Woodside - Wildlife and brief history of the site.
The site from which Starscape currently operates is a classic brown field site, since it was originally one of Northumberland's many coal mines. The village of Scremerston has a long history of industrial workings, and of coal mining in particular, with at least one pit operational at any time between the 18th Century to the mid 20th Century.
Woodside was the site of the penultimate coal mine in the village, known during its lifetime as Greenwich Colliery after the landowners - Greenwich Hospital (roughly speaking, the naval equivalent of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, and also established during the reign of Charles II). However, it also had a multitude of other names: in various documents it is also called Scremerston Colliery, Scremerston Old Colliery (after it was abandoned), Jack Tar Pit and the Sink Pit.
Greenwich Colliery was opened in 1840 and continued to be worked until 1878, two years after the new Scremerston Colliery was opened a mile to the north. The shaft was sunk to the “...great depth of 110 fathoms” (approximately 200m), and worked the Scremerston Main, a coal seam around 1.3m thick that produced two grades of coal.
Towering over our main workshops is the stone engine house, and just a few metres to the southwest the even larger stone water tower which fed the steam engine. To the north of the engine house is the concrete capping sealing the shaft. The rest of the colliery has vanished, along with a nearby row of cottages and the railway line that ran north through the village to meet the main east coast line.
As well as the remains of the 19th Century colliery, to the south of the remaining buildings is a narrow stone-lined channel leading to a gin-gang. This represents the only visible evidence of an earlier pit that was obliterated by the later water tower and engine house.
However, while Woodside was once a busy, noisy and dirty site, today it is a quiet clearing in the middle of mixed woodland and in the five years since we moved to this site we've worked to soften the industrial look of the various buildings with judicious planting and we've also tried to be good neighbours to the wildlife who share the site with us.
In addition to deer licks, seed, nut and fat feeders, we decided this spring (2015), to construct a wildlife pond. Picking the location was easy as a former tenant had built an 8 x 9 metre shallow tray in concrete and block, apparently to soak old timber doors prior to stripping.
The pond seems to be thriving with the oxygenators and other weeds introduced.
The concrete pan was quite heavily overgrown and its base covered in debris. A day’s work sorted out the rubbish and then a waterproof liner was installed and water introduced.
We then constructed an island and three stone enclosures. The island and two of the enclosures were filled with soil and planted with native species. The other enclosure was left as a bird bath.
After a few weeks we introduced 20 minnows and 20 sticklebacks. The day after disaster struck. A heron, identified by a footprint in one of the planting areas wreaked havoc with the plants and fish. As far as we could see not a minnow remained. The heron also visited a long established water feature outside our office door and took five of the eight goldfish. (Our two original fish had produced six offspring).
Measures were taken. As only one side of the pond is easily accessible a cord was strung to stop the heron walking in and a wire grille cover constructed for the water feature which is removed during the day.
As far as we can see the heron has not returned, or has done and been deterred by our protective measures, and we've subsequently added some more minnows.
We now have two species of water beetle, water boatmen, pond skaters and loads of midges! We are hoping, as the pond matures the midges will be controlled by the beetles, frogs and toads. The pond has already attracted frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies.
Apart from our efforts to support local wildlife, our transition at the start of 2013 to using LED-based light sources in place of the conventional halogen light sources means that our customers are collectively using far less electricity these days - 5 watts rather than 50 or 75 watts.
This Iron bell container is used as a water feature containing seven Goldfish. It could have been part of the mining equipment, or it might be a remnant of the period when an architectural salvage yard operated here. The two lugs on the outside suggest the container tipped.
Fat, nut and seed feeders.
Iron bath pressed into service.
Deer live in the surrounding wood and sometimes venture into the yard.
Wisteria at Woodside
‘Letterboxes’ were cut out of two of the workshop doors to allow swallows access.
We think the building we use as an office at Woodside was originally part of the mine infrastructure. The two sheds we use as workshops were later additions.
Latest happenings around the compound.
Our Wisteria is coming along nicely.
After a Robin and Blue tit succumbed to our local Sparrowhawk in one day, we constructed this open aviary. It seems to have done the trick, with lots of this year's fledglings now enjoying the buffet.
No access to this pile of boxes for a couple of weeks, until the Wagtail chicks fledge. Two broods this year.
We planted three buddleia bushes last year and they are now attracting butterflies and bees. Although Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Red Admiral are the most common varieties we do get the occasional treat such as the Humming Bird Hawk Moth.
Click the link for a short video of this Roe deer in the grounds.
Tulips in the compound.
Bats in the storeroom roof.
Last week a bat was unintentionally disturbed and flew a couple of circuits of the storeroom vaulted roof, before landing on a rafter and crawling into a hiding space. A Horseshoe we think, too large for a Pipistrelle.
Our security cameras always catch loads of activity at dusk, but the recordings are just streaks in front of the cameras.
We hope to put a camera into the pond soon!
Last month we were looking out for signs of frogspawn in the pond but to no avail. Not even a teaspoon. So I broke the wildlife rules about removing spawn from ponds and collected two small containers from a puddle on Holy Island.
The spawn was collected after a period of dry weather, and I have no doubt in my mind the puddle would have dried out a few days, killing the spawn anyway.
Tadpoles wriggled free a couple of weeks ago and now we have what seems like thousands, many more that the small amount of spawn that I collected.
I can only assume our local frogs were not as shy as I first thought and spawned out of our sight. Not difficult to do as duckweed is starting to take over the surface.