Kathy Hinde

17 August, 2022

Wigan & Leigh research trip – part 3


My first mooring in Wigan was at Scotman’s flash. I hopped off the boat in the golden evening sunshine to explore the plants and flowers of the towpath, thinking about what might be the #WildFloweroftheDay. I stumbled across some delicate yellow flowers I hadn’t seen before. After a double take – I realised it was Melilot! I was astonished at how quickly Melilot had appeared as soon as I arrived in Wigan, and  I wandered further and found more patches, dotted around. I hadn’t found it in exactly the same spot as shown on Bea’s map, but I was close by.  I began to make my own mapping of Melilot, took a sample for the flower press, some photos and filmed with my bolex.

Melilot at Scotmans flash
Melilot Alba outside Trencherfield Mill

As I motored further into Wigan, I decided to explore all the areas I could from Bea’s map. The next area I would pass was the section of Poolstock lane, running along the canalside. This is the place where many cotton mill workers would have lived, and taken home small bunches of cotton to spin, which also spread Melilot seeds to this area.  I found a new housing estate and did not hold out much hope of discovering Melilot. I did, however, find an closed, boarded up restaurant and quite  large plot of wasteland extending behind. I spoke to someone local and this land was up for development, but had been in limbo for some time. I explored, feeling a bit like my gran surveying the flowers on a similar demolition site not far away over 50 years ago. I found many wild flowers but no Meillot. I chose groundsel to be the #WildFloweroftheDay, as this was also a plant Bea had made an in depth study of. It is a classic ruderal species, making the most of recently disturbed grow, fast to grow and seed, breaking up the soil and making it more suitable for there species.

As I further explored Bea’s map, I was often very surprised to find Melilot – against all odds. Many areas had clearly been re-developed multiple times since Bea made her survey, leaving very little green space. I was thrilled to find Melilot bursting out from a tiny gap in a brick wall after wandering around an industrial estate for a few hours, which was made doubly exciting by the fact that my parents had joined me for the weekend to help search for Meillot and revisit some of their Wigan memories.  It wasn’t until i explored the Plumbase carpark for the third time that I found a few hidden Melilot plants growing amongst the privet hedge. I first discovered Melilot Alba (white Melilot) outside the newly renovated Trencherfield Mill, with a trail of smaller plants scattered along the canal side facing Wigan Pier.

A resilient plant indeed.

Pressed sample of Melilotus officinalis from Scotmans Flash
Pressed sample of Melilotus Albus from Trencherfield Mill

On my return through Wigan Flashes nature reserve, I was greeted with fields full of Melilot, and also discovered it in Leigh and on the way to Worsley, which I hadn’t spotted on my way there. I had become more familiar with the plant, I could pick it out quite easily now.

This post is 3 of 4… the next episode is here

These blog posts document a two week research trip in August 2022, working towards a new work for Light Night Wigan & Leigh 2022, with thanks to Gemma and Jude at Things That Go On Things, Wigan Council, Canal & River Trust, The Turnpike Gallery.