Having started with the title, I realised that other people might have had something to say on this topic and so, after a little lazy internet research, have discovered that volunteering will make me live longer, with more friends, less stubborn belly fat, better mental health and enhanced career prospects. Wow. And I was only thinking of the fact that volunteering had brought me out of an evening to Arnside Knott and put me in the right spot to witness a spectacular sunset. Although I should add that it had previously put me in the right spot to see the Scotch Argus* in the company of knowledgable people who recognised it as such and had also meant that I had been shown the Spiked Speedwell, another Arnside Knott rarity. Oh, and to being given a tip on where to find Lesser Butterfly Orchids next summer.
This was the second of three sessions of flora surveying on Redhill Pasture, this time with just our team of three volunteers, without the expert guidance from the National Trust, who own the land, or Morecambe Bay Partnerships, who are coordinating various such surveys around the Bay. The surveying didn’t begin so auspiciously – I’d walked over from home and we’d met in the car park on the Knott before walking down to continue our survey. We soon discovered that the Meadow Ants were swarming. The air was full of winged ants and circling gulls, presumably taking advantage of a bonanza of insect prey. I was soon covered in ants, and then discovered that they were inside my shirt as well as all over the surface. I’ve read that meadow ants can’t bite or sting humans, but I can only report that the next morning I was covered in angry red lumps. Must have been psychosomatic. We were working on quadrats roughly two metres by two metres and by the third I was just about ready to give up, but fortunately, when we moved a little way uphill for the fourth, the number of ants about became bearable again. We found that, after our training sessions, we were able to work with reasonable speed and confidence and had soon progressed to the areas of Blue Moor Grass along the top edge of the pasture from where we witnessed the sunset.
*It only occurs to me now that, in Greek mythology, Argus is a one-hundred eyed giant. Since the Scotch Argus has several eyes around the rim of its wings perhaps this explains the name. Or it might do, except for the fact that the Brown Argus and the Northern Brown Argus (both unrelated to the Scotch Argus) don’t have the eyes. Oh well, nice theory, but more research needed perhaps.