The secluded stream valleys that transport rainwater from the Wrekin Forest to the River Severn are among the area’s least known yet most important features. They play a vital role in influencing local water quality, while providing many species with the connections they need to move through the wider landscape immediately beyond the waterway itself…
Many of the Wrekin Forest’s steep-sided, wooded gullies are difficult or impossible to access but, just south of Little Hill, a public footpath travels straight through the middle of Chermes Dingle, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Its poorly draining, loamy and clayey soils are fertile ground for wet woodland, a nationally scarce habitat capable of harbouring a wide range of plants, animals and insects.
The idea of ’wet woodland’ might conjure up images of a swamp-like morass but tree cover here can be surprisingly sparse in places, enabling light to penetrate the canopy and create drier ground conditions beneath. In spring, the floor in Chermes Dingle is blanketed with yellow and white washes of early flowering Lesser Celandine, Wood Sorrel and Ramsons, while many woodland birds and butterflies navigate the more open rides through the area. The woody debris deposited into the stream network by its trees is also valuable for breeding invertebrates, providing submerged egg-laying sites for cornerstones of the food chain that include mayflies, caddisflies and craneflies.
Despite its undoubted wildlife value, Chermes Dingle’s SSSI status actually relates to its impressive geological heritage. The sedimentary mudstone found here was formed in deep seas 479 to 488 million years ago, at a time when life on Earth was beginning to become more plentiful. The rocks here are extremely fossil-rich and many species of trilobite, graptolite and other early marine species were first described from examples found here. In fact, the breadth and depth of the local deposits is such that they have a wider story of our planet’s evolutionary development to tell. Consequently, they are also extremely valuable in dating rock sequences of a similar age from other localities. Walking into the Dingle, you may find your path strewn with small stones — why not stop to turn one over? You never know what you might find!
Alder, Birch, Sycamore, Wood Avens, Meadowsweet, Lady Fern, Nuthatch, Willow Warbler, Green Woodpecker, Marsh Tit, Purple Hairstreak, Speckled-Wood Brown.