Inland Atlantis

Temporary spaces can be excellent opportunities for nature. Abandoned brownfield sites often yield impressive species lists; much in evidence and little in abundance as opportunists from miles around race to occupy the vacant space. New roads cutting through long un-disturbed land can unearth a treasure trove of seeds from lost arable specialists which could have disappeared from a county for years. They are released from dormancy and fill the new verges in one last burst before being engulfed by the turf and industrial scale scrub planting that accompanies our road network.  

Denton Reservoir is currently under repair and the engineers have dropped the water level by almost three metres to allow them to undertake the works. This has unearthed wide expanses of previously inundated silt and sediment which are currently swathed in a luscious carpet of green and white, as though an underwater meadow, lost like Atlantis, was waiting for this opportunity to be discovered.  

Rather than emergence, this meadow is encroachment as a species present at the peripheries has seized the opportunity to colonise this temporary land. Water chickweed (Myosoton aquaticum) is a species of wetland margins, found along streams and lakes where it thrives in that halfway place. The leaves are round and satisfying, toothsome but not fleshy. The flowers are a creamy white with five petals which are notched so deeply that they look like ten. The stamens are the only concession to colour; ten filaments hold aloft the anthers which are a gentle mauve. It has a late flowering season and even now, in November, is putting on a fine floral display.  

When the works are complete, this species will once again be pushed back to the margins and the new meadow lost to the rising tide. However the seeds from this bumper crop are likely to linger for many years to come, waiting for another opportunity to advance and expand from the peripheries once more.  

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