A bright, dry day saw our minibus of 6 arrive at the gate of Devonshire Park to meet with Joan, Janet and Philip. We had kindly been supplied with leaflets by Kate Toch of Friends of Devonshire Park. These gave an overview of key tree species within the park and their location. This was BEES first visit to this park which was opened in 1888, the 9 acre site having been gifted to the then Keighley Town Council by the 7th Duke of Devonshire.
Our walk commenced at the magnificent ornate gates off Vernon Court where the beauty of this arboretum started to unfold. Identification, both from our leaflets, and from members' general knowledge, was soon commenced. Of particular note were the magnificent silver limes looking simply stunning in the autumn sunshine. Weeping and fern-leaved beech were also a picture and the dainty leaves of the ginko and field maple added another dimension to the leaf litter strewn around the park. Alice spotted a large patch of dog lichen beneath the beech as well as noting other lichens as we made our way round. Sadly the horse-chestnuts have been infected by a bacterial disease called crown gall, which has left them with large knobbly outgrowths on their trunks. Note was taken of a magnificent London plane occupying a prominent corner spot and then we came to the oaks - Hungarian, red and scarlet. The leaf litter beneath these trees was jewel like and several of us couldn't help but collect a few samples. They were irresistible! Some trees however had us scratching our heads to identify and a little more detective work needs to be undertaken before we can put a name to them. However a truly splendid park showing itself off in all its autumn glory - a spectacle to gladden the heart of us all.
Lunch now beckoned and we adjourned to the conservatory of Cliffe Castle to consume our sandwiches following which we decided to walk round the grounds of the castle to see how the renovation work was progressing. Funding had been sought and approved by the Heritage Lottery to upgrade the grounds and work was now nearing completion, the grand opening being planned for December of this year. Whilst much was still fenced off, it was still possible to get a feel for what should be a welcome transformation for this beautiful setting.
Donald recorded a bird count of 93 but it was decided that the stuffed birds in the Natural History Museum did not count and so we settled for a rather lowly 6, the highlight being 2 mistle thrushes seen near a large yew tree. Alice recorded 11 plants in flower and various lichens. Fungi were also noted - boletes in particular but others yet to be identified. Squirrels seemed to be everywhere busy foraging in the autumn sunshine. An extremely enjoyable day's visit with thanks to Stuart for driving and his support as co-leader.