Riverside Walk in December
The mild weather this month has made for great walking. Good boots, preferably proper walking wellies are essential as the ground almost everywhere is soggy and muddy at this time of year. An easy flat walk, there and back along the River Lodden was a relaxing way to end the December after all the festivities.
Sandford Lane to Whistley Mill
Taking the footpath from the layby about three quarters along Sandford Lane – on the right-hand side (when entering from Davis Street). I was hopeful about seeing some wildflowers, but this was not a great place for them. Nevertheless, this walk provides lots of interesting things to see.
The first thing I noticed were these dark, reddish catkins. Less common than the frequently seen, golden catkins in this area, I checked their type when I returned home https://www.countryfile.com/wildlife/trees-plants/how-to-identify-catkins/ and found that they are Alder catkins ‘Longer, more knobbly and darker than hazel, these are the first catkins to shed pollen in spring. They’re carried on the tips of twigs, often alongside clusters of tiny red-tipped female flowers.’ The Alder is a lovely native British tree. https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/alder/
Not far along the muddy path, a green metal bridge can be seen and on the right-hand side just before is an old wooden sign, informing visitors of a conservation area, which is fenced off with wire to keep the public out. Not much further along and a bird hide entrance is signposted but locked, only accessible for permit holders. But it becomes clear that is a nature reserve for waterfowl. Cormorant and other birds can be seen from the path, through the bare twigs of the winter hedge that follows the edge of Lavell’s lake. Further along and more signage reminds visitors about the private nature of the reserve.
Continuing along the well-marked path alongside the River Lodden, plenty of crack willow trees can be seen. Mallard duck and Tufted ducks are also enjoying the river and on the other side, flocks of Canadian geese can be seen in the fields and further along more plentiful flocks can be found- this time they are grazing sheep.
Continue past the disused iron bridge on the left and keep your eyes on the ground to see some good examples of bracket fungus, growing on the dead, damp wood. The familiar golden catkins of hazel are also growing along this stretch and the river swirls gently downstream.
Finally, reaching the road at Whistley Mill, Lane in Hurst. This stretch and the lake at Whistley Mill are both very popular with anglers who boast of catching carp, bream, rudd, and roach. https://www.rdaa.co.uk/lakes
Turn around to retrace your steps along the path, to the layby at Sandford Lane.
This pleasant walk will take about an hour and a half at a very gentle pace. If you want to extend it, then cross the road to find yourself at the edge of Dinton Pastures Country Park where you can walk around Sandford Lake, White Swan Lake and Black Swan Lake. There is also an activity centre and a coffee shop on this site.
Happy Wildflower hunting in December and January.
Kim Mackenzy Andrews is a children’s book author, nature writer, photographer, and artist.
Find her Nature books for children on Amazon.
Wildlife articles for nature lovers: – patch reporting for the BBC Wildlife magazine.
Kim Mackenzy Andrews Children’s Author
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