Monday, 22 April 2013

Park Wood Festival Walk

Park Wood gets the Thumbs Up!
On Saturday May 11th we are going to help out at the Park Wood festival (10:00 am – 4:00 pm).  Park Wood is a small, award winning woodland, owned by the Woodland Trust and proudly maintained by volunteers. It is a lovely spot, situated to the west of the A3 road north of Waterlooville. We will be taking people on a foraging walk through the wood, where we will look to spot any fruit or nut trees. Our little walk will begin at 11:00.

Given the time of year, the most likely thing we will be able to collect would be Elderflowers, which can be used to make delicious Cordial or Champagne. We can identify other trees or bushes that are not in season by their leaves, flowers or bark.
We will be accompanied by Eleanor Woodcock and her family. Eleanor is the budding young naturalist who pens the Birding in the Garden blog. So, any lack of seasonable fruit nut trees will be filled in with Eleanor’s bird and wildlife identification and observation skills.
Raspberries, I Believe
It looks to be a very exciting day with oodles of interesting, fun and family-friendly activities.
We went on a quick reccy to familiarise ourselves with the pathways and see what fruit trees we could find.  As far as foraging goes, in Park Wood we found Cherries, Raspberries, Blackberries, Hazel and Elder. According to Eleanor you can eat the red flesh of Yew berries, but bearing in mind that the seeds and leaves are horribly poisonous, these ancient trees are probably best employed as nature’s climbing frames. I think the Bluebells should be out too.
Kids Just Love Trees
My children enjoyed themselves so much that on our return, they were working out possible ways of living permanently in the woods, if perhaps, a massive volcano destroyed all civilisation as we know it...
For more information on Park Wood and the festival contact:
Jackie Buckley
Friends of Park Wood
023 9226 6418

Monday, 15 April 2013

Cherry Blossom and Bluebells

At long last the frozen blast that was the Beast from the East, has abated. The sunshine and showers that we expect in April seem to have returned. Maybe we can finally get around to planting something in the garden and on our allotment.
The air feels distinctly warmer. Yesterday, I even ventured out without a coat; today I saw thee people sporting shorts and several wearing comedy sunglasses!
I have seen cherry buds bursting forth in places and I know that in a very short while, white tentacles of blossom will be reaching for the sky everywhere.
Bluebells are up to a month late in some places this year, due to the snow filled Spring. However, in time, those enchanted woodland havens will gradually cover over with cobalt carpets.
No doubt, the old debate of Spanish Vs English flora will rear its head and traditionalists will bemoan the invading alien Armada. I always think though, that the most important thing is to notice when and where the Bluebells arrive; to marvel at the stunning colours and to simply appreciate the seasonal changes that occur in your locale.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Windy Walks in Wonderful Wales

Someone once said, There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. With this in mind we set off to Pembrokeshire in Wales, for a short Easter break, safe in the knowledge that this was already the coldest March for 60 years and that we would be spending a fair bit of our time outdoors.
As it turned out, we saw what seemed to be the first pale sunshine of the year but the wind was still bitingly cold, with temperatures rarely getting above four degrees and feeling considerably less than zero with the wind factored in.
The landscape was beautiful, the coastline spectacular and all the people we met were very friendly. My favourite spot was Bosherston lakes, where we went for a lovely long walk and tried our hand at otter spotting. At one point we all suddenly stopped dead in our tracks, after hearing a loud squeaking sound coming from the bank... We all heard it once, then after standing quietly for a moment we heard it again… We crept silently, closer to the edge of the lake, our eyes peeled, cameras at the ready… Then we realised that it was a pair of Hawthorn tree branches rubbing together, whenever the wind gusted up!
We all enjoyed the walk, despite the lack of otter photos and when we finally reached the beach, the view was spectacular. A river gently wound its way down to the sea, through wind swept, sea grass filled, sand dunes. As we crested the parapet of the dunes, the inappropriateness of our clothing became apparent; we should have brought full face ski masks... The freezing blast of Arctic wind, bearing stinging sand was simply too much, and we soon turned back to the shelter of the tree lined valleys and beautiful blue lakes.
Fortunately Pembroke is riddled with ruined castles, which gave the kids plenty of room to run around and just enough shelter to give the adults some respite from the bitter weather and a chance to enjoy the sunshine.
The magnificent Castle Carew was my favourite, with its associated tidal mill. I asked our son what he thought they would have used the mill for. He reasoned that the massive, four metre, cast iron and wood paddle wheels, turned by tonnes of cascading water were probably used to power a rotisserie – turning chickens on spikes
Our son also loves to scramble about and he will climb anything that his small hands can get a grip on. He was spoiled for choice with the wealth of costal cliffs and caves. It’s easy to get concerned about this kind of behaviour but he knows, that I never mind when he needs to shout, Daddy, can you help? I think I’m a bit stuck!
It turns out that our daughter is quite fussy about her castles; she thought that Carew was not ruined enough, for her liking, and neither did she like the new windows that had been fitted in some places. She preferred the nearby Bishop’s Palace in Lamphey (properly crumbling, with barely a roof in sight); this reminded her of our favourite local romantic ruin, Netley Abbey. 

We saw acres of Wild Garlic while walking and both children love to nibble on a pungent leaf  - saying, it doesent fill you up but it makes you less hungry. I occasionally wonder if we are feeding them enough...