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Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Saturday 25 February 2023

Catkins, and a dogkin walkin

One thing about shoulder and arm pain is that when you're out walking, you can forget about it because it doesn't hurt. It's just the drive to somewhere interesting, when you (and the dog) need a change of scene, that hurts like a bastard. But then I remembered my visit to Winterbourne mediaeval barn last Heritage Open Day, where I learnt about a nearby nature reserve, and as it's only a few minutes from where I live, I decided I could manage a mini-jaunt there. 

Our walk started next to Tesco on the high street, down a narrow walled lane that reminded me of those in Stapleton ...  

... before the first of a series of stone stiles took us into a couple of fields, followed by a lane enclosed with hedges, all with lots of running about opportunities for a happy little collie.

You do have to be careful on this walk to go the right way ...

... but as long as you remember to stick to the stone stiles and kissing gates, you'll be OK.

Then came a long wander down open lanes with catkins. It's a decidedly good year for catkins. 

Eventually we reached St Michael's Church, which had been visible on the skyline for much of our route. I didn't stop to look inside or around the churchyard, or to pop along to the barn, but if I'd had more time, I'd have been tempted.

Beyond the church, the lane leads to Monks' Pool, which is actually a series of four interconnecting ponds. You'd think, with ponds called Monks Pool and a mediaeval barn, that there was once a monastery in the vicinity, but there's no evidence of one and it's not known how the name originated. The ponds themselves would have been used to breed fish as a sustainable food source.

Many years of neglect have made them a 'haven for wildlife'. Not that we saw much - accompanying dog, still winter - but I heard my first drumming woodpecker of the year, and, amongst all the other birdsong, a particularly persistent wren. Oh, and a couple of ducks ...  

... plus an array of fungi.

My fungus identification skills leave a lot to be desired. The red brackets are beefsteak fungi; the yellowy/brown fungi turkeytail ... I think.

I'll inspect this fungrrus so you don't have to stand at the edge

Bradley Brook is believed to be the bourne that gives Winterbourne its name, though both it and the church and barn are at some distance from the present-day village. It's an old friend, being the main watercourse in the just-the-other-side-of-the-M4 Three Brooks Nature Reserve. Here, a couple of miles further east and south as the water flows, it runs alongside the ponds towards its confluence with the River Frome at Hambrook. 

By rejoining the lane and continuing along it a short way, you can re-encounter the brook a little further upstream and walk alongside it through the northernmost part of the reserve. It was a bit slippy in parts because of the mud, which made walking laborious, but a pair of ravens flew overhead, following the brook in the opposite direction and grumbling comfortably to each other, which more than made up for the trying conditions underfoot.

The rest of our route was more or less a matter of retracing our steps, which allowed for a closer appreciation, second time around, of spring's small signposts. Out with the old and in with the new. 

Leaflace; an opening celandine; the lustreware of last year's brambles; dandy lion; field maple buds? (not sure); daffodils, but of the Tête-à-Tête  persuasion rather than natives; a burst of lichen

the secret messages of beetles under bark

a newly-laid hedge

There were lots of other footpaths in the area, down which Cwtch was keen to go exploring, but they'll have to wait till spring proper. This is definitely a walk for all seasons.

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