Willow Emerald

Today I had a wander round Emmonsail Heath, now vastly changed from John Clare's time, with extensive areas of arable cropping, and electricity pylons marching across the skyline. Though the fields are largely devoid of wildlife, the margins still support a range of arable weeds, including the rare Dwarf Spurge, both Sharp-leaved and Round-leaved Fluellen, Scarlet Pimpernel and Scented Mayweed.

Clare would probably still have recognised a few features of the area - the western edge of Oxey Wood still has stands of copper-tinged bracken while ancient hedgerows, the ghostly outlines of former woodlands, retain a few magnificent Oak trees, and are garlanded with scarlet hips and crimson haws, including those of Harsh Downy-rose and Field Rose, both only found in long-established sites in John Clare Country.

The brick pit pond perched above Swaddywell Pit is a more recent feature of the landscape, and today the bushes at its western end were full of fluttering Willow Emerald damselflies, a newcomer to Britain that only became established in 2007, and is now sweeping northwards, no doubt aided by climate change.

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