Sunday, 27 February 2011

A walk along the road

A very pleasant morning when I set off for a brisk walk towards the riverside. Have you ever had a gut feeling that you should check something out though you have no idea why? I had this last night after passing some standing floodwater between the sewage works and the A1 roundabout. Yesterday as I passed it held a few gulls and a flock of Lapwing but I really felt I should check it out, even though there wasn't a sniff of evidence there was anything else there. So I checked it this morning. About 50 Lapwing were present together with a couple of Pied Wagtail, the gulls had gone, but there, feeding in the far corner, a lovely Green Sandpiper, presumably the bird I saw on the river nearby, several weeks ago. Then, I didn't notice it at first, an Oystercatcher. I still don't know why I thought I needed to check here ... spooky.

Instead of going along the river I headed south along the side of the A167, checking some of the fields and hedgerows as I went along. Quite a few Skylark were singing with the sun shining and two species of Crocus  -  Golden Crocus (Crocus chrysanthus and  Early Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) were in the hedgerows.

Crocuses  -  Golden (C. chrysanthus and
Early (C. tommasinianus)

When I came to the Hermitage woods I jumped over the gate, though it's not looked these days and did a circular route through them, arriving back where I started.

Waterfall in Hermitage Woods

 In here a fair amount of song was going on, mainly the commoner bird but including Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Great spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, several Siskin (are they going to stay?) and a quiet little warble that had me going until I found it was coming from a cock Bullfinch. This is a good spot for your typical woodland flora, with a number of species just about to come into flower, such as Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage,  Dog's Mercury, Cuckoo-pint and Bluebell.
Arum aka Cuckoo-pint in flower soon

Yew flowers

A few naturalised Daffodil and a decent sized patch of Snowdrop were already in flower. The Hermitage itself was a former Miners rehabilitation Centre among other things but has now been converted into private flats I believe. The patch of woodland below it is like a jungle these days with a very dense patch made up of Yew (also in flower), Rhododendron, Holly and Ivy. Much of the ivy here is not the common species Hedera helix but the Persian Ivy (Hedera colchica) and it's swamping many of the trees.

Persian Ivy (Hedera colchica

Amongst the mass of alien plants here is a little archway leading down under the ground. I have no idea what it was is or was.
Mysterious entrance - an old ice house?

Coming back out onto the A167 I crossed the road and into Chester Dene. Containing a similar flora to that across the road, the plan was to walk down to the stream, then head south over the little bridge and west of Holm Hill. However that little stream today has flooded the whole valley and was under 6-8" of water. I tried several ways of getting by without getting too wet but it kept defeating me. To make it worse it was now raining so I back tracked up to the A167 and along to Chester Moor.

The footpath that beat me
Continuing on, past more singing Skylarks, a group of 8 Yellowhammer and a flock of 16 Siskin feeding in the planted Grey Alders (Alnus incana), another alien I was soon back home and dry. The Oystercatcher this morning was new for the year making the list 80, the flowering plants list now stands at 24.

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