A fantastic walk through my favourite, abundant woodland this afternoon. At Pondhead Conservation Volunteers the wildlife prove how well this woodland is managed by making it their home.
Passing through the gate into this inclosure the change is obvious right away. With no grazing stock, the young shoots are allowed to show their full potential in this coppice and ungrazed rides with little sign of heavy machinery allows the wildflower to thrive between the neatly stacked wood piles. On a warmer day than today, these rides are a buzz of pollinators and a flutter of butterflies including rare species. Instead today my sightings were of mammals and birds. Within a few feet of entering the gate I saw 2 bank voles dashing through the foliage and a song thrush welcomed me with a beautiful tune. Heading along a ride I was admiring the impressive hornbeam trees when a roe deer bounced across the path ahead. Turning from an open, sunny ride into ancient woodland which is carpeted with English bluebells just waiting for the right time to bloom with wood anemone shining white between the imminently purple bells. I was distracted by a rustling coming from the tangled bramble ground cover, it caught my attention as it was definitely not the sound of scampering squirrels so I stopped for a moment keeping still and quiet to see a Vixen tail negotiating the thorns, as she past there was more rustling. A little quicker and tumbling this time so staying put I watched for movement in the cover to make out 4 very small fox cubs bundling and following Mum. It made my day!!
I moved away not to create any disturbance and sat on a nearby bench to enjoy a coffee from my flask where I could hear a lesser spotted woodpecker. I could hear it very closeby but just couldn't see it when I was packing my flask away, there it was! It didn't hang around for long before it was off to the next tree. As I continued through the woods I admired nesting great tits and blackbirds, courting magpies exchanging gifts and a shrew dashing through the dried leaves. Heading along a lesser known path I was listening to the birds and thinking that this walk couldn't get better when I spotted a tawny owl sat in a tree. Amazing how such a large, bulky bird can go virtually unnoticed tucked closely against the tree trunk for a snooze, then for my final delight I spotted a female black cap collecting nesting material just before heading out of the gate to the short grazed grassland and heath of Boltons bench where ponies and donkeys roam amongst the family activities while people are out enjoying the afternoon sun. You are never alone walking at Pondhead with its abundant wildlife, passionate workers and volunteers who are always happy to stop and chat and also the carved sculptures bringing the trees alive!