Midlands Meres and Mosses Ramsar in Cheshire

PUBLISHED: 18:54 17 January 2010 | UPDATED: 14:35 20 February 2013

Mere

Mere

TO THE naturalist, Cheshire is famed for her natural lakes and ponds. We have a number of large water bodies, which together form the Midlands Meres and Mosses Ramsar site, covering much of the Cheshire plain as well as parts of north Shropshire.


TO THE naturalist, Cheshire is famed for her natural lakes and ponds. We have a number of large water bodies, which together form the Midlands Meres and Mosses Ramsar site, covering much of the Cheshire plain as well as parts of north Shropshire.

Ramsar sites are wetlands of international importance, designated under the Ramsar Convention, named after the town in Iran where the importance of these sites was first officially recognised in 1971. This means our lakes and wet lands are considered of great value, not just to ourselves, but globally.


These natural water bodies were formed at the end of the last Ice Age. At that time, over 12,000 years ago, much of Britain was covered by ice sheets up to one kilometre thick. As the glaciers retreated they shaped much of Cheshire as we see it today. The melting ice dropped vast amounts of clay, sand and gravel, which form much of our current soils.

Huge chunks of ice broke loose, some of which became partially buried in the glacial deposits. As these ice blocks melted they left great depressions in the landscape, which later filled with water to become the shallow lakes we now know as meres.

The Cheshire meres are home to many specialist plants and animals, and especially birds. At the turn of the last century the spectacular great crested grebe had been hunted almost to extinction for its beautiful feathers, used to decorate the hats of fashionable ladies.

More than half the remaining handful of grebes found sanctuary on Cheshire's more secluded meres. Since then their number have increased until they are a common sight on lakes across Britain.


It is because of Cheshire's role in the Grebe's survival that Cheshire Wildlife Trust chose this lovely bird as its emblem and the title for its members' magazine

Although many of our meres are on private estates there are a number that are easily visited. Cheshire Wildlife Trust manages Hatchmere, on the east fringe of Delamere Forest. As well as open water Hatchmere has extensive reed beds, peat bogs and patches of wet woodland.

It is home to several nationally rare invertebrates, as well as dragonflies, damselflies and many birds. In south Cheshire the Cholmondely estate is home to Chapel Mere and Deer Park Mere, the latter fringed with damp woodland full of primeval-looking sedges and ferns.

Some of the glacial pools filled entirely with rainwater and as a consequence became too acidic for most aquatic plants. These were colonised by sphagnum mosses, which thrived in these conditions and over thousands of years formed dense peat bogs.

Sphagnum has an amazing ability to soak up rain water, to the extent that these bogs actually rise above the surrounding landscape, hence the term lowland raised bog. The local name for these raised bogs is 'mosses'.


The mosses are a very fragile and beautiful habitat. They are home to many rare plants and animals, such as the greater sundew, which compensates for the lack of nutrients in the peat bogs by capturing and digesting small flies with the stick droplets on its highly modified leaves.

Other rare plants include cotton grasses, bog rosemary, bog myrtle and up to eight species of sphagnum moss! The air is often alive with many different dragonflies and damselflies; some of these, such as the white-faced darter, are bog specialists and not found elsewhere. Butterflies like the green hairstreak also thrive on our mosses.




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