Tuesday, 1 January 2013

A New Year's Day Walk

Like a number 14 bus, readers wait for weeks for one posting and in an instant, two in one day. No doubt this will be followed by another gap of gargantuan proportions. However today was, after these last few weeks and weeks of rain, a welcome diversion. Clear blue skies, mild, if a little breezy, perfect weather to blow off the cobwebs after the Festive period. Not having a car at the moment places to go for a walk were limited. However looking out of my bedroom window, across the field lies Woodspring Priory. About a mile as the crow flies, about 3 miles on foot. So laden down with a couple of satsumas off I set.
So this blog posting is a record of that walk from my house to Woodspring Priory. And of course I came back too but by then, 2 satsumas lighter, I'd run out of things to photograph. So we'll begin at the estate, leaving the road via one of the pathways.

Within a few minutes I was in the open countryside between Weston super Mare and the Bristol Channel. This area is actually part of the Somerset Levels, specifically the North Somerset Levels and Moors. It is a special place, quite isolated considering Weston is close by and I love it.

In the hedgerows I found ivy still in flower and berry, very important for wildlife at this time of year, and in hedge bottoms Lords and Ladies were already unfurling leaves. This part of Somerset has a unique microclimate, helped by the warming waters of the Bristol Channel. The Temperature can be 2 degrees warmer here than in Bristol 20 miles away. Spring is knocking at Somerset's door.

Another feature of this area are the wide ash hedges. I've not seen this anywhere else in the UK and this hedge must be 10 feet across the rhyne.

Not everything was looking positive in the countryside today. I passed field after field of stunted decaying maize. Maize is a late harvest crop and many fields didn't even get a chance to produce cobs due to the continuous wet weather. It is heartbreaking for a farmer to spend so much time (and money with the price of diesel) sowing a crop only for it to fail because of the rain, made worse this year as they can not even get onto the fields to plough this in. It'll take weeks of dry weather to dry these fields out enough to get machinery on there.

But I carried along in the welcome sunshine along a long and winding country road.

Passing even more flooded fields

Even my favourite wild feeling lane had flooding each side of it and as the photo aptly illustrates, dead and decaying crops.

I had a choice here, walk the wet and muddy bridleway or walk the lane to Woodspring Priory, I chose the latter

A very muddy horse and some happy starlings feeding away

Woodspring Priory area has always been a sheep area and it always makes me feel uplifted seeing these in fields in sunshine.

Eventually making it to the National Trust land, but I kept walking to the Priory for the time being

Not having a car, my need for the car park was limited, so sloshing through the puddles, I arrived at the Priory which standing on a mound, was surrounded by a soggy field.

Being New Years Day the Priory is closed but it is still an impressive building

Looking back from the Priory back the way I'd walked.

A bit of an arty shot below - seems so isolated yet just 10 minutes drive from the centre of Weston super Mare

Retracing my steps I then headed back to the National Trust land of Middle Hope (sounds very Hobbit-ish)

This is a very isolated spot and a cracking site for birdwatchers, or would be if there was access. This is all private land and frustratingly I could see dunlin, redshank and curlew on the mudflats, but there probably would be a lot more species to view with a telescope.

Just to prove I was there - Wessex Reiver's shadow. By now it was 1.30pm so time to head back.

On the way back I spied these which are probably a cultivated variety, but that doesn't matter, it is yet again a sign of how mild this winter has been so far.

A good walk. Happy New Year


  1. Thank you for a wonderful walk Reiver. Wishing you many more in 2013!

  2. That was an interesting and inspiring post. It just shows the many interesting topics that surround us if we take the trouble to look.

  3. Wonderful post Andrew and a lovely walk. Love the eighth photo down of your shadow! Lovely to see the primroses (we have some in flower in our garden). I can't imagine a nicer way to spend New Years Day. I've been reading Wild Hares and Hummingbirds so it was interesting to see photos of what looks like a similar area :)

  4. Thank you all, and a Hapy New Year to you all too. Caroline I was meant to be birding with Mr Moss over Christmas but my duties led me elsewhere. He's such a great chap, always open to help newcomers - he's a few miles south of me