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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