Dorset Holiday part 3

After a break for six on Saturday I’m returning to the write up of our Dorset holiday. Our third, and possibly my favourite day, took us to the Moors Valley Country Park and forest. The park is a joint venture between Dorset Council and the forestry commission. Any time I see the words forestry commission I equate it with expensive car park. We visit Dalby Forest up North fairly regularly and this is the same. They advertise as no entrance fee, which there isn’t. However they make up for this with a good parking charge. That said, it is money well spent as the areas they manage are beautiful with a rich diversity of species.

When we arrived it was very wet. Our waterproof trousers came in use again. One of the main reasons for wanting to come to the park, apart from the wildlife, was the Julia Donaldson walks. The parks have sculptures of all the key Gruffalo characters and a Highway Rat trail. Alice is currently loving the Julia Donaldson animated TV versions and will sit through the books. Her favourites are probably stickman and room on the broom currently. Room on the broom isn’t currently part of the forest, but still plenty for her to get excited by.

First she found the owl.

Then many excited cries of, “mouse”.

We paid for the Highway Rat activity pack in the visitor centre. The pack gives you some stickers, a mask and a few activities to do as you go round. It probably wasn’t worth the £3 for Alice as she’s too young for most of it, but never mind. The walk is marked without needing to get the pack should any of you want to do it. It was raining continually for the first part of the walk making the ground hard going for Alice. She lost her wellies a few times in the thick oozy mud. This wasn’t much fun for her, so she went in the howdah. The walk took us on a pleasant circular walk of about a mile. Just right for a little one.

On the way there are the Highway Rat characters and a few things to look out for. By the end the rain had stopped and it started to cheer up.

After finding the rat we returned to the visitors centre for a hot drink and to refuel Alice. With the weather improving and Alice looking a bit more cheerful we headed out again to the steam railway. Along the edge of the lake runs a miniature steam railway. Currently the lakes banks are overflowing into the surrounding fields with the ducks and swans roaming over a larger pool.

As well as being Julia Donaldson mad, Alice is also mad for Thomas the Tank engine at the moment. She was very excited to see the train dragging us to get on.

The train trip takes about twenty minutes with a stop off at the station at the other end. On the platform is a small cafe and a train shop. We treat Alice to a new Thomas toy, a rainbow Thomas. Alice has been over the moon with her Thomas refusing to part with him at bedtime, sleeping clutched on to it.

The park has a great play area split into different age appropriate areas. She adored the playhouse and slide.

The digging area was great fun. If we let her she’d have stayed there indefinitely.

However we wanted to find the Gruffalo, so on we went. She was excited to find the Gruffalo and the Gruffalo’s child pointing out the prickles and shouts of “nose” pointing to the wart.

Throughout the day I could hear plenty of bird song. Crows and other corvids weren’t put off by the weather. I spotted lots of tits: great, blue and long tailed. Then lots of robins.

Before we left we bought Alice two last treats with some money Granddad had given her for Easter; a stickman and a mouse. Almost all of Alice’s toys are second hand,from charity shops and facebook, so being on holiday we thought we’d treat her. Back at the house she played with her new toys.

A good amount of walking left her tired again.

A wonderful day! Every photo of Alice shows how much fun and enjoyment she got from the day. A great time was had.

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Dorset Holiday part 2

Our second day out, on our Dorset break, took us the village of Lyndhurst. This historic village is known as the capital of the New Forest. It was established as a royal hunting ground in 1079 by William the Conqueror. Lyndhursts other claim to fame is the grave of Alice Liddel; the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.

Despite being Alice’s name sake we didn’t visit the grave. We came for a walk and to see the horses. The New Forest ponies are one of the famous attractions of the area. The horses are wild in the sense that they roam freely, though they are technically owned by the New Forest Commoners. Around 3000 roam the forest and have done for the last 2000 years. They are a stunning sight bringing pleasure to many sightseers.

Alice was just as excited to see them. Just had to hold her back from trying to stroke them. While they are generally good natured they are capable of causing injuries.

The walk out from Lyndhurst took is out over gently rolling heathland. Heather and gorse cover the hills. I wish I had a better knowledge of fungi as there was an abundance of weird and wonderful varieties on display.

We could hear lots of birds as we walked, although only spotted a few.

Robin

Chaffinch on the gorse.

Pied wagtail

Alice did very well walking a good mile out before returning back in the howdah on my back. She didn’t really want to go in it, but we could tell she was getting tired.

It completely tired her out.

This gave time to set up for our Easter hunt in the garden. I’d opted for buying metal eggs that we can fill ourselves to give a few little eggs rather than a mega egg at this age.

Alice has quickly realised objects wrapped in foil are usually chocolate.

Choc choc

Another lovely day. I’d happily return to Lyndhurst to see the horses again. On a day with better weather I imagine there are good chances to see the reptiles the forest is famed for and many heathland butterfly species. That said we still had a lovely day and the horses alone would have been enough excitement for Alice.

In the next holiday instalment we went in search of a Gruffalo.

Daunder

Today’s word for the day from Robert Macfarlane: “daunder” – to walk without fixed purpose, to wander aimlessly, to stroll, saunter & idle about, in city or in country (Scots). Cf another fine Scots verb for this, “to stravaig”.

This morning I had an appointment, but following that I decided to take a daunder back through the park. Of late, I haven’t had much chance to go through what it a lovely local space for me. The avenue of trees, the wide expanse of grass, the surrounding gardens all make for a pleasant stroll. Squirrels enjoy a number of confirs in the surrounding gardens. The park provides a rich variety of habitats with wet areas, woodland, ground cover, short and long grass.

During Winter one of the areas of trees becomes bogged down and for a few months becomes a temporary duck pond. Today the mallards were resting by the side, while the crows hopped back and forth around the edge.

Many of the surrounding stone walls are covered in ivy. This wonderful Autumn rich pollen source has now gone to seed. Once dropped the ivy can continue it’s creeping domination of the southern corner of the park only to have it’s efforts thwarted later in the year by the groundsmen.

Signs of Spring are poking through with snowdrops in flower and daffodils preparing for their colour burst.

One of my favourite areas of the park takes a path through trees into a short holloway to nowhere in particular. The chaffinches were out in number today hopping around the ivy encrusted trees.

Throughout the park I could hear the sound of great tits chattering back and forth.

The blackbirds were accomodating for photos.

Just a quick wander round the park shows life is starting to emerge again. The Spring flowers are showing their heads. The birds are finding their voices again. The sun is almost warming. Good to be out.

A walk in the park

Yesterday I made it out for a walk in the park after several days in school working in a windowless room on my Early Years School Evaluation Form. This form is the schools judgement of how well we believe we’re doing. This is then presented to ofsted when we get the inspection phone call. So I was quite happy to be outside despite a bit of drizzle.

The hedges along the park were a ladybird hot spot last year, but so far I had not seen many. Yesterday they had returned in force with lots of signs along the whole of the hedge.

Amongst the trees we found a decorated rock. Decorating rocks, then leaving them hidden places has been a craze this Summer. When you find them you photograph them a tag on facebook/twitter. I have mixed feelings about this activity. I like that it gets children out. But living by the seaside I’ve seen people taking buckets of rocks away. There is a legal side to this that many of them shouldn’t be taking the quantity they are as well as dismantling a habitat. But this probably deserves a whole blog on itself. People have always taken rocks and seashells as souvenirs from beaches, but the quantity people are taking is a concern.

Amongst the long grass area a robin perched on branch serenading.

Conkers are now falling. It looked like they’ve already been scavenged through, but I did find a few to take into school for my discovery area.

Now it’s time to get back to writing my school action plan and evaluation form. A bit nicer though working from home with a view of the garden. Red admirals and sparrows are back and forth across the garden currently.

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Morning stroll

Early start

Following on from badger adventures and beach walking Alice decided to wake up very early on Friday. So we got to see the sun rise over the bay.

Morning explore

Alice was restless in the house so we got out to see the streets quiet. This was a nice change from the usual mass of people struggling up and down the slope.

Seafront

Down at the front there was lots of life out. The gulls and wagtails exploring the seaweed.

Nap time

I returned Alice to the house and got out for another walk on my own. I was keen to try and get a bit closer to the oystercatchers. The oystercatchers were more plentiful this time with the tide going out and the rock pools to explore. These waders use their distinctive long beak to look for molluscs amongst the pools. They are rather striking and are probably the key bird I connect with the bay.

A few in flight.

The only one in clear focus didn’t have the angle on the beak sadly.

I did manage a bit closer than the day before though to get a better shot. It’s not a postcard perfect shot, but a bit closer than I could manage with Alice on my back.

While I didn’t manage a perfect oystercatcher photo the robins were out in groups, unusually for a bird known for its territorial behaviour. They kindly obliged for photos and serenaded as I walked back up the cliff path.

Cliff View

I walked a little way along the cliff edge along the Cleveland Walk to switch to the wide angle extension to try for a shot of the whole bay.

Not a bad use of an early start.

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Yorkshire Wildlife Trust-North Cave Wetlands

Today Amy was off for a day at the races, so I decided to take Alice for an adventure further afield. We’ve worked our way through a good area of our more pram accessible local bridleways and public footpaths. So we headed out to one of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves at North Cave. The last time I went to the wetlands was just before Alice was born March/April time. It was an amazing time to visit for the birds as there were a lot of nesting birds including sea birds and migrants. The reserve is being developed further with large areas set to be turned into different habitats. This was just getting started when I last visited.

The site was originally a quarry that has since had areas dug, some filled with topsoil to make the islands and lakes.

Currently the main centre is a large lake. From the photo you can see the islands are providing a whole host of birds homes. The area has been managed to provide a mixture of shallow and deep lakes giving a wide range of birds suitable habitats.

The shallower lakes and reeds offering a number of waders homes.

The number of species of wildlife is immense. For me to go through all of what I saw would provide a months worth of blogs. I would have my head buried in field guides to a point where my partner would be pulling her hair out in desperation at losing her partner. So I’m just going to flag a few key species I either liked or was happy with the photographs I had taken.

I didn’t see as many birds as I could have. I didn’t think the birders would appreciate her giggling and running around the hides. The paths are designed with either tree lines or embankments to stop visitors disturbing the birds, particularly important in the breeding season. So as we gave the hides a miss I didn’t see as many birds as I could have. That said I still saw plenty.

Swans and lapwings. You have to love the lapwings crest, like a quiff gone wrong.

What I think is a pochard. I’m working on my knowledge of waders, so I don’t just have to say duck for everything vaguely similar.

What I think were house martins, from the tails and as they were stopping in the trees.

A few coots on the edge of the lake.

While I may not have seen as many birds as if we’d gone in the hides insect pickings were high. The shallow lakes and pools provide perfect habitats for dragonflies and damselflies.

The vast majority of the dragonflies I photographed are common darters. I did see a few different varieties I think I saw hawkers, but still building a knowledge of dragonflies.

I saw a number of damselflies in a number of different colours.

The variety of butterflies was astounding. Next year for the butterfly count I may need to visit North Cave. I also added one more species to this years sightings and saw flashes of what might have been different species.

The small tortoiseshell.

A mixture of whites. Butterfly Conservation have a good ID guide to distinguishing between the main cabbage whites.

Meadow brown butterfly.

A peacock.

A speckled wood

And my new sighting of the common blue. A rather stunning shade of blue particularly the furry thorax.

There was plenty to see low down as well with this rather striking cinnabar moth caterpillar.

The accessible areas are worth a visit, butt one of the amazing aspects of North Cave is that it still has massive areas being developed. New lakes are being excavated in two new zones.

While the areas don’t look like much now from photographs the areas will hopefully provide homes potentially for lots more species. Of high interest to me are the marsh harriers and stoats. By offering slightly different wetlands in each area the reserve is going to be an amazing space, providing for a massive variety of species. With 38.98 hectares it’s going to be a lovely large area. I hope a visitor centre is planned in to the new areas.

Alice wanted to go each bench as we went round, insisting on pulling her self up. On some she sat and watched the lakes, others she wanted to be straight off.

She quite enjoyed the hide at the end of the road as it had a large glass window for her to look out of, but I think the path back to the car was actually her favourite area. She had to be in the pram around the lakes perimeter, so she was happy to get out for a run. She did enjoy investigating the stones on the path, but did part with them before we left.

North Cave Wetlands are a superb testament to the wonderful work the Wildlife Trust do. Through there planning they have created an area that is supporting such an amazing wealth of life. Careful management of a disused quarry has created a site that on its own justifies my membership fees. Well worth a visit.

http://www.ywt.org.uk/reserves/north-cave-wetlands-nature-reserve

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The road goes ever onwards

Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.

J.R.R Tolkein-The hobbit

Sunday saw Alice and myself escaping out the house to escape paint stripper fumes. Amy has been working hard stripping paint off the stair bannister. We’ve tried to avoid Alice being around it. We headed off along one of the footpaths through the new housing estate that brings us out into the countryside. The crops were being harvested today. A great amount of dust and wheat shreds were in the air.

The side of the path has a number of the largest buddleia bushes. The peacocks who were absent a few weeks ago are now swarming all over it.

From here we explored a bridleway I’ve not ventured down yet. It runs alongside one of the caravan parks and is quite well kept in comparison to other around.

A number of speckled woods departed as we came along.

The bridleway took us out back along the coastal edge. The path took us down past a boat club. Along the path are a number of objects diving crews have brought ashore.

We stopped the pram to let a ground beetle cross our path. It seemed to be in more of a rush than us.

The sun was out bright and the sea was looking spectacular.

Flamborough Cliffs looking good today.

We walked as far as the pram would safely go before returning back along the coast path back to town. On the way saw a distant rabbit hopping back into the hedges as it saw us.

Alice had a run around on the grass along the coast edge before heading for the park. She was in a very sociable mood today chasing other families shouting hiya and waving bye as people went past.

Alice discovered a stick. She’s starting to realise why this is one of the most popular toys of all time. She engaged in some mark making on the path, running and waving it around and bashing other sticks. An excellent toy available in a range of sizes and limited colours. She carried it most of the way home before dropping it as we got back to our street.

We fitted in a quick go on the swings before leaving the park. She’s becoming a bit of a thrill seeker enjoying going higher and higher.

As a teacher I get these long periods of time off for the Summer and it’s lovely being able to spend time like this with Alice. She’s really starting to develop rapidly now. Her understanding is improving daily and her desire to communicate and interact. She loves getting out and has started fetching her shoes and going to the door to show her preference. We’re lucky that we have so many wonderful places to explore around us. I hope everyone had as pleasant Sundays as me and Alice.

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Cabin fever

Today and the next couple of days we are having our hallway plastered. So the house is a little bit topsy turvy. So with little space for Alice to go back and forth we headed out for a walk to prevent cabin fever.

I discovered a new picnic area has been put together with a display showing what wildlife we might see

The spot overlooks part of the mere.

At the moment we have a scarecrow trail around town. At this new picnic spot I discovered one, an actual scary-crow scarecrow.

From there we walked around to the mere’s edge. The mere is a large body of fresh water. It has an abundance of bird life. Within the habitats available it attracts wetland, farm and sea birds. Even on a grey rainy day like today I still saw more variety than many trips to nature reserves.

There were lots of Canadian Geese.

I saw a good number of ducks. Some mallards and some I don’t know.

The jackdaws were hopping in and out of the other birds. As discussed before I like corvids and particularly jackdaws. I know some people consider them evil looking, but I rather like the blue eyes and apparent intelligence.

Alice thought the ducks and geese were hilarious, but they didn’t seem as keen on her.

We saw a number of types of gull. Springwatch released an article last week pointing out that there is no such thing as a seagull. So with that in mind here are black headed gulls and a herring gull.

Within the thistles and cow parsley goldfinches and pied wagtails flitted about. The goldfinch was slightly rude refusing to turn so I could take a photo of its better side.

The thistles were still seeing quite a few visitors despite the colder weather.

After the mere, we walked along the seafront home where we saw the lesser spotted sea pigeons.

Before heading home I gave Alice a quick run around outside the Floral Hall.

The Floral Hall is a community run venture with a cafe and hall. They put on live music, club nights, theatre shows and cinema nights. The flower displays are always lovely. The bug hotel they built this year is looking good and with plenty of teasel around it should see some visitors. Teasel is high on the list of flowers I would like to get growing in the garden next year. It is loved by pollinators and the birds will eat the seed heads.

Not a bad way to fill time staying away from the plastering in the house.

Brownfield

Behind the bus station is an area of brownfield land. I’m unsure what it was like in it’s previous incarnation. There are cement foundations and rubble around, but no clear signs. It has now been taken over by bindweed, nettles, brambles and other wildflowers. As I got home earlier with it being the last day of school, Amy and Alice had gone out, I went went out for a little explore. I have seen rabbits along one of the paths when out with Alice, but couldn’t take the pram down to explore. So I was hoping to see some more.

The area has had an awful lot dumped in it sadly. The site is littered with scrap metal and polystyrene.

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Despite that the site is a haven for wildlife, even on a grey day like today. The bees were out looking ethereal covered in the pollen of the thistles.

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It also provided me with my first sightings of comma butterflies this year. I haven’t seen any on my area. Now I’ve found a site they love. Eight spotted just on a short stretch. I’ve added my sightings to a the Big Butterfly Count along with one small white. It was exciting to see the flash of orange and realise it’s another species I was unaware of within my local area.

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The discovery of the comma’s was a nice discovery during the Big Butterfly Count, so even though I failed to see any rabbits the comma’s made up for it.

I’ve been busy of late, so I’m doing more quick twitter updates for anyone who uses it rather than full blogs. https://twitter.com/Jobasha to follow.

 

Bridleway exploring

In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
John Muir

Yesterday had seen an unsettled night with Alice. She stubbornly refused to sleep on her own, so ended up resting on me until half 12. Then her morning nap was much the same. Thrashing and wailing all over the place. We don’t know if it’s teething, a reaction to the measles jab or something else and she doesn’t oblige by telling us. So I gave up on trying to put her down to take her out for some quiet time, pushing her around in the pram. Unlike many babies she doesn’t fall asleep that often in the pram. But I thought some time with her sat still might give her the rest she needed.

I head out round to the new housing estate. On the edge is a path taking you between what I think are wheat fields. The paths are pretty much only frequented by dog walkers.

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Along the edge of the path, in the wildflowers, I saw a number of ladybirds. Some were native I believe, rather than the usual harlequins I see.

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A lot of ringlets and red admiral butterflies criss crossed the verges.

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The slugs and snails have been out all over the last week with the heavy rain, but now it’s starting to dry out they are making a retreat.

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I took the footpath past the bunker. This path takes you through an overgrown area of brambles, bindweed, nettles and trees. It is a have for a whole variety of wildlife. Previously I discovered many robins and bluebells. On the walk up to it I passed a buddleja covered in red admirals.

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The bunker is apparently a favourite kids play spot, which is nice that it can now act as a hideout den.

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Around the bunker honeysuckle is starting to flower.

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While walking along this stretch one of the dog walkers recommended a bridleway a little further out of town. A bridleway, for those who are unsure, is defined a path for horses. Motor vehicles are not generally allowed access and they are not for the movement of livestock. Walkers can use them and cyclists, although cyclists are meant to give right of way to others. While cyclists are allowed to use them there is no local authority obligation to maintain them to be suitable for bikes. The path was not overly suitable for the pram and at times was hard going. It did however bounce Alice around enough to put her to sleep, which is what I was hoping would happen. I wouldn’t recommend it as a pram walk though, but I was lucky that the ground was dry and the grass at a length I could push through.

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The bridleway was a lovely route with fields either side, with house martins swooping over, butterflies, bees and hoverflies flitting along the edge. The path gently rolled upwards back to one of the roads out of Hornsea. I didn’t see another soul along the whole stretch.

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A hoverfly on the nettles.

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A small tortoiseshell.

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What I think is possibly a reed bunting. This is a new sighting to me to the area. I haven’t spent much time exploring the local farmland routes. As mentioned the pram is not really designed for this, but as Alice gets walking further we can get to know these paths better.

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Damselflies mating at the end of the path.

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On the way back home I spotted gull chicks venturing out of their nest on a roof.

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As Alice was still sleeping I took a little detour through the park to give her longer sleeping.

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I even spotted some mysterious activities going on at the town hall. They’ve possibly come to unmask local MP Graham Stuart.

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So Alice got a decent sleep in the end and I’ve found out about a new path and seen some new wildlife. A good trip out. I’ll finish with a photo of the hebe I got for my birthday. It’s flowering now and is a lovely colour. The bees are loving it.

Bee 4