Friday, 31 May 2013


Once again, our weather seems to be flick-flacking between Winter and Summer every few days.  This morning, following the cold, wet and windy last few days, we woke to sunshine and rapidly rising temperatures.  So, we set out for a longer walk around Shipley Park, towards Osborne's Pond and Shipley Hill.
I have mentioned the Rhododendrons on the hill quite a lot lately, but I couldn't resist the chance to grab another couple of pictures of them as we passed the Nottingham Lodge.  The scent from these flowers was simply sublime.
Close to this particular large-flowered beauty, a deep red variety shone from the darker undergrowth with a richness of colour which almost defies belief.
High above these gorgeous shrubs, a few very late flowering cherry trees are still showing colour, particularly when the sun shines through the leaves and petals, forming a wonderful, floral ceiling above us.
As we turned homeward, my eye was caught by the brilliant blue of a patch of Bugle flowers (Ajuga reptans).  The Bugle flower is a particular favourite of the Fritillary butterflies, but we didn't see any of those this morning - sadly!  But, just look at the blue of these little flowers.  Surely they can stand up to any of the most exotic flowers we know of, despite their diminutive size.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013


Good to be able to get out and about again this morning, but the wind was still blowing and quite chilly for the time of year - but at least it was dry.
As we were looking at a female Mallard with her retinue of ducklings on the lake of Manor Flood, Malcolm spotted a particularly nasty-looking creature squiggling through the grass at his feet.  It turned out to be a Leech.  More specifically, in this case I think it is a Horse Leech (Haemopis sanguisuga).
Identified by its dark greenish skin colour, it actually has no connection to Horses at all.  Indeed, it probably cant bite through mammalian skin at all.  Common around still water in Britain, they reach a frighteningly large size - up to 15cm long and feed mainly on things like snails, earthworms insect larvae, etc.  So, despite the fearsome appearance of this nightmarish creature, it was no threat to us, just a little 'yucky' to look at!
I hardly need to mention, Malcolm was not impressed...!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Wet - again!

In Britain, over the past few years, one would be forgiven for thinking that the seasons have become muddled in some way.  We have had unusually warm Christmases, freezing cold Springs and wet and windy Summers - sometimes it seems that we have had all four seasons in one day!  So, it should come as no surprise that, following a warm and sunny weekend, we should find ourselves wet a shivering again this morning as the rain falls and temperature drops.
Therefore, as we sit at home, unable to get out for a walk, here are some more pictures taken over the last few days.
Growing along part of the Nutbrook Trail, close to home, there are a few patches of rather delicate-looking, white flowers.  Scrabbling among the grasses and lower shrubs, the Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) is a member of the family which includes Pinks or Carnations.  It has five petals, each split in two to about half of their length.  The ray-like ridges of these petals make a perfect landing platform for pollinating insects to land on and to be drawn to the pale yellow stamens and stigma within the centre of the flower.
Walking around Shipley Lake the other day, we were attracted to the view from the footpath along one of the small, overflow lakes.  Looking through the trees towards the reed bed at the far end, reflections in the calm waters added to the scene.  Often, this scene is disrupted by squabbling Coots, but not on this occasion - all was peace!
I have mentioned before that the trees are very late this year in opening their leaves and flowers.  One Tree which should have opened its flowers several weeks ago, but is only now doing so, is the Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus).  Until a few days ago, I had never taken the time to look closely at these tiny flowers, but as I found one branch growing over our path at a height which enabled such close inspection, I was glad I did.  This is not a native of the British Isles, but was introduced because of its ability to tolerate pollution, salt spray and other problematic conditions.  It was widely grown as a wind-break and has become a very common sight in this country.  For such a large tree, I was struck by the delicate nature of the flowers, particularly the recurved stigma standing proud of the centre of each flower.  Beautiful!

Sunday, 26 May 2013


Amazingly, this morning dawned bright and sunny again, so despite the ill-mannered cyclists who think it's their inalienable right to force everyone else off the footpaths, we set out for a walk along the Nutbrook canal to Straw's Bridge.  The Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) are still looking cheerful and are now starting to set seed, their delightful 'clocks' looking like tiny fireworks exploding along the pathways.
Returning via Peewit Carr, we were pleased to see the Bluebells still flowering under the Willows.  These particular Bluebells are all rather different to the usual Hyacinthoides non-scripta, we are used to seeing.  I wonder why all the Bluebells in these parts are white...!
Among the many flowers which are enjoying the all-too-rare sunshine, are the Buttercups.  The grasslands are full of two main species, the Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris).
Both have those gloriously glowing, golden yellow flowers, but the Creeping Buttercups, as the name implies, creep along the ground at just a few inches tall, while the Meadow variety, stand tall and proud above the rest.  What a wonderful, bright display they make.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Only a Rose.

At last, after a couple of days where we have been shivering and hiding from the dreadful weather, we managed to get a good walk around Shipley Park this morning.  The sun was shining and the birds were singing and despite the fact that the breeze was still rather cool when we got out of the sun, it was a delightful morning.
Around the old over-spill car parks close to Shipley Lake, shrub roses are beginning to open their pale yellow flowers.
Another member of the Rose family is also beginning to bloom now.  With rather smaller flowers and many more of them, the Hawthorn trees make a wonderful display and produce a glorious scent in the air.
It's not just us who appreciate this floral extravagance.  This small Hover Fly was evidently enjoying the the blossom as well as the sunshine too.
From the bank surrounding this wildlife haven, you get a good overview of Shipley Hill and the lovely colours of the trees there as they open their new leaves.  Time to head that way I think.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Yesterday's walk to Osborne's Pond was as productive as usual.  The ducks and geese were fighting for the few scraps of bread still laying around after a bread-bag-induced feeding frenzy. The 'pond' itself was looking delightful.
I couldn't resist taking more photos of the spectacular Rhododendrons on Shipley Hill.  This one was not only gorgeous to look at, but unusually, had a sweet scent too.
We had intended to have a look at the Azaleas and Rhododendrons on the sight of the old hall, but just as we got there, a large and extremely noisy bunch of school kids arrived with a couple of 'teachers' (actually, a couple of air-heads, barely any older and certainly no more intelligent than the kids they were supposed to be in charge of), so we avoided that like the plague!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


Another dull, dreary and distinctly overcast day today.  But despite that, Malcolm and I did manage to get out for a longer walk around Shipley Park, which took us up the hill and round Osborne's Pond before returning round Shipley Lake.
As we walked around the lake, we were delighted to see that the Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) has begun to flower and its feathery foliage is looking bright and fresh despite the dull weather.
Very common in Britain, this rather lowly member of the Geranium family is nonetheless a beautiful addition to the spring hedgerows and byways.  The foliage is said to repel mosquitoes if crushed and rubbed on the body, but as it is supposed to smell of burning rubber, perhaps the mosquitoes would be preferable.
Among the trees of Shipley Hill, the Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) is also in flower now and the scent from these frothy, white flowers is as indicative of a British Springtime as any I know of.  A member of that large family, the Carrots, this is also believed to repel mosquitoes in the same way as the Herb Robert.  But (there's always a 'but') you have to be careful not confuse it with some of its poisonous relatives, who's sap can cause burning and severe irritation of the skin.  So, probably best to avoid this one too!
Lastly for today, our eye was caught by the trees above the Cow Parsley.  Here, a couple of Horse Chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) have opened their candelabra-like flowers and they make a wonderful show.  In recent years, the Horse Chestnuts of Britain have been ravaged by the destructive little Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner (Cameraria ohridella), which is the larval form of a tiny moth.  The caterpillar of this moth, lives and feeds in between the top and bottom surfaces of the tree's leaf and 'mines' the green, fleshy parts of the leaf, leaving behind large areas of brown tunnels all over the leaves and an unsightly mess.  But for now, just enjoy the beautiful flowers of this imposing tree.

Saturday, 18 May 2013


With our weather remaining dull, cold and very dreary, I thought we would try to brighten things a little with some floral colour from Shipley Park.  The Rhododendrons are of course the most colourful of the lot.
Almost every colour from the purest white, through soft pinks and yellows, to the darkest reds and magenta, these wonderfully showy bushes are always good value, even when the weather is being unkind to them.
From a distance, they make a lovely show, but looking closely, their individual blooms do not disappoint either.
We shouldn't neglect the more lowly plants.  Looking down the ground, the Forget-me-nots are beginning to cover the ground with their powder-blue flowers.
There, that's brightened things a bit - hasn't it?

Friday, 17 May 2013

Proud Mum

Usually at this time of year, the waterways of Britain are alive with the sound of cheeping ducklings.  In our part of the country, the lakes of Straw's Bridge and Shipley Park are no exception, but this year, we have not seen any - until a couple of days ago, when a lone Mallard mother was seen with her brood of six fine-looking babies.  So, we went in search of them again today and to check to see if there were still six little balls of fluff.  I'm very glad to say there were.
The Mallard mother was keeping a very close eye on her brood and a constant, quiet quacking was being deployed to keep them from straying too far from her protective gaze.  That is, until a bread bag appeared at the other end of the car park, then it was every duckling for itself as they made a mad dash to launch themselves into the thick of the feeding frenzy.
Despite their diminutive size, these feisty ducklings managed to hold their own against the other ducks and even the Canada Geese seemed to be at a loss to know how to handle the onslaught of six hungry fluff-balls as they dashed around between their feet.  Lets hope that the proud mother manages to raise all her family to adulthood as they seem to be the only ones around this year!
And by the way, aren't they cute?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Red, White and Blue

Our walk this morning, took us around Shipley Lake and on to Osbourn'es Pond, up Shipley Hill, through the remains of Shipley Hall and returning home around the other side of Shipley Lake.  As we walked around the top of Shipley Hill and what remains of the Italianate gardens which once belonged to the Hall, the Rhododendrons caught our eye.
 Not all of these beautiful shrubs are in full flower just yet, but it's not a bad start.
As we left the Rhododendrons behind and headed back down the hill and through the woods, our eye was caught by the carpet of deep blue made up of the Bluebells.  Some of which were not actually Blue!
The vast majority were however, the most gorgeous, delightful and deep blue.  Combined with the their heady scent, they made the most fantastic show.
Looking a little more closely, you get to see the details of these little 'bells' drooping from the top of the bright green stalk and nodding in the breeze.  I was not the only one taking photos of the spectacle, but given such a wonderful display, who would not want to take lots of pictures?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013


Following a night of heavy rain and plunging temperatures, everywhere is sodden again this morning.  Our morning walk had to be delayed until this afternoon to allow for the showers to subside and when we did eventually get out, we found the low-lying playing field nearby, flooded.
This area of grass is often flooded in very wet weather, but there seemed to be more water than usual this time, so the rain in the night must have been heavier than I thought.  Still, four Mallards were taking advantage of their newly acquired swimming venue!

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

More Flowers

We didn't think we would get a walk today as the forecast was for more rain, wind and plummeting temperatures.  In the end of course, the day dawned bright and sunny and a little warmer than expected.  So, we set out to Straw's Bridge to see what we could find today.  Firstly, we found several fine Apple Trees in full blossom,  their pink and white flowers making a wonderful display in the sunshine.
Smaller flowered, but no less beautiful are the many Bird Cherry trees (Prunus padus) which are also blooming right now.  The flower spikes of these native trees are made up of lots of small individual flowers with white petals and a pale yellowish centre.
Closer to the ground and almost hiding among the other plants below the trees are the White Dead Nettles (Lamium album).  Their small, white flowers are clustered around their hairy stems, which in turn are square in cross section.  Not actually related to the familiar Stinging Nettle, these little plants are in fact members of the Mint family.  As children, I remember we would pick individual White Dead Nettle flowers and if you suck at the end of the corolla tube, you can sometimes be rewarded with a taste of sweet, sugary nectar.

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Little did we realise as we set out for a walk this morning, that we would encounter one of the most stunning birds we have ever seen in these parts.  To start with, the weather was not looking very promising.  Following the warmth of last weekend, this one has turned out to be cold, windy and wet, but as we walked around Straw's Bridge lake, we found this magnificent creature...
A Male Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) in full colour and proud of it.
Originally from East Asia (as the name would suggest), these glorious little ducks have become naturalised all over the world, wherever they have escaped from private collections and bird reserves.
Sadly, in their homelands, they have become very scarce through wholesale capturing and exporting of wild birds as well as habitat destruction.  It's thought their numbers may have dropped to below 1000 pairs on Mainland Asia, although still doing a bit better on Japan.
This is a tree-nesting duck, making its home in cavities of old tree trunks, close to water and as is so often the case, the female is rather more drably attired.  This brightly coloured individual male bird was certainly looking at his best, despite the gloomy conditions and he proved to be the best thing we came across on our morning perambulations today.
What a stunner!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Spring Messenger

Usually one of the first of the Spring flowers and often described as a 'Spring Messenger' as a result, the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) is a glorious sight as it begins to open its shiny, yellow flowers.  At the moment, they can be found all over the place on Shipley Park and so are frequently overlooked.  This is a great shame as they are such beautiful little blooms.  This small patch was growing in a patch of sunlight, filtering through the trees along the old Nutbrook Canal.
Of course, the most recognisable of all wild flowers has to be the Daisy (Bellis perennis).  Well known by all as the building blocks of daisy chains, they grace any area of grassland with their small, but perfect white flowers.  The 'flower' is actually an inflorescence made up of numerous tiny, yellow flowers forming the central disc, surrounded by the white-petalled flowers known sometimes as asterales or ray florets.  Here, some of them are tipped with a pale mauve-pink hue.
Standing a lot taller than either of these plants are the Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata).  Again a common plant in these parts, they are members of the Brassica family, a fact which is demonstrated by their four-petalled, cruciform flowers.  These flowers are held in clusters on top of the stem which stands up to three feet tall.  The leaves give off a smell of garlic when crushed and as such can be used in salads and as an ingredient of pesto sauces.  For this reason, it has acquired the name of Poor-man's Garlic in some parts.
Lastly for today, another scented plant which is at it's best at the moment.  Gorse (Ulex europaeus), also sometimes called Furze, is a tough, spiky, evergreen shrub and it is said that somewhere in Britain, Gorse will be in flower every day of the year.  The Gorse bushes around here have taken a bit of a battering over the last couple of Winters and the bitterly cold temperatures we have had, have taken their toll.  But thankfully, they are slowly recuperating and their flowers are once again, covering their spiny stems.
In the warm sunshine, these flowers smell quite strongly of coconut and so are a delight to the nose as well as the eyes.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013


It wasn't only the sky that was blue yesterday.  As we turned our steps homeward, we strolled through Mapperley (known to us as Bluebell) Wood and were not disappointed.
Bluebells (Hycinthoides non-scripta) are always a welcome harbinger of Spring and their sweet scent wafted through the trees yesterday as the sun warmed their flowers.
Parts of the wood were carpeted with these little flowers especially where the soil is damp.  Being a moisture-loving plant, Bluebells do well in most parts of the UK, except some of the more arid, South-eastern areas where the chalky soils tend to be too dry for them.  No such problems around these parts however.
With the air filled with Bluebell perfume and the songs of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wren, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Robin, Blackbird, Collard Dove and Woodpigeon, there could be no finer place on earth.