Special Places

For me the parkland at croft castle is a special place, there are so many different aspects to the landscape, different environments, all to be found within the boundary of the parkland. It is however quite special for many others too. The Parkland’s significance as ‘special’ is indicated by two distinct areas that have Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) status. The short hand for this designation is ‘triple SI’ and such areas throughout the UK that have this status are important specific areas that support plants and animals, that find it difficult to survive elsewhere in the countryside, and they represent what are considered to be the country’s best wildlife and geological sites. Such sites are also legally protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

There are two SSSI areas at Croft. Many people following the walks where these areas exist would probably not be aware that they are going through SSSI areas.

00. A fishpool

One of six pools or ponds in the valley.

The one that is most commonly walked is in the Fishpool Valley.

The year round damp conditions of the valley are the ideal habitat for a number of rare species. Living down here are not the high profile rarities and endangers species that make televised viewing, they are the lesser know flora and fauna, which perhaps makes them so much more important to protect.

2010 06 25Of the 31 rare and endangered lichens that have been recorded at Croft, half of them occur in the Fishpool Valley. Fungi abound down here about 500 (five hundred) species have been recorded in recent years.

Placing an insect trap in the hollow of an ancient oak tree

Placing an insect trap in the hollow of an ancient oak tree

The decaying fallen wood and veteran oaks are home, and are of major importance in supporting important invertebrates. Some of these invertebrates are of national importance and some have ‘red data book’ status making them endangered. Ornithologists take great interest in what goes on down here too. There are birds here that are Red, Amber and Priority listed. Birds are not the only flying creatures to be found down here several species of Bats make use of the ancient trees and ivy for both winter and summer roosts.

A brown long eared bat

A brown long eared bat

The array of ground flora is a key indicator of ancient woodland and the pools support aquatic flora which in a recent survey (2012) concluded “that the vegetation here represents an extremely rare and valuable habitat type and is therefore of very high conservation value”. The pools also support an important population of the priority species white-clawed crayfish.

The other SSSI area, visited to a lesser degree, is Pokehouse Wood (see also my article about Pokehoues Wood under ‘walks’). Within Pokehouse Wood it is the River Lugg itself and the immediate banks of the river that have SSSI status. That said it is apparent that there is much within Pokehouse Wood to preserve. The flora found there provides a clear indication that it has been wooded for hundreds of years. This is probably why the commercial plantation was clear felled back in 2009/10 and in years to come perhaps the landscape at Pokehouse Wood could gain ‘triple SI’ status, to compliment the status of the river that passes through it.

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John Parsons