It has been seven weeks since the last proper walk so it was high time to do the first one for 2014. My excuse as ever, has been the weather, flood waters are starting to recede and the mild weather continues. The paths were still a bit muddy in places but tolerable with walking boots rather than Wellington boots. It is not so long ago that some people were forecasting the coldest winter for decades, how silly that all seems now.
This walk's route retraces part of the one I did on 31st August. It was only a short six mile walk, I was tempted out by the sunshine at lunchtime. Here is a map of the walk:
View Woodcote and Exlade Street in a larger map
It is a pleasant mixed woodland with some pretensions of being 'ancient' but there are no really old trees. The Woodland Trust say it has 33 AWVPs - that is Ancient Woodland Vascular Plants. With no 'real' winter there are many signs of an early Spring, I even saw a bumblebee in the garden before setting out, it had collected plenty of pollen, so hopefully the early stirring won't cause it any problems. Already poking their way through the dead leaves were bluebells.
Even though it is a managed Woodland Trust property there were some areas where invasive 'alien' species were taking hold. This is Lamium galeobdolon which is related to the native Yellow Archangel, the variegation makes it a pretty plant.
The view is just as good in Winter as in late Summer.
The magical moment on the walk was watching a kestrel in action, only a few yards away. After a couple of minutes of watching I realised that I should have been taking photographs of it. It dived down into a patch of dead grasses, before climbing up and away again. There are not that many kestrels around now so it was good to see it.
The various colours of the winter landscape came out well in this view, there are still a few hints of autumn colours.
I followed an ancient track-way back up the slope from the valley bottom. Although not much to see this time of year there were signs of potential later on. Plants indicating an ancient wood such as dogs mercury and woodruff were in evidence. I did spot this fungus growing on a pile of old timber in the sunshine. I'd suggest Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum)?
The path became a track and then a road before reaching this attractive building, actually a children's nursery called Custard.
Next to catch my eye were a couple of oak apples, you can see how the gall has developed from an oak bud. There was no sign of the gall wasp that created them.
Just to show how silly the season is, here are catkins that I would not expect to see for several more weeks.
One of the joys of a winter walk is the lack of distractions from flowers and butterflies which stop you spotting simple attractive shapes and colours. This sunlit group of oak leaves is a good example.
There were one or two flowers out, snowdrops of course, but this periwinkle is a little early!
Finally the winter gales had brought down some large trees and I found tree stumps that had been sawn through revealing the tree rings. In both cases I estimated about 130 years old. This one has a fungus starting to discolour the heartwood, may be the infection weakened it enough to snap the trunk further up.
With more wet and mild weather in the forecast it may another week until I manage to get out again. I have a list of a dozen walks that I hope to be able to do this year.