The third week of April continued the theme of cold nights and dry sunny days. There are plenty of spring blooms out in the garden to attract the bees and butterflies. I believe this is a Holly Blue butterfly, now more common than the Common Blue.The hairy footed flower bees are still out and about. This female was on the flowering currant.
While the male was enjoying the aubretia.The dwarf tulips in the planter by the hedgehog feeder survived the frost.The Spanish bluebells are starting to flower.
The trees and shrubs are ringing out with the sounds of various birds. While on the fatball feeder this great tit was looking at the world from a new perspective.
The lilac flowers are nearly fully blooming, do you think they will be out before the end of April? Tune in next week to find out!
Well, you have been ever so good! So as promised at the end of Wye Walk – Part Two, I shall take you for a short stroll up river.
This part of the river is by the hamlet of Breinton, this is from the old English, Bruntone, meaning “village near a flowing stream”. There is a spring here, hence the name Breinton Springs. You can walk here from the footpath by the Old Bridge mentioned in the previous post, or you can drive and park in the National Trust car park. This is situated next to St Michael’s Church, originally built in the 13th century, but restored in the 19th century. The undulating orchard next to it is thought to be the site of a buried medieval village.
The spring itself is a little underwhelming, having been buried under a landslip, but the views across the river of the apple orchards in spring are uplifting. The scent of apple blossom wafts in the gentle breeze as the swans gracefully glide down the river.
This being Hereford, it is not long before you find yourself in a field of cattle languidly chewing the cud, staring back at you, full of curiosity amongst the buttercups.
The rather grand house in the distance is Belmont House. This is a 1790 grade II listed building, the former residence of Francis Wegg-Prosser. He is also responsible for the building of Belmont Abbey to house Benedictine monks in 1859. In recent years it has been a hotel and golf lodge, although I believe that it now lies empty.
Walking away from the river we come to Breinton Wood. This is a small strip of ancient woodland, full of bluebells at this time of the year.
As well as summing up all that Hereford is famous for; cattle and cider apples, Breinton has long been an important area for botanists. It is rich in wildlife from bats to badgers and swimming moles to great crested newts. The less shy animals on display are these horses in the orchard next to the church, I presume they are moved once the apples fruit! These old apple trees also have some interesting lichen growing on their branches.
April is the month when our deciduous woodland starts to really get green and leafy. The spring flowers burst forth in an eruption of colour before the woodland canopy blocks their sunlight. The woods are alive with the singing of birds and the buzzing of insects. The most obvious sign that you are in an ancient woodland in April is the carpet of blue bluebells, their drooping blooms nodding in the breeze. The English bluebells are unlike the Spanish or hybrid versions many of us have in our gardens. The English bluebell has all of its blooms on one side of the flower stem, causing the distinctive droop, the flowers are of a deeper blue and the pollen is creamy-white. The first image on the left is an English bluebell, whereas the image on the right is a Spanish bluebell.
Another blue flower that is starting to appear at this time is the Bugle, Ajuga reptans. This forms a blanket of slightly furry, green-with-purple bits leaves, and spikes of purple blue flowers. It is an important nectar plant for moths, butterflies, bumblebees and common carder bees. It is also known as “carpenter’s herb” due to its ability to slow bleeding, which it seems to do by lowering the pulse rate. Nicholas Culpeper, 17th century herbalist, had this to say about it, “An ointment made with the leaves of bugle … bruised and boiled in hog’s grease … is so singularly good for all sorts of hurts in the body, that none that know its usefulness will be without it.” Less beneficial to the poor hog though. Yet another blue flower popping up amongst the greenery is the confusingly named green alkanet, Pentaglottis sempervirens. It is named for its leaves rather than flowers as sempervirens is Latin for evergreen. It is not a native British wildflower, but was imported from mainland Europe to be used in the making of red dye from its roots. The nectar is popular with bumblebees. Up on the grazing area of Credenhill Wood, out of the trees you get to see the sky properly. Being April, the skies are often interesting and moody. The breeze scuds the clouds along so you can never tell whether they will pause a while and rain on you.
John Gerrard Keulemans [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Another interesting sight on the grazing area at this time of year is the courtship of the meadow pipit. The male birds will suddenly shoot upwards from the grass then flutter down, it is known as “parachuting”. Meadow pipits are small, brown, ground nesting birds. They eat mostly insects and grass seeds and have a distinctive piping song. As we head back down to the car park we can see that the farmer’s crop of oilseed rape is flowering. This distinctive yellow flowered plant is a member of the cabbage family. It is the third largest source of vegetable oil in the world. Used as a lubricant for steam engines in the 19th century it is now mostly used for animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption and bio-diesel. It has been linked to an increase in allergies and asthma. It does look mighty fine against a moody sky with the sun shining on it though.
I hope you enjoyed our bimble through the April woodland. See you next month.