Steve Hallam reports on the 2022 Spring Flower Walk.
This took place on a day of sunny intervals and a strong breeze; 12 people came along and off we went. Except that we did not go too far, to start with, as the first few yards of the track hold a variety of flowers to be discussed.
- Red campion,
- Cow parsley,
- Ground ivy,
- Yellow archangel (domestic variety),
- Garlic mustard,
- Greater stitchwort and
… may not set everyone’s pulse racing – but they all contribute to a rich flora and they each have a story to tell. In the hands of a knowledgeable and articulate expert guide, these can weave a fascinating spell.
Unfortunately for the group, however, they had me – you get what you pay for!
Interrupted by a blackcap & other birds
Further down the track I was able to demonstrate the difference between the similarly coloured flowers of Ground ivy and Speedwell; until my discourse was interrupted by a sudden blast of Blackcap song from over our heads. This was a bonus as the bird was not strictly speaking in the ‘correct’ habitat; it was supposed to be in woodland, rather than a hedgerow.
Shortly afterwards we encountered a singing Whitethroat, which was in the correct habitat. Some group members also benefited from some good views of Long tailed tits at this point.
Lots of flowers, but…
And so on to Hillhouse Wood. Over the years that I have been doing these walks I have found that the seasons vary, sometimes subtlety, and sometimes less so, in terms of which flowers are out, how many, and in what condition.
This year was one in which just about everything was in flower, but not necessarily at their best. Thus there were still Wood anemones, Lesser celandines, Violets and Primroses to be found; but most of these were looking a little ‘tired’. In contrast the Bluebells, whilst looking good, were still a few days away from being their best. Likewise, only a few Bugle flower spikes were found.
The stars were at the top pond
The ‘stars of the show’ were arguably the Early Purple orchids; they were flowering in profusion on the bank above the top pond. I am told that 163 flower spikes (of which 6 are white) were counted a few days ago.
This area is showing the bruises from the dredging work that was undertaken in the Winter; the Marsh marigolds and Lady’s smock taking a noticeable hit. But recovery will be rapid; next year’s floral display will benefit from the opening up of the canopy that was done.
Continuing on through the wood, we found a nice display of Golden saxifrage, either side of the central stream, with the tiny flower heads of Moschatel nearby. The little colony of Wood sorrel survives close by the rhododendrons; slightly further on a few tiny fragments of Nightingale song were heard.
Anybody for a DIY pea shooter?
We saw a total of 29 plants and trees in flower, which shows what a rich little patch of nature we are lucky enough to have. My only failure involved a young boy who gamely walked the whole way round. We found some Red dead nettles on the way back to the church; I explained how, once upon a time, before computer games were invented, children would convert the hollow stems of these plants into pea shooters. I felt sure that his sister would be happy to act as a target for him to practice on – but he remained wholly unconvinced.