Today Alice and myself ventured into the unknown, a visit to Eccup Whin Nature Reserve. BBG had planned a guided walk in July and as this was cancelled I thought it would be of interest to complete an independent exploration. The reserve is situated north of Golden Acre Park and can be accessed from Black Hill Lane and Eccup Lane. It is an area of dense mixed woodland with birch, oak and sweet chestnut. The trees were planted by Yorkshire Water. Subsequently Leeds Countryside Service perform some basic maintenance tasks, tree felling and maintenance of footpaths. However the woodland has been largely left to its own devices. It is a hot spot for migrant birds in the spring and summer.
Today I had a short walk from home towards Apperley Bridge, only 2 miles in total but I was out for much of the afternoon just drinking in the delights of nature. I hadn't realised how much I'd missed these kinds of walks until I was out - time was meaningless and I was so totally in the moment.
TWO SHORT LOCAL WALKS 21st and 22nd June 2020
My plan today was to hunt for orchids in an area of the East Chevin.The area I had in mind was an area of grassland/ heathland beyond the board walk and pond when approaching from Pool Bank. On my initial exploration I saw two diminutive but fully formed Common Spotted Orchids in pristine condition. However following further exploration of the heathland I decided to return on the same track. It was here that I spotted one good sized orchid adjacent to the path. Further along I came across a small colony of approximately 25 C.S Orchids hidden by bracken. A good result.
Alice and myself enjoyed a special treat today. We visited the species rich meadows, woodland and ponds in the vicinity of York Gate Quarry. Our meeting point was the York Gate Quarry car park which was relatively quiet. The weather conditions were ideal- a sunny, warm day with gentle breezes. Initially we explored the meadow on the left of the path leading to the Quarry. I was hopeful that we would see orchids more especially Southern Marsh Orchid although seeds of doubt had been sown prior to our visit due to the previous months dry weather conditions. Much to our joy we discovered a whole colony of Southern Marsh Orchids occupying the sheltered and wetter perimeter of the meadow, possibly up to 30 in number. The majority were in pristine condition. There were lots of lovely summer flowers- Lesser Stitchwort, Self Heal, Yellow Rattle, Common Birds Foot Trefoil, Oxeye Daisy, Alchemillia (possible garden variety), Dog Rose, Tufted Hair Grass and Knapweed.
The weather conditions were ideal for todays visit to Ox Close Wood - cloudy, mild, fine (no rain) which made for an enjoyable day out. I covered several contrasting habitats: the lanes (drier and sunnier than the woodland), an area of wetland and marsh, the estuarine habitat around the River Wharfe and the woodland with its glades also meadow area. To my surprise the car park on Crabtree Lane was almost full when I arrived ( no room for an ice cream van). However people must have set off in different directions and completely bypassed the wood as I didn't meet a sole there.
Denso Tuesday 9th June 2020
The forecast for today was strong winds and frequent showers but Andrew and I decided to risk a walk. Although much colder than of late and with a very strong wind, the walk was mostly rain free; just "spits and spots" early on with only one proper shower towards the end of the walk which did not spoil the day. Having parked up close to the junction of Ilkley Road and Street Lane we walked uphill on Ilkley Road. A red kite flying overhead did not seem perturbed by the strength of the wind. I spotted something dart across the road; my "hare" antennae were on full alert but it was probably just a rabbit; we saw plenty of them later on. We turned right off the main road through some fields where a lapwing and single chcik were running around and beyond them in the same field was a solitary curlew.
My mission today was to visit two small reserves managed by the East Keswick Wildlife Trust namely East Keswick Marshes and Frank Shires Field both on magnesium limestone. I had considered a walk around Ox Close wood but with exceedingly high temperatures at midday I decided to leave a visit for a cooler day. The East Keswick Marshes is an area of marsh, wet pasture, old hedgerow and woodland. There are two ponds very much diminished in size due to prevailing drought conditions. I arrived early in the morning when the sun was shining and took the path through the reserve. There are two areas of wet meadow the one being recently fenced off for grazing from animals. The meadow has not been grazed for over twenty years.The meadows were carpeted with meadow buttercups, ragged robin, bistort, meadow sweet, forgetmenot and a full array of grasses. Lining the ponds were the leaves of marsh marigold, yellow flag iris. Hedgerows of hawthorn, elder, guelder rose and dog rose lined the path.
Even with all its restrictions, lockdown affords us opportunities. For me it has been the time to explore the network of footpaths that lie behind my house. To my eternal shame, in the 6 years I have lived here, I have never set foot on any of them and this has been my chance to rectify that. In under a minute from locking my house door, I am in open fields. These have been cut recently and I have been watching flocks of starlings and sparrows feasting on the fallen seeds. Crossing the fields, I come to Blackshaw Beck which marks the boundary between Calderdale and Bradford. As I approached the bridge one day I happened to look up and my attention was drawn to the tree that stands at this point - or should I say trees. Elm branches overhang the bridge but the top of the tree showed an ash in flower. Closer inspection revealed that the trunks of the trees had fused together making a striking feature.