Sunday, 29 October 2017

Re-exploring the patch

In the last few days I've taken slightly different routes to re-visit some local haunts, and thoroughly enjoyed the sense of exploration!

On Thursday, we headed off to Lymington and Keyhaven Marshes on the beautiful New Forest coast. Although it was half-term, and certain spots were a bit busy with families, we encountered relatively few people on most of the walk from The Chequers Inn to The Gun Inn. Both are lovely pubs, but on this occasion, time was against us so we had lunch in the Gun. Next time Chequers!

It started off a bit drizzly and misty, but this soon blew (!) away, to leave great views across the marshes towards the Isle of Wight. The dark-bellied brent geese are now back from their summer spent in northern Russia, with their babbling and honking filling the air as we passed by them. The vast majority of this race are found on the South coast, so it's a bit of a speciality. We also saw and heard turnstones, curlew, redshank, shelduck, little egret, lapwing and a variety of other birds too far for the naked eye - I'd forgotten my binoculars!!

Yesterday we battled our way passed road closures to Blashford Lakes near Ringwood. These flooded gravel pits are now a haven for waterfowl - this time I'd brought my binoculars! the hides were very busy with lots of twitchers, so we didn't stay too long, instead preferring to amble in the sun, but we did see pochard, heron, lots of cormorants (as per usual), egret, little grebe, tufted duck, gadwall and teal. We skirted the edge of the New Forest by walking on Rockford common (part of the Northern Commons owned by the National Trust), with fantastic views back down towards the lakes, and passing some amazing old trees. I'd not done this particular loop before - definitely one for the future.

This morning we headed off to the Woodford Valley - picturesque and traditional, villages lined with thatched cottages and beautiful views to the River Avon. We started off on the Monarch's Way long distance footpath (the same one that runs through Grovely Woods and Clarendon Park), crossing the Avon, running alongside some ancient hedgerows filled with spindle and field maple (ancient hedgerow indicator species), then looping around into the Devenish reserve. This is a small piece of very steep chalk downland, beech woodland and wood pasture, owned and managed by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. The beech leaves were not yet at their best, but the view from the top across the valley is stunning. My eye was caught by a small tuft of purple - knapweed still flowering at the end of October! It's certainly been very mild.

Finally, I managed the usual loop in Grovely Woods this afternoon - the avenue of beeches is always beautiful, but with the delicate golds and oranges starting to come through, providing a rich rustly carpet, it was very atmospheric. Let's hope the colours continue to develop before all the leaves are blown off by winter storms!

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