A suprising diversity of habitats along a closed railway line
Disused railway lines often provide excellent 'corridors' for wildlife and Haskayne Cutting is no exception. A surprising diversity of habitats has developed since the line was closed in 1952. Seasonal open water, marsh, acid and calcareous grassland (a rare combination in this part of Lancashire) scrub and Keuper sandstone outcrops are all found on this reserve. More than 172 vascular plants have been recorded in the cutting with four different species of marsh orchid in the northern-most section and numerous mosses, liverworts and ferns contribute to the attraction for visiting humans and wildlife. All year round damp conditions are ideal for alder, with grey and goat willow dominating the rest of the site. Silver and downy birch, hawthorn and elder grow in the drier sections. Don't be surprised to see some scrub cut back and cleared as this is part of the site management. Patches of heather appear on the banks indicating a more acid, dry, sandy soil. Tormentil and heath-bedstraw occur on such poor soil whereas St. John's-wort, meadowsweet and marsh thistles thrive in the wetter conditions with marsh-marigolds flowering in the ditch. Towards the southern end of the cutting, the low embankment produces a mass of flowering plants including the distinctive yellowrattle, an old hay meadow flower. Approximately 60 species of birds have been noted on Haskayne of which 37 are thought to breed on site. March and April is a good time of year to see Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Yellowhammer and Yellow Wagtail, with Dove often appearing later in summer while Fieldfare and Redwing are winter visitors. Whitethroat and Willow Warbler are attracted to the scrub and woodland although ground-nesting species such as the Willow Warbler also benefit from the removal of scrub. Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, which are the first to emerge in spring, are attracted by the willow catkins and a further 14 butterfly species have been recorded. You may spot the Common Blue, Orange Tip, Large Skipper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and Gatekeeper in the summer months. Common toads and frogs inhabit the site and common lizards have been known to use the old railway station and fence posts by the public footpath to bask in the sun.
Haskayne Cutting is one of our reserves that allows well-behaved dogs on leads. Our dog-friendly reserves are featured on Bauwow, a brilliant app where pooch lovers can find great places for their pets. Click on the Bauwow logo for more details.