Through to mid-morning it was still cool enough to wear our fleece jackets; by lunchtime the temperature had risen to sixteen or seventeen degrees. This year, that counts as hot. We had a few small jobs to get done, but this was the day to return to our summer job of collecting wildlife data around Gibside Estate. What we see, we note. We transfer our notes to a spreadsheet which we add into the Rangers’ data, and all that gets fed into the National Trust databank. It’s a useful task we’re told, but, in truth, we do it because we like to.
Other members of the Wednesday Conservation Team have their various summer occupations – cutting grass, maintaining path drainage, working in the walled garden, and such. Some just stay away, to reappear in October. We count flowers and live in hope of spotting a grass snake.
Today we had a newly recruited volunteer to the Wednesday Team with us. Since it will be the best part of six months before the whole team reassembles, he will have to find his summer niche. For now, he joined us on a tour of some of the grass snake sites where we did some maintenance on a few, and shifted one entirely down a steep bank and across a stream to be more in the vicinity of the Ladyhaugh ponds. Grass snakes like water.
In a few weeks, Ladyhaugh will coloured with meadow flowers. Today we noted a few. Cowslips dominate, along with the odd patch of primrose and a scattering of lesser celandine and dandelion. The margins of the meadow are less showy, but display more variety with a few bluebells, greater stitchwort, garlic mustard, wood anemone, and daisies of course. At the rough, north end we sought out butterbur - now fading beside the river, and found a patch of ground ivy that we had not noted in previous years. An orange tipped butterfly fluttered by; a welcome start to a new season.
|Trees coming into leaf, West Woods|
|Old Carriageway West Woods|
Steve Wootten & Phil Coyne