At the appointed start time of 10.30 am three people gathered in the top car park at Shibden Park, Halifax, wondering where the rest of the party could be. The group of six had been reduced to five by Kevin's withdrawal but two Sues had gone astray. Our leader, Sally, then received a call from Sue Z who was evidently undertaking a tour of the car parks in the area and was given instructions of how to join us but of Sue N there was no sign. It was a bright sunny morning in which to enjoy the autumn tints and the narrow-leaved ash tree which overhangs the car park. By 10.45 there was still no Sue N and so Sally led us off to Cunnery Wood in the steps of Gentleman Jack. Sally explained that the wood had originally been an area developed by Anne Lister in the first half of the 19th century as kitchen garden, fish pond and rabbit warren and subsequently used by Halifax Council as its main nursery before being planted as woodland by a group called Naturefriends who brought overseas volunteers to work on the site. Unfortunately like many such schemes it has lacked maintenance since its creation but nevertheless provides a very pleasant environment for a nature ramble.
Ten minutes into our walk we were joined by a somewhat flustered Sue N who had undertaken to walk up from Halifax railway station and misjudged the time required for the steep climb. In the absence of John she was immediately put to work identifying the different fungi that we saw. Although not extensive, the list included candle snuff, wood blewit, jelly ear, white saddle, blushing bracket, earthballs, puffballs, polypores, boletes, honey fungus, amethyst deceiver, velvet shank and shaggy parasol. There was little in the way of birdlife or flowering plants as we explored the different parts of the site, including the remains of a large hot house but nevertheless all enjoyed the walk and the weather.
Coming back from the wood into Shibden Park we passed the Hall which was closed for filming and watched the props being erected for the second series of Gentleman Jack and noted the fine cut-leaved beeches and red oaks which grow adjacent to the Hall. Lunch was taken in the dry-stone walling display of the park before Sally, Marje and Sue Z decided to call it a day.
I had read in the weekend's Yorkshire Post that there were small flocks of hawfinches moving through the area and that they favoured the seeds of hornbeams and so, knowing of a hornbeam in the park, set off to find it, accompanied by Sue N who also wanted to make the most of the fine sunny weather. Not only did we fail to see any hawfinches we couldn't even find the hornbeam that I was sure was there a couple of years ago. A skein of pink-footed geese overhead reminded us that we were on a wild goose chase! But we enjoyed the Autumn colours of particularly the beeches and the Norway maples whose orange/yellow hues make these trees as prominent now as do their green/yellow flowers in early Spring and we did find some of the more exotic trees in the park, like Maddy's favourite, black locust, a possible medlar-thorn and others, some recently planted, which escaped immediate ID.
Many thanks to Sally for leading the day and to Alice for encouraging and organising these mini-Bees gatherings in these restrictive times.