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Day 23: Naming Places

Posted: Friday 23rd June 2017 by 30DaysWild2017

The Clay 'oleThe Clay 'ole

Naming natural features and nature reserves is an important endeavour, and every name tells a story.

The photograph at the head of this blog is the “Clay ’ole”. It is a small roughly circular pool with plenty of open water, some emergent vegetation, some fringing trees. It is full of wildlife, above and below its surface. It has value as an amenity, people passing cannot resist taking a look, and their spirits are lifted by a glimpse of the Grey Heron, the Mallards, and Moorhens. The pond also has utility as a place for sheep to seek water and shade from its pollarded willows.

What is behind its name? The Clay ‘ole is just that, it is a hole dug out to provide clay for bricks made in the village for the construction of a large house and farm workers' cottages. Thus, today’s wildlife feature has a very humble and utilitarian history. Like the gravel pit at Beckford that I described in Blog 8 this was once a place dug out and cut back to the bare subsoil, from which all wildlife was removed. Having served its economic purpose it has been recolonised and cared for to become an important wildlife feature.

It is not difficult to understand how the Clay ‘ole got its name but many place names are hard to unravel. It may take a lot of historical research and scholarship to unravel the origins of many place names, but very often the name reflects either a past usage or past ownership of a place or feature. Names change over the centuries and the names that we have today are probably far divorced from those used by the people who first named and used sites.

I like to visit the sites of so-called Hill Forts, mainly because they are usually in very interesting locations and contain interesting plants. They too were once places of intense human activity, that have now been reclaimed by wildlife, but I often muse upon what these places were called by the people who used them two millennia ago. We know them by one name, but what did the locals call them? I often wonder how the people who constructed Stonehenge referred to it.

Tiddesley Wood Credit Zoe StevensNature reserves are all given names. Sometime these names reflect historic associations and established names of a nearby village or farm. However, they are often named to reflect people and their contributions to wildlife conservation. The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust has over 70 reserves, each has a name that was decided upon when it was established and some bear personal names.

There is the Gwen Finch Wetland, named after the person who provided a legacy for the purchase of land as a reserve for otters. The Betts, is a marvellous corner of Wyre Forest named in the memory of the late John Betts, a founder member of the Trust. Some reserves have had an additional name added. For example, Hill Court Farm & The Blacklands had the name “The Andrew Fraser Reserve” added in recognition of the Trust’s Conservation Manager for almost 30 years, who died while still in service.

While it helps, it is fortunately not essential to have died to have a personal name attached to a reserve. Tiddesley Wood (see photo above), had the name “the Harry Green Reserve” added in recognition of Harry’s extensive contribution to the Trust since it foundation fifty years ago, and Harry is still very much alive and contributing to the Trust’s activities on many fronts.

Our latest naming took place yesterday at Lower Smite Farm. In this case notNaming Tessa's Pond the whole reserve but an important feature of it, was named in honour of Tessa Carrick. Tessa’s Pond is the new name for an old farm pond, situated close to the HQ Buildings, which is used extensively by the Trust’s educational team.

Tessa dippingEquipped with pond dipping platforms this is a place where literally thousands of school children have had their first experience of pond life under the guidance of Tessa. It was Tessa who pushed through the development of the Trust’s educational programmes. Tessa is a biologist and a freshwater expert and she has shared her enthusiasm for all things to do with pond life. Tessa is still active with the Trust but retired from Council recently and her fellow Council members agreed that this pond is a lasting legacy to the Trust’s educational work with children. It took no time to decide that this is now “Tessa’s Pond”. As the photo shows, Tessa is still dipping.

Graham Martin, Chair of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, opinions are my own not those of the Trust., @GrahamMartin99


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