Our annual mystery trip is often very popular but there were a few empty seats on the minibus for this year's trip. The destination had remained a well kept secret and John's speculation about the possibility of Shibden Park was soon ruled out as we headed out of Bradford along Canal Road to pick up Sue at Tesco; a late arrangement due to problems with train delays.
Maybe it was no surprise that no-one had guessed where we were going as the site was generally unfamiliar to most of the group and Sally would not be out of place working for the secret service!! Gallows Hill Nature Reserve sits on the south side of the River Wharfe, east of Otley. It consists of an area of trees, scrub and nettle beds with a pond; much of the area was formerly a sewage works. The reserve's name reflects the site having been used for executions as far back as Anglo-Saxon times, with the last execution having taken place in 1614. Otley Town Council provide the majority of the funding; other notable contributors include Wharfedale Naturalists.
The low overhead car park barrier precluded the parking of the bus on site, so passengers were dropped off and the bus then parked in Stephen Smith's garden centre. Once regrouped and briefed we were able to explore the reserve as we wished. Many of us got involved in identifying fungi, much of it found on dead wood. Sally was delighted at the "treasure trove of fungi" that kept us amused for hours. Some were easily identified whilst others gave John extra-curricular homework. Fungi identified include Wood Blewitt, Sheathed Woodtuft, Silverleaf, Candlesnuff, Velvet Shank, Glistening Inkcap, Blushing Bracket, Clustered Bonnets and various Oysterlings and Mycenas.
Although bird numbers were low, we were pleased to see a pair of Bullfinch near the bird feeder and Maddy spotted a wee bird that proved to be a Goldcrest. Long-tailed tits were also sighted. In the afternoon when much of the group had made for the garden centre I continued along the river path where I espied a kingfisher in flight; it perched very briefly before continuing on its flight path. I then joined others at the garden centre cafe; the shelter and hot drinks were welcome as the dull day had now turned wet.
Many thanks to Sally for introducing us to this reserve which many of the group are keen to explore further at a later date. Thanks also to Julia for sharing the driving with me.