Welcome to the WNC Website!

Are you interested in Natural History?
Do you enjoy walks and talks about Natural History subjects?
Do you enjoy the challenge of identifying plants and animals?
Are you keen on Wildlife Photography?
Do you visit or live in or near the Worcestershire area?
 
If you answered ‘YES’ to any of these questions, then you might like to know more about the Worcestershire Naturalists’ Club!
  The WNC, which claims to be one of the oldest naturalists' clubs in the country, was founded in 1847 by a group of three Victorian naturalists. It has existed continuously since then, with the following objectives: The Club still attempts to meet these objectives (stuffy it is not!) and provides a lot of fun for its members, through the following types of activities:


What's New for (To Be Advised)


WNC Activities

The WNC organises continuous year-round activities, all of which are open to members and non-members alike. Guided walks are arranged throughout the year, usually visiting local sites of interest, but occasionally straying further afield. All walks are very informal and rarely require exertion, and whenever possible local experts are persuaded to share their knowledge with us.

In the winter, the guided walks are supplemented by a series of indoor meetings. These are mainly of the ‘lecture / slide show’ form, when Club members or visiting speakers share their experiences with us. Evening meetings are now held in the Lower Room of the Holy Trinity Church Hall, Link Top, Malvern, and start at 7.30 p.m.

To give you an idea of the range of interests the Club embraces, this page contains the details of forthcoming events and information on the fascinating things you may have missed!


 
Membership
 
Annual Membership currently costs £8 for an individual or £12 for a husband and wife, corporate membership also £12 . Youngsters from 10 - 18 pay only £1, and no charge is made for the under-10s, but they should be accompanied by an adult. Members receive a copy of each annual issue of our magnificent Transactions, full of information about the Club's activities, together with many fascinating articles by members on an enormous range of natural history topics.
 
Non-members are always encouraged to join us at any of our events. Field meetings are usually free of charge , but it is advisable to check with the Field Secretary (see Contacts) that the arrangements have not changed at the last minute. A nominal charge (currently £2) is made to members and non-members for attendance at indoor meetings, which includes light refreshments. Raffle prizes are always welcomed!

Follow this link for a Membership Application Form, which should be filled in and returned (together with the appropriate fee) to Janet Jones (see Contacts).


Outdoor Meetings, 2018

If you would like to see what the WNC gets up to, why not join us on one of these walks?(Non-members are asked to contribute £2 each.) Some Outdoor Meetings may be joint with other naturalist groups. Please contact the leader to confirm if weather is bad. Mud likely!
 
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Indoor Meetings, 2017-2018 - 2009

 Indoor meetings are usually held on in the Lower Room of Holy Trinity Church Hall, beside the Worcester Road at Link Top, Malvern. There is a convenient public car park nearby, at the top of Newtown Road. Entry for members and visitors is only £2, which includes tea/coffee and biscuits. Raffle Prizes are always enthusiastically received!
 
Date
Time
Title
Speaker
Mon 20th. Nov 2017
7.30 p.m.
"The History and Natural History of Grafton Wood"
John Tilt, Reserve Manager
Mon 11th Dec. 2017
7:30 p.m.
"The Countrtyside Restoration Trust"
John Tilt, Reserve Manager
 
Mon 19th Mar. 2018
7:30 p.m.
AGM (no admission charge)
(Members' slides)


Top 10 Places

All the venues listed here (in alphabetical order) are frequently visited by the Club and its members, and should cater for a wide range of interests. These favourite places’ were selected by the late and much missed Dr Tony Hughes, and he asked at the time if you would forgive him if your own favourites have been omitted!

Arley and Highley: A walk along the banks of the Severn in this area north of Bewdley is always rewarding. Flowers such as flowering rush, purple loosestrife, tansy and arrowhead brighten the water's edge, and there is always the chance of seeing kingfishers. This is also a good place to search for the notable club-tailed dragonfly, and you can usually retrace your route on the Steam Railway!

Bittell Reservoirs: While the larger of these reservoirs near Barnt Green is used extensively for water sports, the smaller one is reserved for wildlife. A sunny day in the winter months is ideal for observing the many types of wintering water-fowl, while spring and autumn give the chance of spotting unusual birds on migration. The large alder trees provide winter food for many small birds, including siskins and redpoll.

Bredon Hill: The huge outlier of Cotswold limestone that dominates the Vale of Evesham is readily approached from the south through Kemerton. The estate management there is very sympathetic to wildlife, and a fine range of limestone flowers can be guaranteed throughout the summer. Fallow deer are always around, though rarely seen, and there is never a shortage of birds, (including resident buzzards) and butterflies.

Castlemorton Common: An extensive area of rough-grazed common land on the east side of the Malvern Hills just south of Welland, looked after by the Malvern Hills Conservators. It contains a range of soil types and habitats, and is rewarding at all times of the year. Specialities include the high brown fritillary, good nesting sites for many small birds, ponds with great crested newts, and flowers such as lousewort, spring cinquefoil and autumn lady’s-tresses.

Cleeve Common and the Bill Smyllie Reserve: The western scarp of the Cotswolds provides many areas of great interest, but these, just above Cheltenham and Cleeve Prior in Gloucestershire, are among the most rewarding. The limestone flowers are superb and include a wide range of orchids - musk, frog, bee, wasp, common spotted, fragrant, pyramidal (pink and white), common twayblade, etc., are all found. The butterflies, too, are excellent, including chalkhill and small blues, dark green fritillary, and many of the more common species. If you are lucky, you may see a common lizard, but watch out for adders!

Cother Wood: This is a Herefordshire Wildlife Trust reserve, on the slopes of a north-south ridge of ancient limestone, just to the west of the Malvern Hills. Habitats range form mature oak-wood to ungrazed limestone grassland and encroaching scrub. Many orchid species can be found, including fine displays of the greater butterfly-orchid in May and June. Butterflies used to include the wood white and grizzled skipper, but now you are more likely to see the green hairstreak, dingy skipper and marbled white. In the long-abandoned limestone quarries, ancient fossils can be found.

Eades Meadow:  Worcestershire is fortunate to retain several ancient hay meadows that have not been ploughed within living memory. This fine example is looked after by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, which holds special open days’ in spring (for the green-winged orchids) and in autumn (for the autumn crocuses). At other times access is restricted in order that the traditional hay and grazing can be protected.

Monkwood: A large mixed wood west of Hallow, which used to supply the wooden handles for Harris paint brushes, but is now administered jointly by Butterfly Conservation and the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. Special butterflies include wood white, white admiral and purple hairstreak, and the woodland management is aimed to encourage fritillaries. Some small artificial ponds are havens for several dragonfly and damselfly species, including the magnificent emperor dragonfly. From the bluebells, lilies-of-the-valley and early-purple orchids of the spring, through to the colchicums and violet helleborines of the autumn, there is plenty to satisfy the botanists, and there is always a good range of fungi as winter approaches. Alongside is Monkwood Green, an ancient common and Site of Special Scientific Interest, with an exceptional selection of animals and plants, including the last remaining population of petty whin in the county, yellow-necked mice and barn owls.

Upton Warren: A series of small lakes south of Droitwich, partly owned by the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. This is one of the foremost bird-watching sites in the county, providing year-round possibilities - you never know what strange birds might appear! As well as birds, it is good for dragonflies, and there are areas where halophytes (salt-loving plants) thrive on the brackish oozings from underlying salt deposits.

Wyre Forest: This area of ancient woodland, to the north of Bewdley, has an excellent visitor centre and many other points of access. Apart from the whitty pear or sorb tree, which has featured many times in the WNC Transactions, the wood shelters much fascinating plant and animal life. One local resident has made a special study here of adders, and a flock of crossbills regularly visits an area of conifers. In summer, the silver-washed fritillary is frequently seen.


Picture Gallery

Follow the links to view a few of the fascinating things that may be seen on WNC outings. To return to this list, either click on 'Gallery' in the menu on the left, or select the 'BACK' button on the menu bar of your internet browser.
 
All pictures have been supplied by WNC members, who retain their copyright. No picture may be reproduced without the owner's permission.
 
FLOWERS
Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Near British Camp, with view to Worcestershire Beacon, Malvern Hills.Many Worcestershire woods and open areas are transformed into carpets of blue at the end of April.
Early-purple orchid (Orchis mascula). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Cother Wood, Herefordshire Trust Reserve. This species occurs commonly in woods, hedgerows and open areas in and around Worcestershire.
Giant bellflower (Campanula latifolia). Photographed by Jacquie Hartwright. This genus includes many spectacular flowers. The giant bellflower elegantly lives up to its name, being the tallest British species. The spreading bellflower (C. patula) is quite a rarity, with only one or two remaining sites locally.
The yellow star-of-Bethlehem (Gagea lutea). Photographed by Jacquie Hartwright. Leigh Sinton. This is an uncommon spring-flowering bulb found in a few Worcestershire woods. Not every golden spring flower is a celandine!
Green-winged orchid (Anacamptis morio). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Brotheridge Green. There are several ancient meadows in Worcestershire where the green=winged orchid creates magnificent displays in May. Although it has many colour forms, all have the characteristic green lines on the "hood".
Elecampane (Inula helenium). Photographed by Jacquie Hartwright. An introduced roadside plant, this is a real aristocrat of the daisy family, growing up to a metre tall with huge leaves and 7cm golden flowers.
Dark (or black) mullein (Verbascum nigrum). Photographed by Jacquie Hartwright. In olden days, mullein was dipped in fat and used as candles at funerals. The stamens of V. nigrumwere used by the Romans to lighten their hair.
Autumn lady's-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis).Photographed by Tony Hughes. Brotheridge Green. Although normally a plant of chalk downs and coastal areas, there is a strong colony near Malvern, flowering in August and September.
 
BUTTERFLIES, MOTHS and other INVERTEBRATES
The red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Malvern. This lovely insect is commonly seen in gardens in late summer, when thousands of migrants may appear. Some then hibernate to re-appear in the spring.
The wood white butterfly (Leptidea sinapis). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Monkwood. near Hallow. This is the least common of the "whites", but may be seen fluttering about in several Worcestershire woods in late spring.
The comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album). Photographed by Tony Hughes on Sedum spectabile in Malvern. With its characteristic "comma" on the underside of its wings, this species has long been associated with the hop-yards of Worcestershire and Herefordshire, and is most frequently seen in late summer.
The green-veined white (Pieris napi). Photographed by Tony Hughes on Sedum spectabile in Malvern. It is commonly seen from May onwards.
The emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia). Photographed by Jacquie Hartwright. In spite of its large size, this moth is usually well camouflaged and difficult to spot.
The club-tailed dragonfly (Gomphus vulgatissimus). Photographed by Jacquie Hartwright. Worcestershire's large, slow-flowing rivers are well-known for this species, seen at its best from late spring to early summer.
The broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Monkwood, near Hallow. This is one of the easiest dragonflies to photograph because it frequently returns to the same perch to rest.
The ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Monkwood, near Hallow. The male has a distinctly waisted abdomen and, when mature, is a most spectacular colour. In recent years it has become much more common in Worcestershire.
The blue-tailed damselfly (Ischnura elegans). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Ripple Pool. This is the most common of all British damselflies and may be found in almost all watery situations.
Shield bug on abuyilon leaf. Many species if shield bug may be encoutered, often well camouflaged against green leaves and buds.
Crab spider (Misumena sp.). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Malvern. Crab spiders do not make webs but ambush their prey. They are able to match their body colours to the plants on which they live. The tiny male, seen here hitching a ride on the female, was once thought to be a separate species.
 
FUNGI
Giant polypore (Meripilus giganteus). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Priory Park, Great Malvern. This is a large bracket fungus, each cap up to 30cm across with clusters up to a metre in diameter. It lives on dead tree stumps or roots.
White or crested coral fungus (Clavulina cristata). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Knapp and Papermill, Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Reserve. This is one of several similar species to be found on the ground in woods in autumn.
Earth star may be encountered in the autumn. Geastrum coronatum  has a noticeable stalk beneath its puff-ball. Earth Stars rely on the impact of rain drops to help them puff out their spores. Photographed by Tony Hughes. With thanks to Jeremy and Graham Constant, Bowling Green, Worcester.
Green wood-cup (Chlorosplenium aeruginascens). Photographed by Jacquie Hartwright. Not only are the external parts of this fungus a truly amazing colour, but its mycelium stains the underlying wood blue-green - much valued by wood carvers. Cup diameter is less than 5mm
Shaggy ink-cap or lawyer's wig (Coprinus comatus). Photographed by Jacquie Hartwright. These get their name from the way their caps rapidly dissolves into a black, inky fluid, laden with spores.
 
OTHER ANIMALS
The Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis). Photographed by Tony Hughes. Westwood Park. This stunning bird is often seen on Worcestershire rivers but suffers in harsh wintwers. This specimen, caught for ringing, seemed quite unconcerned at being handled and photographed.
The Common or viviparous lizard (Zootoca vivipara) Photographed by Tony Hughes. This little native lizard prefers dry, sunny places and is well-camouflaged; it is not often seen, except when basking.


Officers of the WNC

President / Field Secretary  Michael Pettigrew 
pettigrews@hotmail.com
Chairman  Garth Lowe 
garthlowe@mypostoffice.co.uk
Acting Hon. Secretary / Press Secretary  Mrs. Jacquie Hartwright 
care of editor@wnc.org.uk
Hon. Transactions Editor  Dr. Chris Betts 
 editor@wnc.org.uk
Hon. Treasurer   Mrs. Janet Jones 
jejones37@hotmail.com
Indoor Meetings Secretary   Cherry Greenway 
cherrygreenway@btinternet.com


History of the WNC

Through the life of Edwin Lees, born in 1800, the study of natural history in and around Worcestershire has been enormously enhanced. Although a printer by trade, one of his life-long passions was to study and promote the glories of the countryside in which he lived. We are greatly indebted to him and to two of his close friends, Prof. James Buckman and William Matthews, for the foundation of this Club in 1847, and for developing it through much of the Victorian era.

We are also greatly indebted to Mary Munslow Jones who, in 1980, published The Lookers-out of Worcestershire. This fascinating book tells many stories of the first 100 years of the Club’s existence, setting out the events against the context of the social scene of those times, and providing entertaining insights into many of the personalities involved.

Another valuable record of the Club’s Victorian period is found in the first volume of the WNC Transactions, printed in 1897, which meticulously records a great deal of the Club’s activities throughout its first 50 years. Succeeding volumes of Transactions have provided faithful records of all in which the Club has been involved, right up to the present day.

The Centenary of the Club was celebrated in 1947 by a special issue of Transactions entitled simply The Worcestershire Naturalists’ Club, 1847 - 1947. This issue was dedicated to the memory of Carleton Rea, a very eminent amateur botanist and mycologist who, besides contributing in many ways to the WNC, was instrumental in founding the British Mycological Society. This special issue not only summarises the founding of the Club and many aspects of its activities, but also provides a sort of "Who’s Who" record of over 20 of its more notable members.

To celebrate the Club’s 150th Anniversary in 1997, a small exhibition was mounted in prominent public places around the County, ranging from several Public Libraries to the Countryside Centre in Worcester and a couple of shows at the Three Counties Showground near Malvern. The exhibition was mainly photographic, illustrating the wealth of natural history around us as seen through the cameras of Club members. In addition, several special articles were included in the 1996 Transactions, summarising various periods in the Club’s history.

Finally, in 1997 a marvellous discovery was made by Jacquie Hartwright in the depths of the Worcester Library archives - one of Edwin Lees’ original note books! This was entitled The Journal of Natural History and covers his excursions and observations during the year from July 1825 to August 1826. Extracts from this unique record were transcribed for the 1997 Transactions, and it is hoped that a complete transcript will eventually be published. Besides giving an informative view of the Worcestershire countryside of over 170 years ago, this record provides a fascinating insight into the energy and enthusiasm of our founder, and of his great knowledge and love for all things natural.

The following section provides a time-line record of a selection of the more important happenings relating to the Club’s long history. Click on this link to see a complete list of all those eminent local people who have served as President of the WNC.


Events Relating to the History of the WNC

1800 Birth of Edwin Lees on 12th May
1833 Foundation of Worcestershire Natural History Society 
1834 Charles Hastings publishes Illustrations of the Natural History of Worcestershire 
1841 Edwin Lees publishes The Botanical Looker-Out..... 
1843 Edwin Lees publishes his Botany of the Malvern Hills 
1847 Worcestershire Naturalists’ Club founded by Edwin Lees (President), William Mathews (Secretary and Treasurer) and James Buckman 
1856 Edwin Lees publishes his Pictures of Nature Around the Malvern Hills 
1862 The original whitty pear’ or sorb tree in Wyre Forest is burnt down
1867 Edwin Lees publishes his Botany of Worcestershire 
1869 A portrait is presented to Edwin Lees to commemorate his work for the Worcestershire Naturalists’ Club and the Malvern Naturalists’ Club
1876 John Amphlett elected President; Carleton Rea (age 16) admitted as member 
1880 Demise of the Worcestershire Natural History Society; its museum passes to Worcester Corporation
1884 
Death of founder member, Professor James Buckman
1886 G E Mackie publishes ‘The Malvern Field Handbook and Naturalists’Calendar
1887 Death of founder member Edwin Lees on 21st October, aged 87; buried at Pendock
1892 First ‘Fungus Foray’ on 28th October; now an annual event 
1895 Ladies admitted as Ordinary Members for the first time 
1896 First issue of the Club’s Transactions, covering 1847 - 1896
1896  Carleton Rea founds the British Mycological Society
1897 50th Anniversary of the Club, celebrated by a two-day trip to the Elan Valley
1901 Death of founder member William Mathews 
1909 First lectures to the Club by lady members 
1909   John Amphlett and Carleton Rea publish their Botany of Worcestershire
1918  Death of John Amphlett on 23rd June, aged 73
1920 Annual subscriptions doubled to 10/- due to post-war inflation
1931 Election of Mrs C Urquhart Stuart as the Club’s first lady President 
1934 An outbreak of Dutch elm disease is recorded - not too severe this time
1938 Ginkgo biloba tree planted by Malvern Library in memory of R F Towndrow, a well-loved local naturalist (and grocer)
1939 Club membership drops to 79, its lowest level for over 50 years
1945 Fred Fincher joins the Naturalists' Club 
1946 Death of Carleton Rea, internationally renowned botanist and mycologist, aged 85 
1946 Publication of Birds of Worcestershire by Anthony Harthan, sometime Club Secretary
1947  Centenary Booklet published, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Club 
1948  Last recorded nesting of corncrakes in Worcestershire 
1954 The first wintering black-caps recorded locally 
1960  John Bishop joins the Club as Chairman, 
1961 Mrs M Palmer-Smith elected President, a post she held until her death in 1997 
1961 Collared doves, immigrants from Asia, breed for the first time in Spetchley 
1962 Michael Pettigrew, a relative of John Amphlett, joins the Club; he is now President and Hon. Field Secretary 
1968 Last recorded nesting of red-backed shrikes on the Malverns
1980 The Lookers-Out of Worcestershire published by Mary Munslow Jones, recording the first 100 years of the Club’s activities and personalities 
1990  Discovery of a copy of the lost 1869 portrait of Edwin Lees 
1997 150th Anniversary Exhibition travels the County 
1997 Re-discovery of Edwin Lees’ 1825 notebook
1999 WNC internet website launched
1999 150th Anniversary walk and dinner held on 18th September (only 2 years late!) at Pewcroft Farm, Suckley
2000 Death of Bob Bishop, a fine naturalist who was WNC Secretary for many years and a regular contributor to Transactions
2014 Death of Justin Smith, distinguished and renowned mycologist who led many Fungus Forays for the Club Death of Dr Tony Hughes, Honorary Secretary and Press Secretary of the Club from 1994, an outstanding naturalist and scientist who contributed to knowledge in several fields, notably on wild orchids
2016 Death of Mary Munslow Jones, doyenne of the Club, at the age of 100, author, former Transactions editor and exceptionally knowledgeable self-taught naturalist


Transactions of the WNC

Most of the activities of the Club are recorded in its Transactions. Currently, a new issue of these is produced annually and is distributed during the spring. More-or-less complete sets of Transactions can be consulted in the Public Libraries in Birmingham (Local Studies Dept.), Worcestershire County, Worcester City, Malvern and Stourbridge, and at the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust headquarters at Smite Farm. Since 2016, when the present Editor re-catalogued all the Club's books and journals, the Club's own library has been available for members to consult as well as all Bob Bishop's slides which have been scanned and indexed. Please contact the Editor for details - there is some fascinating reading!

The first volume of the Transactions was edited by Carleton Rea and issued in 1897, a large volume, covering Club activities over the 50 years since its foundation in 1847. Rea continued to produce issues sporadically for the next 50 years, each one covering several years’ events. Subsequently, several editors have continued to maintain the high standards he set. From 1967 a new  format, the 6-monthly Newsletter of the Worcestershire Naturalists’ Club, was introduced. This ran until 1979 when annual issues of the Transactions were resumed, and in 1990 the current style was adopted, which has been under the editorship of Dr Chris Betts since 1997.

All recent issues of Transactions contain the usual information such as the Club’s Officers and Council Members, a report on the latest AGM and the accounts for the previous year. The remainder is much more interesting, comprising an editorial section, reports on Field and Indoor Meetings, a section of brief articles in News and Notes, longer Articles by members, and the occasional Book Review and Obituary.

The Transactions Index page includes summaries of the contents of several recent issues, giving a good idea of the wide range of Club activities and members’ interests.

The Club holds a small stock of copies of recent issues which are available for sale at modest prices. Please address requests to The Secretary (see Contacts section).

The Editor (see Contacts section) is always pleased to receive items for forthcoming issues of Transactions, not later than 31st October each year. Contributions should be e-mailed to editor@wnc.org.uk

Several members are keen to acquire copies of the early, hard-back issues of Transactions. If anyone knows of early copies that might be available, please contact the Editor (see Contacts section) .