Sunday, 25 June 2017

Being observant

I often wonder if it's just me that notices certain aspects when I'm out walking. I'm not the most observant of people, but I appear to be able to spot when a sound or sight is out of the ordinary in an urban setting particularly. The sound of a calling peregrine from the roof of a converted church in Winchester, or the yellow flash of a grey wagtail foraging for insects on the river in Salisbury town centre.

With this hot weather, it's made walking a tad knackering! Last Sunday - for Father's Day - we abandoned the planned Salisbury Plain walk (baking!) to a cooler amble through Langley Wood NNR. The foxgloves were amazingly tall, and the clouds of mozzies accompanying us very annoying, but it was the dappled light highlighting patches of ferns that I noticed. Standing still to photograph them, however, would have resulted in being bitten!

And then on Wednesday I walked into town for the annual eye MOT. This was probably the hottest day of the week! The walk in was calm, reasonably breezey, and particularly beautiful. So many people wander passed the carpets of water crowfoot without batting an eyelid, not really appreciating the beauty or the rarity. The walk back was sweltering, but did feature ducklings, cygnets and baby moorhens. I marvelled at the fact that the water crowfoot was flowering (albeit not quite as profusely) in the very heart of the city - how many people just pass it by without looking?

And just before I began my great climb of the hill back to mine, the hedgerows were alive with banded demoiselles. These dainty damselflies were mating and fighting each other for position on top of the bushes. I'm not quite sure why they had chosen there, so far away from the river, but again, I thought, how any people would have stopped to look? they're stunning close up, but of course, they weren't going to hang around for me!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Mad dogs and Englishmen

Yes, out into the heat we go - things to do, places to see!

On Friday we walked into the city centre from my flat - a lovely walk down the steep hill to the Avon Valley Path, then following the river into the city. It takes 50 mins or so, but is so beautiful, particularly at this time of year with the water crowfoot flowering. In fact, this aquatic plant (a type of buttercup!) is actually quite rare, only being found in chalk rivers, of which the UK has the majority of the global habitat. The rivers are unique in being groundwater-fed through the porous chalk aquifer, retaining a relatively stable temperature throughout the year, and slowly releasing water into the channels. Quite amazing. And I've never seen it flowering along this stretch quite so much - so thick in places it looked like you could walk across to the other side of the channel. The walk back was still beautiful, but it had heated up even more, and of course required us to climb the steep hill we had descended.

And then today we had decided to do a family walk to celebrate Father's Day - Dad had requested a walk on the Plain, but it being 30 degrees (phew!), we headed to Langley Wood NNR instead. It actually brought back memories of walking through Mediterranean pine forest from campsites in the South of France to the beach. It was very hot and humid, and also very full of mozzies! Nevertheless, the cool, ferny undergrowth, lit by dappled sunlight, was beautiful to stroll around, with numerous butterflies flitting in the glades. The foxgloves, in particular, seem to be amazing this year.

If the weather stays like this, the beautful lush greens of this time of year will soon be replaced with scorched vegetation, so get out there while you can and enjoy the botanical spectacle!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Time flying by

I honestly don't know where the last few weeks have gone. Thankfully, they've been filled with a lot of beautiful walks.

The last weekend in May was our Mum's 'big birthday' so we had a lovely walk along the coast down at Milford-on-Sea (New Forest coast), with masses of pink thrift and birds foot trefoil in among the shingle. Then the next day we walked on Martin Down, with great views of singing yellowhammers and skylarks, as well as carpets of flowers including horseshoe vetch and common spotted orchids.

In a shameless bid to extend her birthday celebrations, the following weekend we all headed to Devon - the weather chose this particular occasion to break from the glorious sunshine and instead our walk on Dartmoor on Saturday was adjusted to take into account a massive rainstorm. Eventually, it did stop and we managed a good long walk on the moor, crossing streams, listening to skylarks, and marvelling at the contorted forms of the scrub and trees. It contrasted with the walk before lunch where the sunshine held out a beautiful - if steep - walk up an old track, lined with ferns and foxgloves.

On the way back, we called in at Cerne Abbas in Dorset, for a quick walk and delicious pub lunch. We thought we could walk to see the famous chalk Giant, but alas you are better off viewing from a distance as the curvature of the hill obscures him. For those of you not aware of him, well, let's just say he's very pleased with himself! The walk did encounter numerous wildflowers including orchids growing in the margin of an arable field - how they're holding on I don't know!

Last weekend plans I had fell through, so instead, on the Saturday a bunch of us met for a walk around the Cherhill White Horse (near Calne, north of Devizes). Lovely views if this spectacular Wiltshire downloads, with swathes of wildflowers, including wild thyme, rock rose, birds foot trefoil and more common spotted orchids.

Finally, on the Sunday we went for a quick potter around Grovely Wood. Phew - see what I mean?!