. If the shale gets totally wet, in the right conditions, it will slip and cause a landslip. There are many examples in the Forest of Bowland and are marked on the Geological Survey 1 :50000 map.

Another example is between Parlick and Saddle Fell where the area now marked as Wolf Fell has slipped off the saddle! You can see that to the right of Parlick which is on the left of this photo. In the shadow you can see a cwm, which almost appears glacial, but is not.  An area of 1km by 1/2 km has simply slipped downhill. It is marked on the geological map. It must have been a dramatic sight.


The slope is most irregular. This is the hummocly terrain between Parlick and Saddle Fell.


This photo taken last september is looking across the landslip from Saddle Fell to Parlick. You can see where it lsipped off Parlick. It must have been dramatic to watch.

P1010954 (1)

Another dramatic example is Blue Scar up the Dunsop Valley from Dunsop Bridge. There a l;arge area had slump from near the top of the hill leaving a cwm with steep sides. The hill is capped with Pendle Grit overlying Bowland Shale.


If you could go back in time, when that cliff was not there there was instead a smooth hillside of mostly shales.  Geologically this is the contact between to Bowland Shales and the Pendle Grit. Below the Pendle Grit there are alternate shale and grit bands, with some visible in the lower part of the photo.

A few years ago I went that steep slope to look at some of the Hind Sandstone which was deformed most oddly soon after deposition. It was not the wisest place to do field geology and I do not recommend it!!



This is the “headwall” of the landslip, which I visited the previous year .


Here the shale and grit are melded together, presumably before they solidified. It was a difficult photo to take as it was very steep and one step back to get a better shot would have resulted in a rapid descent of 100ft. Howver this is the geology of 300 million years ago rather than of today.


There are many examples of landslips marked of the Geological Survey maps of Garstang and Lancaster;

  • On the north side of Grize Dale valley below Nicky Nook
  • On the north side of Langdon Brook by Langdon Castle
  • On the slopes of Wardstone north of Tarnbrook

Most of these are south facing, which may indicate that it was warmed sufficiently to slide at the end of the Devensian Ice Age, and   most of them were triggered by the melting of permafrost after the last ice advance – & some of them are still unstable, as in the Trough of Bowland.

To visualise  the speed and devsatation of what happened think of the disaster at Aberfan.

There are more landslips if you check the maps but these are the clearest.

As well as that there are an increased number small landslips, as on the minor road by Walmsley bridge, which was clearly due to the heavy rain earlier this year. There are considerable numbers round the country both in high land (I found a cracker on Y Garn two years ago)  and also near the coast as on the Isle of Sheppey tipping houses over the edge. In a sense, this is inevitable due to the change in weather patterns. Since 1980ish British weather has seen both longer wet and dry periods, rather than more broken weather, which is ideal for landslips and building subsidence.

Sadly, we can expect more landslips, and possibly not only small ones but even as large as those ancient ones in the Forest of Bowland.


I’ll now give an American example, which we visited briefly on holiday in the American West some years ago. We were staying  (in a grotty place) in the Grand Teton National Park and apart from going up to 10,000ft by cable car we explored the area and thus went to the landslide at Gros Ventre some miles to the east. It is one of the biggest recorded landslips.

The top of the of the mountain is about 9000ft , 2000ft higher than the base. When th mountain gave it slipped and ran up the other side of the valley for 300ft. This cause a dam which resulted in fatalities when it broke.


And so we come to the dramatic footage from Norway, which should remind us how unstable our planet is.


The remarkable video of a landslide at Alta in Norway yesterday is probably the finest recording of a quick clay landslide to date.

Source: Alta: a truly remarkable video of a quick clay landslide in Norway

Where have all the flowers gone? Stripped from verges everyone.

One of the joys of cycling the lanes of Lancashire is the profusion of flowers and plants in the hedgerows and verges. My cycling is more to explore than to clock up the miles. I explore using ordnance survey maps so I can find new lanes and places of interest. I cycle all year round, so see the countryside in all seasons. I only avoid ice and high winds!!

Each year I cycle over 4000 miles with rides from 20 to 50 and occasionally more miles. Thus I tend to go down the same lanes many times a year. Speed is not my aim and I am always looking at the flora and fauna and stop if there is anything of interest. I always see and note the changing seasons. Although my botanical skills are not great, I note where particular flowers blossom and when. Often I chooose a route to see what flower I expect to see has flowered.

A few weeks ago I tootled past this fantastic array of forget-me-nots. It was downhill but I kept my brakes on so I could take it all in. 8 mph was better than 18mph!


There are many other examples and best savoured at a slow pace. Granted I couldn’t do more than 5-6 mph going up Beacon Fell.

Look at the variety Alkanet, Welsh Poppy, Ramsons, Red Campion, Queen Annes Lace, and finally some hybridizing Red and white campions.



It is difficult not to think of Darwin’s beautiful conclusion to The Origin of Species seeing these displays.

“It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone circling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved.”

It is all absolutely wonderful until you cycle after someone (who knows who?) has been along the lane with a mowing machine and shredded up to six foot or more of the often flower-rich verges. As I cycled along this lane I did not think of Darwin but wondered who could have such a lack of concern or knowledge of the countryside. Today, a fortnight after cycling this, I was there again and it is still a mess.



This is not so much mowing as mangling. Hardly good management.


Darwin needs bringing up to date;

It is awful to contemplate a mangled bank, clothed with so few  plants, which have been mangled by a mower, with no birds singing on the bushes, with various insects unable to find their food, and no hedge garlic for the orange tip butterfly to lay its eggs. And to hell with the orchids.

This is the same lane as above. Campions nestle against the hedge, but you can see the mangled ones in front .


I cannot understand why such a wide strip needs mowing. In fact here, they failed to mow adjacent to the road but just carved at least a three foot strip mangling the flora.


Then cycling near Inskip I found six foot of verges had been mowed to destruction as you can see in the three photos below..

Why do this? There is no reason for visibility. as for tidiness only a stroip about 2ft wide is needed.

Further it is very rough mowing done with no concern for precision or tidiness and even less for the flora, however common it may be. Of course, there are those who will see those plants as “weeds”, thus needing removal as they have no purpose





A little further on was a pole in the middle of the verge preventing  the mower from reaching much of the verge. This mean some flowers were left and here some Queen Annes Lace and some vetch. This is what the stretch of road in the previous photos would have looked like.P1030444

A mile or so along the lane the verges were mown down to the soil ripping up ramsons and Campions.



Isn’t this so beautiful? I can’t imagine Darwin finding it interesting to contemplate.


Elsewhere hedge garlic, the home to orange tip caterpillars  is often shreddedand cut back, thus assisting in the decline of butterflies.

I often cycle along the lane west of Cartford Bridge, which overlooks some of the lower reaches of the River Wyre. Recently as I went down this stretch I looked for the interesting hybrids between Red and White Campions I had stopped and photographed a week before.

They were no more – sacrificed to the great god the mower. I was furious.



Here are the campions I’d photographed on my previous ride.

Now I could wax lyrical on them! The most obvious sign are pink flowers in contrast to the pure white one and very deep pink or red ones. I won’t go into the shape of the leaves and other aspects or how you can tell between boy and girl plants! I am not very good on the sex life of Campions.

I was pleased to find this site as occurences of hybrid campions are not that common in this part of Lancashire, and this seems to be an outlier. (But a competent botanist may correct me.)




A few days after this cycling near Stalmine I found this heavy handed mowing removing a good foot of growth.

Some would argue that this was done for drainage reasons. If so, it should have been done at least a month earlier or last autumn.  By now plants like meadowsweet or purple loosestrife should be a foot high. In fact, the ditch by the end of Union Lane was cut back several months ago and now has meadwosweet and purple loosestrife thriving.


Carrying on up the lane I came to turn-off to Stalmine and found the phantom mower had been hard at it.

All that was needed was a yard strip adjacent to the road, rather than removing everything right back to the hedge.

That is all that is needed for visibility for dangerous road-users, unless they were Borrowers.


Last year cycling above Claughton I so pleased to find a hundred yard log stand of ragged Robin in flower. Here it is today> If you look carefully you will see ONE Ragged Robin flower.

As you see a FOUR foot edge was mowed, which can have no justification for visiblity or tidiness.

This is only one of two locations in Lancashire that I’ve found roadside Ragged Robins. The other was a lone flower in a bank at 240  metres three miles away.



These are just some of the photos I started to take in April as I realised what was happening. These go up to 20th May.

Obviously as I cycle at a sedate rate of 10- 15 mph I have time to notice things, you wouldn’t if you were trying to better your time on Strava or driving, but this is why I cycle the way I do.

I like to see what is there; flora, fauna, buildings, boundary stones and anything of interest. As well as flora I’ve seen Great White Egrets, Purple Herons, Owls, Hares , Rabbits, Stoats, various butterflies etc. In February  cycling towards Eagland Hill I saw a Kestrel hovering , two buzzards being mugged by crows and then the temporary resident the Purple Heron. I have been hit by a small bird and last year a buzzard missed me by inches!!

Come a month or two I shall be looking out for knapweed, purple loosestrife and other flowers.

My worry is that this kind of mowing will remove not only the wild flowers but also insects and birds.

That is why it needs to stop and be properly managed.

About myself, I am more of a person interested in wildlife, both flora and fauna, rather than having any special skills, so this blog is a protest against the wholesale cutting down of verges while in flower.  I accept they need cuttting but that should be done taking flowering into consideration. Here is Plantlife on the mowing of verges. Very wise;

All Councils – Parish, county and district/borough need a coherent strategy on the management of verges. They also need to take advice from a competent ecologist. It is not something to be left to someone with a mowing machine, who may think that weeds need to be cut to the ground.

I have lodged a complaint with my local councillors and have had a positive response.

In contrast to this Wales is different as this BBC article shows

With a good example

View image on Twitter

And a bad one

View image on TwitterImage


Finally, in contrast to my amateurish complaints, here is some informed comment.

  1. A recent conference on the management of verges

2. An old blog from a botanist dealing with these problems, giving links to how various councils in England are managing verges.

3. The policy of Dorset County Council.

Each of these will give a professional amplification of my concerns.

I will leave you with this image. It is better for bees, insects, birds and humans

Verge flowers





Holy Communion with the Devil at Cirencester

Yup, that’s it! When you go to Cirencester Parish Church you take communion with the Devil.

Cirencester is the capitol of the Cotswolds and an ancient market town going back to Roman times. We often stop there returning from the tumuli around Stonehenge. The centre of the town is the massive parish church dedicated to John the Baptist, which is apt considering the funding of the tower.


A vast medieval  church like indicates one thing; WOOL. The wealth of England in the middle Ages was built on wool whether in the Cotswolds or the Yorkshire Dales. Many wool merchants became the equivalent of billionaires, but the downside was that the sheep munched all the wild flowers.

The chancel is the oldest part of the church. Construction started around 1115. It was widened in about 1180. The east window dates from around 1300. The original stained glass of the east window has long since disappeared and it is now filled with fifteenth century glass from other parts of the church in a patchwork quilt of glass with the Devil taking centrestage.


To the north of the chancel is St. Catherine’s Chapel which dates from around 1150. It contains a wall painting of St. Christopher carrying the Christ Child, and vaulting given by Abbot John Hakebourne in 1508.

The nave was completely rebuilt between 1515 and 1530 and is a remarkable example of late perpendicular gothic architecture.

The tower is fifteenth century and remarkable for the large buttresses which shore it up at its junction with the nave. It was built with blood money as Henry IV gave money for it to say thanks for the heads of Richard II’s half brothers, which were sent to Henry on a platter  (or should have been, noting its dedication), after being beheaded in the market place outside the church.  And so construction began soon after the 1399/1400  “rebellion”, which was part of the Wars of the Roses.

The great south porch which adjoins the market place was built around 1500 at the expense of Alice Avening.

Oddly the nave was built last of all and so making one building connecting tower and nave, which is the highest of any English church, but not cathedral. (The downside today are the horrendous heating bills.)


The vista is vast and I cannot think of a more massive parish church.


The view down the aisle from the tower is impressive with a verger and churchwarden in the foreground. And thanks to the warden for giving me a guided tour.


Walking down the aisle you see the rood screen with the altar, reredos and east window beyond.


Now let’s say you are at a communion service and have come down the aisle to receive communion , the body and blood of Christ. Once through the rood screen, you see the the alter, which is rather large and not the plain wooden table of the Reformation.


If you are from Garstang like us and irreligiously looking at the crazy east window you will see the arms of wool merchant Mr Garstang who’d moved south from Garstang to make his fortune. But your mind should be on higher things.


A few steps more and you have a closer view of the alter and very ornate Victorian reredos, surprisingly not in wood.


Then before you kneel at the altar rail, there is a devilish face looking at you from the east window. Yes, it is the devil seeking those who he/it can lead astray.


Yes, it looks almost mischievous, but we know that sin, or whatever it is that makes us do wrong, humorously leads us in the wrong direction.


At this point it is best to kneel and immediately the Devil has gone. As we receive the fortifying bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ , the devil is overcome as the early church thought. This is best seen as Jesus though the cross defeating evil and forgiving us and then through his rising again opening the way to a new life.

As Paul wrote to the wayward church in Corinth

The Institution of the Lord’s Supper

23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is for[g] you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

and in Paul’s letter to the Colossians

 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.

21 And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled[j] in his fleshly body[k] through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him— 23 provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven. I, Paul, became a servant of this gospel.

I hope all who worship at Cirencester find this a great aid to their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

For me it made a very serious point on the human condition and its solution in a rather jokey way.

Perhaps we need more jesters explaining the gospel of Christ and fewer showmen and pretend academics.