On a cold but sunny winters day I made what is my second visit this area. The picture above is from a previous trip when the weather was a lot warmer. It was still freezing on my visit the other day, despite it being in the middle of the day.
Location & Access: The Fenn’s, Whixall & Bettisfield Mosses straddles the English-Welsh border about 5 miles south-west of Whitchurch. There is no major road to the site, so you’ll have to take one of the narrower country lanes off the A495, B5476 or B5063. If you fancy taking a boat though the Llangollen Canal runs through the middle of the site. The site is relatively flat and shouldn’t provide any problems, though the walk from one of the carparks can be a bit of a trek if you have mobility problems.
Geology: The geology of the area is perhaps less obvious than the hills & valleys I normally write about. The Mosses are a rare environment, being a lowland raised bog and small areas of wetland it is a unique habitat for wildlife too. Their formation began about 12,000 years ago as the ice sheets retreated north. In amongst the till were depressions filled with water and melting ice. These formed the kettle holes that dominated the north Shropshire, south Cheshire and Wrexham area. Some of the these holes remained full of water and form the numerous kettle ponds that can be found in the area. Good examples can be found in Ellesmere and Delamere. In the case of the Mosses the hole filled up with layer upon layer of peat. This has created an acidic peat bog that has made a fantastic, albeit soggy under foot, environment and a link to our country’s icy past.
Wildlife: Besides the peat bog and its like to an ancient glacial past the Mosses is a great place for wildlife…well when its not frozen over ;).
Alongside the myriad of insects and spiders there are also adders and a wide range of birds, and according to one local I spoke to, the rarely sited water shrew. Unfortunately due to it being winter I didn’t see most of these. I did manage to get some pictures of the water fowl in the area.
These are my first attempts at photographing flocks of birds in flight. I had mixed results with many of pictures focusing on the background rather than the birds, but I don’t think they’re too bad for a first timer. The ducks that I’ve managed to get shots of include Shovelers (Anas clypeata), Wigeons (Anas penelope), Teals (Anas crecca) and Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). I also saw some Pintails (Anas acuta) and Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus) but happened to be changing the battery at the time.
References: Fundamentals of the Physical Environment (3rd Edition) by P. Smithson, K. Addison & K. Atkinson (2002). Geology (2nd Edition)by S. Chernicoff (1999). Geology of Shropshire (2nd Edition) by P. Toghill (2006). The Geology of Britain – An Introduction by P. Toghill (2006). iGeology map from the BGS (2015). Information leaflet from the site and produced by Natural England and Cyngor Cefn Gwlad Cymru (Countryside Council for Wales).