Tag Archives: woodland walks

Favourite walks - beechwood path

Favourite Walks for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

We love to walk. Our favourite walks take us on modern multi-user routes, along coastal paths and old railways, but we also love to scramble along leafy, muddy woodland tracks in our own local woods. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, we are sharing walks, both indoors and out. All of the photos I have chosen, feature places we love to walk.

My header shot is of our beautiful local beechwoods. We know and love this path in all seasons and all weathers. Its surface can be dry and sandy or distinctly soggy, with deep puddles and rivulets cascading between the tree roots. Its popularity with cyclists in recent years has prompted the addition of limestone gravel to some parts of the path to keep it passable in wet conditions.

Favourite walks - the aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens
The aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens

I thought I add one indoor walk for this challenge. Sunderland Winter Gardens are like a little oasis in the heart of the city centre. This high level aerial walkway is a wonderful vantage point from which to view the impressive tropical plants in the Winter Gardens. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge last week, I showed you the fountains you can see both inside and out at Sunderland’s miniature-tropical-rainforest-in-a-giant-greenhouse.

Favourite walks - Whitburn Coastal Path
Walking along Whitburn Coastal Path to Souter Lighthouse

At least once every Summer, we head out to the North East coast and walk along South Shields Leas to Souter Lighthouse or walk the Whitburn Coastal Path. Both of these paths are maintained by the National Trust along this beautiful and fascinating – but also the most dangerous – stretch of England’s coast.

When we aren’t walking coastal paths, we love to walk along old railways. Here in North East England, we have many old railway tracks that have been turned into a connected set of footpaths.

Favourite Walks - Lintzgreen Station, Derwent Walk
Walking through Lintzgreen Station on the Derwent Walk

Here we’re walking through one of the old stations that stood along the Derwent Valley Railway which carried passengers and freight through our leafy green valley last century when coal mines and steel furnaces were the main employers. You can see the train platforms on either side of the track. My son had evidently found something interesting and had climbed up onto the platform from where passengers would have travelled northbound through to Newcastle. This footpath is now known as the Derwent Walk, a multi-user route that forms part of the C2C long-distance cycle route, and which links up to the Waskerley Way, below.

Favourite walks - Waskerley Way
Heading out across the heather moors on the Waskerley Way

The Waskerley Way railway path takes us out over the heather moors and is another favourite walk of ours in Summer when the purple heather blooms. I love walking this path but you have to go prepared – this is real moorland and the weather can change suddenly. A warm Summer’s day in our valley can mean a cool and brisk breeze on the moor and passing showers envelop you – you literally have your head in the cloud! Warm clothing and waterproofs are definitely a good plan.

Favourite walks - going to our camp
Walking to our camp in the woods

Not all of our favourite walks are on wide and well-defined footpaths. We also love leafy woodland tracks. A few years ago we built a camp entirely from natural materials and there I taught the boys to cook outdoors over a small wood fire. The camp was deep in the woods, so the walk to reach it required a bit of scrambling through brambles and steep-sided streams. Here we are taking the narrow track along the top of the stream gorge on our way to cook at the camp.

Favourite Walks - going home along the old railway
Going home along the old railway in our woods

Wherever we may roam, we always return home, and quite often the walk home is along the old railway in our local woods. Just like our favourite beechwood path that we saw at the beginning of this post, we have walked the old railway in every type of weather – sun, rain, fog, frost, ice and snow. We knew all its muddy puddles. We sometimes even sledged along it on the way home from school, years ago when the boys were young.

When the railway was very dry, you could still see the impressions in the ground where the old wooden railway sleepers had lain when it carried the mineral line that took the coal from our village to Newcastle. I’m slightly sad that this Spring the old railway has been resurfaced with gravel to make a modern multi-user route. However, with the increasing rainfall due to climate change, the puddles in some places were becoming so deep and wide, a boat was almost needed! So perhaps the new path surface was the only practical solution 🙂

Do take a look at the walks others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

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Greater Stitchwort's starry flowers

When I grow up, I’m going to be a …

As we were taking one of our regular woodland walks this weekend, we couldn’t help but see that the woodland floor is now growing abundantly with wildflowers. There are carpets of Greater Stitchwort – that’s the white flowers in my header image. I think it lives up to its Latin name: Stellaria holostea. The bright white flowers really are like myriads of little stars.

I found myself noticing not only the plants that were actually flowering, but also those that were still pouring all of their energies into growing and had yet to flower. I decided to photograph some of the yet-to-flower plants I spotted and make it into a fun quiz. Here are my woodland wildflowers.

Can you identify the wild flowers I spotted?

A fun quiz – featuring some common flowering plants you might see in UK woodlands just at the moment.

Mystery wildflower No. 1

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.1 is a spiky character, tall and lanky. The purplish tinges to the stems and leaves might help you to imagine it in flower.

Mystery wildflower No. 2

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.2 with its oval fleshy leaves. Its immediate environment might tell you where this plant likes to live and that’s a bit of a clue to its name too.

Mystery wildflower No. 3

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.3 is a very common plant of waysides and scrubland, not just in woodlands. It’s another tall-growing robust plant that’s very popular with insects, though I’m not sure about pigs!

Mystery wildflower No. 4

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.4 is one of the archetypal woodland flowers of early Summer for me, though its bright flowers are very delicate.

Mystery wildflower No. 5

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.5 is a nice easy one. Just look at those fat and fluffy flower buds ready to burst open!

Mystery wildflower No. 6

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

No.6 is one of favourite flowers of late Spring and early Summer. I love its clean and sunny nature.

… and finally – a mystery seedling

When I grow up I'm going to be a ...?
When I grow up I’m going to be a …?
Can you name the plant?

My children have always noticed these little seedling plants on the woodland floor. Those enormous seed leaves always look to me like an umbrella. Its fully grown parent makes a rather good umbrella when we’ve been caught out by a sudden Summer rain storm too.

How many of my mystery plants can you name? Please leave your answers in a comment on this post. I think all of the plants I’ve chosen have featured in previous posts on my blog … complete with their flowers. I’ll post up photos of the plants with their flowers and name them all next Monday. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the Summer rain storm ‘umbrella’ to show you too 🙂

Have fun with the quiz!

J Peggy Taylor

Bluebells in woodland

My Favourite Things for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.”

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week Cee has chosen the chorus of “My Favourite Things” as the theme. I’ve decided to share some of my favourite things that I have posted here on my blog during my first year-and-a-bit of blogging.

My regular blog visitors may have spotted my new blog header – beechwoods in Springtime are a great favourite of mine and we love to walk in the woods and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Spring. For my post header image I have chosen one of my very favourite Spring flowers, bluebells. I posted about the “Beautiful Bluebells!” in our woods last Spring.

Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed
Bee-on-a-flower – a Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed

I’m glad to say we’ve never experienced bee stings while spending happy warm Summer hours watching and photographing bees on flowers.

Comma butterfly on thistles
Comma butterfly on thistles

Butterflies are another Summertime favourite of mine. I love the orange of the Comma butterfly against the purple of their favourite food, the thistle flowers.

The cool green tranquility of the river
The cool green tranquility of the river

Here in Northern England we experience all kinds of weather conditions and we have learned to enjoy them all. A rainy day at the river in Spring is always an uplifting experience – you can read my post about this wet woodland walk here.

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!

The old railway path through the woods is a path we have seen in all weathers, from sunny days to Winter snow. The Victorian railway bridge has featured several times on my blog especially as part of my great interest in history in the landscape. The image above is the bridge in colour from my post, “Old rail trails and a bear hunt”, and below it is in black and white for “Victorian railway bridges in black and white”.

Both of these posts were for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which has been my favourite weekly photo challenge here on WordPress. It was from creating the black and white images for the Victorian bridges post that kindled in me an ambition to try my hand at creating more black and white images and taking part in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge. I do enjoy taking part in the photo challenges and learning from others.

Victorian rural railway bridge in snow monochrome
Victorian rural railway bridge in our local woods
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge

Wild roses are another of my very favourite flowers. I think I’ve probably said before, I have different favourite flowers depending on the season – there’s always something to look forward too … or in this case, look back at, after the Summer was done and the cooler days of Autumn were with us. I love my son’s photo of the wild Dog Roses. The roses appeared in my “Pastel pink wild roses” post last October.

Blooming Purple Crocuses
Blooming Purple Crocuses

Purple crocuses with their bright orange stamens are one of my favourite early Spring flowers. These one are in one of my back yard pots along with daffodils and some seedlings of one of our ‘wild’ edible leaves, Garlic Mustard. You can see more about my back yard gardening in “My Blooming Back Yard”.

First salad seedlings 2014
First salad seedlings of 2014 on my window ledge

As well as gardening outside in my yard, I also love indoor gardening too and I grow salad leaves and herbs on my window ledges. In the above photo are my first seedlings of last year – a favourite moment in my gardening year. Just today I was photographing my first salad leaf seedlings of 2015.

Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert
Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert

A Summer delight for me is picking wild fruit. These delicious raspberries grow in a small patch of woodland not far from our house.

Pink Sweet Peas on willow garden screen

Last Summer I had fun with an interesting vertical gardening experiment in my back yard. I made a jute and willow garden screen and then grew Sweet Peas in air-pruning plant pots to grow on the screen. I shared a number of posts about this project on the willow screen, the air-pruning pots and the Sweet Pea flowers. I was so pleased when my Sweet Peas finally flowered!

Crochet patch and new crochet edging on my jumper
The new crochet border in spike stitch

I couldn’t post about my favourite things without including a crochet project or two. The jute and willow garden screen was crocheted and my recent “Mending a Woolly Jumper Craft Project” involved several types of crochet too.

Turning a shirt collar - before and after
Turning a shirt collar – before and after

Turning a shirt collar is one of those old-fashioned mending tasks that I have always done to extend the life of favourite shirts. The shirt that features in my “Turn a shirt collar” tutorial belongs to my son. He is very fond of this shirt so when the collar began to wear, there was only one thing for me to do …

I decided to post a tutorial on the collar turning process and it has certainly been a favourite among my blog visitors – it is one of the most visited pages on my blog.

A colourful October dawn

To complete my collection of favourites, I want to close with one of my very favourite things, a beautiful sunrise. I am lucky to see a lot of beautiful sunrises and I often share them in my Wordless Wednesday posts. You can see more of my sunrises if you click on the Wordless Wednesday tag on my tag cloud in the sidebar … a beautiful sunrise doesn’t really need many words does it?

I’ve had a lot of fun strolling through my blog photos choosing my favourite things – and I must say I have had to leave out a few too or this post would have gone on forever! Do take a look at what others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week for the chorus of “My Favourite Things”.

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J Peggy Taylor

My landscape - Springtime in the woods

My landscape for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

There are some landscapes close to where we live that I find myself photographing over and over again, in all weathers and in all seasons. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week on the theme of landscapes, I thought I’d share a few of them with you. My header image is one of our regular paths to the woods, looking across to the trees in their Spring greens on the edge of the wood, with the yellow of blooming gorse shrubs brightening the fields.

My landscape - October sunrise
My landscape – October sunrise

From our front window we look out eastwards towards the woods. Looking east also gives us the morning sun and some beautiful sunrises. I must say my early morning sunrise photos are generally taken through the window rather than from outside! Sometimes the sun puts on a spectacular colour show but I loved the gentle gold of this one. You’ll see this same view in very different weather on the image I’ve chosen for our Oak Trees Studio greetings card across on the right.

A favourite walk westwards from our village, along part of an old railway line, gives us fabulous landscape views out across the valley. In Spring we see the trees gradually greening up with their new season’s foliage and the bright greens of distant field crops. Summer brings darker greens in the trees but also bright splashes of yellow in the fields and, on a clear day, the purple of the heather high up on the moors.

My landscape - across the valley
My landscape – across the valley

This view westwards with its ever-changing vista often provides us with a weather preview before we experience it first hand and also some wonderful cloudscapes. As we wander along the valley side, we’ll often stop to take in the view, spotting the shapes in the clouds or commenting on the sunbeams glancing down through the deep cumulus clouds. I love the moody sky over the Summer valley in this photo.

My landscape - homeward from a Winter walk
My landscape – homeward from a Winter walk

In Winter our walks usually take us out into the woods, whether we are squelching through oozing mud and puddles or crunching through crisp snow. When our Winter ramble is done, we head homeward, leaving the woods behind us and dropping back down across the meadow path into the village. Again we can take in the scenic landscape looking westward over the valley, with its big skies and cloud patterns. At this time of year, if we time it right on a clear day, we can watch the setting sun slip down behind the horizon as we emerge from the cover of the woods and follow the field path down to the road.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief glimpse into my daily landscapes. Do take a look at the landscapes and seascapes others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Pastel pink wild roses for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge

Memories of warm Summer days are welcome on cool, damp Autumn days. The pastel pinks of wild Dog Roses Rosa canina scrambling over a field hedge are certainly a sign of Summer for me. I love the gentle pinks in this photo of the wild roses my son took when we were out on one of our Summer walks this year.

Do take a look at what soft pastel colours have inspired others this week in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge.

J Peggy Taylor

Dog Roses

Spotting Summer wildflowers

Our Summer woodlands are painted with an artist’s palette of wild flowers and greenery. Wherever we walk, our senses are treated to a kaleidoscope of colours and scents.

On this occasion our walk took us along a favourite path that is always rather wet and muddy. Either side of the narrow woodland path, the tumble of undergrowth was dotted with the bright pinks of Herb Robert, the purples of Tufted Vetch, the pastel pinks of Dog Roses, the bright yellows of Buttercups, the creamy whites of Honeysuckle and the lofty white umbels of Hogweed.

However, this time I decided to seek out some of the less obvious flowers to share with you.

Brooklime - the puddle flower

This is Brooklime Veronica beccabunga. I love that Latin name – I think it sounds like it should be the name of a character in a Roald Dahl story!
Brooklime belongs to the Speedwell family and has a small bright blue flower with a pale greenish-white centre, fairly typical of Speedwells. However, unlike other Speedwells it is likely to be the fleshy green oval leaves you’d notice first.

Brooklime flowers
Brooklime flowers

The delicate Brooklime flowers grow in pairs from the leaf axils and I always feel look rather small for the size of the leaves. As its name suggests, Brooklime grows in marshy places. Our patch here grows in a very muddy spot and is often part of a puddle.

Meadowsweet - close-up

At the next path junction I smelled a tell-tale Summer smell and soon spotted some stems of Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria with their fluffy sprays of creamy flowers. It was from these flowers that this distinctive scent was drifting. In some parts of our woods Meadowsweet grows in swathes but here there were only a few stems.

Meadowsweet
Meadowsweet

They had sprung through a bare patch of earth bank on the side of a drainage ditch, dug as part of some footpath repair work earlier in the year. It will be lovely to see a little colony of these flowers developing along this muddy ditch. Meadowsweet is another plant that likes to grow in damp and marshy places.

Common Marsh Bedstraw
Common Marsh Bedstraw

On the other side of the path I spotted some straggling stems of the delicate Common Marsh-Bedstraw Galium palustre, growing through the path-side vegetation. As you’d expect, the ‘Marsh’ in this plant’s name confirms the habitat in which it grows. Similarly to other Bedstraw species, the leaves of Common Marsh-Bedstraw grow in whorls around the stem. Its 4-petalled white flowers grow in small clusters. Unlike some ‘little white flower’ species, the flowers of this Bedstraw are quite sculptured and well-defined. I love the curve of the petals – they look like tiny sugar flowers.

Common Figwort
Common Figwort

Another plant that was re-establishing itself on the side of the drainage ditch was Common Figwort Scrophularia nodosa. This curious flower is another inhabitant of damp woodlands. It is unusual in having square stems and Figwort flowers are quite odd too.

Common Figwort - square stem
Square stem of Common Figwort

The flower buds are globular but then the ‘upper lip’ opens like a mouth to reveal its maroon throat and a yellow ‘tongue’!

Common Figwort - flower close-up
Common Figwort flower

My son said it reminded him of a mini version of the Pitcher plant we’ve seen in botanic gardens. However, unlike the Pitcher plant, I don’t believe Figwort is carnivorous! We see lots of it in our woods, especially along the verges of the wide woodland rides where its moist habitat is often found.

Heath Speedwell - close-up
Heath Speedwell

Along the path edge I spotted some pale blue spikes of Heath Speedwell Veronica officinalis. On closer inspection you can see the pale blue flowers of Heath Speedwell also have violet veins running through them. The soft furry leaves are spoon-shaped with a serrated edge. I love the shape of the pale violet flower buds with their protective green sepals. Heath Speedwell is a grassland flower but we often find it along woodland rides too.

I must give credit to my son for the photos in this post. His efforts to capture images of small flowers in difficult lighting conditions are usually more successful than mine 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Old rail trails and a bear hunt for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Whenever I look out across our green and wooded valley it seems hard to believe that around a century ago it was a major coal mining area with pits in every village and an extensive network of railways with steam trains carrying tons of coal every day to the staithes on the River Tyne.

This industrial heritage has left us the legacy of miles and miles of old railway paths, many of which have now been ‘upcycled’ into trails for walking, cycling and horse riding. As Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is “Ground:rocks, sand, dirt, paths, walks, trails”, I thought I share some photos of some of our local old rail trails.

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!

Some of our local railway paths form part of a particularly popular long distance cycle route, enjoyed by 15,000 people every year. It’s called the C2C, and it is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend. The route travels 79 miles right across Northern England, literally from sea to sea, hence the trail’s name! I can’t say I’ve ever covered the whole distance, though we have walked several sections of it at different times.

The Derwent Walk railway path forms part of the C2C cycle route through Gateshead. This 9 arched viaduct was built to carry the railway over the River Derwent.
The Derwent Walk Railway Path forms part of the C2C cycle route through Gateshead. This 9 arched viaduct was built to carry the railway over the River Derwent. Built originally in 1867, the Derwent Valley Line carried goods and passengers.
The Nine Arches viaduct that carried the Derwent Valley Railway. The C2C cycle route follows the Derwent Valley Railway Path through this part of Gateshead's countryside.
The Nine Arches viaduct that carried the Derwent Valley Railway. The C2C cycle route follows the Derwent Valley Railway Path through this part of Gateshead’s countryside.
The Waskerley Way is an old railway path in County Durham that forms part of the C2C cycle route. The Stanhope and Tyne Railway was also a mineral line but this one carried limestone for use in the local iron and steel industry.
The Waskerley Way is an old railway path in County Durham that forms part of the C2C cycle route. The Stanhope and Tyne Railway was also a mineral line but this one carried limestone for use in the local iron and steel industry.

Whilst I was looking for my challenge photos for this week I also came across one I took whilst out with my youngest son recently. This one involves a muddy trail and a muddy tale!

Our walk took us along one of our favourite muddy paths where we spotted a trail of deer tracks in the squelchy mud. We observed from the tracks that the deer had been running in the same direction as we were walking but though the tracks were quite fresh there was no other sign of the roe deer that had left them.

Tracks in the mud - is it a bear chasing a deer?
Tracks in the mud – is it a bear chasing a deer?

After we’d followed the tracks for about a hundred metres or so my son spotted another set of tracks that seemed to be punctuating the deer tracks every now and then. We observed these tracks were from the paws of a large carnivore … and so the story soon became jovially embellished! We decided that, obviously, the tracks we were following were those of a bear chasing after the deer! … I should perhaps add that we don’t have bears here in the north of England of course … but, in storytelling, dogs could become bears, I’m sure 😉

J Peggy Taylor

Hiding in the woods for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

A couple of weeks ago when I was looking ahead to the upcoming topics for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, I was doubtful I’d have a suitable entry for this week’s animal theme. It’s not that I don’t see animals and birds – I see lots – deer, birds of prey, all kinds of nature’s finest. But photographing them is another story! However, it’s amazing how life works out sometimes and a recent day out, that didn’t go quite as planned, led to us visiting a local country park.

Spring flowers blooming by the burn in the old woods
Spring flowers blooming by the burn in the old woods

This woodland park is an old family haunt of ours. Our children have spent many happy hours here over the years – exploring in the old woods, paddling in the stream, and watching wildlife in close-up from the bird hide.

For anyone whose life has not been enriched by a visit to a bird hide, it is basically a wooden shed in which you literally ‘hide’ whilst watching the birds or animals going about their normal busyness outside. You might imagine bird hides normally attract serious bird-watching types dressed in green, up-market, rustle-free outdoor gear, clutching large binoculars or spotting scopes and cameras with huge camo lenses.

Well, sometimes that’s true. In this bird hide you do see serious birders. There were a couple there the day we chanced to visit (complete with cameras with huge camo lenses!). But here you are equally likely to meet the next generation of ecologists. Today’s party were aged about seven years old, visiting from a Newcastle primary school. We find the children have always been ‘well prepared’ by staff before they make their way over to the hide so it’s always a surprise when a group of about 10-15 children suddenly creep up on you in the hide!

“Can we come in?” their teacher asked in hushed tones as the group stood expectantly outside. “Of course!” I replied enthusiastically, but in equally hushed tones. I’m not sure why I was answering on behalf of the public hide! I guess I’m just very keen to encourage everyone, especially young ones, to learn about the natural world. I shuffled our belongings to make more space. Today the children seemed to have come particularly to see a new owl nest box that had been fitted within sight of the hide, but set back into the woodland.

Unfortunately, by the time they arrived, the children had missed the exciting animal antics we had just enjoyed. Right outside of the hide windows are several feeding stations which are kept stocked several times a week with bird food, supplied by kind supporters of the woodland visitor centre. We had seen several species of small birds including nuthatch, chaffinch, dunnock and robin. We watched two grey squirrels doing acrobatics to reach the food in the carefully constructed feeding areas. Delightfully, at one point, a roe deer wandered through our view. It’s always wonderful to watch from the hide.

This very enjoyable and unplanned visit to the hide gave me the chance to take a few photos too – just what I needed for for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week!

Grey Squirrel on bird table
One hop and Grey Squirrel was on the bird table and casting a beady eye on the food under the cage

I think the squirrel that amused me most was this cheeky one. It was close enough for me to quickly snap a shot as it hopped up onto the low table right in front of us.

Grey Squirrel feeding in a bird-food cage
Quick as a flash, Grey Squirrel hopped into the bird cage to feast on the seeds

It swiftly dived straight into the wire mesh cage … which is really there to prevent larger birds like wood pigeons coming down and clearing all of it at one sitting! Grey Squirrel was happy to sit there and feast for a while.

Pheasant feeding from a bird table
Pheasant stood up tall and stretched his long elegant neck into the bird cage to reach the food

Not to be outdone, we then saw this pheasant poking his head inside another wire mesh cage to reach the tasty seed food. He was quite happy to stay there long enough for me to capture a few shots.

Birdwatching toddler
My own birdwatching toddler – definitely a woodland animal to encourage 🙂

Here’s another kind of woodland animal that I’ve photographed a few times! This was a good few years ago, but teaching our kids to care about nature just seems the right thing to do, I think.

J Peggy Taylor

Bluebells are blooming in the woods

Will You Walk this May?

Here in the UK the season of Spring comes into full bloom in the month of May. For me, May is THE month to get out for a healthy and enjoyable walk in the countryside.

We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds
We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds

I do most of my local walking in woodland where I find there is so much to see in Springtime. In some of my recent posts I’ve been sharing my Spring walks and the delights that are out there waiting for us. If you want to find out more about woodland walks you may find the Woodland Trust’s ‘Visiting Woods’ pages useful.

Living Streets - National Walking Month May 2014
I agree, walking really can make you feel better 🙂

The month of May also happens to be National Walking Month here in the UK. The Living Streets charity is one of several organisations involved in promoting events during this month, including Walk to Work Week (12-16 May) and Walk to School Week (19-23 May). You can find out more from their website http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/national-walking-month?

Why not walk this May? It’s an excellent and FREE way to enjoy the out-of doors and it’s good for the body, mind and soul 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Native UK Bluebell in public woodland

Beautiful Bluebells!

Just as I was eagerly anticipating in my last post, we haven’t had to wait long to enjoy the carpets of native Bluebells blooming in our local woods. There are certain parts of our woods where the Bluebells really make themselves at home during May.

The Bluebells are here! Our native UK Bluebells flowering under a beech tree
The Bluebells are here! Our native UK Bluebells flowering under a beech tree

Across the forest floor amongst the feet of beeches, sycamores, rowans and oaks the luxuriant green foliage of Spring flowers provides the backdrop for the beautiful Bluebells themselves. Native UK Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta are a much deeper blue than the Spanish Bluebells. The rich blue sometimes adopts an almost purple hue in the dappled woodland light.

Deep blue - native UK Bluebells bursting through the blanket of last year's bracken
Deep blue – native UK Bluebells bursting through the blanket of last year’s bracken

The native Bluebell’s slender stem hooks over to one side, like a shepherd’s crook. The slim blue blooms hang beneath the crook, turning up the points of their petals when the flower fully opens.

In our woods Bluebells are joined by the clean whites of Wood Sorrel and Greater Stitchwort, the deeper purple of the Dog Violets and the occasional flamboyant yellow of Dandelions. The acid-green of the Wood Sorrel’s fresh trifoliate leaves provide another luminous blast to the woodland floor. For me, these are the colours that I really associate with Bluebell woods at this time of year.

Blooming Bluebells in our woods, with Wood Sorrel, Greater Stitchwort and Dandelions
Blooming Bluebells in our woods, with Wood Sorrel, Greater Stitchwort and Dandelions

Today we saw Bluebells everywhere we walked. They are certainly one of my favourite flowers and just one of the many reasons that make protecting their endangered ancient woodland habitat here in the UK such an important task.

Long may the Bluebells bloom!

J Peggy Taylor