Helen Marks visits the waters of Colemere nature reserve near Ellesmere, with an introduction to Shropshire's geological history and a crash course in the use of a grapnel - made from an egg whisk and a length of washing line. In the company of botanist Sarah Whild she casts about for traces of the Least Water-lily, Nuphar pumila, a very rare glacial relic found in no other part of England or Wales. Global warming and hybridisation with the more common Yellow Water-lily means that its days are numbered, but local botanists are maintaining a careful watch on its numbers in this, its most southerly British stronghold.
The Botanical Society of the British Isles
Whittington Castle, near Oswestry, has a hidden treasure which probably goes unnoticed by visitors intent on viewing the ruins. Climb an unprepossessing five metre mound behind the gatehouse and you'll be sharing a vantage point enjoyed by visitors to the castle in the 13th century. Peter Brown, an archaeologist working with English Heritage, believes that this is the earliest and largest viewing mount known to historians, used by the castle's owners to show off their gardens once the castle's defensive days were over. From documentary evidence of "a garden ditched around with water" he has pieced together an image of a fine medieval garden landscape.
Whittington Castle Preservation Trust
Megan Morris Jones and her colleagues work with injured wildlife, brought to them at the Cuan House Wildlife Rescue Centre in Much Wenlock. Helen joins her on the banks of the Severn, at Cressage to watch the culmination of one rescue project: the release to the wild of a heron. Wearing goggles to protect herself from the potentially lethal stab of the heron's beak, Megan carefully allows the bird to spread its wings and take to the air - a tense moment, as the fragility of a heron's legs mean that it's just not possible to "test fly" it before release. Happily, the heron has recovered from injuries inflicted by netting over a local fishpond and is successfully and safely released by Megan.
More than 95 per cent of Britain's wildflower meadows have disappeared over the past 50 years but Helen is taken to a magnificent example on Wenlock Edge. She's accompanied by John Hughes of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, who explains how the flowers love the local limestone and the nutrient-poor soil. So stable is the meadow that nettles, dock and thistles find it impossible to infiltrate, and the Trust gathers seed each year for sale to the public. Browsing among orchids, fairy flax, milkwort and oxeye daisies, John explains the problems of trying to grow wildflowers in modern gardens and the huge rewards they offer to anyone lucky enough to enjoy the right growing conditions.
Shropshire Wildlife Trust
Finally, a relaxing stroll through rolling lavender fields and past Natalie Hodgson's "bee village" at Astley Abbotts. A beekeeper for nearly 50 years, Natalie also encourages bumblebees to nest on her land, as they work well in conjunction with the occupants of her 16 honey bee hives targetting different flowers and working at different times of the day.
Information on visiting Astley Abbotts
This week's competition
Inspired by our visit to the bee village of Astley Abbotts: who is the patron saint of bees?
Last week's winners are Neil and Wendy Barnes of Flixton who correctly said that the flat-bottomed boat used for transporting reeds across the Norfolk Broads is a lighter.
Submit your entry by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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