Saturday, 26 July 2014

The River Tame's Natural History

Musk mallow was once one of many
'principal plants' along the river; many
have disappeared due to industry,
urban change and river realignment. 

A number of factors have meant that over the past few hundred years the River Tame has lost a great deal of its original wildlife and plant-life. In 1886 there was a survey conducted regarding Birmingham's natural habitats, and a little bit was written about the fish the Tame:

“Of the River Tame, a well known angler states: “In my opinion this is a remarkable little river; in three and a half miles it contains in abundance at least ten species of fish, viz., trout, pike, chub, tench, perch, roach, rudd, dace, gudgeon, minnow, all of which, except the pike, attain a size equal to any in rivers or pools in a hundred miles of Birmingham.” Large fish are not so common now as formerly, but probably this river will recover, and attain its wonted excellence, when the ‘Black Country’ sewerage works are completed”.


By this time it was becoming very obvious that the industry and urban growth along the River Tame was causing a decline in the fish; from the 1850s there were complaints from some of the great houses of the gentry that had enjoyed abundant fish, but were now noticing a decline in the river's health, and that of the animals it supported. In the archives of Birmingham and the Black Country are a large number of documents referring to the correspondence between these landed gentry and the local councils who were being asked to put a stop to the pollutants being put into the river. Industry was a large factor, and the chemicals washed away by the river, but also, the river was being constantly re-aligned, and plant-life was removed meaning that the more delicate species died out on the river.

Dyer's Weld, another old Tameside
'principal plant'. 

Within the 1886 survey it was seem worthy to list the botanical species that you could find along the River Tame; some of these have not just vanished from the banks of the Tame, but from England altogether. The list of the 'principal plants' of the river is below (I have begun adding common names, as these were not included in the original survey).

"TAME. – This sub-district includes Walsall, Lichfield, Shenstone, Barr and Handsworth. The surface rocks are Trias, Permian and Coal measures, and the limestones of Walsall, Rushall, and Hay Head. The greatest elevation is Barr Beacon. Both the source and the mouth of the Tame are within the limits of this sub-district. The principal plants are:-- 

thalictrum flavum (meadow rue) : arabis perfoliata (tower mustard) : cardamine amara (large bittercress) : cardamine impatiens (narrowleaf bittercress) : nasturtium sylvestre (creeping yellow cress) : teesdalia nudicaulis (shepherd’s cress) : reseda luteola (dyer’s weld) : silene noctiflora (night flowering catchfly/clammy cockle (similar to campion)) : malva moschata (musk mallow*) : erodium cicutarium (redstem filaree/common stork’s-bill/pinweed) : genista anglica (petty whin/needle furze/needle whin) : lathyrus nissola (grass vetchling) : orobus tuberosus : prunus insitatia P. padus : geum rivale : rosa subglobosa : rosa micrantha : rosa collina : rubus suberectus R. rhamnifolius : pyrus aria : sedum telephium : saxifrage granulata : chrysosplenium alternifolium : parnassia palustris : helosciadium repens : myrrhis odorata : apium graveolens : OEnanthe crocata : dipsacus pilosus : valerianella denata : gallium witheringii : campanula trachelium C. Latifolia C. Patula : solanum nigrum (black nightshade) : linaria minor : veronica buxbaumii V. Montana V. Scutellata V. Anagallis : limosella aquatica (water mudwort) : pinguicula vulgaris (common butterwort) : utricularia vulgaris : lysimachia vulgaris : centunculus minimus : parietaria officinalis : ulmus Montana : salix pentandra : acorus calamus : epipactis palustris : convallaria majalis : typha augustipholia : lemna gibba : narthecium ossifragum : colchicum autumnale : scirpus sylvaticus S. Caespitosus : carex pallescens C. Pseudo-cyperus : calamagrostis epegejos C. Lanceolatus : milium effusum : avena pubescens : triticum caninum : asplenium ruta-muraria : aspidium lobatum : osmunda regalis"

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