This month it’s #30dayswild, a month long annual nature challenge set by the Wildlife Trust to encourage people to do something wild every day. I’m struggling with my mental and physical health at the moment, so compiling a daily blog to track what I’ve been up to hasn’t been possible, but I wanted to contribute something to documenting the challenge.
Growing up I spent a lot of time in the outdoors. We had a holiday cottage in North Wales, so I’d spend my school holidays running wild with the local children, playing in the old slate quarries, paddling in the streams, walking up hills and grass sledging. I was in the Brownies/Guides and Rangers which continued to fuel my love of the outdoors. As I’ve got older I’ve brought my daughter up learning and exploring nature together, her asking ‘Mummy, what’s that?’ helped encourage me to keep learning. I am most at home in nature and the outdoors. I find the city noisy, busy and overwhelming. I live in urban Bristol. Despite living in an urban area we have an incredible green space on our doorstep, which links into many other places. Within 5 minutes of my front door I have grassland meadows and woodland.
Today I needed to walk to Tescos. I walked through the meadow admiring the clover and into the dark woods, passing my favourite tree that I like to sit on. If you sit there for long enough the wildlife comes alive around you. The big horse chestnut reliably displays a rare fungus every autumn and one of the fallen trees is often decorated with Purple Brain Fungus. It’s where I go when I need to sit and think.
When you emerge from the woodland you are back into open meadow again, brimming with buttercups and plantain. In the summer it’s lit up with great swathes of willow herb. You can see the sweeping view of the bright yellow Dower House – whenever I tell people that I like to walk in Stoke Park they look at me with a blank expression. When I then explain when driving along the M32 motorway you see a big yellow house on the hill which is in the park, everyone then knows where I mean. Roe Deer are often seen in the lower end of the park and there’s also great crested newts, bats, rabbits, owls and grass snakes. There’s an area of reeds where wading birds and stonechat can sometimes be seen.
I made my way down to the pond which is split into two, one side is a fishing lake and the other more of a wildlife pond. There’s a multitude of dragonflies and damselflies on the wildlife pond and you can while away an afternoon with a wildflower/plant book looking up all the things you can see. Canada geese, heron, coot, moorhen and mallard are the main inhabitants of the ponds, but we do get the occasional more unusual passing visitor such as water rail, dunlin and great crested grebe.
Beyond the pond there is an underpass which passes under the M32 motorway, I followed the road down to the River Frome. If I was to follow the river upstream I’d get to Snuff Mills which contains the remains of an old stone mill and also a wonderful garden area which is maintained by volunteers and is teeming with bees and butterflies. I used to river sample for Bristol Avon Rivers Trust from there and the kindly cafe owner would let us count our sample of their picnic benches! On this occasion I was following the Frome downstream. It was high water and swollen today due to the recent downpours. I see a kingfisher nearly every time I walk this way, but sadly not today. Last summer I took a few walks along the middle of the river and spent a long time watching a dipper fishing. Otter have been regularly seen on the river, but I’ve not yet been lucky enough to see one. If I do ever get to see them it will be a magical moment.
From the river you emerge at Eastville Park Lake, in the last few years a volunteer group has really developed this area, making improvements and running family friendly wildlife activities. At Christmas you can even visit Santa by the lake! As a child I used to hire pedalos from a boat house, but this no longer exists and the wildlife has the lake to itself. There are tawny owl boxes on the lake island and we’ve been lucky enough to observe them sleeping in the boxes through binoculars. The lake must have lots of fish within it’s depths as there’s often a large ‘swallow’ of cormorants in the trees above in the winter.
The lake has plenty of benches where you can sit and observe the wildlife for as long as you like, I often pause here to enjoy my flask of hot drink. Beyond the lake there are more fields which are often used for sports and picnics and you re-enter urban Bristol to pass again under the motorway to Tesco. In such a built up city I feel lucky that my walk to the shops contains so much wildlife and habitat. It would be easy to miss it if driving round in a car. All of the photos were taken today and I enjoyed a slower pace of walk despite the rain, appreciating all that is on my doorstep.