Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Secrets of Preston: Conway Park

A riverside walk
Conway Park
The entrance – and exit – to Conway Park

Preston is full of surprises. In a previous post, I’ve told of my Highgate Wood mini adventure. A woodland I had walked past many a time and never once got round to venturing in until this year. At least I had heard of that particular beautiful spot but Conway Park was a place I had never even heard of. And when I did hear the name, for some reason I got it into my head that it was an area of open space, maybe a park for children to play, a grassy field with play equipment to one side. And that would be it. Fun for children, respite for parents but not of particular interest for walkers and explorers of secret nature havens and mini beauty spots.

Work being done on The Village Parklands

But one day, meeting up with a friend for a local walk, she told me about a map given to her by someone she knew. On it was our local area and mapped out was a walk. Conway Park was mentioned.

‘It looks like our normal local walk ‘, my friend said. And it did. But we set off anyway, following the map. Everything looked familiar until…

‘I think we go right here,’ Caroline said.

And that was when our usual suburban trek turned into more of a mystery trail. For there at the end of that cul-de-sac of houses was a signpost and, behind it, a park.

Conway Park

The sign said Conway Park. There was a path to the right and one to the left. We turned left and followed the woodland trail past a sports pitch with a pavilion, and then along a river.

A riverside wander

We came across a sign for a new 80-acre nature reserve/public open space, The Village Parklands, being created. I love it when I see natural spaces being protected or created instead of being destroyed.

The Village Parklands

We continued our walk along the river and finally ended up along a narrow wooded path, ending up at a different part of our usual walk! We had wandered past the public footpath many a time, never realising the secret behind it. As a child, I had a thing about secret passageways, and here was one I was discovering as an adult!

A secret passage …
The Friends of Conway Park, formed in 2015, is made up of members who work for the benefit of the park. The park itself is owned by Preston City Council. Currently the Friends has a crowdfunding campaign  (50K by May fundraising campaign) to improve the children's playground, create a dry standing area for watching football, and a new path along the length of the park. The park will eventually join up with the new Village Parkland.
Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Secrets of Preston: Clough Copse

Clough Copse

I ventured out on another local walk recently, this time to a little patch of broadleaved woodland owned and maintained by The Woodland Trust. It’s called Clough Copse, a 3.95 acre site that is popular with dog walkers and joggers. Located in Fulwood, Preston, it sits amid steep valleys and is surrounded by a large supermarket and housing – yet when I’ve been there it feels as if urban and suburban life is many, many miles away.

According to the Trust, trees include oak, ash, sycamore, holly, beech, elder, hazel and cherry. It was the start of March when I visited so I didn’t notice any flowers but I’ve heard bluebells, dog’s mercury, and red campion can be seen here. The little stream flows towards Savick Brook, which can be seen in Highgate Wood, which I wrote about recently.

These little refuges are fantastic for wildlife, for flora and fauna, but they’re also vital for us humans to reconnect with nature and recharge our batteries.

Clough Copse
Clough Copse
Posted in Nature, Travel, places to visit, mini-adventures, Walks

Secrets of Preston: Highgate Wood

Highgate Wood

For many of us, lockdowns and travel restrictions have made us more aware of our immediate surroundings. Whereas in the past, going for a walk in the Lake District or Yorkshire Dales might be a common enough event for someone living in the north of England, at the moment there are restrictions and with it the fear of possibly being stopped by police for a ‘non-essential journey’.

So it’s been a time to stay local and this is when I realise that a city like Preston has a lot of little natural beauty spots, well hidden from the rest of the world. Today I visited Highgate Wood in the suburbs of Preston. Its entrance is on one of the main roads (Garstang Road) into Preston. Why I have walked past it on various occasions but never thought to pay a visit I do not know. But I’m here now. It’s not a large wood but it’s a very pleasant place to stroll, with Savick Brook flowing in the middle, paths either side and benches dotted around.

The woodland is located in Highgate Park, also the name of an old residence built in 1876 which was once situated here. A group of residents called The Friends of Highgate Wood look after the woodland.

Savick Brook, Highgate Wood
Highgate Wood
The entrance to Highgate Wood
Posted in Environment, Nature

A Medley of Trees

Photo by Alexander Kovalyov on Pexels.com

All my life I have wanted to learn the types of trees, to be able to identify them by their bark, their trunks, their leaves, their buds, their branches… To know their myths, history, ecology and more… I start off every new year with this unofficial resolution to learn my trees in the same way once, many years ago, I learnt my times tables.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But winter never seems a great time to learn once the trees have lost their leaves. Then by spring and summer, this resolution has fallen – like so many – by the wayside. And when it gets to winter again, and I embark on a frosty walk in the local woodland, once more I think “wouldn’t it be nice to be able to tell the difference between that tree and this tree?”

I love these majestic giants but how little do I know them!

So I will use this blog to act as an occasional tree journal to help jog my memory when it comes to learning about trees.

Posted in Environment, Nature

Rewild Yourself – a book of ‘nature spells’

Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes

When I was a child I read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and, for a while after, I was convinced that one day, just one day, I may just pop into a magic wardrobe in MFI, or some other furniture store, and enter a magical world. (The wardrobes at home were disappointing to say the least). Unfortunately I never found this elusive wardrobe, or indeed Narnia. (I never found a way to visit the Care Bears’ Care-a-Lot either, childhood is full of disappointments!)

But a different sort of ‘magic’ truly exists, one that inspires us, thrills us, motivates us, makes us feel happy… Sometimes some of its ‘magical creatures’ may appear to be invisible as unicorns and when we eventually glimpse one of these ‘fantastic beasts’, it feels like a magical experience. So what is this wonder that heals our spirits and minds, that makes us smile?

It’s nature.

Recently, I bought a copy of Rewild Yourself by Simon Barnes. Using the allegory of magic and the inspiration of fantasy stories, Simon Barnes explains in 23 chapters (or ‘spells’) how to make nature more visible. It’s a brilliant, easy to read, accessible book that would be perfect for those just getting into nature and inspiring for the well-established nature lovers. Each chapter feels magical – ‘We can make a magical transition from one kind of place to a completely different kind of place and do so, if not instantaneously, then certainly within astonishingly few minutes’.

And then there’s ‘so you can enter another country – the wild country – not through a wardrobe but by means of a Magic Tree. Enter, then, with joy. And after that, you can turn your mind to another spell’.

Tips on how to enter a new world…

Yet along with this magical feel, thanks to Simon Barnes’ eloquent prose, each chapter has a handy practical – and often simple – hint to attract or discover wildlife. Do you have a pair of ‘magic trousers’ or have a ‘magic tree ‘ that attracts butterflies into the garden?

So while as an adult I know there’s little chance of finding a wondrous world at the back of my wardrobe, my garden on the other hand ….

Posted in Environment, Gardens, Nature

Creating a Wildlife Pond

The new pond

Last autumn, Simon dug a pond in the newly cleared decking area of the garden.

The old pond, a large black container which was placed in the hens’ garden, had been dug out a few months prior. It was too deep, in an area which was sheltered with overhanging trees, hard to access or even see because of surrounding shrubs, and, perhaps worse of all, the chickens kept insisting on drinking from it!

The water had turned stagnant and smelt dreadful and I do not know what happened to the pond plants I had put in there a few years ago. The cobbles I had once delicately placed around had gradually slipped in over the last two years and there were no life forms living in or around this hostile environment.

So we took the large tub out, dug compost over the hole and relocated the pond – this time using a small (albeit heavy) sink. Duckweed and water plantain were planted in the pond and cobbles decorated the edges. It was all set and ready for wildlife to visit. In fact, a mere five minutes or so after completion, a little robin arrived and perched at the side of the pond as if giving his approval.

The old pond in the chickens’ garden, guarded by Florence

Pond Facts

1. Wildlife loves ponds, whether it’s as a habitat or watering hole. In fact, I’ve heard that one of the best things you can do for wildlife in your garden is to dig a pond. For example, frogs are dependent on garden ponds as they need water to breed.

2. My first pond was in an awkward place, not helped by overhanging trees. Christine and Michael Lavelle suggest trying ‘to avoid a site that is shared by trees because they will not only cut out light, but their leaves will drop into the water, enriching it with mineral nutrients.’ This attracts algae in the warmer months.

3. There are three types of plants for ponds – oxygenator (for oxygen), deep-water aquatics (shades water from too much sunlight), and marginal/emergent plants (offers shade and cover for animals at the edge of pond. They are also used by dragonflies and nymphs to ‘crawl out’ and pupate).

Information taken from The Illustrated Practical Guide to Wildlife Gardening by Christine and Michael Lavelle.