The Natural History of the Mellor Area

A study of the natural history of the area has been carried out by New Mills Natural History Society under the leadership of Tony Smith and attempts to assess the changing biodiversity of the area in a context of both past, present and future land use.

The basic units of biodiversity are the individuals of each species of flora and fauna. To describe the way in which these individuals are grouped together in particular units of our landscape is one way of building up a natural history of the area. A field of rye grass, sown with a view to harvest, is hardly diverse but, nevertheless is a recognisable landscape unit. An area of woodland, which has been in existence for centuries may equally be said to be a landscape unit but is likely to contain many and diverse species of flora and fauna. The ryegrass field may be defined, sharply, as arable land and is an extreme case of grassland improved for cultivation. The woodland, depending on its particular assemblages of flora and fauna and, importantly, on its history of management, may be classified as broad-leaved, coniferous (or mixed) and as natural, semi-natural or plantation: if it is present in records extending back for 400 years or so, then it may qualify as "ancient".

As well as fields and woodlands, landscape units recognised as significant in our survey are roads, paths and oher trackways and, importantly, their boundaries. The way in which these have developed over time, sometimes many centuries, and the way in which they have been managed, has led to the presence of characteristic groups of species which constitute important areas of biodiversity. Not to be forgotten is the built environmemt with its specialised garden habitats with exotic plants and garden ponds which may be very valuable indeed for biodiversity.

A study of the flora and fauna throughout the area is giving us the raw data for our survey of the natural history but the historical study, based on field work concurrently with the examination of maps and records is giving us an understanding of the relationships between the landscape units and their flora and fauna.

In very broad terms, studies so far have indicated that the longer the units of our landscape have been established, the more diverse is their flora and fauna but only under sympathetic or diffuse stable management regimes. From a historical point of view the greatest changes have occurred as a result of the major developments in our civilisation: notably the industrial revolution, step changes in the rate of population growth and, more recently, changes in land use - away from agriculture and towards leisure. In the past charismatic and powerful individuals such as Samuel Oldknow have had great influence. In the present day, changes tend to derive from global developments; in the future climate change may be the greatest determinant.

The New Mills natural History Society has taken on the task of classifying the area in terms of landscape units and their assemblages of species and to recognise their historical context, in order to prepare a preliminary draft of the Natiural History in terms of the main types of landscape unit: woodlands, fields, roads and trackways and their boundaries - with an indication of the biodiversity characteristic of each and, where possible, each placed in its historical context with an indication of the way changes have been brought about in the past and predictions may be made for the future.

Acknowledgementis made to others who have contributed data. In particular mention must be made of members of the Lyme Natural History Recording Society and to local Naturalists Alan and Norman Bamforth for records which they have made available to us. Help has also been received from Natural England.

Anyone interested in this part of the project or who may have information to contribute should contact Tony:
By email at (Please remove +++ from email address to help us to avoid spam )
Telephone: 01663 744400