Saturday, 12 March 2016

Green surprises

It always amazes me how green even our most urban areas are. Last Sunday, we spent the day at my sister's in Eastleigh, which only ever makes the headlines when something like a by-election happens! It's situated just north of Southampton, and is a railway town that has expanded into a sprawl of suburbia.

Several years ago I worked with the Council to get most of their valuable greenspace into an agri-environment scheme. With local government cash-strapped, this income secures the environmental and social benefits of these tricky-to-manage areas. On our post-Mother's-Day-walk we went on a bit of a tour of some of the sites. Our first port of call was Fleming Park - not included within the agri-environment schemes, as it's mostly amenity grassland. Nonetheless, there are remnants of the historic parkland that it once formed part of (the Flemings are a local family that owned a large part of Eastleigh - unfortunately the land is now split up) including old limes and beeches. We rounded a corner and came across a gathering of several thrush species - blackbird, robin, song thrush and redwing, twittering away, like kids on a street corner. We took in Lakeside Country Park (which has a narrow gauge railway, including a steam engine!), with it's ex-quarry pits now lakes for wildfowl. Here we saw what we think was a female goldcrest - a tiny ping-pong ball of a bird hopping around the branches of a birch tree, extracting tiny invertebrates. It's Britain's smallest bird, so was a good spot!

We concluded with a quick potter around Avenue Park - this is a small area of Capability Brown-designed historic parkland, with magnificent old lime trees featuring massive balls of mistletoe. It's of great importance for its adder population, but of course it's still a bit too early for them to come out of hibernation. We contented ourselves with admiring the handiwork of the restoration of the old War Shrine. This was erected soon after the First World War in memory of the Fleming's two sons who had both been killed. It's architecture is the so-called 'arts and crafts' style - in reality, it looks a bit like a big bus shelter! When I got involved with the site, it was in a very bad state of repair, but we secured funding for it's restoration. It's still used for Remembrance Day services and highly valued by the community, so it was good to see it restored.

Over the next few weekends I'm out and about visiting friends and hopefully enjoying the spring weather, so posts might be a bit sporadic - the sun is shining, that thrush is singing (well, it has been since about January outside my bedroom window - handy on a weekday to know when to get up, but quite annoying at the weekend!) and the plum tree blooming, so I'm looking forward to spring finally springing!

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