Home   What's On   Article

Enjoy a six-mile round walk from Bat Willow Hurst Country Park to the cemetery via Bishop's Stortford town centre



More news, no ads

LEARN MORE


The Indie's Nature Notes columnist Jono Forgham with his fortnightly look at the natural world in and around Bishop's Stortford...

The week beginning Monday October 11 was a very busy time for me, giving four presentations for the U3A (University of the Third Age) and RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) in three days along with my Mayor's Charity Event at South Mill Arts the previous Friday (Oct 8).

This was a pleasing success and thank you to all who attended, I hope you enjoyed the evening. In total, £3,000 was raised for two charities: Isabel Hospice and MindGarden. Wonderful amount, so thank you to all for your wonderful support.

Starling at Bat Willow Hurst Country Park
Starling at Bat Willow Hurst Country Park

Consequently, the only time I could get out for a walk was early on the Wednesday (Oct 13), so I was to be found at Bat Willow Hurst Country Park at around 7.30am. The light was poor as I set off for a town wander.

Robins in silhouette sang from the saplings and bramble before I crossed over into Grange Paddocks Meadow. Here, starlings flew in decent-sized flocks, there were wood pigeons everywhere and plenty of dogs and their owners.

Over Cannons Mill Lane, whereupon I followed the meanders of the River Stort towards Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre and then on to Rye Street. Starlings and collared doves roosted upon television aerials as the light improved for some photos.

Reflective River Stort Navigation (52289481)
Reflective River Stort Navigation (52289481)

A large flock of feral pigeons at Northgate End and another flock on the roof of the United Reformed Church hall as I crossed Waitrose car park. In the ash tree at the entrance to the car park, great tits and blue tits sang whilst a goldfinch flew from a whitebeam tree.

I headed along North Street and a carrion crow called unseen behind the Oxfam shop, but my hopes of a coffee at the Indie office were dashed as no one had arrived for work! I muttered things under my breath as I headed along South Street.

Four pied wagtails flew onto the roof of Costa before I perched myself at a table on the pavement at Rindio café and enjoyed a coffee. Here, I watched a pair of black-headed gulls fly over, along with more pied wagtails and pigeons.

Also, I observed a buddleia bush clutching perilously to the roof of a building near WHSmith.

Buddleia on roof in South Street (52289530)
Buddleia on roof in South Street (52289530)

It appeared to be "National Carry a Cup of Coffee to Work Day" as folk scuttled past as the first blue sky appeared and the temperature increased.

Having settled the bill, I continued up Newtown Road, where another flock of starlings watched from a TV aerial, this time accompanied by several house sparrows. A blackbird and yet another wood pigeon sat upon ridge tiles here too.

I gained access to the cemetery, where a sparrowhawk flashed by, not to be seen again, and a jay flew in front of me into one of the many huge conifers. But, apart from plenty of grey squirrels, there was little to note, so down Thorley Hill I headed.

Grey squirrel at the cemetery (52289483)
Grey squirrel at the cemetery (52289483)

Here, house sparrows argued in a hedge as jackdaws clacked from another conifer and a large party of mixed gulls headed west. Mainly herring gulls, but I also noted at least one common gull. I checked the Havers Lane bowls club but nothing present, so over the Stort and along the towpath towards town.

A family party of moorhens preened themselves on a lawn whilst a fleet of mallards patrolled the centre of the river and a wren called loudly from dense vegetation.

Unseasonal primula in full flower
Unseasonal primula in full flower

I was particularly surprised to note a single primula in full flower. We had the warmest September on record and October has continued this trend, so maybe the plant has been tricked by the warmth into thinking it is spring!

I had planned my walk so that all the way back to Bat Willow Hurst Country Park I would have the sun behind me to aid photography and this worked out well as, by now, the sky was cloudless and the sun bright.

Juvenile moorhen sitting in a berry bush near the Station Road bridge
Juvenile moorhen sitting in a berry bush near the Station Road bridge

Not long before the Station Road bridge a juvenile moorhen was sitting in a berry bush. I wandered onto the bridge and into 'Spoons for another coffee. Following this, I checked the river by Skew and then headed into Castle Gardens.

A mistle thrush was perched right at the top of a conifer, a song thrush probed for worms, and robins, wrens and a goldfinch all sang from the alders that are found on the riverbank. All very peaceful and relaxing.

Grey wagtail near Grange Paddocks (52289473)
Grey wagtail near Grange Paddocks (52289473)

On to the towpath where, just before the weir, I caught sight of the resident grey wagtail feeding on a gravel bank. I had to adjust the camera settings as she was in the darkest area possible.

Several folk stopped for a chat before I was back onto Grange Paddocks, where it was evident that there was plenty more bird activity than previously. Finches and linnets overhead, black-headed gulls on the football field and a large party of long-tailed tits flitted along the riverbank. Lovely to watch.

Before long I was back at Bat Willow Hurst, but not before first hearing and then spotting a kestrel right at the top of a distant tree near Rye Street. A common buzzard mewed from on high, unseen as I crossed into the country park.

Spindle seeds at Bat Willow Hurst Country Park
Spindle seeds at Bat Willow Hurst Country Park

I took the path all the way around where spindle seeds were dripping from the trees. These are an amazing colour, the shell being bright pink whilst the small nut inside is a vibrant orange. These colours mixed with the red and yellow shades of the dogwood leaves nearby.

I completed the circuit and headed towards the dragonfly pond to see what species were still about. Just common darters, but in good numbers. These will be on the wing until the first frosts finish them off.

Common darter dragonfly at Bat Willow Hurst
Common darter dragonfly at Bat Willow Hurst

I tried for a few flight shots, but, by now, clouds had rolled over and the light was anything but perfect. I fired off a few whilst also managing to get a few of the dragonflies resting on warm stones on the ground.

By the time I returned to the car I had covered over six miles and noted a good selection of bird species, but very few insects. The main one being Colletes hederae, the ivy bee, not surprisingly, feeding on the tiny yellow flowers. This is an insect that was only fully identified and became new to science in 1993. Beforehand it had been thought to be a subspecies of another Colletes bee. DNA analysis sorted it out as an independent species in its own right.

Once back at the car, I headed home for a wash and brush-up and then set off for another RSPB presentation in Godstone, Surrey, having been in Croydon two days previously.

* There is an event for the whole family on Saturday October 30 at St Giles' Church in Great Hallingbury as it holds an Alternative Hallowe'en evening. Beginning around 7pm, there will be a sweet hunt for children before I give a brief talk on moths and the wildlife of the churchyard. Then a chap will give a brief bat talk before we all go out to see if we can find any bats and moths. Refreshments will be available in the church. Tickets are £10 for adults; free for children. Tickets may be booked through Russell Robinson by emailing russellarobinson@icloud.com or texting 07756 142890.

Promises to be a fun evening with the proceeds going towards development of a wildlife area in the churchyard, a project I have been involved in for a few years by carrying out insect and bird surveys. Well worth supporting so please do come along and say hello.

Long-tailed tit at Grange Paddocks (52289477)
Long-tailed tit at Grange Paddocks (52289477)
Moorhen family along the Stort near Millars (52289479)
Moorhen family along the Stort near Millars (52289479)
Starlings and house sparrows on an aerial in Newtown Road (52289492)
Starlings and house sparrows on an aerial in Newtown Road (52289492)
Wood pigeon in Apton Road (52289513)
Wood pigeon in Apton Road (52289513)


This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More