3oc, a biting east wind and light sleet showers all combined to make for a very bracing circular walk in the Country Park nature reserve this morning. Only a few dog walkers had braved the inclement conditions and for most of the walk from Fairlight through the Firehills to Barn Pond and back I was on my own. It was very difficult to discern any real signs of Spring – no wildflowers at all apart from brilliant yellow gorse on the Firehills and a fine carpet of bluebell leaves thrusting through the leaf litter in the wooded glens. Try as I might I could not spot any of the gorse flower-bud galls (asphondylia ulicis) described recently on the RX Wildlife website and found last year on gorse north of Castle Water hide (www.rxwildlife.info).
One of the most spectacular sights was a cluster of icicles on a recently hewn tree at the edge of Barley Lane, the icicles formed from sap oozing out of the trunk. I still find identification of trees in winter quite difficult despite Dr Owen Johnson’s excellent identification walk a couple of years ago so for the time being this particular tree will remain anonymous. I believe that Ranger Nick Hennessy recently spotted similar icicles on cut sycamore twigs.
The sheep and highland cattle appeared oblivious to the cold, biting wind and one highland cow was seen happily nibbling at a gorse bush. The sheep in the field near the Visitor Centre car park appeared to be making a concerted effort to replicate William Holman Hunt’s famous painting “Our English Coasts” but wouldn’t quite come together artistically enough for my camera.
So, sadly no Easter bunnies on this particular walk but maybe they’re just waiting for the April sunshine!