When the railways were built in St.Werburghs in the last century they left ugly scars & mounds in a wildlife rich countryside as can be seen in Lavar’s picture of Bristol in the 1880s. Over a hundred years of city expansion combined with the restorative powers of nature have turned the tables – now Narroways Junction is a natural sanctuary abutted by dense housing on all sides.
The present day ecology has arisen from a complex combination of climate, soil, the vegetation existing when the railways were built and the way the land has been managed since, from grass burning in the steam train era, temporary allotments and orchards, a laissez-faire allowing of scrub & ash/sycamore wood to develop to deliberate tree planting and habitat management of recent years.
Railway land has its own charming associations of plants and animals due to the ease with which introduced plant species could spread along these green corridors – Rosebay Willowherb and Goldenrod are just two such opportunists. The cuttings where the soil was scraped back to the marl bedrock slowly developed a community of slow growing, lime loving plants characteristic of chalk downlands such as Greater Knapweed, Field Scabious & Bird’s Foot Trefoil. These grasslands with their wonderful butterfly populations (Common Blue, Small Copper and Marbled White amongst others) and healthy numbers of Slow Worms and Common Lizards are a rich & interesting habitat.
There are rarer species too -a great swath of the scarce Corky Fruited Water Dropwort in the field near St.Werburghs church, Chicory, Field Garlic & Round-Leaved Cranesbill and unusual moths such as Sitochroa Verticalis & the Six-Belted Clearwing.
Narroways is also important for wildlife because of the range of habitats. There are dense thickets of bramble and suckering fruit trees, patches of tall vegetation, often on the fertile site of abandoned allotments and a nicely developing woodland – mainly Ash, revealing a continuity with more ancient woods when this area became known as Ashley Vale. There are also a few ponds dotted around on neighbouring land which help to sustain a rich amphibian life – toads, frogs and newt species.
Bird and animal life has found Narroways a congenial place to hang out. Kestrels and Sparrowhawks are not infrequently hunting, Jays screeching in the thickets, charms of Goldfinches on Teasels and parties of Long-Tailed Tits amongst the Hawthorn. Foxes, once common are still fighting to recover from the mange that decimated them ten years ago but Grey Squirrels & Hedgehogs have a presence and Badgers have been known to visit. In July Pipistrelle Bats take over the evening shift when the Swifts retire and other species of bats are present too. Many species, especially insects, remain to be discovered.
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