Leonard Woolf memorial brick embedded in commemorative flight of steps    DSCN4663.JPGfromesmissinglinks.org.uk

Breeding Bird Survey 2016   –  See Entry III on W i l d Way Route 24Fieldfare  - John Hansford.jpgFieldfare – Winter – John Hansford

Species of Conservation Concern which have been sighted on Colliers Way:  Otter (near threatened species – Red Data Book) Badger Grass Snake, Slow Worm: All Legally Protected Species.  It is of note that thirty-eight per cent of the bird species so far recorded along this stretch of Colliers Way have an Amber or Red designation: i.e. they are Birds of Conservation Concern.   BTO Red and Amber Lists 

Mells Down – 16th December 2017 / 2.15 pm-3pm

A welcome email from John Hansford, a keen Ornithologist from Coleford who regularly checks out the Bird population along the path, who says:

“A quick visit this afternoon produced a distant Moorhen, only my second Moorhen sighting on the Down so I was particularly delighted.DSCN6759.JPGMoorhen – John Hansford

I counted 51 Blackbirds with several small groups including one of 11 Blackbirds together, 35+ Redwings – good evidence of weather driven Bird movement.  22+ Bullfinches [photographs below] including a Group of 12 feeding on the ground out in the open, a Brambling with a few Chaffinches.  Other Birds seen included 3 Song Thrushes, Fieldfare, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Long-Tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Buzzard, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Woodpigeon, Raven, Carrion Crow, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Robin and Pheasant.  Disappointingly no Redpolls today.”

DSCN6775.JPG                DSCN6743.JPG                              Bullfinch – Male                                           Bullfinch – Female

12th December 2017 – 11.05am – 12.35pm

Weather Conditions:            A bitterly cold morning but sunny; spreading contrails forming hazy cloud, thick hoar frost, still, no wind.

Temperature:             1 – 4 degrees Celsius / 34 – 39 degrees Fahrenheit

After the coldest night of the year (minus 4 degrees C here but minus 14 C farther north) the air was bitter but the sun was bright, lighting up tiny ice crystals in the tarmac which glistened and flashed like diamonds as we walked towards them; our boots crunching and crackling through solid icy puddles and scrunching over frost covered grass and leaves – it’s winter. It was so cold there were no signs of the usual foraging signals, diggings or scrapings in the grass alongside the path, the ground just too frozen, as hard as concrete despite the warmth of the sun.

We saw quite a lot of birds, but mostly in ones or twos, apart from a small flock of Redwings flying over and an extraordinary number of wood pigeons and rooks feeding on the stubble of a maize or millet crop which had been left, part cut, part still standing in seed on the side of a field. There were hundreds and hundreds of birds, feeding, rising, wheeling, sillouetted against the low sun, and settling again on the stubble, with more and more arriving as we watched, forming an almost unbroken sea of grey and black birds.

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We don’t usually notice the distant Mendip Hills but the snow which fell two days ago was still lying in thick layers across the hills and drew the eye. It was interesting to contrast the snow covered hills with the fields surrounding Cranmore Tower, still high but low enough for the snow not to have settled but cold enough to coat the fields with thick white hoar frost.

About a dozen walkers, some with dogs (the golden and black Labradors racing around and play fighting) three runners but only one cyclist – probably the frosty path too treacherous for bicycles.

Description of Surroundings:  

Quiet and still wintry scene, most of the fields green with winter wheat or kale. Skeletal trees.

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I said to Heart “How goes it?” Heart replied “Right as a Ribstone Pippen!”           But it lied.           Hilaire Belloc 1910

Bird Sightings:

Goldcrest, Redwing, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Rook, Crow, Pheasant, Buzzard, Raven.

Plants:

Yarrow, Hogweed, Leafy Hawkweed, White Dead Nettle all in flower.  Young leaves opening on the willows.

Animals:

Clouds of midges and lots of male Winter gnats with their six spindly legs and long transparent wings, dancing up and down just like Mayflies to attract the females.  The gnats are abundant in winter; they favour woodlands as their larvae live in rotting vegetation such decaying leaves, and are an important food source for birds.

6th December 2017 – 1.15pm – 2.40pmDSCN3261.JPG

Weather Conditions:             Overcast, cloudy and gloomy, rain, strong cold wind.

Temperature:             9-12 degrees Celsius / 48-53 degrees Fahrenheit

A typical English winter’s afternoon – lowering charcoal grey clouds, gloomy dismal and bleak, spitting rain which, as the afternoon wore on, could be best summed up with the Scottish word smirr, a steady and persistent soft rain blowing in from the west straight off the Atlantic Ocean, driven by strong winds and cloaking and obscuring the distant hedges and trees in a thick white mist.  The brown teasel heads stand tall and proud and many of the trees and hedges are cloaked in the tangled lengths of the fluffy seed heads of old man’s beard.

There are not many signs of life.  A couple of cyclists, a couple of walkers, the wail of a siren sounding long and loud from the stone quarry over the valley near Chantry and a fussilade of guns from the local shoot in a nearby field.  Skittering Blue Tits clambering around the twigs, picking out insects, flocks of Long-Tailed Tits and finches  busily flitting amongst the bare branches of the trees, stark black and skeletal against the wintry sky, while a couple of buzzards wheel and drift overhead on the wind and pheasants scurry along the field edges, hurrying away from the guns.

Lots of scrapings and diggings along the grass verge beside the cycle path where innumerable animals have worn pathways and created tunnels through the rough overgrown grass up the embankment until lost from sight as they disappear into the thick undergrowth beneath the hedgerows.

As we walked back we could see the lights coming on in the un-curtained windows of the isolated farmhouses across the fields, half hidden by trees – welcoming splashes of yellow glowing in the deepening gloom. Despite the inclement weather, it was still good to be outside and exhilarating to walk along, feeling the cold wind and rain on our faces, escaping from the fug of the over-heated rooms of home.

Description of Surroundings:  

Wintry fields and wind shriven trees and hedges.

Bird Sightings:

Fieldfare,  Blue Tit,  Long Tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Robin,  Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Pheasant, Buzzard.

Plants:

Yarrow, Scabious, Hogweed, Bush Vetch, Dandelion, Leafy Hawkweed, Red Campion, White Dead Nettle all in flower.

Animals:

Clouds of midges around our heads as we walked; roe deer tracks.

29th November 2017 – 11.15am – 12.40pmDSCN3250.JPG

Weather Conditions:             Cold, full sun, northerly wind, frosty ground, a film of ice on the puddles

Temperature:             4 – 6.5  degrees Celsius  / 39-43.7 degrees Fahrenheit

Glorious cold and frosty morning, brilliant sunshine, crisp air, our footsteps crunch, crunch, crunching through the thick hoar frost clinging to the grass and painting the plants and fallen leaves snowy white. Sailing clouds sent flying across the bright azure blue sky by strong winds, the soughing so strong and loud through the leafless trees it sounded more like a muffled train engine than gusting wind and rivaled the farmer’s tractor engine in a distant field and the rumbling, clattering and clanking of his farm machinery.

Vigorous, deep diggings in the grass verges all along the side of the track showed clear signs of desperate searches for food after a freezing night. Lots of small tits and finches flashing about, a mewing buzzard circling overhead, the wonderful winter sight and harsh Kaah sound of flocks of rooks along with the chyak chyak jackdaws wheeling above the fields, the unexpectantly close cracking kra kra of the Jay and suddenly, out of nowhere, a flock of Fieldfares flying over at speed.

But by far the greatest joys of winter, along with the bare trees and rare days of strong sunshine, are the unexpected flashes of colour; the groups of beautiful goldfinches, strikingly marked – bright crimson, white and black faces with flashes of yellow on the wings, so many, flitting about the branches; more and more bullfinches in the trees, a couple of males, flying fast, their rose-red breasts glowing in the sunshine, vying with the clashing deep pink and bright orange berries of the spindle tree are pleasures surely to rival the best days of summer.

Lots and lots of cyclists, some in groups, many runners, one other walker.

Description of Surroundings:  

Sudden gusts of wind tear the last of the dead leaves from the trees and send them scattering about our heads; the sun drenched fields are filled with serried rows of emerald green crops.

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Bird Sightings:

Fieldfares, Yellow hammer, Goldfinch,  Dunnock,  Blue Tit,  Long Tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Jay, Robin,  Wren, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Rooks. Jackdaws, Buzzard

Plants:

Yarrow, Scabious, Hogweed, Leafy Hawkweed, Nipplewort, White Dead Nettle all in flower.

Animals:

Black Fly, midges.

27th November 2017 TELEMMGLPICT000147760164_1_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqV3C1UnCI5Mv8_2dPMNAOY8ANH7Gr-PkkbrviVOit6VE.jpeg

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales announced the engagement of his younger son Prince Henry to Ms Meghan Markle.  The wedding will take place in Spring 2018.

23rd November 2017 – 10.15am – 11.53amDSCN3226.JPG

Weather Conditions:             Strong cold, blustery wind, full sun.

Temperature:             8 – 10  degrees Celsius  / 48-55 degrees Fahrenheit

As we began our walk, stepping out briskly with the clear, cold air on our faces, we heard a full peal of bells from Mells church ringing out, carried across the fields on the rough winds.  There wasn’t very much to see as even the birds were keeping close to the undergrowth, well protected from the stiff breeze.   A large flock of rooks rose up in the air cawing loudly, disturbed from their feeding amongst the fields of kale.

A few trees, an oak, several willows and a small leaved lime were the only ones with their dry and shrivelled leaves still clinging to their branches, save a domed hawthorn glowing gold against a blue sky under an arching rainbow, the rest of the trees bare and grey.  The lack of leaves revealed the shining slate grey branches and trunks of the blackthorns with their sharp lethal looking thorns, the purple black sloes but a distant memory.

We met a delightful couple from Shepton Mallet with their small Airedale.  They told us they walked the path most days, delighting in the wildlife.  They had once seen a fox and frequently see roe deer actually on the path, and a badger close to the large sett near Kilmersden.  They often lifted voles and slow worms off the path and back into the long grass to protect them, but when one day in early summer when there were lots of cyclists they moved a shrew, they were amused to glance back to find that it had returned exactly to the middle of the path where they had found it.  They had also seen a stoat and weasels several times near the rusting old railway brake van and wondered if the weasels had a lair there.

One group of walkers with a guide and a good number of others, singlies or pairs, most with dogs, two horse riders, several cyclists and two runners.

Description of Surroundings:     

Lots of broken branches and twigs strewn across the path, brought down by the strong winds and torrential rain of last evening.  Large puddles of standing water beside the path and in the fields.

Bird Sightings:

Fieldfares, Dunnock,  Blue Tit, Raven,  Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Robin,  Blackbird, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Rook

Plants:

A few straggly looking plants cling on, Dandelion, Leafy Hawkweed, Scabious, Yarrow, Hogweed, White Dead Nettle, all in flower.

Animals:

Bee, Fly.

16th November 2017 – 9.30am – 11.40amDSCN3197 (2).jpg

Weather Conditions:             Chilly. Thin hazy cloud, clearing to blue skies and full sun.

Temperature:             9-13 degrees Celsius  / 48-55 degrees Fahrenheit

A cold wind and, once the cloud dispersed, warm bright sunshine – like ice cream with hot sauce – delicious!  Splashes of cheerful colour from the golden leaves still clinging on to some of the trees, the beech hedge alight with fiery bronze, the strings of scarlet black bryony and the deeper red of the rose hips and hawthorn berries light up a scene which is almost entirely dull buff and brown.

We meet a men from Buckland Dinham who has been walking this stretch of countryside long before the cycle path was created.  He said that the deer used the old railway line as a track-way and, following their path as he did, felt like entering a tunnel formed by tree branches meeting overhead.  He saw more birds in those days as it was much quieter and less frequented but far, far fewer flowers and butterflies.  Most of the cowslips and beds of purple and white violets only appeared after clearing for the cycle path allowed more sunlight to reach the woodland floor.  He talked about the great pleasure the area has given him over nearly fifty years, culminating in his first precious and rare sighting last year of a Grey Shrike (the well-named butcher bird) which was catching bees and impaling them on a thorn.   John Hansford’s photograph (below) shows the bird’s  highwayman’s mask wonderfully clearly.

DSCN5344.JPGGreat Grey Shrike – John Hansford

As the morning moved on, the bright, warm sunshine attracted more and more runners, cyclists and walkers, many with dogs.  A group of 6-8 or so quite elderly women, a walking party from the nearby village of Mells, came striding briskly along, the tap tapping of their Nordic poles announcing their presence long before their arrival and long after they had passed.  The warm sunshine seemed also to attract the hunters (or maybe attracted their prey to emerge from their nests and begin foraging).  We watched  two buzzards soaring high, high up in the sky whilst another circled gracefully, slowly, low down over the woods, mewing constantly.  Then the Ravens appeared, three of them, soaring and floating, with only the occasional insouciant flap to keep them in flight, drifting effortlessly, playing on the wind, barking and croaking, communicating to each other about who knows what.

Description of Surroundings:     

Winter wheat growing apace, lot of trees have lost their leaves but maples and beeches glowing golden and bronze in the sunlight.

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Bird Sightings:

Song Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Dunnock,  Long Tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Blue Tit, Raven, Buzzard,  Bullfinch, Robin, Jay, Blackbird, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Crow.

Plants:

Herb Robert, Dandelion, Ragwort, Bramble, Leafy Hawkweed, White Clover, Red Clover, Basil, Hop Trefoil, Scabious, Nipplewort, Yarrow and Hogweed (almost all with a bee motionless on the flower-head) and White Dead Nettle, all in flower.  Next year’s buds already forming on the willows.

Animals:

A single Red Admiral butterfly, clouds of Midges, Honey Bee, Bumble Bee.

8th November 2017 – 1.20 pm – 3.30pm DSCN3141.JPG

Weather Conditions:             Bright and sunny; crisp air, blue skies, cold NNW wind.

Temperature:             9 degrees Celsius  / 48 degrees Fahrenheit

Beautiful day, full warm sun, air fresh and crisp.  We almost immediately met up with a keen birder whom we often see.  He had been on the path since 9 o’clock and had enjoyed a very good morning’s sightings, seeing Kestrels, Redwings, Fieldfares, most of the tits and finches and even a skylark! He had also seen a Little Owl when out on Monday.

We all watched a young buzzard flying over, its markings striking in the bright sunlight, and talked about last year’s judicial decision that refusal by Natural England to allow shooting buzzards to protect game bird was illegal.   The cycle path is surrounded by farm land partly managed for game shoots and soon after he arrived that morning he had seen the gamekeeper and his team of beaters driving the pheasants towards the guns on their pegs by the hedge.  As the shooting season started on the 1st November we will be able to judge by the end of the season whether there are still any raptors left in the area; we love our pot pheasant but love to watch the buzzards more.

We said goodbye as he went off for lunch and walked on watching the occasional flocks of finches and groups of tits dashing around the trees and hedges, noting the almost complete dearth of flowers and absence of fungus.  We watched a pair of Jackdaws flying over, one carrying what looked like nesting material in its beak and then suddenly caught sight of a grey field vole (short tailed vole) skittering and scampering at top speed from the edge of the grass verge where we had disturbed him through a gap in the tufts of long grass. We waited and waited and then spotted him again, scurrying along the side of the old rusty iron rail at the top of the embankment before he disappeared into the clumps of tangled grass and plants.  He looked very fit and healthy with glossy coat and clear eyes and probably welcomed foraging in the hot sun after the cold and frosty night.

Redwing.jpgRedwing – John Hansford

As we walked home along the path, the sun began to sink and lose its warmth, the sky was turning to a soft pale blue and milky white from the diffused clouds when a flock of 40 odd redwings flew across, silhouetted black against the pale wintry sky probably driven away from the pheasant shoot several fields away, the sound of their shotguns having peppered most of otherwise quiet afternoon walk.  Amusing to think that less than a week ago we were desperate for a glimpse of the winter migrants and now they are everywhere!

Shooting seasons graphic-3508x2480.jpg

Description of Surroundings:     

Winter wheat growing well, fields of kale already around 4 inches tall, scattering of autumn leaves on trees and path.

Bird Sightings:

Redwings, Fieldfares, Skylark, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Kestrel, Great Tit,  Long Tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Raven, Buzzard, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Robin, Jay, Blackbird, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Jackdaws, Rooks, flocks of gulls.  Little Owl (Monday).

Plants:

Herb Robert, Dandelion, Prickly Sow Thistle, Ragwort, Knapweed, Bramble, Leafy Hawkweed, Red Campion, White Clover, Red Clover, Basil, Hop Trefoil, Bush Vetch, Scabious, Yarrow, Hogweed, White Dead Nettle, all in flower.

Animals:

Field Vole (short tailed vole), Roe Deer, Red Admiral butterfly, clouds of Midges, Squirrel, Honey Bee.

2nd November 2017 – 2.15 pm – 4.10pmDSCN3171 (2).jpg

Weather Conditions:             Heavy grey cloud intermittent sunny spells.

Temperature:             12-13 degrees Celsius  / 53-55 degrees Fahrenheit

For weeks we have been searching the skies and trees and thickets hoping to see either Fieldfares or Redwings all to no avail until this afternoon and there they were – both species have at last arrived along the cycle path!  The latest BirdTrack newsletter notes “Reports of Fieldfare have been lagging behind the historical average so far this autumn, but have started to arrive in numbers in the last week” although John Hansford tweeted as long ago as the 20th October that 5 Redwings had flown past his house and another 40 on the 28th!  Whatever, it is just lovely that they are here to brighten up our autumn and winter walks and help compensate for lack of flowers and butterflies.

We crunch through dry leaves underfoot in every shade of copper and gold, enjoying the lively scarlet splashes of rose hips and the pink/purple guelder rose leaves whilst clouds of midges float around our heads and the scent of wood smoke hangs in the air.  A tractor in the adjoining field rattles and rumbles along, pulling a line of small rollers, their linking chains clanking and chinking but not loud enough to drown out a pair of argumentative ravens on the edge of the wood or the mewing of two buzzards overhead being barked at by crows rising from the trees.  The unseasonably warm weather has transformed the bare earth of the spider web field of only a week ago into a carpet of new green winter wheat.

As we returned back along the track the low pale autumn sun water-colour washed the sky with soft milky light, sillouetting flocks of gulls, jackdaws and rooks circling and gliding, following the plough in another field and the group of gulls forming a V as they headed south.

The late afternoon mists were beginning to form and hang low along the hedgerows and distant woods while the low sun lit the nearby bare trees with copper coloured light and turned the small puffs of cloud peachy-pink amongst the dark grey rain clouds almost cloaking the sky.

Half a dozen or so walkers and a handful of cyclists passed along the path.

Description of Surroundings:     

Dry and crunchy fallen bronze leaves littering the path, lines of badger snuffle holes and rootlings all along the verges.

Bird Sightings:

Redwing, Fieldfare, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Raven, Buzzard, Chaffinch, Robin, Bullfinch, Jay, Blackbird, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, flocks of gulls.

Plants:

A scattering of Meadow Pea, Herb Robert, Dandelion, Brambles, Leafy Hawkweed, Cow Parsley, Red Clover, Basil, Hop Trefoil, Bush Vetch, Scabious, Yarrow, Hop Trefoil, Hogweed, White Dead Nettle, Ivy all in flower.  New pale green catkins already forming (half inch) on the Hazel trees.  Lots of fungus, Shaggy Ink Caps, Common Funnel, Bonnet, Conical Brittlestem, large Stump fungus, a cascade of Fairy Ink Cap, King Alfred’s Cake.

Animals:

Clouds of midges, 7 spot ladybird, wasps feeding on the ivy flowers.

27th October 2017RSCN5572.JPGFemale Bullfinch – John Hansford

An email from John Hansford who  managed a quick 45 min visit on Friday afternoon with his 9 year old daughter.  He saw at least 13 Red Admiral Butterflies – really good numbers for this time of the Year but this was the only Butterfly species seen and sent the above photograph of a female Bullfinch next to Jericho bridge.  He went on to say “Small flocks of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits (Amber list) were present, several Buzzards were seen and a Raptor was heard to call but sadly remained unseen so the ID wasn’t established. My thoughts were of a Merlin but I will never know!”  Exciting to think of a Merlin around the cycle path – maybe we will get a confirmed sighting later in the winter months.

25th October 2017 – 2.15 pm – 4.20pmDSCN3132.JPG

Weather Conditions:             Beautifully warm, sunny,  fine weather reportedly blown in from the Azores.  Light breeze – mackerel sky.

Temperature:             19 degrees Celsius  / 66 degrees Fahrenheit

It was an extraordinarily warm afternoon for late October.  We noticed slightly increasing numbers of birds but they are still not plentiful and no sign of winter migrants, although redwings have been spotted close by.  More plants still flowering on this more open, less shaded, stretch of the path and lots of fungus.

The afternoon sun in autumn seems to create a phenomenon which we have only noticed a couple of times before on grassland – uncountable numbers of tiny spiders webs stretching transversely from clod to clod of earth like a fine net blanket across the entire ploughed and harrowed field.  Highlighted by the angle of the sunlight, the gossamer threads looked like millions of cat’s cradles lifting and shifting in the wind, a pathway of glittering brightness across the dun coloured field – quite magical.

The unseasonably warm weather encouraged people to stop and chat – a couple of young women, one with a five week old baby tucked up snugly in a sling across her chest, Natasha Littlewood with friend and dogs which sniff out and scare the hedgehogs, driving them scampering away searching for safety.   Natasha had a wonderful photograph of a roe deer sillouetted against a hedge, his head turned towards her, which she had spotted from the path; unfortunately, despite my best efforts, it didn’t transfer successfully to this page.

The cycle path was busy with walkers, children on half term, cyclists of all shapes and ages and we were struck by what a social space it is.   One walker we met who walked the path reguarly was telling us of a group of quite elderly people she knew who ring round to each other and then meet up by the Mells Road station and walk together along the path.

Description of Surroundings:   

Gold and copper coloured autumn leaves, fields of bare ploughed and harrowed earth, fields with tramlines of winter wheat, one or two inches tall, a haze of emerald green, flooded field edges.

Bird Sightings:

Red Legged Partridge, Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk, Raven, Buzzards, Chaffinch, Robin, Bullfinch, Jay, Blackbird, Magpie, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Jackdaws, Rooks, a flock of gulls including lesser black backed, parties of finches in the hedgerows.

Plants:

Herb Robert, Dandelion, Nettles, Brambles, Leafy Hawkweed, Cow Parsley, Red Clover, Basil, Hop Trefoil, Fat Hen, Bush Vetch, Scabious, Yarrow, Hop Trefoil, Hogweed, White Dead Nettle, Dogwood, Ragwort, Greater Knapweed, Chickweed, Birds Eye Speedwell, Red Campion, Centaury, Ivy, Pale Toadflax, White Clover, Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Dove’s Foot Cranesbill all in flower.  Yellow Fieldcap fungus, Conical Brittlestem fungus.

DSCN3123.JPG

Animals:

A handful of Red Admiral butterflies.  [Others: Hedgehog].

22nd October 2017 – 1 pm – 3.10pmDSCN3035.JPG

Weather Conditions:             Cloudy, strong cold wind, bursts of sunshine.

Temperature:             12 degrees Celsius  / 53 degrees Fahrenheit

A blustery, invigorating walk along the path bordered by trees whose wind tossed branches were being thrashed by strong winds, the remains of the previous day’s storm blowing itself out.  Occasional bursts of bright sunshine light up the turning leaves of gold, copper, bright Spring-like green and magenta against racing clouds of an ominous dirty grey, filled with rain, chasing rags and wisps of silver-light edged white puffs  across deep blue skies.  It felt good to be alive.

The water course, the bone dry bed of which we had walked down only ten days or so ago, was now flowing full and fast for the first time since the Spring, tumbling over small waterfalls, pushing past wodges of sodden leaves and fallen sticks, racing downhill.  The sound of the water together with the chattering of jackdaws, cawing of rooks and crows and ravens and the trails and clumps of fungus signalled autumn was well and truly here.

We were surprised to see such an extraordinary number of vibrantly coloured Red Admiral butterflies and wondered if these were newly arrived migrants rather than a late brood.

We chatted to one couple who alerted us to the funnel fungus on the banks below the badger setts.  They were saddened that the bee orchid (one of the tallest, many flowered orchid plants they had ever seen) had been slashed down by the machine which mows the verges of the cycle path and we talked about the Medlar which we noticed had suffered a similar fate.  A few cyclists but lots of walkers and runners.

Description of Surroundings:   

Few flowers, lots of fallen twigs, leaves and acorns, fungus everywhere; fields green and empty apart from numerous strutting pheasants. 

Bird Sightings:

Blue tit, Robin, Bullfinch, Blackbird, Wren, Raven, Magpie, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Jackdaws, Rooks, parties of tits.

Plants:

Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Dogwood, Corn sow thistle, Smooth cow thistle, Hedge woundwort, Fat hen, Hogweed, Bush Vetch, Ivy, White dead-nettle, Red Clover, Herb Robert, Stinging nettle in flower, Guelder Rose and Spindle in berry.   Common Funnel fungus, Butter Cap fungus, Shaggy Ink Cap fungus.

DSCN3091 (2).jpg

Animals:

Lots of Red Admiral butterflies, Grey Squirrel, Spangled gall.

16th October 2017 – 8.59amcornerhouse 3 003.JPGRed Sun created by Sahara Dust in the atmosphere

                                            10th October 2017 – 10.30am-12.35pm            DSCN3032.JPG                                                                   Fairy Inkcap

Weather Conditions:             Cloudy, overcast, chilly blustery wind, bursts of sunshine, fine rain showers.

Temperature:             16-17 degrees Celsius  / 60-62 degrees Fahrenheit

Leaves turning, billows of white smoke from a large bonfire rising and drifting above fields barren of any signs of life, before becoming lost in the upper branches of the trees. A blustery wind soughing through the oaks and hawthorns, hazel, ash and maples, showering us with a confetti of golden leaves swirling around our heads and laying a copper carpet at our feet as we walked.

A considerable number of snuffle holes along the path side verges below the banks of badger setts, several grey squirrels scampering about up and down the trees, and parties of tits flitting through the trees tweeting vociferously.  Clumps and scatterings of fungus lie amongst the leaf litter, a single butterfly and a large hornet spotted as we walk along.  The hornet is probably a queen given its size, possibly drinking the nectar of the ivy flowers.   Mature ivy, prolific along the Way, must be one of the few wild plants to flower in the autumn, a boon for bees and butterflies and many other insects.

We saw a dead pheasant’s head on the path with no sign of its body or any feathers close by.  Some people say this is a sign of foxes, others owls or birds of prey, yet others mink but who can tell.  A dead squirrel thrown into the ditch at the side of the path – no sign that any attempt had been made to eat it.

Two horse riders. clip clopping, ambling along, a sprinkling of cyclists, several walkers with dogs.  We chatted to a man in his 70s who had cycled over from Peasedown St John via Radstock – a return journey of some 14-15 miles.  He urged us to take our bicycles to the park and ride at Bath and take the cycle path along his favourite ride, from Bath to Bitton, and sometimes on to Bristol.

Description of Surroundings:     

Some trees with turning leaves, some still green, some already bare, path covered with copper leaves, seemingly far fewer berries than last year and they are already shrivelling after such an early fruiting in August.

Bird Sightings:

Long Tailed tit, Blue tit, Great tit, Robin, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Raven, Blackbird, Magpie, Jay, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Crow, Buzzard.

Plants:

Hop Trefoil, White Dead nettle, Common Valerian, Chickweed, Field Bindweed, Bush Vetch, Red Campion, Basil, Dogwood, Ivy, Stinging Nettle, Moon Daisy, Red Clover, Daisy, Bramble, Prickly Sow Thistle, Creeping Thistle all in flower.  Fungus – Shaggy Inkcap, Fairy Inkcap, Common Bonnet, King Alfred’s cakes,

Animals:

Speckled Wood butterfly, Hornet (queen?) Grey Squirrels, Hoverfly.

8th October 2017DSCN5443.JPGCommon Lizards – John Hansford

It has been a brilliantly clear sunny autumn day with temperatures between 13-15 C / 55-50 F  – a new email from John Hansford with some marvellous sightings and a beautiful photograph of two lizards (we have never seen more than one at a time or managed to photograph one!)

What a wonderfully evocative autumn scene – to see the sky larks and bullfinches flocking together in such numbers and to see the meadow pipits arriving for over wintering – quite special.  We have also been noticing the increasing numbers of ladybirds just recently and the surprising number of butterflies.  John’s email reads :

I attach a photo of 2 of the 3 Common Lizards seen from the cycle path this afternoon.

Butterflies – 1 Comma, 1 Peacock, 1 Large White, 2 Speckled Wood, 6 Red Admirals.

Birds – Winter flocks of Sky Larks building up with a group of 18 seen flying over the path as well at least 12 Bullfinches.  The first Meadow Pipits of the Autumn have arrived.

It was also noticeable that there were many Ladybirds around today, more than I have seen for a long time.”

Thanks John – What a triumph!

3rd October 2017 9.50am-12.05pmDSCN2985.JPGCommon Darter Dragonfly

Weather Conditions:             Bright, sunny morning.  Cold wind, blue skies, the sun hot in sheltered spots

 Temperature:                        12-14 degrees Celsius/53-57 degrees Fahrenheit

Although the cold wind and crisp air signalled autumn, the sun was warm enough to make the walk along the path wonderfully invigorating.  The cheerful song of the many robins marking their territory and shouting at all the other robins to “get off my land” accompanied us along the way reminding us of the season as did the kaah and jack jack of the crows, rooks and jackdaws and the rusty croak of the raven.

A surprising number of plants still in flower, which must be very welcome to the bees and  several butterflies we spotted, although the butterflies looked rather forlorn, flying all alone, the comma settled on a buddleia leaf as if waiting for the flowers to appear, although more likely to be just soaking up the sun.

Lots of cyclists (including a party of 8-10), lots of runners, and lots of walkers, all enjoying the bright, crisp sunny morning.

Description of Surroundings:     

Newly germinated crops of grass or winter wheat already showing an inch or two of green shoots.  Other fields ploughed with thick chunks of dark brown earth or golden stubble.  Deep puddles along the margin of some of the fields.

Bird Sightings:

Kestrel, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Raven, Herring Gull, Blackbird, Robin, Pheasant, Jackdaw, Rook, Wood Pigeon, Crow.

Plants:

Groundsel, Red Campion, Greater Knapweed, Pale Toadflax, Meadow Cranesbill, Yarrow, Stinging Nettle, Moon Daisy, Prickly Sow thistle, Hogweed, Hedge Bedstraw, Red Clover, White Dead Nettle, Scabious, Leafy Hawkweed, Meadow Pea, Bush Vetch, Wild Basil, Scots Thistle, Dove’s Foot Cranesbill, Common St John’s Wort, Square Stalked St John’s Wort, Buttercup, Ragwort, Dandelion, Rest-harrow, White Clover, Chickweed, Dogwood, Field Bindweed, Nipple-wort, Fat Hen, Hedge Woundwort, Rose Bay Willow-herb, Creeping Thistle, Forget-me-not, Birds Eye Speedwell, Centaury, Square Stalked St John’s Wort, Cocksfoot grass all in flower.  Yellow oat grass, Hard Rush. Turkey tail bracket fungus.

Animals:

Red Admiral, Comma, Speckled Wood, Large White butterflies, Common Darter dragonfly, 7 Spot Ladybird, Buff Tailed bumble bee, Honey Bee.

26th September 2017  2.05pm – 4.10pmDSCN2971 (2).jpgCommon Restharrow

Weather Conditions:             Hazy sun, very humid, the air still and quiet.

Temperature:                        17-18 degrees Celsius/62-64 degrees Fahrenheit

The aromatic scents rising from the sun-warmed damp plants, flowers and mosses and filling the air as we walk along  are quite heady, a sweet flower perfume intermingled with the sharp scent of wood smoke and the deep intense scent of wet grass and herbs – quite wonderful.  The last remaining summer flowers are still lingering on, some with a second flowering, but apart from two or three small whites and a small tortoiseshell, there were no butterflies.   It’s difficult not to mourn the final passing of summer when the memory of hot sun, warm air filled with butterflies and banks and glades full of flowers is still so alive and vivid.

The field maple leaves are almost entirely yellow now, the hawthorn leaves splashing ruddy-red like the wild cherry and the hornbeam seed-heads, hanging like upside-down-pagodas, have turned dark gold.

DSCN2977.JPG

We stood watching a flock of chaffinches and buntings flying between the trees and bushes, acting almost like flycatchers, darting and swooping out of the branches snatching the tiny insects swarming in the still air, while a buzzard circles overhead and a raven’s deep throaty croak echoes across the autumn fields.

Lots and lots of cyclists, mostly oldies, a couple of women with their dog, a keen ornithologist from Radstock taking photographs with a plate camera on a tripod and a young woman, baby in sling, were the only other walkers.  She was searching and calling for Flossie her English pointer who had disappeared into the thick undergrowth and despite us all shouting and whistling Flossie seemed determined to hide!  She was found eventually – a beautiful bitch, white and cream.

Description of Surroundings:  

Some ploughed, some stubble fields left fallow.  Although the sun had burnt off the thick morning fog, a light mist still clung in whisps around the trees in the distant woods.

Bird Sightings:

Bullfinch, Chiff Chaff, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Jay, Magpie, Raven, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Buzzard,  Blackbird, Robin, young Pheasant, Jackdaw, Yellowhammer, Wood Pigeon, Crow.

Plants:

Groundsel, red dead nettle, white dead nettle, yarrow, moon daisy, red Campion, Herb Bennet, Herb Robert, Ivy, stinging nettle, ribwort plantain, ragwort, prickly sow thistle, leafy hawksbit, scabious, wild basil, red clover, white clover, St John’s wort, hop trefoil, tufted vetch, hogweed, red bartsia, Scotch thistle, welted thistle, burdock, dove’s foot cranesbill, meadow pea, moon daisy, buttercup, dandelion corn marigold, pale toadflax, rest harrow, dogwood, field bindweed, meadow cranesbill, hedge bedstraw, knapweed, agrimony, bush vetch, rose bay willow-herb, birds-eye speedwell, common hemp nettle, forget-me-not, self-heal. 

Animals:

Small White and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies, 7 Spot Ladybird, Honey Bee, Wasp.

22nd September 2017

 – Autumn Equinox –

Cold, crisp night, Orion’s belt and the morning star bright and sparkling in the clear dark pre-dawn sky.  A golden sunrise orange-reddened the horizon, illuminating the autumn mists hanging low in the fields.  The air slowly warmed and cleared to a dazzlingly beautiful morning.

19th September 2017 10.40am-1.10pmDSCN2963.JPGCommas on Buddleia

Weather Conditions:             Sunny, light breeze, cool in the shade.

Temperature:             12-15 degrees Celsius/ 53-59 degrees Fahrenheit

These days leading up to the Autumn Equinox signal the change of seasons – the sun is still hot but the air cool, there are butterflies around but fewer and the banks of flowers, trees and hedgerows have a decided autumnal feel – seed heads, berries and nuts replacing flowers, leaves on the Wych Elm turning pink and yellow, the Wild Cherry splashing orange and deep crimson and the borders of rose bay willow herb turning scarlet red, while the drone of a farm machine cutting the field hedges, tidying up before winter, drifts across the path and the contrast between the brown earth of the newly ploughed fields and the green grass lines cutting through the golden stubble is most striking.  Black bryony’s skeins of yellow, orange and red berries are draped across the hedgerow like garlands of early Christmas decorations and the hips and haws are flaunting their profusion, sure to attract the Fieldfares and Redwings, due to arrive any time soon.

A dense mass of flowering ivy had attracted lots of wasps, one of whom was caught in a spider’s web but eventually managed to extricate itself and fly away.  A delicate white downy feather lay beside a path winding through a stretch of moss, grass and low growing plants, drops of dew still clinging and sparkling in the sunlight.  Occasional scattered clumps of feathers showed that some predator had managed a good meal.

A steady stream of cyclists in mufti and a few bikras, lots of runners with dogs and several walkers, enjoying the last traces of summer.

Description of Surroundings: 

Newly ploughed fields, stubble fields and strips of un-harvested maize between hedges and lines of poplars lying quiet in the sunshine.

Bird Sightings:

Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Chiff Chaff, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Linnet, Buzzard,  Blackbird, Robin, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon,  Raven and Crow.  Seen by others: Kestrel.

Animals:

Comma, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Small White butterflies, 7 Spot Ladybird, Long Winged Cone Head Cricket, Common Field Grasshopper, Common Lizard, Honey Bee, Wasp, and Crane Fly.

Plants:

Yarrow, Herb Robert, Herb Bennet, White Dead Nettle, Bramble, Red Clover White Clover, Ragwort, Wild Basil, Corn Marigold, Moonflower, Rest Harrow, Pale Toadflax, Scabious, St John’s Wort, Bush Vetch, Hop Trefoil, Ribwort Plantain, Hedge Bedstraw, Meadow Pea, Prickly Sow Thistle, Knapweed, Red Bartsia, Dove’s Foot Cranesbill, Hogweed, Buttercup, Meadow Cranesbill, Agrimony, Rose Bay Willow herb, Vervain, Common Hemp Nettle, Dogwood, Chickweed, Field Bindweed, Forget-me-not, Great Bindweed, Ivy, Old Man’s Beard, Centaury, Birds Foot Trefoil, Self-Heal, Field Speedwell, Woody Nightshade, Dandelion all still in flower.

17th September 2017

 DSCN6574.JPG                Large Skipper.JPG

Small Skipper                                                                 Large Skipper

An email from John Hansford enclosing photographs of Small and Large Skippers  (shown above) seen at the end of June near the oak bench by Conduit Bridge and the above photograph of a Spotted Flycatcher also seen on the cycle path this summer.

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15th September 2017:   Terrorist attack at Parsons Green Tube Station : the fifth terror incident in England during 2017.

parsons green.jpg

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12th September 2017 – 11am – 12.45pmDSCN2960.JPGSimplicity – Oak Bench by Yumiko Aoyagi

Temperature:             15-16 degrees Celsius/ 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit

Weather Conditions:    Cloudy, light shower, chilly north-westerly wind and bright, sunny intervals.

We had not expected to see many, if any, butterflies after the cold winds, heavy rain and thunder storms of recent days but were even more astonished to see the comma, small copper and silver washed fritillary.  Although there were speckled woods and whites all along the path, the remainder of butterflies were feeding amongst the flowers in an open glade, almost entirely enclosed by tall trees and shrubs, where the brief spells of surprisingly hot sunlight warmed the clearing which was completely sheltered from the blustery winds.

The cycle path under the trees was strewn with hazel nuts, acorns and small twigs blown down by the wind, the acorn cups fresh and clean, the acorns white through green to brown and the hazel nuts milky cream in their sheathes of bright green.  Among the acorns, an aborted brown knopper oak gall, a small hole showing where the hatched lava emerged.  Interesting to think that an English Oak doesn’t produce acorns until it is 40 years old.

Many considerate cyclists and only one other walker – the young man exercising his silver grey Siberian husky. When I said it was the first time I had seen the dog running free without pulling him along on his skate board, he said it was much too hot in summer but also that he was training him at the moment to be off the lead – he needed to be extremely watchful now there were pheasants about. He is a magnificent looking dog with striking colouring, piercing blue eyes and immensely fit.

Description of Surroundings:   Shifting dappled shade falling across the path once the rain shower passed, very quiet and serene in the shelter of the trees, despite the soughing of the wind through the uppermost branches overhead.

Bird Sightings:

Swallow, Jay, Bullfinch, Wren, Buzzard,  Blackbird, Robin, Rook, Jackdaw, pheasant, wood pigeon, and crow.

Plants:

Corn sow thistle, herb Robert, bramble, field bindweed, hedge bindweed, hogweed, stinging nettle, white dead nettle, red clover, St John’s wort, moon daisy, prickly sow thistle, nipplewort, common valerian, meadowsweet, daisy, dandelion, meadow pea, tufted vetch, ragwort, red bartsia, hop trefoil, meadow cranesbill, buttercup, red Campion, burdock, wild angelica, ivy, corn marigold, woody nightshade, ribwort plantain, old man’s beard, birds foot trefoil, creeping thistle, red leg, teasel, mallow, brown birch, common hemp nettle, leafy hawkweed and Himalayan honeysuckle all in flower and the last also carrying its red and black berries.

Animals:

Silver washed fritillary, comma, small copper, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, red admiral, small white, large white butterflies, Knopper Oak gall and grey squirrel.

9th September 2017FSCN5523.JPGYoung Song Thrush – John Hansford

Exciting news from John Hansford about his recent sightings along the cycle path – a Stone Curlew (seen whilst walking with his family) and a Common Crane – both of which are on the Amber list.  He also mentioned that the Reed Buntings (Amber list) and Sedge Warbler mentioned in an earlier post had both held territories in the reeds by the poplars for the second summer running – it’s so good to hear that these birds are established and breeding here.

His sighting of two Moorhens feeding out in the middle of a field surrounded by Fieldfare and Redwing in a cold spell in the spring reminded us of the mallard we spotted serenely swimming in a flooded ditch in the corner of a field at about the same time of the year – totally unexpected!

9th September 2017 – 9.10 – 11.30amIMG_0652(1).JPGElephant Hawk Moth caterpillar – Rebecca Muirhead

Temperature:                       13-16 degrees Celsius/ 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit

A stretch of newly harrowed earth neighbouring golden stubbled fields, a church tower rising proud among green, heavily leafed trees and hedges, lines of stately poplars quiet in the warm sunshine despite the blustery winds and rain clouds building on the horizon threatening the clear blue sky, the air fresh carrying the merest hint of the chill months to come.  A classic English autumn scene.

The plants are heavy and bowed with brown seed heads, the shrubs laden with fruits, scarlet and purple berries, skeins of green, red and yellow black bryony winding through the branches.  Before us the cycle path,  winding and stretching for mile after mile, disappearing into the distance. The perfect morning for an amble.

Some bees and a few butterflies are still busy although the blues and bees have thinned out drastically. A Surprising number of plants are still in bloom, including some second flowerings, with many shrubs and climbers showing flowers, buds and fruit on the same plant but the profusion and sheer abundance of the summer flowers all along this particular stretch of the cycle path is becoming a distant memory. Half a dozen swallows fly low over the newly harrowed fields where a flock of jackdaws, rooks and wood pigeons are feeding. Many more birds around, some we see more are hidden and we only catch their song. It was good to see the elephant hawk moth caterpillar for the second year running although we have yet to see the moth.

A huge number of runners and  cyclists (including bikras and the increasingly rare bell-birds) during the first hour or so with the occasional walkers, some with children and pushchairs, all enjoying the welcome sunshine after days of sullen skies and rain storms.

Description of Surroundings:   

Beautiful early autumn morning, sun shining on pale golden stubble fields, trees still in full green summer leaf, air clear.

Bird Sightings:

Linnet, swallow, nuthatch, gold finch, chaffinch, buzzard, blackbird, robin, herring gull, rook, jackdaw, wood pigeon, crow.

Plants:

Herb Robert, bramble, field bindweed, great bindweed, white dead nettle, yarrow, scabious, red clover, white clover, St John’s wort, moon daisy, prickly sow thistle, dandelion, meadow pea, hedge woundwort, tufted vetch, wild basil, ragwort, red bartsia, common toadflax, dove’s foot cranesbill, hop trefoil, common melilot, meadow cranesbill, forget-me-not, buttercup, vervain, ivy, corn marigold, woody nightshade, bladder Campion, pale toadflax, rest harrow, agrimony, self- heal, hedge bedstraw, rosebay willow herb, ribwort plantain, bush vetch, red campion, old man’s beard, centaury, birds foot trefoil.

Animals:

Small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, meadow brown, red admiral, common blue, small white, large white butterflies, crane fly, honey bee, southern hawker dragonfly, field grasshopper, elephant hawk moth caterpillar.

2nd September 2017 – 9.30am – 11.45amDSCN5745.JPGHawthorn Berries

Weather Conditions:         Fine, hot sun, air fresh, cloudless blue skies. Later cumulus clouds floated in.

Temperature:                       15-19 degrees Celsius/ 59-66 Fahrenheit

A beautiful late summer/early autumn morning – the sun hot, the air still and fresh.  A buzzard began bothering the rooks in the poplars around the pond, setting off a huge cacophony of annoyance from the rooks – he gave up and flew on.  We heard a good deal more bird song and for the first time for months saw lots of mostly juvenile pheasants.

All along the path the trees and shrubs are showing that this is a bumper year for fruit and seeds: fat ripe elder berries, sloes, haws, rose hips, blackberries, hazel nuts, seeds thick on the hornbeam and field maple, thistles and rose bay willow herb.  The dogwood branches were scattered with unopened flower buds and black berries.  There were honey bees and bumble-bees, heads down, tails in the air, feeding on the flowers of the scotch thistle, scabious and white dead nettle and butterflies, mostly whites and speckled woods, still hunting amongst the trees and the diminishing number of flowers.

Lots of cyclists, bikras, mums, dads, children, youths, and runners singlies or in groups, many quite elderly, several walkers, some with dogs.

Description of Surroundings:   

Stubble fields and hay bales, trees and bushes laden with fruit.

Bird Sightings:

Green woodpecker, blue tit, bullfinch, blackcap, pheasant, blackbird, swallow, wren, robin, buzzard, rook, wood pigeon, crow.

Plants:

Herb Bennet, bramble, scabious, field bindweed, ragwort, red and white clover, St John’s wort, meadow pea, tufted vetch, hedge bedstraw, wild basil, moon daisy, leafy hawkweed, stinging nettle, ribwort plantain, scotch thistle, agrimony, knapweed, birds foot trefoil, red bartsia, buddleia, yarrow, meadow cranesbill, buttercup, herb Robert, vervain, great bindweed, great willow herb, corn marigold, pale toadflax, hop trefoil, old man’s beard, rose bay willow herb, dandelion, fat hen, creeping cinquefoil, red Campion, self-heal, bush vetch, forget me not, common toadflax, prickly sow thistle, rest harrow, centaury, red hemp nettle, white dead nettle, doves foot cranesbill – surprisingly all still in flower.

Animals:

Common blue, holly blue, red admiral, comma, speckled wood, large white, small white, green veined white butterflies; honey bee, buff tailed bee, crane fly.

27th August 2017Garden Warbler.JPGGarden Warbler – John Hansford

An email from John Hansford who writes: “At least 2 broods of Garden Warblers were successfully fledged along the cycle path this Summer although they are never easy to see.  Reed Bunting and Sedge Warbler again held territories on Mells Down this Year.”  This is really exciting news as although we have seen Garden Warblers earlier in the year we have never seen Reed Buntings or Sedge Warblers.

25th August 2017 – 3pm – 5.10pmDSCN5767 (3).jpgHolly BlueBrown Argus.JPG      Brown Argus – John Hansford

Weather Conditions:         Fine, hot sun, cumulus clouds

Temperature:             23 degrees Celsius/ 73 Fahrenheit

A beautiful summer’s afternoon, the sun hot and worthy of late August.  Fewer butterflies but there seemed to be slightly more birds than of late, flitting through the shrubbery.

It is the fag end of the flowering season although a surprising number of plants are still in flower and there are great tracts of flowers like the rose bay willow herb and the thistles gone to seed and every gust of wind brought a drift of thistledown through the air.

Initially lots of cyclists, a pretty constant stream, some bikras – heads down going hell for rubber, some mums and dads and children, some couples and several pre-teenage boys cycling unaccompanied.  Later fewer cyclists and more walkers.

We chatted to the ornathologist John Hansford who had spotted several butterflies we had missed, including a Brown Argus which we had never seen.  He has also seen three red kites flying across the path going south in the wooded Cranmore Tower direction.  Frustrating to think that while we are peering down and attempting to identify a flower no larger than the head of a pin, red kites, goshawks, hobbies etc could all be flying overhead totally unnoticed!

Description of Surroundings:   

The farmer is still harvesting in the fields along the way –  flocks of jackdaws rising, circling and feeding behind the clouds of dust thrown up by the machines.  Hay bales in most fields already.

Bird Sightings:

Green woodpecker, chiff chaff, tit, gold finch, pheasant, blackbird, swallow, wren, robin, jackdaw, wood pigeon, crow.  [ Seen by others : 3 kites!]

DSCN6719.JPGRed Kite – John Hansford

Plants:

Shepherd’s cress, groundsel, bush vetch, cow parsley, bramble, herb Robert, stinging nettle, ribwort plantain, white dead nettle, meadow bindweed, hedge woundwort, ladies bedstraw, daisy, common melilot, great willow herb, common valerian, white clover, red clover, ragwort, common St John’s wort, meadow pea, scabious, leafy hawkweed, hedge bedstraw, wild basil, knapweed, woolly thistle, hop trefoil, agrimony, moon daisy, red bartsia, creeping thistle, buddleia, buttercup, meadow cranesbill, yarrow, forget me not, chickweed, red campion, corn marigold, vervain, pale toadflax, rose bay willow herb, old man’s beard, birds foot trefoil, centaury, dove’s foot cranesbill all in flower.

Animals:

Common blue, holly blue, small white, large white, brimstone, meadow brown, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, red admiral butterflies.  Southern hawker dragonfly, crane fly, honey bee, bumble bee.   [Seen by others: Brown argus, small skipper, peacock, silver washed fritillary butterflies]

Now the fungus season is upon us, it might be worth mentioning again the Field Study Council’s charts which the environmentalist from the Somerset Environmental Records Centre in Taunton recommended to us and which we have found them so useful.  Identification charts

19th August 2017 – 2.15pm – 4.05pmspeckled wood.jpgSpeckled wood

Weather Conditions:         Sunshine and cloud – very strong westerly wind

Temperature:                      18 degrees Celsius/ 64 Fahrenheit

We chose the woodland walk up from Buckland Bridge, whose trees offer protection from the strong wind, so there were few flowers.  Most notable were the vivid splashes of colour of the fox and cubs (orange hawkweed) golden corn marigold, red legs, pink mallow and the beautiful fall of the deep red and cream Himalayan honeysuckle, whilst lilac coloured teasels and white enchanters nightshade flowers lit up the dark undergrowth.

We passed long skeins of black bryony berries, like small fat glossy grapes lit from within, clinging and entwining through the branches along the bank and the incredible scrambling wild clematis, some of whose plants rocket up to an extraordinary 30 feet or more, high into tops of the trees, scenting the air with their faint subtle smell of almonds.

Walking through the grove of ashes (that most beautiful of trees, tall, airy and graceful, whose pinnate leaves allow flickering, dappled sunlight to fall onto the woodland floor rather than the dense, light blocking shade of other trees) we crunched across fallen twigs and ripe hazel nuts brought down overnight by the high winds mixed with the empty shells of last year’s harvest.  We looked up at the ash leaves, 50 feet or so above us, beautifully lit by the full sunlight against a clear blue sky, being tossed and thrashed by the wind whilst the path was calm and sheltered.

When leaning on the five barred gate watching half a dozen or so swallows skimming inches from the grass meadow, feeding on insects and performing their usual extraordinary aerobatic display, a small herd of 25-30 black and white heifers climbed up through a gap in the hedgerow to check us out.  So curious they came within inches of our faces, pushing and shoving each other to get a closer look.  Beautifully healthy looking beasts with good strong sturdy bodies, their glossy black coats looking as if they had been freshly brushed.

Very few butterflies – meadow browns and speckled woods – the stream bed completely dry despite weeks of rain.  Lots of fungus, including shaggy ink cap and common earth ball.

[Regretfully quite a few of the ash trees along the Way have succumbed to ash dieback disease but as, according to the Forestry Commission Fera map, trees in the 10 km square around the Mells area were already infected (2016) the trees here were unlikely to remain immune.]

15th August 2017 – 1.45pm – 4.20pmDSCN5729.JPG

Weather Conditions:         Fine, sunny, brisk south-westerly wind

Temperature:                      20 degrees Celsius/ 68 Fahrenheit

Fewer flowers in bloom and far fewer butterflies.  Lots of honey bees busily feeding.   The farmer arrived with a cheery wave to continue harvesting the barley field adjoining the path which had been left, presumably due to rain, half cut.

It felt wonderful to stroll along in the hot sun after so many weeks of rain and cold with only the occasional bright spell.  The banks of tall rose bay willow herb now mostly fluffy with seeds with just the tips still showing their bright magenta spikes of flowers and the huge, fat heads of the thistles, some like pin cushions about to flower, some already also sending their seeds onto the wind.  Wandering along the path which winds through the low shrub and grassy area, scattered with bright pink centaury, purple self-heal, yellow hawkweed and bird’s food trefoil disturbing the dancing common blue butterflies flickering around beneath our feet, fluttering from flower to flower.  And finally taking our rest, sitting on the oak puzzle bench watching the silver washed fritillaries, red admirals, peacocks and small white butterflies chasing each other through the branches laden with rosy red apples, alighting on the nearby buddleia to feed on the last remaining half a dozen or so flower heads. Such quietude.

Reasonably steady stream of cyclists – lots of single men and a few family groups.  Good number of walkers, parents with children, couples and singles, some with dogs.

Chatted to a regular cyclist who was walking today about the huge grass snake he saw last year (at least 3-4 ft long) by Conduit bridge and how few cyclists he thought there were today compared to yesterday.  He also commented on the group of visitors from Babington House we could see reading the Sustrans guide – he said he always recognised them by their bicycles.  Chatted to a keen bird watcher we often meet about the nightingales we heard in May/June along the Way.

Description of Surroundings:   

Far fewer flowers in bloom, trees and bushes thick with fruit and berries (good news for the redstarts and fieldfares when they arrive later in the autumn); barley being harvested.

Bird Sightings:

Yellow hammer, marsh tit, gold finch, pheasant, buzzard, swallow, robin, wood pigeon, crow.

Plants:

Charlock, buddleia, herb Bennet, herb Robert, bramble, hop trefoil, red campion, bush vetch, white clover, red clover, white deadnettle, ragwort, woody nightshade, common valerian, moon daisy, tufted vetch, wild basil, dandelion, great willowherb, common St John’s wort, hedge bedstraw, cut leaved cranesbill, knapweed, leafy hawkweed, meadow pea, prickly sow thistle, stinging nettle, field bindweed, ribwort plantain, woolly thistle, agrimony, birds foot trefoil, doves foot cranesbill, yarrow, vervain, red bartsia, meadow cranesbill, creeping thistle, pale toadflax, hop, scabious, chickweed, meadow sweet, rose bay willow herb, old man’s beard, golden rod, forget me not, buttercup, centaury, self-heal, common toadflax, common melilot all in flower.

Animals:

Silver washed fritillary, common blue, small tortoiseshell, red admiral, comma, speckled wood, gate keeper, meadow brown, peacock, small white butterflies; honey bee, red tailed bee, Southern hawker dragonfly; slow worm.

10th August 2017 – 10.45am – 1.15pmDSCN5680.JPG

Common Blue

Weather Conditions:         Fine and sunny after a succession of lows and heavy rain.

Temperature:                      17 celsius / 62 fahrenheit

Most of the rose hips still green, but some are already red, the haws bright red, elderberries black and ripening fast, sloes purple and fattening, apples larger and redder, the berries on the wayfaring tree both red and black, hazel nuts ripening.  Lots of plants still flowering although very many fewer than a few weeks ago.

Lots of cyclists: groups of racing lycras mixed with single and couple potterers, a good many walkers including a man who had cycled from Frome to Château-Gontier in France (raising £1,500 in support of Frome’s Missing Links) and his wife.   We chatted about the number and huge variety of plants, butterflies and birds to be seen along the Way and  how very much we all hoped that one day sufficient funds can be raised to complete the missing link between Buckland Bridge and Frome.

Description of Surroundings:     

The path is perfectly sheltered almost all along the Way from the strong northerly breeze tossing the topmost branches of the trees.  Fewer flowers in bloom, wheat in the fields heavy with grain.

Bird Sightings:

Gold finch, green finch, chaffinch, jay, wren, swallow, robin, wood pigeon, crow.

Plants:

Wild parsnip, buddleia, herb Robert, herb Bennet, stinging nettle, hop trefoil, bramble, tufted vetch, dandelion, white and red clover, ragwort, common valerian, white dead nettle, wild basil, woody nightshade, ribwort plantain, moon daisy, meadow pea, knapweed, prickly sow thistle, field bindweed, great willow herb, welted thistle, vervain, woolly thistle, birds foot trefoil, agrimony, buttercup, yarrow, meadow cranesbill, self-heal, red Campion, creeping thistle, common St John’s wort, leafy hawkweed, scabious, bush vetch, pale toadflax, rose bay willow herb, corn marigold, chickweed, golden rod, hedge bedstraw, hedge woundwort, old man’s beard, common melilot, fat hen, field speedwell, common forget me not, centaury, dove’s foot cranesbill, common toadflax all in flower.

Animals:

Green veined white, dark green fritillary (?), gatekeeper, speckled wood, brimstone, small tortoiseshell, common blue, red admiral, peacock, small white, small heath, meadow brown butterflies.  Southern hawker dragonfly, common darter dragonfly.

31st July 2017 – 10.30pm – 12.10pmDSCN5649.JPGLeaf Beetle

Weather Conditions:  Cloudy with sunny intervals, chilly wind.  Decidedly autumnal.

Temperature:             17 celsius / 62 fahrenheit

Cool with a very decided feeling of autumn arriving in July in the air and on the ground.  The flowers are going over rapidly and the fruits are already ripening.  The number of butterflies has dramatically reduced although when the sun came out more appeared.  Large puddles on the edges of the fields, still wet in places underfoot from constant rain storms, rain soaked oak benches and apples trees so laden with red blushed fruit the branches are drooping under the weight; the dogwood berries are green and fattening.

Almost every head of scabious and thistle has its fat red tailed and buff tailed bumble bee and honey bee buried nose down, bums in the air feeding voraciously.

A steady number of walkers and cyclists caching the brief spell of fine weather between the frequent rain storms of the past weeks.

Description of Surroundings:     

Barley fields pale gold in the sunlight, trees dark and heavy.

Bird Sightings:

Yellowhammer, swallows, buzzard, magpie, wood pigeon.

Plants:

Corn marigold, burdock, common toadflax, hop, red bartsia, bramble, ragwort, buddleia, red Campion, stinging nettle, herb Robert, white and red clover, common valerian, great willow herb, tufted vetch, wild basil, hedge bedstraw, common St john’s Wort, knapweed, hop trefoil, scabious, broad leaved willow herb, welted thistle, field bindweed, meadow pea, woolly thistle, agrimony, creeping thistle, rose bay willow herb, old man’s beard, yarrow, meadow’s cranesbill, teasel, pale toadflax, golden rod, rest harrow, common hemp nettle, vervain, forget me not, buttercup, ribwort plantain, woody nightshade, self-heal, white deadnettle, white bryony, dandelion, rest harrow, bush vetch, chickweed, birds eye speedwell, doves foot cranesbill, moon daisies, cut leaved cranesbill all in flower.

Animals:

Silver washed fritillary, (and dark green fritillary?) red admiral, comma, speckled wood, small heath, large white, gate keeper, meadow brown, small white butterflies.  Red tailed bumblebee, buff tailed bumblebee, honey bee, leaf beetle (bloody-nosed beetle?)

24th July 2017 – 2.30pm – 5.50pmDSCN5610.JPG

Weather Conditions:  Cloudy with bursts of brilliant sunny intervals.  Strong wind battering the trees out of the protection of the path.

Temperature:             21-23 celsius / 69-73 fahrenheit

We were surprised, as always, by the sheer number of different species of flowering plants, trees and shrubs along the short section of the path from Conduit bridge to the oak picnic bench. Not so surprisingly, they were swarming with butterflies and bees – particularly the stately woolly thistles, some as tall as 5 feet or more with over 20 blooms. Each flower head had a bee feasting on the pollen, burrowed so deep it was almost lost to sight amongst the petals. Not surprisingly, the thistles have outstripped the oak saplings. One sapling, a mere 2 feet high, was already supporting 15 or so marble galls.

We chatted with a couple from Peasedown who cycled this stretch of route 24 on a regular basis. Although the Strawberry Line was a particular favourite, they had over the years cycled most of the rail trails in the south west and we talked about the sheer number of butterflies and the newly opened Brean Down Way which they were keen to explore.

Schools have broken up for the summer holidays so there were several groups of children with mums and dads. A gaggle of girls racing along excitedly swaying on their flicker scooters and four boys around 8 to 10, bicycles abandoned on the path, chasing crickets and grasshoppers and searching for lizards in the long grass beside a stretch of rail high up on the bank. The boys told us they had captured several common lizards, including a baby, and one boy came up and showed us a bush cricket perched, apparently contentedly, on the back of his hand. Heart-warming to see their interest and animation and imagining that these may be the naturalists or biologists of the future.

We were extremely distressed to notice a rather mangy looking rabbit in the grass beside the path, obviously blind, although not weeping or suppurating around the eyes. It was seemingly unaware of our presence, just half-heartedly nibbling on the grass, so possibly deaf as well. Presumably suffering from myxomatosis.

If it wasn’t for the hot sun and number of butterflies, it felt more like the end of August than the end of July, with conkers the size of golf balls, apples red-blushed and ripening, sloes fattening and purpling and blackberries ready to be picked. Everywhere looked a little dusty and frowsy, despite the recent rain.

Passing fresh deer prints and following a butterfly into the undergrowth, I just missed stepping on a slow worm which disappeared with a speed which led me to think that he had been grossly misnamed!

Lots and lots of cyclists. Three other walkers (apart from groups of children and parents) one with a dog.

Description of Surroundings:    Some fields already ploughed.

Bird Sightings:

Yellowhammer, raven, magpie, gold finch, green finch, blackbird, wood pigeon, crow.

Plants:

Common toadflax, red bartsia, fat hen, bramble, buddleia, red campion, stinging nettle, herb Robert, white and red clover, common valerian, great willow herb, tufted vetch, wild basil, hedge bedstraw, common st john’s wort, knapweed, hop trefoil, scabious, common melilot, broad leaved willow herb, welted thistle, field bindweed, meadow pea, woolly thistle, agrimony, birds foot trefoil, creeping thistle, rose bay willow herb, old man’s beard, yarrow, meadow’s cranesbill, teasel, pale toadflax, golden rod, rest harrow, common hemp nettle, vervain, creeping cinquefoil, forget me not, buttercup, ribwort plantain, woody nightshade, centaury, self-heal, white deadnettle, white bryony, dandelion all in flower, leafy hawkweed.  Rose (Bedeguar) gall.

Animals:

Comma, speckled wood, peacock, small white, brimstone, silver washed fritillary (and dark green fritillary?), small copper, small heath, large white, gatekeeper, ringlet, marbled white, common blue, red admiral butterflies.  Common lizard, slow worm, female short winged conehead bush cricket.  Rabbit. Fresh deer prints.

17th July 2017 – 2.30pm –  3.50pmDSCN5592.JPGRed Admiral

Weather Conditions: 

Hot, humid, still, with occasional light breeze.  Hazy sun, some thin cloud.

Temperature:                                    23-24 celsius / 73-75 fahrenheit

We walked with butterflies – dozens and dozens, uncountable numbers of them, fluttering around our heads as we strolled along.  The bramble flowers, buddleia, trees and wild flowers swarmed with masses of hunting and feeding butterflies. Quiet, serene and tranquil.  An almost complete dearth of birds.

A small oak sapling, about 6 feet high, covered with at least 24 marble galls. The stream completely bone dry, despite heavy rainfall less than a week ago. Overall both spring and summer have been very dry so far this year.

A reasonable number of cyclists, two horse riders (woman and boy) the fine looking, beautifully groomed horse and pony’s hooves were having difficulty maintain traction on the steeply descending tarmac path and every so often were slipping. One other walker with dog.

Description of Surroundings:   

The silage and wheat has been cut – hay fields already showing green, wheat fields – cut stubble with lines of square straw bales.

Bird Sightings:

Buzzard, wren, blackbird, wood pigeon, crow.

Plants:

Welted thistle, common Melilot, herb Robert, herb Bennet, great willow herb, broad-leaved willow herb, common St John’s wort, creeping thistle, prickly sow thistle, woolly thistle, agrimony, tufted vetch, red campion, bush vetch, hop trefoil, teasel, creeping cinquefoil, dandelion, moon daisy, knapweed, red clover, white clover, hogweed, buttercup, white deadnettle, goosegrass, dandelion, woody nightshade, common valerian, bramble, wild basil, stinging nettle, nipplewort, ragwort, field bindweed, great bindweed, birds foot trefoil, meadow cranesbill, old man’s beard, yarrow, pale toadflax, buddleia, wild basil, ribwort plantain, enchanters nightshade, hedge mustard, chamomile, centaury, figwort, meadowsweet.

Animals:

Marbled white, gatekeeper, comma, peacock, red admiral, meadow brown, small heath, small white, speckled wood.

14th July 2017                         2.45pm  –  5.10pmDSCN5588 (2).jpgSilver-washed Fritillary

Weather Conditions:   Warm and sunny, cloudy skies, gusty fresh wind.

Temperature:                                    19 celsius / 66 fahrenheit

The most striking sight was the sheer quantity and variety of butterflies.  So many silver-washed fritillaries, red admirals, peacocks, lots of gatekeepers, ringlets, commas and small whites swarming and feeding on the clumps of buddleia and banks of flowers all along the Way making the walk in the warm sun and sharp scent of wood-smoke a delight.   We also saw what might possibly have been a female silver-washed fritillary of the form valezina, which has the same pattern but is differently colour.  As we have never seen one of these before and didn’t take a photograph, it was impossible to be sure.

Long skeins of cream star like flowers and green berries of the white bryony cling and climb up the hawthorn trees and form long tangles amongst the brambles. Ripe blackberries, green blackberries, red blackberries and blackberries in flower, apples ripening and showing red, hazel nuts well formed, lords and ladies orange red berried hints that even in midsummer autumn is not far away.  The fields of barley which range in colour from green through straw and buff to dark sienna are whirled and tossed by the gusty wind.  Barely any birdsong now that the breeding season is over.

Lots of cyclists, couples, singlies, all in summer casuals – no lycra – just all ages out enjoying a leisurely summer afternoon’s ride in the sunshine.  No other walkers.

Description of Surroundings:   

Fields full of ripening corn, strong smell of fertiliser, lessening and replaced to the scent of wood smoke.

Bird Sightings:

Chiffchaff, green finch, skylark, wren, yellowhammer, blackbird, wood pigeon, gull.

Plants:

Scotch thistle, welted thistle, golden rod, common Melilot, herb Bennet, great willow herb, common St John’s wort, creeping thistle, prickly sow thistle, woolly thistle, vervain, agrimony, tufted vetch, red campion, bush vetch, hop trefoil, rose bay willow herb, meadow pea, teasel, creeping cinquefoil, dandelion, red hemp nettle, moon daisy, knapweed, hedge bedstraw, red clover, white clover, common valerian, bramble, scabious, wild basil, stinging nettle, nipplewort, ragwort, ladies bedstraw, field bindweed, birds foot trefoil, meadow cranesbill, old man’s beard, rest harrow, yarrow, pale toadflax. Hanging fruits of Hornbeam.

Animals:

Silver-washed fritillary, gatekeeper, ringlet, comma, peacock, red admiral, meadow brown, common blue, small heath, large white, small white, burnet moth.

3rd July 2017    2.45pm – 5.20pmDSCN5470.JPG

Brimstone Moth

Weather Conditions:    Sunny, strong breeze, blue sky, some clouds.

Temperature:                                    20 celsius / 68 fahrenheit

A tractor is cutting silage (two buzzards circling overhead) in a field hidden by thick hedges, sending a wonderfully sharp scent of newly cut hay wafting across the fields and filling the air all along the Way; unbelievably quiet when the engine cuts out.   Massed clouds of meadow browns swarming over the brambles and hedgerows, clouds of hoverflies in a sunny clearing.

St John’s wort berries turning apple red, elder berries just forming, fat green berries on the black bryony, green-yellow acorns swelling, green and orange berries on the lords and ladies. Dearth of bird song, very noticeably quieter than even a few weeks ago.

Two environmentalists from the Somerset Environmental Records Centre, Taunton, were surveying the plants and butterflies from the Conduit bridge to Buckland Bridge and one recommended the Field Studies Council publications** for ease of identification. Four walkers (a couple with baby, 1 with dog), steady stream of single cyclists, one pair.

Sitting on the oak puzzle bench under the apple trees soaking up the late afternoon sun, wonderfully tranquil and peaceful.  It’s a warm summer’s day, quiet with the only sound occasional bird song, the only sight butterflies and moths flittering across the plants and up into the trees and all’s well with the world.

**   Field Studies Council Guides

Description of Surroundings:     

Stream completely dry; the grass in the pastures sun bleached to the colour of  straw.  Hedgerows swarming with clouds of butterflies.

Bird Sightings:

Song thrush, bullfinch, wren, pheasant, robin, chiff chaff, blackbird, 2 buzzards, wood pigeon, crow, jackdaw.

Plants:

Himalayan honeysuckle (garden escape), wild basil, common enchanters nightshade, common mallow, old man’s beard (clematis), meadow sweet, creeping cinquefoil, meadow cranesbill, field bindweed, bush vetch, great willow herb, red clover, white clover, hogweed, ladies bedstraw, bramble, knapweed, dandelion, herb Robert, field speedwell, sorrel, pale toadflax, cow parsley, common St John’s wort, creeping thistle, red Campion, white bedstraw, moon daisy, nipplewort, centaury, ragwort, red hemp nettle, common daisy, self-heal, birds foot trefoil, buddleia, common valerian, hop foot trefoil, elderflower, yarrow, hedge woundwort, figwort, dandelion, hedge bedstraw, buttercup, broad-leaved willow herb, herb bennet, common forget me not, spiny sow thistle, goose-grass, privet all in flower.

Animals:

Garden tiger moth, brimstone moth; marbled white, meadow brown, ringlet, red admiral, large white, brimstone and comma butterflies; hoverflies, horsefly.

             26th June 2017                                9.55am – 11.30mDSCN5444 (2).jpgMarbled white butterfly feeding on scabious

Weather Conditions:  Fine, clear blue sky,  vapour trails spreading and covering wide areas of the sky, cumulus clouds building on the horizon. Hot, burning sun, fresh cool breeze

Temperature:                                    20 celsius / 68 fahrenheit

Perfect, idyllic summer morning.  Fresh, fine and sunny, flower filled banks, clouds of butterflies after the dearth of only a few days ago.  Lots of birds buzzing around the bushes and tree tops, frequent alarm calls so probably the increased number of birds includes this year’s fledglings.

Hawthorn berries, rosehips, apples and blackberries all fattening and showing red.  The banks are filled with pale straw coloured grasses ripening in the full sun, mixed with white moon daisies, violet blue meadow cranesbill, mauve scabious, yellow agrimony, drifts of cloudy white hedge bedstraw, clumps of purple knapweed, all swarming with a good variety of summer butterflies.

A steady stream of cyclists – singlies, pairs, small groups; a couple of other walkers.

Description of Surroundings:    

Fields on either side of the path mostly green deserts, banks along the path filled with massed wild flowers and clouds of  butterflies.

Bird Sightings:

Marsh tit, Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Lesser Whitethroat, Skylark, Buzzards, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Wren, Backbird, Crow and Wood pigeons.

Plants:

Buddleia, wild caraway, spear thistle, common ragwort, corn mint, Common Melilot, broad leaved willow herb, common St John’s wort, creeping thistle, centaury, tufted vetch, hop trefoil, dandelion, hedge woundwort, common valerian, hedge bedstraw, agrimony, moon daisy, ribwort plantain, nipplewort, great willow herb, bramble, hogweed, red and white clover, daisy, stinging nettle, birds food trefoil, herb Robert, field bindweed, sorrel, buttercup, wood spurge, ladies bedstraw, dove’s foot cranesbill, selfheal,  meadow cranesbill, creeping cinquefoil, yarrow, red campion, white bryony, knapweed, white dead nettle, scabious, figwort, rest harrow, pale toadflax, bladder campion, vervain, sow thistle,

Animals:

Rabbits. Mining bees.  Comma, ringlet, meadow brown, small heath, marbled white, small white, small tortoiseshell butterflies.

21st June 2017                           10.55am – 12.30pm    DSCN5390.JPG  Moth feeding on bladder campion

Summer Solstice-

Weather Conditions:         Hot.  Slight cool breeze, thin hazy cloud. 

Temperature:                                    29-30 celsius / 84-86 fahrenheit

Extremely hot – burning sun.  There were fewer butterflies overall as typically happens in the June dip, a noticeable exception was seeing so many marbled whites for the first time.   The dip always seems surprising as the summer plants are flowering at their peak.  We spotted a small colony of mining bees burrowing  around in the sandy soil by the picnic bench and watched some diving in and disappearing while others flew out of separate holes.

The archive article on the wildflowers on railway embankments in 1914 made interesting reading, particularly noticing how many of the species like poppies, rock rose, horse shoe vetch, fennel etc are absent from our very similar positioned south facing embankment.

A great relief that the embankments here are not subjected to falling cinders from locomotive fireboxes which used to set fire to the dry grasses all along the embankments during hot the weather, causing widespread devastation, leave the embankments burnt black and bare.  [See Cuttings Footnote 7 at the bottom of the page]

Dozens of cyclists, pairs and singlies, in their racing lycra as well as couples (several of the girls in summer frocks and straw hats perched on sit-up-and-beg bicycles).  A couple (the man in a mobility scooter) and young son only other walkers.

Description of Surroundings:     

Fields of corn 2-3 ft high, thick tangled undergrowth along the banks.

Bird Sightings:

Skylark, whitethroat, blackcap, yellow hammer, buzzard, chiffchaff, chaffinch, magpie, wren, blackbird, pheasants and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Scotch thistle, yellow rattle, goats beard, ladies bedstraw, nipplewort, common hemp nettle, smooth sow thistle, yarrow, meadow pea, sorrel, stinging nettle, bramble, herb robert, herb bennet, red and white clover, hogweed, elder, hop trefoil, moon daisy, cut leaved cranesbill, hedge woundwort, hedge bedstraw, creeping cinquefoil, bladder campion, creeping thistle, agrimony, field bindweed, white bryony, buttercup, ribwort plantain, wood spurge, common melilot, common valerian, bush vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, meadow cranesbll, birdseye speedwell, scabious, knapweed, cowparsley, vervain, white dead nettle, common St John’s wort, rosebay willow herb, woody nightshade, pale toadflax, dovesfoot cranesbill, figwort, common centaury.

Animals:

Marbled white, small skipper, meadow brown, small heath, red admiral. Mining bees.

19th June 2017:          Terror Attack, Finsbury Park Mosque, 19th June 2017

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19th June 2017 :         Brexit negotiations begin in Brussels

18th June 2017                 2.20m – 4.00pmDSCN5346.JPGElderflower

Weather Conditions:  Hot, humid, partial shifting clouds, occasional cool breeze

Temperature:                                 27-28 celsius / 80-82 fahrenheit

A prodigous number of small heath butterflies everywhere, particularly swarming and feeding around the privet and meadowsweet, often 5-8 on each clump.

A strong, sweet herby scent of sun warmed grasses and flowers drifts on the air from the meadows and banks, the heat also strengthening the scent of  privet, elder flowers and meadowsweet.  The green berries on the black bryony are already beginning to fatten.  Only two other walkers and two cyclists – extraordinarily quiet.

The sleeper picnic bench by the flight of memorial bricks is wonderfully positioned under the dappled shade of the ash and oak trees to catch every breeze wafting through the 15 feet or so gap in the hedge.  A perfect place for summer picnics.  The gap also opens up an idyllic view of the old Rectory on the horizon where Leonard Woolf stayed while visiting his friend the Rector of St Mary Magdalene Church, Great Elm.

A great deal of thought has been given to the positioning of all the single, puzzle and sleeper picnic benches along the Way.  The oak puzzle bench under the apple trees near the entrance from Great Elm is positioned to catch the full sun in the spring and autumn, whilst others offer shade on hot summer days.

Description of Surroundings:    

Fields full of seeded grasses, moon daisies and fewer buttercups, trees and shrubs full of blossom.

Bird Sightings:

Chiffchaff, chaffinches, long tailed tit, magpie, wrens, blackbirds, crows, pheasants and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Common Melilot, spotted orchid, broad leaved willow herb, common St John’s wort, creeping thistle, tutsan, centaury, tufted vetch, red leg, meadow sweet, buttercup, dog rose, hogweed, meadow cranesbill, hedge woundwort, field bindweed, stinging nettles, goosegrass, red clover, white clover, moon daisy, knapweed, birdseye speedwell, self heal, hop trefoil, bush vetch, greater hawkbit, chickweed, dog wood, pale toadflax, elder, crosswort, red campion, herb robert, herb bennet, bramble, creeping cinquefoil, sorrel, birdsfoot trefoil, common forget me not, daisy, privet.

Animals:

Clouded yellow, meadow brown, small heath, brimstones (m) peacock, speckled woods, small white.

14th June 2017 :  Grenfell Tower FireTELEMMGLPICT000131955012-xlarge_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqqVzuuqpFlyLIwiB6NTmJwfSVWeZ_vEN7c6bHu2jJnT8.jpeg

               13th June 2017                    2.15m – 4.50pm                   DSCN5375.JPGBurnet moth feeding on scabious

Weather Conditions:  Hot sun, very warm, blue Magritte skies with floating white clouds.

Temperature:         20-22 celsius / 68-71 fahrenheit

Beds of birds-foot-trefoil quivering so thick are they with bees.  Bees and butterflies swarming and feeding over blossoming trees, shrubs and flower filled banks.  Lots of burnet moths, three together on the newly opened head of a knapweed flower.  Long skeins of white bryony and dog roses climbing, entwining and cascading over trees and shrubs.  The path busy with cyclists and runners; 3 other walkers.

Description of Surroundings:    

Corn fields, rows of cut hay, buttercup and moon daisy massed grass meadows, trees and hedgerows in full summer leaf, drifts of flowers and tall seed covered grasses gently moving in the breeze, the scent of elder blossom and the sound of bird song, including the nightingale, the deep quiet of the English countryside.

Bird Sightings:

Nightingale, corn bunting, house sparrow, blackcap, whitethroat, willow warbler, yellow hammer, chiffchaff, chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, wrens, blackbirds, rooks, pheasants and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Agrimony, common valerian, rosebay willow herb, great willow herb, chamomile, hedge bedstraw, hedge mustard, knapweed, hedge woundwort, chickweed, buttercups, dead nettle, red campion, hog weed, moon daisies, dog rose, red clover, white clover, bush vetch, bramble, wood spurge, birds-eye speedwell, sorrel, white bryony, great hawkweed, cut-leaved cranesbill, hop trefoil, birds foot trefoil, self-heal, dove’s foot cranesbill, meadow cranesbill, field bindweed, black bryony, creeping cinque foil, herb bennet, herb Robert, common forget me not, garden escape forget me not, goose-grass, bladder campion, dogwood, ribwort plantain, vervain, stinging nettle.

Animals:

Burnet moths, common blue, small heath, brimstones (m.&f.) red admiral, peacock, painted lady, speckled woods, grass hopper.

8th June 2017 : General Election results in Hung Parliament

establishment survey illustrative.jpg

7th June 2017                 11.30am – 2.20pmroe deer.jpgRoe deer

Weather Conditions:   Fine, cool but sunny, gusting strong wind

Temperature:                                    15-16 celsius / 59-60 fahrenheit

Several fields beside the path thick with deep yellow buttercups and rusty red sorrel, waving grasses and swathes of moon daisies, mixed with deep blue meadow cranesbill and purple self-heal under sunny, cloudless blue skies – views which shout that summer has arrived!  A female roe deer, having found a sheltered spot beside a hedge, is basking in the sunshine, her head popping up above the buttercups to check on us.

A steady stream of cyclists swish and whizz past, almost entirely singlies; 3 walkers.  Strong, gusty winds but quiet between the hedgerows and very warm in the sun, fresh and cool in the wind.  Wonderfully quiet. Increasing numbers of many varieties of fungi.

Description of Surroundings:    

Fewer butterflies, possibly due to strong winds or possibly June dip.  After days of heavy rain, the stream trickling at the top and overflowing the sleepers.

Bird Sightings:

Swifts, whitethroat, willow warbler, chiffchaff, chaffinches, great tits, wrens, robins, blackbirds, buzzards, ravens, jackdaws, pheasants, magpie and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Pyramidal orchid, common spotted orchid, twayblade, greater hawk-bit, creeping thistle, self-heal, dock, pale toadflax, prickly sow thistle, enchanters nightshade, woody nightshade, field bindweed, meadows cranesbill, doves foot cranesbill, common forget me not, hawksbeard, buttercup, meadowsweet, prickly sow thistle, bush vetch, brambles, hogweed, dogwood, moon daisies, white deadnettle, stinging nettles, red clover, white clover, red campion, red woundwort, herb Robert, herb bennet, sorrel, creeping thistle, goosegrass, dog rose, black bryony, common daisy, figwort, crossword, cinquefoil, hop trefoil, birdseye speedwell, elder, privet and honeysuckle all in flower.

Animals:

Female roe deer, squirrel, male banded demoiselle damselfly, horsefly; meadow brown, small tortoiseshell, red admiral, orange tip, speckled wood butterflies; silver ground carpet moth, small orange moth, garden chafer.

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3rd June 2017:  London Bridge / Borough Market, London, Terrorist Attack

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1st June 2017                      12.05pm – 4.20pmDSCN5360.JPGMeadow Brown feeding on Moon Daisies

Weather Conditions:  Fine, breezy afternoon, mostly sunny, intermittent cloud

Temperature:                                    22 celsius / 71 fahrenheit

We were so heartened to hear the nightingales again, still in the same area on either side of the path, filling the air with their song.  As we stood listening, cyclists passed, the swish of their wheels making a soothing accompaniment to the birdsong and not at all disturbing we imagine to the birds.  This stretch of the path is cocooned between dense trees and scrub so all sound is enhanced and echoes.  The plants and shrubs are coming into summer flowering and innumerable numbers of bees of every size and colour are everywhere, wherever you look, swarming over hedges and banks and verges, burying their faces into the masses of newly opened flower heads.

One other solitary walker but lots and lots of cyclists.  A large party of 15-20 cyclists (oldies with foldies), parents with young children (some cycling independently some being pulled or atttached to a parent’s bicycle) singles, couples, some stopping to picnic, all enjoying the peace and the welcome sunshine.

Description of Surroundings:

First day of summer and the banks are filled with flowers, butterflies, bees and insects.

Bird Sightings:

Nightingales, blackcaps, yellow hammers, skylarks, gold finch, whitethroat, willow warbler, chiffchaff, chaffinches, wrens, robins, blackbirds, rooks,  crows, pheasants, magpie and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Field scabious, greater knapweed, common vervain, hedge woundwort, woody nightshade, black bryony, white bryony, field bindweed, cinquefoil, crossword, goose grass, bladder campion, red campion, common cow wheat, dove’s foot cranesbill, cut leaved cranesbill, wild strawberry, wood spurge, meadow cranesbill, common birds foot trefoil, cow parsley, hogweed, birds eye speedwell, bush vetch, forget me not, common vetch, ground ivy, dog rose, bramble flowers, hop trefoil, hairy tare, red clover, white clover, buttercup, ribwort plantain, herb bennet, sorrel, buttercups, moon daisies, common daisies, dogwood and elder.

Animals:

Painted lady, wood white, orange tips (m&f), brimstones (m), speckled wood, peacock butterflies, damselfly, dragonfly, tree bumblebee, red headed cardinal beetle.  Rabbits.

23rd May 2017                        2.15pm – 5.10pmNightingale Kev Chapman.jpgNightingale [Kev Chapman]

Weather Conditions:  High cloud, drizzle, strong breeze, clearing to cumulous clouds in blue skies and hot sun

Temperature:                        22 celsius / 71 fahrenheit

The highlight of our day and year so far, was listening to the nightingales*.  We were walking back in the late afternoon, foot weary from having walked really too far, the sun hot on our backs and measuring the distance to the next picnic bench, when we heard first one and then two nightingales on either side of the path.  The first was quieter and stopped soon after we arrived but the other, hidden in a dense thicket of bramble backing onto a deep hedge, surrounded by shrubs almost covering the path, singing his rich and varied song, non-stop, loudly and quite magically.

We walked stealthily up and down the path searching the undergrowth but we didn’t even catch a glimpse.  It seemed impossible not to spot the bird when he must have been so close, but the thicket was wide and the undergrowth was so tangled we couldn’t see anything at all.  We listened, quite enchanted, for more than ten minutes until a couple of walkers arrived with their dogs and as soon as the dogs barked, the nightingale stopped singing and we reluctantly moved on.

As we walked, another walker caught us up and confirmed that the nightingale was still singing when he passed by.  He had lived for some years in the south of France and told us how the nightingales near his house sang so long and so loudly, day and night, that he often wished they would just shut up!

It was surprising to see the two chaser dragonflies when we couldn’t see a pond or river. Quite a number of single cyclists and a good number of walkers.  Overall, a beautiful May day, hot sun, clear air, bird song and the distant rattle and drone of tractors cutting silage.

*  The Ecologist/Nightingales

Description of Surroundings:

Trees and hedges in full leaf, more and more flowers, butterflies, bees and insects.  Birds more difficult to see as they hide amongst the branches but they are all in full song.

Bird Sightings:

Sparrow hawk, yellow hammer, skylarks, swallows, gold finch, bullfinch, green finches, garden warbler, chiffchaff, chaffinches, buzzards, song thrush, wrens, robins, blackbirds, lesser black backed gulls,  jackdaws, rooks,  crows, pheasants, magpie and wood pigeons and…..  NIGHTINGALES!!

Plants:

Bladder campion, red campion, common cow wheat, dove’s foot cranesbill, cut leaved cranesbill, wood spurge, meadow cranesbill, common birds foot trefoil, cow parsley, hogweed, birds eye speedwell, bush vetch, forget me not, common vetch, dog rose, bramble flowers, red clover, white clover, herb bennet, sorrel, white deadnettle, buttercups, moon daisies, common daisies.

Animals:

At least a dozen rabbits, adults and young, Red Admiral, Wood white (?) male and female Orange tips, male and female Brimstones, small Tortoiseshell, Peacocks, Speckled wood butterflies, two female broad-bodied chaser Dragonflies.

22nd May 2017 : Manchester Arena, Terrorist Attack

manchester bee.jpg

22nd May 2017                      11.30am – 2.30pmspeckled wood.jpg

Speckled Wood

Weather Conditions:  Sunny, breezy, high cloud clearing to full, hot sun

Temperature:                                    19-22 celsius / 66-71 fahrenheit

Beautiful May day, hot sun, cool breeze, lots of birdsong and wild flowers.  We lost count of the number of cyclists there were so many – in ones, twos, groups, tandems, all ages (although mostly 20s-30s) and sexes (pretty evenly between men and women).  Two walkers.

Description of Surroundings:

Slight flow and trickle of water in the stream after days of rain.  Fields carpeted with golden buttercups and islands of white moon daisies, clouds of cow parsley edging the path. Hawthorn flowers almost all over, no apple blossom – the season so very fleeting.

Bird Sightings:

Sparrow hawk, yellow hammer, chiffchaffs, blackcaps, willow warbler, chaffinches, bullfinches, buzzard, song thrush, wrens, robins, blackbirds,  jackdaws, rooks,  crows, pheasants, magpie and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Welsh poppy, dog rose, crosswort, twayblades, meadow sweet, bramble flowers, early purple orchids, yellow archangel, figwort, goose grass, white clover, red clover, herb Robert, red campion, bugle, hop trefoil, oxeye daisy, common forget me not, ribwort plantain, cow parsley, birds eye speedwell, herb bennet, beaked hawksbeard, sorrel, bush vetch, stitchwort, common birds foot trefoil, white deadnettle, buttercups, cowslips, bluebells, stinging nettles, common daisy, Spindle and elder all in flower.

Animals:

Wood white (?) male and female orange tips, male and female brimstones, peacocks, speckled wood butterflies, a damselfly.

9th May 2017                       1.55pm – 4.15pmDSCN5216 (3).jpgEarly Purple Orchids

Weather Conditions:       Full sun, light cool breeze.  Hot in sheltered spots

Temperature:                                    12-13 celsius / 53-55 fahrenheit

Some dozen or so cyclists, including a couple riding a tandem with a baby trailer attached and a dog running alongside!  A couple of walkers.  Very, very quiet and tranquil.

Description of Surroundings:

Still no rain, the stream completely dry apart from a few puddles.  Apple trees still in blossom, still scenting the air.    Noticeably greener and thicker leaves on trees and hedges, dappled shade making the paths look summery.

Bird Sightings:

Lesser whitethroat, chiffchaffs, blue tit, tree creeper, blackcaps, chaffinches, bullfinches,  jays, buzzards, green woodpecker, song thrush, wrens, robins, blackbirds,  rooks,  crows, pheasants and wood pigeons.

Plants:

A dozen or so early purple orchids over three separate sites and several tway blades at one site, wild strawberries, beaked hawksbeard, sorrel, ribwort plantain, wild blackberry (brambles), ground ivy, columbine, wood spurge, cow parsley, red campion, hop trefoil, cowslips, bluebells, bush vetch, herb robert, birds eye speedwell, white deadnettle, lesser celandine, dandelions, daisies, bulbous buttercups, meadow buttercups, creeping buttercups, yellow archangel, golden saxifrage, red clover, hogweed moon daisies, lords and ladies and grasses all in flower.

Guelder Rose, Field Maples, Wych elms, English elms (in fruit) Ash, Willows, Sycamores, Horse chestnuts, Buddleias.  Wayfaring trees, Apples trees, Hawthorns (May) in flower.

Animals:

Brimstones (male & female), orange tips (m. & f.) holly blues, comma, speckled woods. Wasp mimic hover fly.  Pair of squirrels.

2nd May 2017                           10.30am – 12.10pmDSCN5133.JPG

Heritage apple tree blossom

Weather Conditions:  Mainly sunny to patchy cloud.  Light breeze.  Hot in the sun – perfect May morning.

Temperature:                                12-14 celsius / 53-57 fahrenheit

Very busy with lots of cyclists, runners and a few walkers.  A young graphic artist who worked from home said he thought Colliers Way was as good a stretch of countryside as anywhere.  Although he enjoyed competitive distance running, he still tried to take a break from his computer to walk along the path, to enjoy some fresh air and exercise and clear his mind.  Another walker who came every day said he particularly loved the long stretch of the embankment towards Radstock where there were so many rabbits and the smaller bank towards Geat Elm which in the summer is a mass of wild flowers, butterflies and bees.  He had noticed an increasing number of deer.

Description of Surroundings:

Still very dry.  Apple trees thick with blossom, swarming with bees, the hot sun deepening the heavenly scent, perfuming the air.  Noticeably greener and thicker leaves on trees and hedges.

Bird Sightings:

Skylark, whitethroat, chiffchaffs,  willow warblers, garden warblers, blackcaps, chaffinches, bullfinches,  jays, raven, buzzards, wrens, robins, blackbirds,  rooks,  crows, jackdaws, pheasants, gulls and wood pigeons.

Plants:

White bryony, Hairy Tare (vetch), common mouse-ear, Herb Bennet (wood avens), wild blackberry (brambles), ground ivy, columbine (garden escape), wood spurge, cow parsley (heavy scent) red campion, hop trefoil, early forget me nots, primroses, cowslips, bluebells, bush vetch, birds eye speedwell, white deadnettle, lesser celandine, dandelions, daisies, bulbous buttercups, doves foot trefoil, coltsfoot and grasses all in flower.

Field Maples, Wych elms, English elms, Willows, Sycamores, Horse chestnuts, Buddleias. Hawthorns (May) in flower and beginning to scent the air (slightly unpleasant smell).

Animals:

Very many male and a few female orange tips, brimstones and peacock butterflies.  Lots of bumblebees both around the tree blossom and feeding off the white dead nettles; lots of small black bees (miner bees?) emerging from holes in the sandy soil by the picnic bench.

……………………………………………………………..

Publication of the government’s Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy* (CWIS) could mean a very welcome injection of funds into Frome’s Missing Links.  If such an investment was made, cycling from the Market Place to Bath or even Bristol along that traffic free, pollution free, noise free idyll which is Route 24 would become a reality. Fingers crossed!  [See Cuttings Footnote 5 at the bottom of the page]

*https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/603527/cycling-walking-investment-strategy.pdf

   25th April 2017           1.50pm – 3.30pmChiff Mells Down.JPGChiff Chaff

Weather Conditions:   Full sun, cold northerly wind, warm under the protection of the trees .

Temperature:                                    8-9 celsius / 46-48 fahrenheit

Very quiet, the bitterly cold, strong northerly wind deterring cyclists.  A few walkers.  An older couple from Midsummer Norton and a woman from Warminster walking with her rescue dog.  All said how much they envied Frome for having such a quiet haven for wildlife so close as there was nothing similar anywhere near where they lived, nor close to Salisbury where their daughter lived.  The couple said they had seen yellow hammers and tree creepers and met a local ornithologist earlier in their walk who had seen a Goshawk flying above the trees.  They also talked about the number of badgers and foxes along the banks and how long they had been there.

Description of Surroundings:

Still very dry.  The stream reduced to barely a trickle, completely dry by Newbury Firs. Most trees in leaf, field crops haze of green.

Bird Sightings:

Gold crest, lesser whitethroat, chiffchaffs,  chaffinches, bullfinches, great tits, wrens, robins, blackbirds, song thrush,  rooks,  crows, pheasants and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Hop trefoil, early forget me not, doves foot cranesbill, red clover, common birdsfoot trefoil, birdseye speedwell, bugle, cowslips, violets, herb Robert, bush vetch,  lesser celandines, greater celandine, cow parsley, ribwort plaintains, lords and ladies, wayfaring tree, hawthorn (may) and medlar (garden escape) all in flower.

Animals:

Bank vole.  Speckled woods and orange tips butterflies.

18th April 2017               12.45pm – 3.50pmDSCN5128.JPG

Wild Cherry

Weather Conditions:          Full sun, blue skies, hot sheltered from the wind.

Temperature:                        10-12 celsius / 64 fahrenheit

Lots of cyclists and walkers enjoying the hot sunshine.  Mums, dads, children, as well as singles, pairs and groups.  Husky – pulling skateboarder – as eager and fast as ever.

We passed two young men who, having travelled from Bristol to Bath by train, were now walking from Bath to Frome along the Way.  They talked about the increase in red kite sightings in the south west and hoped one day these would match the close quarters views of them seen whilst walking in Wales.  An older couple (the man newly retired) from Paulton had joined the Way at Kilmersden and had seen several yellow hammers today and a magnificent roe deer stag by the pond the last time they walked the path.

We were lucky enough to meet Rob Beale by the puzzle bench while he was talking to the Paulton couple.  He had also seen yellow hammers, common white throats, lesser whitethroats, linnets and blackcaps although he thought it was overall quite a quiet day for bird sightings.  He recommended a very useful and free Bird Sounds app which can be downloaded from Google: https://play.google.com/store /apps/details?id=com.luminousapps.ukbirdssounds&hl=en_G

We were then joined by an old ornithologist friend of his, Dan Lupton and enjoyed a most interesting exchange of birds seen, where and when in the area of the Way.  Whilst chatting and soaking up the sun a dunnock perched on the apple tree beside us, several swallows flew over and a skylark sang as it soared over the fields!

Dan will be leading a bird walk in Frome on May 6th in support of F.R.O.G.S.  Check out their website for details: http://www.fromefrogs.org.uk

Description of Surroundings:       

Particularly beautiful as most of the flowering trees are now in full blossom, basking in the hot sun and scenting the air – wild cherry, blackthorn and heritage apples trees all along the way.

Very dry.  Most trees in leaf, fields a haze of green crops.

Bird Sightings:

Blackcap, swallows, (heard) lesser whitethroat, common whitethroat, dunnock, skylarks, chiffchaffs, willow warblers, chaffinches, bullfinches , great tits, wrens,  robins, blackbirds, rooks, buzzards, crows, pheasants, magpies and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Red dead nettle, wood spurge, violets, cowslips, white dead nettle, cow parsley, ground ivy, birds eye speedwell, bluebells, red campion, ribwort plantain, garlic mustard, bush vetch, apple tree blossom perfuming the air and alive with bees, wild cherry in flower, blackthorn In leaf and flower.

Animals:

A good number of butterflies all along the verges and in the trees: male and female brimstones, male orange tips, small tortoiseshells, holly blues and speckled woods. St Mark’s (Hawthorn) fly and bee flies.

11th April 2017                        11.45am – 1.30pmmed-Bee (Bombus Terestris) Granitethorpe Sapcote SP 4944 9358 (taken 8.4.2010)..JPGBuff tailed bumblebee

Weather Conditions:                        Sunny intervals, cloudy – cold, gusty breeze.

Temperature:                                    12-13 celsius / 53-55 fahrenheit

Lots and lots of cyclists, young men, pre-teens, older men, cycling alone or in pairs; dads and sons, mum and children with bicycles picnicking at the bench by the steps.  Young woman lunching at Mells Café having cycled from Bath, before cycling back along Colliers Way.  She regularly cycled the Bath-Bristol path.

Description of Surroundings:

Stream sluggish at the bridge, a trickle by the steps, dry at the top.  Hare field ploughed and harrowed.

Bird Sightings:

Green woodpecker, chiffchaffs, willow warblers, chaffinches,  pairs of bullfinches , blue tits,  wrens,  robins, blackbirds, buzzards, crows, pheasants and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Lady’s smock, marsh marigold, , hairy bittercress, cowslips, sweet violets, primroses, dead nettles, herb Robert, grape hyacinths, wood anemones, narrow leaved woodrush, ground ivy, lesser celandine, birdseye speedwell, dandelions, daisies, ribwort plantains all in flower.  Clumps of harts tongue ferns looking like nests of cobras beginning to unfurl.

Some blackthorn in leaf and flower, most in flower only, pussy willows beginning to go over. Heritage apple trees’ flower buds showing deep pink.  Oak trees in leaf, ash leaves beginning to leaf.

Animals:

Common lizards one sunning itself on the rails beyond the hare field and the other near the heritage apple trees warming itself on the tarmac – both skittered away and lost to sight.  Many speckled woods and one female orange tip butterfly, buff tailed bumblebees (Bombus terristris) and bee flies (bombylius major)

5th April 2017                    11.05am – 12.45pmDSCN5053.JPG

Golden Saxifrage

Weather Conditions:                        Sunny, cool in the shade.

Temperature:                                    11-12 celsius – 51-53 fahrenheit

Sat soaking up the sun on one of the oak puzzle benches, watching the butterflies, chatting to a young couple (originally from Devon) who have moved back to the West Country after some years working and living in London.  Having just discovered Colliers Way they are enjoying exploring the path on foot while they look out for suitable bicycles.

After a dry month of March, the stream is dry in parts, trickling in others, but the lack of rain means the soggy bottom bench is completely dry!  Lots of cyclists, walkers with dogs, couples, mums with push chairs and mums with children.

Description of Surroundings:    

Quiet and peaceful spring morning, the cool air full of birdsong and the scent of wood smoke.

Bird Sightings:

Skylarks, raven, bullfinches around the cherry blossom, blue tits, marsh tits, coal tits, long tailed tits, chaffinch, tree creeper, wrens,  robins, blackbirds, song thrushes, buzzards, rooks, pheasants and wood pigeons.

Plants:

Golden saxifrage, cowslips, violets (purple and white), ground ivy, dandelion, celandines.  Ash trees, blackthorn, wild cherry and pussy willows all in full flower.  Scarlet elf cups and honey fungus.

Animals:

Muntjak and roe deer tracks, grey squirrels; male brimstone, female orange tip and small tortoiseshell butterflies, early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum), buff tailed bumblebee (Bombus terristris)

3rd April 2017                     10.30am – 12.45pmSylvia_atricapilla_-Lullington_Heath,_East_Sussex,_England_-male-8.jpg

Blackcap

Weather Conditions:                       Sunny, strong, cold, southerly wind.

Temperature:                                    12-13 celsius / 53-55 fahrenheit

We had a long chat with two keen and knowledgeable ornithologists from Coleford (John Hansford and Rob Beale).  They had seen linnets, marsh tits, blackcaps and kestrels, etc etc this morning and had  in previous summers seen firecrests, yellow hammers, white throats (as many as 80 in the fields) hobbies (breeding nearby) wheatears, lapwings and spotted flycatchers, and many others, including nightingales.

They also mentioned that the broad thicket of mixed shrubs and deciduous trees fronted by an open grassy area between Mells Road and the bridge was, they believed, an extremely important habitat as it was acknowledged to be the best area in the whole of Somerset for warblers.  In addition they said that in the summer they have seen lots of silver washed fritillaries in the area of Buckland bridge.  There are certainly a huge number of violets all along the edge of the path for the lava to feed on. Another birdwatcher we met, from Frome, had also seen blackcaps and willow warblers for the first time this year.

First day of the school Easter holidays so very busy with walkers, runners, cyclists, children (cycling and walking both on their own, with groups of friends or with parents) dog walkers and bird watchers.

Description of Surroundings:   

Banks and banks of blackthorn, wild cherry and pussy willow in full flower, a wonderful sight against the blue skies lit by the strong sun.

Bird Sightings:

Corn bunting, Blackcap, Skylark, Willow warbler, buzzards, long tailed tits, chiff chaffs, 2 Kestrels, pheasants, crows, magpies, blackbirds, wrens, robins, wood pigeons, great spotted woodpecker, song thrush.

Plants:

First bluebells, wood spurge, herb robert, bush vetch, hutchinsia, red campion, ground ivy, white dead nettles, birds eye speedwell, cowslips, white and purple violets, celandines, dogs mercury, dandelions in flower –  lords and ladies, ribwort plantain and mare’s tails in fat bud.

Animals:

Male brimstone and peacock butterflies around the blackthorn blossom, small tortoiseshell and speckled wood butterflies. Buff tailed bee, black honey bee.

29th March 2017: ARTICLE 50 TRIGGERED – Start of 2 year countdown to Brexit

28th March 2017                                     2.25pm – 4.05pm

DSCN5042.JPGCommon Morel Fungus

Weather Conditions:      Sunny, light cloud turning overcast with a very strong cold wind signalling approaching weather front.

Temperature:                                        10 celsius / 50 fahrenheit

Very surprised to see three more species of fungus.  The common morel (morchella esculenta), pale winter polypore (polypors brumalis) and a group of russet brown fungus in the grass beside the track.  Possibly entoloma clypeatum or more likely u.b.f. (unknown brownish fungus!).

Lots of cyclists including a young man cycling one-handed, the other holding the leads of the two dogs running alongside; a few walkers.  Although we have only once seen a horse and rider, we always see copious mounds of dung all along the path so we assume it is a regular route for horse riders.  A very welcome sight for rose growers and silver washed fritillaries!

Description of Surroundings:           Stream – dry bed in upper stretches, low near the steps.

Bird Sightings:

Jay, raven, 2 buzzards (1 mobbed by a crow) rooks, tits, chiff chaffs, pheasants, crows, magpies, blackbirds, wrens, robins, wood pigeons, gulls

Plants:

Cowslips, primroses, birds eye speedwell, celandines, purple and white violets, grape hyacinths, wood anemones, white dead nettles, dog’s mercury.  Wayfaring tree leaves just emerging, flowers in tight bud. Some blackthorn and all the pussy willows are in full flower.  Ash tree flowers emerging, all the hawthorns, elders and most of the hazels in full leaf.

Animals:

Male brimstone, orange and black striped bee.  No sightings of hares at all during the whole of March – it is possible that we have just missed seeing them but we think it more likely that the ones we saw in late autumn and winter were foraging rather than living close by.

22nd March 2017 : Westminster Bridge Terrorist Attack

Westminster bridge attack.jpg

21st March 2017                               10am – 12.10pmbrimstone butterfly.jpg

Brimstone Butterfly

Weather Conditions:    Full sun, blue sky, bitterly cold.  Sharp hail shower and strong south westerly wind.

Temperature:                                    6 celsius / 42 fahrenheit

Much colder.  Lots of trees showing their leaves, particularly hazels and elder.  The volunteer Ecology group of Frome’s Missing Links have been busy and have added wooden seats to the sleeper picnic bench by the flight of steps and above Buckland bridge and constructed steps and a sleeper bridge across the nearby stream.

Description of Surroundings:       Stream – dry in upper stretches, low near the steps.

Bird Sightings:

Garden warbler, great tit, blue tits, chiff chaffs, buzzard, pheasants, crows, magpies, blackbirds, wrens, robins, 2 mallards in the stream, wood pigeons,

Plants:

Cowslips, primroses, purple and white violets, grape hyacinths, wood anemones, the spread of daisies and dandelions thickening in the fields.  Some blackthorn and all the pussy willows in full flower.

Animals:

Two brimstone butterflies, first a white female and later a yellow male; bumble bee.  A squirrel racing across the field up the trunk of a tree, leaping and just managing to gain purchase on a thin branch of an adjoining tree before skittering along the branch and disappearing among the ivy.  Within minutes, leaping to the ground and racing across the rest of the field to disappear from sight.

20th March 2017 :                              –Spring Equinox-

19th March 2017 :  The National Trust has today announced it will also be aiming to establish more wildlife friendly habitats on its land.  [See Footnote 4 –  Cuttings at the foot of the page]

15th March 2017                               2.20pm – 4.10pmDSCN4779 (3).jpg

Colliers Way Cycle Path

Weather Conditions:                      Full sun, light breeze

Temperature:                                   13-14 celsius – 55-57 fahrenheit

Glorious warm Spring day, sunny and fresh.  The sheer exhilaration of freewheeling along, wind in our hair, sun on our faces, the clear air echoing with almost continuous birdsong, glimpsing clumps and banks of purple and white violets and the cloudy mass of pale yellow blossom covering the pussy willows and hazel catkins is a delight for us to remember and savour during the rainy days promised  by the weatherman in the week ahead.

Stop Press!  Wonderful news – Dr Sarah Bradbury has announced in today’s Sustrans newsletter that the Greener Greenways project, which has been running in some parts of the country for three years, will now be expanded to take in more routes, including our own stretch of Colliers Way.  Facebook.com/Greener Greenways

Description of Surroundings:     

Tree and hedge-lined cycle path past ploughed fields, some stubble, some rough pasture

Bird Sightings:

Heard the first chiffchaff of the year – another welcome sign of Spring; song thrushes, long tailed tit, 2 tree creepers, wood pigeons, pair of blackbirds, robins, crows and pheasants.

Plants:

Lots of clumps and scatterings of white and purple violets, coltsfoot, pussy willows heavy with blossom* [see Footnote 1 – Cuttings at the foot of the page] 

13th March 2017                 1 pm – 2.50pmDSCN4994.JPG

Common Dog Violet

Weather Conditions:                      Full sun, blue skies, cold stiff south westerly breeze       

Temperature:                                    13 celsius / 55 fahrenheit

Chatted to a keen birdwatcher who had heard a chiff chaff and a willow warbler (at least two weeks early) among the trees between soggy bottom bench and Brick Kiln Farm bridge.  He said that in previous years he had often seen firecrests in the same area and yellow hammers, corn buntings and linnets on the track near the old station.  He usually walks through at around 8-8.30am at this time of the year or after 5pm in the afternoon. Lots of cyclists, some walkers.

Description of Surroundings:        

Stream calm medium flow, gin clear.

Bird Sightings:

Raven, 4 buzzards, green woodpecker laughing, jay, jackdaws, pheasants, crows, magpies, long tailed tits, great tit, blue tit, wren, robins, song thrush. wood pigeons, gulls.

Plants:

Wood anemones, grape hyacinths, purple and white violets, primroses, celandines, speedwell, hawthorne in leaf, hazel catkins in flower [welcome food for emerging butterflies]

Mammals:

Comma butterfly butterfly-conservation.org , bees, squirrels in trees.

9th March 2017             2.20pm – 4.10pmDSCN4986.JPG

Blackthorn blossom

Busy with lots of walkers –  LOTS and LOTS of cyclists!

Weather Conditions:                      

Hazy sun, cold wind, slightly overcast, fresh breeze

Temperature:                                            12 celsius / 51 fahrenheit

Description of Surroundings:              Some ploughed fields, some stubble, rough pasture

Bird Sightings:

Hundreds of rooks and jackdaws feeding in a field of stubble, wood pigeons, blackbirds, robins, crows and pheasants.

Plants:

Clumps and clumps of sweet violets both purple and white along the steep south facing banks and under the trees; coltsfoot, primroses, crocus, blue speedwell and beautiful white blackthorn blossom, yellow pussy willows, and the blush tinged flowers of the English elms all in full bloom.

Mammals:

A dozen or so adult rabbits feeding on grass field edge.  Buff tailed bee (queen) near Jericho bridge.   Recent roe deer tracks.  Midges.

7th March 2017                     11.25am – 12.45pmDSCN4971.JPG

Wood Blewit Fungus

Weather Conditions:                        Hazy, clearing to full sun, blue skies; Spring like

Temperature:                                      7-8 celsius / 44 – 46 fahrenheit

Lots of cyclists, walkers (some with dogs) and runners.   Another frequent sighting of the running silver grey husky in a harness pulling a young man on a skate board, about 8-10 miles an hour, uphill!

Stop Press!  Frome’s Missing Links (FML) has won just over £48,000 in funding to help it build phase 2 of a traffic-free route to connect the Colliers Way cycle path with the centre of Frome.  [See Footnote 2 – Cuttings at the foot of the page]

Patients at Frome Medical Centre could soon find themselves prescribed cycling as a treatment. [See Footnote 3 – Cuttings at the foot of the page]

Description of Surroundings:         Stream – full, good flow

Bird Sightings:

Bands of long tailed tits, blue tits, great tits, marsh tits, coal tits chasing insects, robins, song thrush, three buzzards hunting above the stand of trees on the edge of the Hare field, green woodpecker calling, jay, rooks, jackdaws, pheasants, great spotted woodpecker drumming, tawny owl hooting (11.45am) wood pigeons, wren.

Plants:

More and more scarlet elf cup fungus making bold splashes of colour scattered under the trees; mauve wood blewits (lepista nuda), celandines, wild chives, rose briars in full leaf.

Mammals:

Squirrels in the field, insects, midges.

1st March 2017                         2.10pm – 4.05pmDSCN4959.JPGScarlet Elf Cap Fungus

Lots of walkers (most with dogs) and a solitary cyclist.

Weather Conditions:                        Overcast, cold, intermittent drizzle

Temperature:                                      7 celsius / 44 fahrenheit

Description of Surroundings:     

Cycle path through hedgerows, trees, rough pasture, some winter wheat.  Stream (winterbourne, field run off) very low.

Bird Sightings:

Noisy flock of 30-40 twittering gold finches mixed with a handful of field fares and redwings disturbed by two buzzards hunting low above the trees.  7 bullfinches – 3 males and 1 female in one group 2 males in the other.  2 long tailed tits.  Party of 4-5 blue tits flying over.  Wren feeding on the ground.  Heard a song thrush in full song, a jay and a tawny owl (3.30pm). Flocks of jackdaws, rooks, wood pigeons, crows and seagulls, most flying westwards.  Robins singing lustily, blackbirds, fewer pheasants.

Plants:

Scarlet elf cup fungus (sarcoscypha austriaca) sprouting on dead wood; sycamore seedlings pushing through.

Mammals:

Three roebuck in the winter wheat field by Newbury Firs.  Fine, healthy specimens.  Lots of midges.

28th February 2017          9.20am – 11.30amDSCN4963.JPG

Long Tailed Tit’s Nest

Weather Conditions:                        Full sun, cold wind, clouding over later

Temperature:                                      5 degrees centigrade

We came across a group of five people (men and women) digging at the entrance to a badger sett.  They had lost their dog at 5pm the previous afternoon when she had disappeared into the sett and, although they heard her whining, she didn’t come out.  They returned this morning with spades to try and dig her out but had so far been unsuccessful.  One of the men said the sett appeared to be unused with no freshly dug spoil heap or discarded bedding at the entrance. He thought it smelt, possibly of fox, so could have been a fox’s lair.  [Strange that foxes, like bank voles and birds, love blackberries and eat so many].

Lots of runners today (at least 11) some paired, some with dogs. Very many cyclists.  No other walkers.

Description of Surroundings:         Stream above the flight of steps deeper, fast flowing

Bird Sightings:

A pair of bullfinches, blackbirds, robins (singing) crows, rooks, jackdaws, wood pigeons, pheasants, great tit (calling)

Ovoid shaped long tailed tit’s nest high up amongst the old man’s beard (wild clematis) in the blackthorn hedge.

Plants:

Leaf buds fattening on the hazel trees, elder leaves out, tiny green leaves on some shrubs.

Mammals:

Muntjac tracks, a solitary squirrel digging on the edge of a field.  Lots and lots of fresh snuffle holes everywhere as we walked along the track. 

21st February 2017                     11.30am – 2.10pmDSCN4903.JPGFields alongside the Cycle Path

Weather Conditions:                        Grey overcast skies, intermittent mizzling rain

Temperature:                                       10 degrees centigrade

Talked to a dog walker from Oldford who said he had occasionally seen deer grazing in the fields in the valley between the path and Great Elm and muntjac on the edge of Newbury Firs.geocache logo.pngWe found a Geocache box with several badges a pencil and notebook with 30 signatures over 2 years. Added our signatures.

Description of Surroundings:           Stream shallow, a trickle falling over sleeper bridge

Bird Sightings:

Kestrel flying back and forth across the path then landing on a wooden fence near the entrance.  Four pigeons in a row perched on a fence beyond until kestrel lifts off the fence and they scatter. Sightings of nuthatch, raven, song thrushes, rooks, crows, jackdaws, chaffinch, tits, wood pigeons, blackbirds, robins, pheasants.  Three buzzards soaring on the wind above the trees on the edge of the hare field.

Plants:

Dog’s mercury flower buds just beginning to show white.  Nettles poking through.

Mammals:

Heard the sharp bark of a vixen red fox in the field beyond Fussell bridge.  Fresh badger diggings around setts.  Muntjac prints on several paths up the banks and into fields.

17th February 2017                    2.45pm – 3.45pmDSCN4906.JPG

Weather Conditions:                        Hazy, sunny, light thin clouds

Temperature:                                      11 degrees centigrade

We had a long conversation with the Missing Links’ volunteer Ecology Group who were clearing brambles, some blackthorn and undergrowth from the banks above the path, laid some to hedging and burning the bramble cuttings.

One talked about the animals and birds he has seen while working.  Bank voles, slow worms and common lizards on the banks, lots of local bats, peregrines flying over, deer in the fields around the bridge and frequent sightings of an otter in the stream which starts at the top of Newbury Firs and runs down the hill to join the Buckland Brook and the Mells River.

http://www.fromesmissinglinks.org.uk

Description of Surroundings:     

The stream by the steps very low.  The stream  beneath the hare field completely dry.

Bird Sightings:

Ravens, song thrushes, rooks, crows, jackdaws, chaffinch, long tailed tit, wood pigeons, blackbirds, robins. Pheasants.

Plants:

More young leaves unfurling on the shrubs.

Mammals:

Midges.

15th February 2017         3pm – 4.30pmDSCN4917 (3).jpg

Fern in flower

Beautiful walk in the sun after cloudy start and days of heavy overcast skies.  Lots of walkers with children (half term) and dogs only 3 cyclists.  First sightings of deer prints in the muddy opening into the field leading up to the woods.

Weather Conditions:                        Sunny, fresh

Temperature:                                     11 degrees centigrade

Description of Surroundings:        Cycle path through hedgerows and trees.

Bird Sightings:

Song thrushes singing, buzzard mewing loudly as we arrive, green finch calling, blue tit, crows, wood pigeons, blackbirds, robins.

Plants:

First primroses in flower, furry catkins of the pussy willow pushing through, arum lilies about 5 inches tall, snowdrops.

Mammals:

Midges.

7th February 2017                             11.15am-1.10pmDSCN4883 (2).jpg

Hazel Catkins

Streams in full spate, deep and fast.

Weather Conditions:               Warm, sunny, clear blue skies, light south westerly wind

Temperature:                                     10 degrees centigrade

Description of Surroundings:        Cycle path through hedgerows and trees

Bird Sightings:

2 buzzards, blue tits, great tits, robins, blackbirds, rooks, jackdaws and crows.  A greater spotted wood pecker drumming, green woodpecker yaffling, pheasants, wood pigeons, song thrush singing, long tailed tits, wren and two mallards on the edge of a flooded field!

Plants:

All the hazel trees covered in bright yellow catkins, buddleia in new leaf.

31st January 2017        3.30 pm -4pmDSCN4882.JPG

Winterbourne

Winterbourne in full, noisy spate – lots of waterfalls over leaf/branch blocked dams.

Weather Conditions:                        Overcast, very fine drizzle, southerly breeze

Temperature:                                      9 degrees centigrade

STOP PRESS!   Sustrans have been awarded £400,000 funding by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to continue and expand wildlife conservation work across the National Cycle Network for the next three years. http://www.sustrans.org.uk

Description of Surroundings:         Cycle path through hedgerows and trees

Bird Sightings:

Heron, magpies, raven, robins singing, song thrushes singing, wrens, pheasants, rooks, jackdaws, crows, wood pigeons, at least 10 long tailed tits chasing each other through the branches.

Plants:

Male catkins on the hazel trees in full flower

Mammals:

Squirrels

22nd January 2017                 2.30pm -3.30pmDSCN4967.JPGView of the Church and Rectory, Great Elm from the Cycle Path

Weather Conditions:                         Fine, sunny, light wind, cold

Temperature:                                       5 degrees centigrade

The stream or winterbourne run off from the fields above the flight of steps showing just a shallow trickle.

Hedgerow and trees opposite the steps cut down to allow good view of the church and rectory at Great Elm.

Notes on New Trail

The new path will link to the old Dorset & Somerset canal and two new bridges will need to be built, one over Jacks Lane (Murtreye) and the other utilising the aquaduct over the Mells River on towards Frome.

Quotation from Missing Link:    The second phase, between Great Elm and Elliotts Lane, Hapsford, has been designed, and a planning application has been submitted, and the land permissions are in place. We are now seeking funding for the construction and working on developing the plans for future phases.

Description of Surroundings:          Path past hedgerows and trees, rough pasture.

Bird Sightings

Tree creeper, robins, pheasants, wren, wood pigeons, crows, blackbirds, jackdaws and rooks

Plants:

New plants beginning to shoot showing green leaves above the ground rose leaves bigger, more honeysuckle leaves.

Mammals:

Fresh badger tracks around the setts on the bank

Any other comments:

The stream or winterbourne run off from the fields above the flight of steps showing just a shallow trickle.

Hedgerow and trees opposite the steps cut down to allow good view of the church and rectory at Great Elm.

10th January 2017                 2.55pmb134 hare.jpg

Brown Hare

Weather Conditions:                       Dull, overcast, light wind

Temperature:                                     8-9 degrees centigrade

The representative of The Hare Preservation Trust says:  “According to their map, this is a good spot for hares with very little human intervention.  Hares do well where land is managed or attracts pheasants so I am not surprised to hear that there are hares around here.  There seems to be plenty of areas where wild plants can flourish, and although hares keep themselves going on farm crops they do prefer to nibble weeds and move on.”

http://www.hare-preservation-trust.co.uk

Description of Surroundings:        Uncultivated pastureland, deciduous mature trees,      many self seeded saplings (mostly ash, hazel and hawthornes).  Heritage apple trees.

Bird Sightings:

Wood pigeons, blackbirds, long tailed tits, greater spotted woodpecker drumming, chaffinch, wrens, song thrushes (singing) jay, crows, and pheasants galore!

A huge flock of jackdaws and rooks around their roost – easily 500 or more.

Plants:

Rose briar in leaf, all the haws stripped from the hawthorns, some rose hips left, some apples rotting on the ground.

Mammals:

A brown hare in the rough pature among the pheasants on the edge of the wood.  Lots of squirrels doing their usual aerobatics in the trees.  Clouds of midges.

1st January 2017                        11.30am – 12.30pm008 Lapwings.jpg

Lapwings

Weather Conditions:                      Steady rain, brisk NE wind, overcast skies

Temperature:                                    7 degrees centigrade

Description of Surroundings:      

Cycle path past mixed hedges, trees, pasture, some winter wheat.

Bird Sightings:

Flocks of rooks and jackdaws circling above tall beeches which form a boundary at the top of the ridge; well spaced crows and magpie nests among the upper and middle bare branches of the trees.

Redwings, blackbirds, robins, wood pigeons, flying amongst the branches as we walk along and a solitary song thrush sings loudly, repeating and repeating his phrases over and over.

Flocks of 200-300 lapwings and several herring gulls feeding in a ploughed field alongside the Way.  Hen pheasants skitter into the safety of the undergrowth and cock pheasants strut across the fields.

Plants:

As a good sign of a mild autumn and early winter, hazel catkins showing yellow and new leaves are unfurling on the honeysuckle (woodbine).

Mammals:

Fresh diggings and snuffle holes below the badger setts on the bank alongside the path.  Clouds of midges.

Beginning Year Spent Enjoying a Quiet Corner of Somerset

DSCN4889.JPG

Sustrans Notice on The Cycle Path

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