Monday, 2 May 2011

Woodland Walk

Fascinating morning I had today when I found myself & son with a few bank holiday Monday hours to occupy. For a week or so, I've been tempted to get out & visit some woodland, to enjoy a 'natural' bluebell wood, therefore, with a return to work looming on tomorrow's horizon; my time had come!

A while ago, I tracked down a website run by the Woodland Trust, which provided, amongst other things; information to help people get out & enjoy woodland environments. There's a simple but effective search feature that tracks down sites with specific attributes; cafe, wheelchair access, toilets etc; you just pop in your postcode & it does the work for you. Click on the following for a look: Woodland Trust.

To cut to the chase, we tracked down a bluebell wood, only 10 minutes from our house, that is managed by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust, which we had passed by so many times before without realising. A small car park was provided, & before long we set off on foot, with my toddler in his reigns & my camera ready for some quick shots if I could grab the chance.

I certainly wasn't dissapointed. There was a good interpretation board that gave alround information for the woodland, including a map to show the routes available; its important of course to keep to the designated footpaths to preserve the wild flora. A couple of good pointers on the board read; 'Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photographs', which I thought very succint.

This ancient wood offered a good mix of plant species & terrain, with nice easy paths on main routes through to some with gradients for those wanting something of a mild work-out! My toddler enjoyed the nicely managed walks through the wood, with the lush spring growth making routes quite obvious - he marched on & on! Of course, nettles come with the territory, but with a little delicate handling of the reigns, we navigated through unscathed.

 We spent a good hour & a half wandering around, which was great excercise for the little one, & he took some notice of the butterflies & flowers along the way, which is a great introduction for him; he already loves spotting flowers (I hope it lasts!) We did stop for a short break, when he made full use of a fallen tree trunk & used it as a see-saw see-saw!
There were the lovely Bluebells of course, which was my initial flower ticked off the list, but the wood threw up a few lovely extra's including Yellow ArchangelWhite Dead-nettle, & Red Campion. The River Avon flowed adjacent to a small but valuable meadow area, & this again brought in another very welcome aspect to the visit, seeing a pair of swans swimming against the brisk flow of water heading towards Stratford upon Avon. There was a lovely clump of my favourite Burdock, or 'Arctium' as I have learned since my return; I love the huge leaves. There were some reeds, or Phragmites growing down in the river margin, & water lillies surviving in a sheltered part of the river, although a little early for blossom - a return trip is now planned!

Visiting was a real breath of fresh air, & I didn't realise how long overdue. I'm a very focused gardener on the whole, but its been good to return to a more natural environment, to enjoy it for what it is - natural! I understand that even this 'wild' environment has to be managed, & I could see the signs of this; but it is very well cared for & not 'gardened', which is something I've become acclimatised to in a working capacity. It was nice for a change just to spot things that have occured with minimal input from humans, just a steering hand so to speak. I did learn from notices of the volunteer input to keeping these areas maintained, & if you're interested then the websites have all relevant contact information.

If you haven't visited a woodland for a while, I'd definately recommend it, & the websites mentioned above would be a basis to start your search. Woodlands are great places to catch the little ones imagination; the swish of the trees & bird song, the lush shade loving flowers & butterflies, they're magical. 

Happy 'Wild' gardening, Gary.

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