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Friday, 16 October 2015

A colourful Autumn walk... or two (Part 1)

I love getting out and about, but these days my excursions are rarely long or planned in advance. My little girl is a frequent companion which tends to mean when I want to stop she is 300 yards ahead chasing a squirrel, and when I want to make up some distance she is 50 yards behind dropping pebbles in puddles. Nothing wrong with either of these things, it just means my walks for the last year or two have generally had a different focus, i.e. not losing a daughter.

Recently though my little girl started school. Fortuitously, spitting distance north of her school is a country park with a stunning mixture of heathland, woodland, grassland and reclaimed quarry. Spitting distance south of her school is a few acres of ancient woodland sandwiched in between two residential streets. Finally, a further minor detour south, but still between school and home is a local nature reserve again with a mixture of woodland and grassland. 
Suffice it to say that detours have been frequent! 

In addition with her at school I have had an opportunity to get out and about a bit in between bits and pieces of work, or indeed to DO bits and pieces of work. Below are just a few of the photo's I have taken on these various, short trips out and about. Autumn really is such a beautiful season, the combination of colours, warm days, crisp mornings, fruits in the trees and animal activity is just fascinating! We really are lucky in the UK to have such well differentiated seasons: I spent two years in the tropics as a slightly younger man where the seasons are wet or dry, which just means it either rains every day, or it doesn't. I missed the seasonality of British weather, especially the smell of autumn mornings and the colours of Autumn. 

Hope you enjoy the pictures - there will be more to come - along with a mini commentary of what I have been getting up to out of doors so far this Autumn. 

I stole away to a relatively local nature reserve with no public access to give a friend of mine who works for the conservation charity which manage it a hand with some water level monitoring. When explained like that it doesn't sound too fun, but this reserve is a ancient and awesome area which is one of a few remaining examples of a very specific wetland landscape.

Among the rare species it supports are these sundews (not sure what species) which is a carnivorous plant, it gains sustenance from invertebrates which land on it and are held by the beads of sticky liquid exuded by the plant. The sundew then closes up on it and dissolves it down for energy. It is a tiny plant and yet, when visiting a different site with a similar flora I found the remains of a Black Darter Dragonfly (admittedly a small dragonfly species) on one of these! Another fun and rare plant we found was wild cranberry, which, being in season, I helped myself to and very tasty they were!

Aren't Fungi an interesting addition to Autumn? While mushroom foraging is very much Geoff's area of expertise and I tend not to trust myself collecting them ( I will learn one day, because I enjoy eating them!) they do add a certain visual distraction to autumn. I know certain examples can be seen all year round but the profusion at this time of year is great!

This is one from Riddy Wood. I didn't take many photo's on this particular trip - partly because it was pouring with rain for a large chunk of my visit and partly because I was very busy. But this injured hornet (dodgy wing) had taken residence in our outdoor classroom and as it couldn't fly, I was able to get pretty close. They really are beautiful creatures and its only really close up that you can appreciate just how complex they are, but that can perhaps wait for a separate blog article.

On a different note this one somehow managed to make its way INSIDE my chainsaw glove during a lunch break despite my best efforts to put them out of reach! This was a shock (understatement) and I'm afraid to say it didn't survive the encounter. 

You know those times when you just happen across a scene and wish you had a camera - well this time I had a camera. This was on one of my detours from the school run. These shafts of light were just poking through a still very dense early autumn canopy and lighting up the forest floor beautifully!

Ironically this also highlights (pun intended) an issue with unmanaged woodland. Although this is a local nature reserve there is nothing in the way of habitat management that takes place. This woodland used to be coppiced, its obvious from the profusion of multi-stemmed trees throughout the woodland as well as some of the local street names - Coppice Grove is a bit of a give away! But now the canopy is closed and very dense. In some parts of the wood there are still some really nice bluebells, but I bet once upon a time there would have been many more woodland flowers and in far higher quantities, but... until the council prioritise outdoor spaces above whatever it is they spend money on, this area and many others will decline and lose the diversity they offer to city dwellers.

Colours - Wow! Again a detour home, worth the extra 5 minutes walk... except on this occasion there was so much to distract me the detour was actually more like an additional 45 mins (it should only take 15!)

My most recent outing, an early morning trip down to Cannock Chase to catch some of the Fallow Deer rut - again the colours were stunning, the sunrise light setting it all off perfectly and while I didn't see any actual fighting from the bucks, I did see, and hear, several roaring. I am hoping to make another trip in the next week or two to take some more footage which will hopefully then make it onto this site as one of the vlogs we are hoping to have ready soon.

As a taste of what you might see I dropped in a picture of a spectacular melanistic Fallow buck I saw while I was there.
Get out there and enjoy Autumn whether it's a family wander in the woods or alongside a river, or an extended bushcraft camp out, make the most of it and share your pictures with us!


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