Lets hear it for September!
What an absolutely stunning weekend it was down her in the West Country. Warm enough and sunny enough for me to slip my string vest off and bronze the torso in the back garden. Reports of mice hurling themselves under plant pots, while hedgehogs scurried through hedges are of course unfounded, though the beaching of a whale in north Dorset remains to be investigated.
I digress, possibly a result of heat stroke and not a little too much cider. This weekend, well to be exact Saturday saw himself and a companion sitting at the breakfast trough, contemplating a day spent either vacuuming the cat, or heading off into the wilds for a walk. My preference was for a spot of vacuuming, (mainly as she hasn't a cat) but that explains why I found myself at the Udder Farm Shop an hour later munching on a beefburger and chips. Sustenance for the task ahead.
Herself in one of those moments when argument is futile said, there are some 600 year old small-leaved lime trees in Duncliffe Wood, I want to go and see them as they are apparently the oldest living thing in Dorset. I was tempted, believe me I was so tempted to point out it is her birthday soon, but self preservation kicked in and as the last morsel of beef disappeared we left the farm shop and I put my boots on.
The first part of the walk is pretty much easy, flat, gravelled and in a straight line. However soon after we were heading up a hill, from the top of which views back to the farm shop and a potential Dorset cream tea could be seen.
And so the walk began in earnest; it's always a good sign to pass decaying agricultural machinery on the way. A muck spreader paints a picturesque and pastoral scene.
Speaking of such things, a fox had done a whoopsie, and not that long ago either!
Which may have explained why the buzzard had come to have a look, closely followed by a smattering of rooks and jackdaws which set up a bit of a rumpus as it flew closer.
Not my greatest photo, it was on x24, so a bit digi-pixellated. Eventually though the gate into the wood hove into view. Above us a party of long-tail tits flitted noisily through the branches, a squirrel scampered up a trunk while a nuthatch cry alerted us to its presence on a trunk not far away. Autumn isn't the best time for birds in woodland, but today it was pretty good.
So much so we'd not gone far along a ride when the distinctive cackle of, as was described to me a duck in an oven, was heard, accompanied by the chack chacky chack of annoyed jackdaws. And there through the tree canopy, a raven cronk cronked it's way past. There may have been two, it was hard to tell, however they circled over the woods for a good 5 minutes before disappearing. Sadly no photo this time.
This day was getting better, sun, warmth and glorious photo opportunities, such as this arty image through a fern frond.
Everywhere though were spiders and associated webs, which I realised are really hard to photograph in sunlight.
And if anyone can positively identify this one below, there'll be points, and what do points mean........ prizes! I've got as far as Araneus spp, but that's about it.
Eventually though the inevitable happened, we got lost. No let me rephrase this, I knew exactly where I was on the map, just not really sure where I was in the wood.
Where were these limes? A decision was made, well actually I had to follow the, 'I'm not hanging around here all day, I'm going this way' statement and so off we went. Until we met a gate at the end of the path. Turning and not being sure what to do next, a woman, daughter and dog (called Ethel - we never found out the woman or girls name) shimmered into view from nowhere and asked 'Are you from around here, do you know where the swings were'
Mishearing the penultimate word, visions of banjo playing locals, Burt Reynolds lobbing arrows all over the place and someone in a local accent asking; do you squeal like a pig boy, came into mind, until with relief I was informed there was a rope swing somewhere near a slope; a major tourist attraction apparently in north Dorset. Well its either that or taking a Frisian cow out for the evening. Mind you at least you'd have something to drink with the latter.
In return I asked if the woman knew where the lime trees were.
We were standing underneath them. Ethel and her companions rapidly left, but not before pointing out we were also being watched by a roe deer on the hill behind us. Must remember to improve my observational skills in the countryside. Anyway here they are, the oldest living thing in Dorset, and a fat bloke in a check shirt. He's the one on the right. Though I have to say I'm glad I hadn't driven 300 miles to see these. Yes quite impressive that these are a 600 year old former pollarded hedge, but they're sort of lost in the rest of the wood. That's my excuse anyway for not seeing them.
Next stop was the viewpoint, not before another arty photo of the shadows of hazel leaves on an ash tree trunk.
And once at the viewpoint, what better to do than sit back, take the weight off one's knees and have a look at the view. Next to us was an apple tree, a reminder that on one such summers day, someone possibly out for a walk and carrying a picnic, sat where I was admiring the view, munched through a cox's apple, chucked it over into the field and low and behold an apple tree was born. It was laden with fruit, but most looked a bit scummy, so we resisted.
Up here there were a fair few butterflies, large white and tortoiseshell but by far the commonest species was speckled wood.
And so we started our journey back to the car. Where the following species of note were seen.
Both foxglove (it must be spring) and honeysuckle were in flower
Glistening inkcaps on some rotten wood.
A devils coach horse, one of the many rove beetles was in angry mood with me, though sadly couldn't get it to stick its bottom up the same time as I could take a photo.
But I did manage to get a relative of its, Staphylinus caesareus to give a bit of a display, though as a hiding place this twig leaves a bit to be desired.
Greater burdock was a nice find in flower
And of course at this time of year, blackberries; or more correctly aggegational drupes.
And some more views of the woods. I particularly liked this remnant of a lain hedge, thinking again that sometime in the past someone had lain this ash sapling horizontal to make a stock proof hedge, and now 30-40 years later it remains as a grotesque, though beautiful reminder of the hedge layers skill; its still alive after all.
and the one below just because I liked the juxtaposition of light and dark
Near where the car was parked, were masses and masses of buckthorn berries in the hedgerow.
And I have to say, it was a smashing 3 hours spent wandering though a cool woodland on a warm September day. I nearly forgot to mention the green woodpecker which cackled between trees as we left the wood. A fitting end to the walk.
But not quite. The excitement may have been over but in the hunt for the lime, there is of course only one drink worth having, bring me the lime, bring me the soda.
Or in this case an ice cream soda. Could there ever be a better end to a September day, a dollop of ice cream, a dash of raspberry cordial, top up with lemonade, then sit back and dream of ravens overhead while dozing in the sun. A grand day out indeed.