Friday, August 27, 2010

First Foray

After Saturday and Tuesday's walks it was clear that there are already plenty of fungi around so I set off on Wednesday with fungi at the top of my agenda. Shouldn't complain but at this time of year, it's difficult to focus on just one or two aspects of the countryside. There are birds, butterflies and dragonflies in the air, and fungi, flowers and assorted creatures at ground level. Juggling my walking pole, camera and mushroom basket, I set off up to the old pack horse path which has the Derwent arm of Ladybower reservoir hidden by trees on one side and the Snake Pass visible below on the other side.

On the way up from the Derwent Valley road, there were lots of brown roll rims and false chanterelles with this wonderful orange peel fungus by the path side.

There were also speckled wood butterflies. A single bay bolete ensured I got my basket out. Once at the top, I got a wonderful view of a kestrel patrolling the ridge, but as I was clutching my bay bolete, I was unable to get a photo. Along the ridge there were blushers aplenty. A single saffron milk cap went into the basket. There was a red admiral fluttering around the meadow area here, and dor beetles were also to be seen along the top section. At a further section of mixed woodland, I found what I had been looking for - not in abundance, but enough to add to the basket for a tasty addition to supper: chanterelles and hedgehog fungi, with a bonus of a few charcoal burners and amethyst deceivers. A steady and early start to the foraging season.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Walking South Yorkshire

Yesterday I met up with Rob Haslam, author of this excellent book of local walks, and a couple of fellow walk-checkers, Fran and Fred. We enjoyed a walk led by Rob, around the Beauchief area of Sheffield, taking in some of the local woodlands and parts of the Sheffield Round Walk. Not uncommonly, the weather was four seasons in one day, and we had no sooner got soaked than we dried out again in pleasant sunshine. As a thank you for our checking the walks (as if one were needed; I enjoyed the task very much) we were treated to a pub lunch and presented with a  signed copy of the book.
I can vouch for the excellence of Barnsley walks, and I'm sure the Sheffield and Rotherham ones will be just as enjoyable - I intend to try them all out over the coming weeks and months.
The book is available in all local bookshops - I strongly recommend it!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dragonflies: the next generation

Before finishing my holiday report, I want to keep things current with my walk from today. It was a walk from the Stone to Steel website which I had set off to do before our holiday, but had been distracted by a) missing the turnoff for the start of the walk and b) getting distracted by some fantastic emergent dragonflies and a grass snake. Today went better from the routefinding point of view - although I think I missed one short section of the walk, but still ended up where I was supposed to be. It was a fantastic walk with lots of variation - riverside, woodland, hamlets, wheat fields, disused railway line and probably most spectacular - heathland. What could be more wonderful that the heather coming into bloom.

I was also astonished by the number of fungi. As I had a walk to complete, I didn't have time to root around too much for edibles, but did find a lovely little orange birch bolete and a small but perfectly formed bay bolete for the pot, so I thing a return visit in the near future is in order. At the pond where I photographed the emergent dragonflies, there was still action in the form of egg-laying females,

 and I managed to get a few nice photos. No snakes today, sadly, and I'm afraid birds didn't get a look in!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wye Adventures - Part 3 - A sorry selection of 4 footers.

Although we saw quite a few mammals, I didn't get many photos. There were lots of deer in particular and quite a bit of roadkill, and signs of badgers but apart from Cassie, the very friendly farm dog, the two pictures here were the sorry toll. The stoat was a bit to fast - but at least I got a shot before he disappeared into the hedgerow, and the other little creature ( the one with the look of surprise) sadly wasn't fast enough.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Wye adventures - Part 2 - Six legged friends

In our walks book, there was often the promise of butterflies, but sadly they were not as profuse as I had hoped. From time to time, however, we spotted the usual suspects: lots of peacocks and common blues in particular, gatekeepers, which seem to be in abundance this year, commas, red admirals, small coppers, speckled woods, and the occasional fritillary (although these are nigh on impossible to photograph as they refuse to stay still). Dragonflies were also disappointingly few and far between, although the ones I saw were, I think, a couple of new ones for me - the golden ringed dragonfly and the beautiful demoiselle. There were a lot of dung beetles in the woodlands - the ones that are a beautiful iridescent blue, and a hornet joined us for lunch one day at Tintern Old Station Cafe - no doubt after a slice of their legendary bread pudding!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Wye adventures - Part 1 - Birds

Two weeks in the Wye Valley have given me quite a lot to write about, so it's difficult to know where to start. Perhaps with birds. We stayed in a converted barn on a smallholding near Tintern, above the Wye Valley. We kept the bird table well-stocked, and were rewarded with a steady procession of visitors - the most regular being great tits, blue tits, robins and nuthatches, with the occasional greenfinch and even a jay.
Overhead we had regular displays from buzzards, with up to 5 in the skies above at any one time, and at night there was the loud and regular call of owls. 
We spent a day at the Newport Wetlands centre, which is a fantastic reserve, and was well worth a visit. Sadly the weather was a little unkind that day, but we did see an egret, a kestrel, some curlews although the bearded tits and hobbies were not playing out! Another reserve on the English side of the border was Nagshead reserve in the Forest of Dean. We saw redstarts and a pied flycatcher here. A pleasant walk along the Usk at Abergavenny provided good views of sandmartins and kingfishers. Part 2 to follow....