Covid Time Walks

As we can only walk locally during Covid Times I have explored a few different  walks to take the dogs on.

We all love walking Halford Meadows and Onny Meadows, with all their lovely sniffs(the dogs) and views of the hills (me). But we all like a change, and the dogs enjoy discovering different sniffs.

A map showing Halford Meadows and Onny Meadows

Most of the footpath walks have been very muddy and I have brought half a field back home a few times. So we have also explored a few of the local lanes.

To achieve these walks we sometimes have to start by walking down or up the A49. There is the odd one where we finish on the A49 as well.

I know most of the local footpaths but friends can still surprise me with paths I have never ventured down before. (This was back in the Summer).

In the first lockdown two older gentlemen sat on their scooters in their drive waving and saying hello in the afternoon. They still wave but from inside their warm home. We also wave to a woman who sits near her window reading, with a dog who barks to say hello. Dillie has a grumble, not that she has room to bark.

Most days we walk past one house where the man has his office upstairs. He usually has the window open and his feet stuck up on the window sill. Does he do this for comfort or does he have smelly feet.

Dillie has got used to the idea that if people are walking along the path towards you step into the road out of their way. I need to train her to go at a signal.

We wave to a lot people when we are walking, some I know well, some I know to wave to and some I actually have no idea who they are, I wave because they waved and so it carries on.

Well I hope you have enjoyed my over view of Covid Time Walks, look out for more Covid Time Blogs.

Sparrowhawks

I can remember rarely seeing Sparrowhawks when I was growing up. One place we did occasionally see them was along motorway embankments.

Sparrowhawks are now found through out the United Kingdom, even up in Shetland.

We see them regularly around Folly View and down on Onny Meadows.

Many years ago one hit a window at Orchard House. I picked it up to put it somewhere safe, out of reach of cats and dogs. It had a Sparrow in its talons.

I was later told I was lucky not to have lost a finger as they are vicious when handled.

Adult Sparrowhawk With Prey

Adult Sparrowhawk With Prey

We have watched Sparrowhawks using the driveway as a bombing run, all the little birds disappear when this happens but I have learnt recently that this is what is called a rollercoaster flight which the males do to impress the females.

They are a small bird of prey. They are 28 -38 cms long with a wingspan of 55-70cms. The males weigh 110-196 grams while the females weigh 185-342grams making them significantly bigger than their male counterparts.

Their colouring is a creamy background with brown streaks and on the males they have significant amounts of grey. Sparrowhawks have yellow eyes which go darker with age turning orange to red in colour, their talons are also yellow in colour. They have a hooked Bill, good for plucking, which is pale grey with a black tip.

Juvenile Sparrohawk Eye

Juvenile Sparrowhawk Eye

Sparrowhawks swoop on their prey and because of their small size they can get into confined spaces to chase their prey. They catch small birds and have been known to eat pigeons and bats.

Nests are built from twigs and lined with bark shavings. Between May and July they lay four to five eggs which are shiny white with a pale blue tinge. The eggs take four weeks to hatch then the chicks take four weeks to fledged.

The photograph of the adult male Sparrowhawk feeding on it’s prey is from Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The photograph of the head and eye of a juvenile male Sparrowhawk is from Wikimedia Commons and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Winter Walk

It’s December 1st and for me we are now into Wintertime.

Here it is a bright, sunny, frosty morning, the cheeks are glowing now I am back in the warmth of home.

The colours glowed on Onny Meadows, I could find all the colours I love, browns, pinks, purples, greens, golds and greys.

As children we draw tree trunks as brown but  I am always struck by how little brown is visible. Greys predominate for me, with tones of Brown, green and purples.

The mole hills of Brown rich earth pepper the meadows and Dillie Dot sticks her nose in then digs frantically to try and catch the elusive mole, Long gone.

As we near the  Onny river there is a low misty haze rising from the water, the ducks bright greens look muted in the mist.

I notice catkins are beginning to form on Alder and hazel. The Alder catkins are a purply, brown, while the hazel catkins are presently grey with a tinge of pale green.

From a distance white berries pop brilliantly against grey stems of snow berry. Dulux brilliant white doesn’t do this justice.

The lichens on the rocks and tree trunks are a zingy greygreen.

There are still trees with leaves of green but they are few now and look faded but somehow still have that dark summer green.

The beech trees cling onto their leaves which are rich golden russet. The keys hang still from the ash trees looking golden against the grey of the trunks.

I notice more Alder catkins but this time a reddy purple, glowing in the sun light.

As we finish our walk we walk past spindles with crimson red berries, the next one has bright pink berries. The pinks and red vary from shrub to shrub.

 

Kingfishers on the Onny

I walk every day with the dogs along the Onny River. I have over the years regularly seen Kingfishers when we have been out walking. This year I have not seen them until this recently(first week of September).

I had stopped on the bridge over the River Onny down Corvedale Road and saw a flash of blue. There it was on a branch over the running water before of it flitted up the River again .

A photograph of a Kingfisher

Kingfisher

I have been lucky enough to watch a kingfisher diving several times for fish from a branch over the River Onny just past Kingfisher Corner on the Onny Meadows.

Kingfishers have a bright blue back with a copper orange breast, it is usually a flash of blue that catches the eye.

They have stout bodies, large heads, short stubby tails and long dagger like bills. The males have a black bill and the females have a orangy/red bottom Bill. Their wingspan is 25cm and they are 16cm long.

Kingfisher have no song but make a high pitched peeping sound when flying low over water.

Kingfisher nest in burrows on the river bank, which they both excavate right near the food supply. They can have between 3 and 10 white glossy eggs which they both incubate, over 19 to 21 days.

The chicks take 24 to 25 days to fledge, eating between 12 and 18 fish each per day. In years when food is scarce they can take up to 37 days to fledge.

Kingfishers couples divide their Summer territory between them in Winter. They have a territory of about a kilometre each, this can be as much as 5kilometres. They need to eat 60% of their body weight each day.

Kingfishers are very territorial and will display on branches. If they have to resort to fighting they hold their opponents beak and try to hold it under water.

Around the World there as ninety species of Kingfisher but we in Britain have one of the most beautiful.

The image used in this blog post is from Wikimedia and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Little Egret

A photograph of a Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) taken by Shantanu Kuveskar

There has been one Little Egret around for three or four years. While walking the dogs on Halford Meadow along the river bank we disturbed three Little Egrets. I thought I had seen two earlier in the year but wasn’t sure as I didn’t get a clear view. Two of them flew off together while the other one flew off alone. Little Egrets look like small white herons when flying. Herons always remind me of pterodactyl when they are flying.

So I thought I would tell you about Little Egrets.

Little Egrets were once a rare visitor from the Mediterranean. The first confirmed breeding of Little Egrets in Britain was in 1996 in Poole Harbour in Dorset. They are now well established in Britain with well over five hundred pairs.

They became extinct in Northwest Europe and scarce in Southern Europe after being hunted extensively for their long head plumes in the 19th Century. At one point in time Little Egrets plumes were worth more them gold. After being given protection their numbers increased and spread.

Little Egrets are found mainly around the coast line and esturaries of England and Wales. It is increasing in numbers and spreading further North and inland. It has been discovered that some of these beautiful birds can migrate and can go further North after the breeding their breeding season.

Little Egrets are easily recognised as they are a brilliant white. On the top of their head and neck they have long white plumes during the breeding season. They are about 60cm long with a wing span of between 88cm to 106cm. The bill and legs are black in colour and they have yellow feet, these are red in the breeding season.

They prefer to breed in colonies as they are social birds, so will often been seen in heron colonies. Little Egrets build a platform of sticks in trees, bushes or reed beds. They produce three to five eggs of a bluish-green colour which are incubated for three weeks by both parents. The chicks fledge at six weeks.

Little Egrets prefer open locations and will not be seen in dense cover. Hence why they are seen on Halford Meadow and not on Onny Meadows.

They stalk prey in shallow water shuffling their feet to disturb small fish- they will run through the water or stand stock still and wait to ambush. Their diet is mainly fish but includes frogs, toads, reptiles, small mammals, birds, crustaceans, molluscs, insects, spiders, worms, and ticks of livestock.

So look out for the Little Egret around your local rivers, canals, ponds, lagoons, marshes, the coast and  the shore of lakes, as long as it is not densely covered.

The photograph of a Little Egret, latin name Egretta garzetta, at the top of this post was taken by Shantanu Kuveskar and is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Bird life from Folly View

I thought you might like to know how the local bird life is getting on in Craven Arms.

We have lots of busy sparrows. The sparrows who reside in the swift box are still there and are presently feeding youngsters. The swift box has become two story as there is a nest top of it as well as inside.

We have a sparrow who is nesting in a robin box by our front Windows, or should that be between. Mr Sparrow bangs against the window constantly and occasionally brings back a feather or leaf for Mrs Sparrow!  We think they are now on their second brood. We had less window banging over the last two weeks but it has started again recently. The window is a mess, there is no point cleaning it until they have finished nesting.

When I was walking the dogs recently two sparrows were having a dust up. There were no other birds around, as we got nearer they flew into a  nearby shrub, still arguing, at which point ten other sparrows arrived and joined in. Our sparrows usually argue in the large ever green at the front of the house.

I have sat outside watching the aeriel display put on by swallows, housemartins and swifts. One of our friends found a swift on the ground and helped it by putting it up high.

I have been watching housemartins collecting mud on the Onny River along with the swallows  I have not seen where they are nesting but I haven’t been looking.

I saw the egret on Halford Meadows a couple of weeks ago. I have not seen it with a mate but it has been around for a couple of years. The grey wagtails and dippers are busy on the Onny, I have not seen the Kingfisher recently but that does not mean they are not there.

I heard a skylark on Onny Meadows earlier this week. I have not seen one down there for a long time. I don’t think it was nesting but it was lovely to hear it.

There will be more on Bird life in Craven Arms in the coming weeks.

Things to Do in Craven Arms

I am sure there are people who think there is nothing to do in Craven Arms but there are probably more Things to Do in Craven Arms than you would think.

Stokesay Castle Gatehouse

Stokesay Castle Gatehouse

Stokesay Castle is open daily until the end of September at a cost of £8.30 per adult. It is a fortified hall that is well worth a visit. There are new tearooms and you can also walk round Stokesay Church and Churchyard and see Old Bill the First World War Memorial.

Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre has a tearoom with artworks hanging on the walls, an exhibition which tells you about the Mammoth found near Shrewsbury and about Iron Age Hill forts. The exhibition has a £5 entrance fee but you can access the rest of the Centre without paying. It is open from 10am until 5pm everyday.

The Onny Meadows at the back of the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre is free to explore at any time. There is lots of play equipment for children to be adventurous on. The ponds and river Onny are great for pond dipping. There is a small butterfly garden by the picnic benches, see what you can spot. Or simply have a relaxing walk via the benches.

The Land of Lost Content is a museum of Popular British Culture has tons to see. There are exhibits about the Wars, Sweets, The Postal Service and lots, lots more. It is well worth the £7.50 entrance fee per adult.

For those who like to walk there is lots to aim for. There is an Iron Age Hill Fort to the south east called Norton Camp. To the north east is Flounders Folly, you can drive most of the way if you don’t want a long muddy walk. There are lots of other walks, some along the River Onny or Shropshire Way or those you could explore for your self.

Craven Arms is not a Shopping Centre but Tuffins Supermarket is well worth a visit. You are bound to find something interesting to eat, drink or use.

Well I think there is much more here to do than you thought. So with all these Things to Do in Craven Arms, Craven Arms here you come.

The Land of Lost Content Museum

The Land of Lost Content

The Shropshire Way 80k

On Saturday 17th March the first Shropshire Way 80k walk will be starting from the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms.

The circular walk will take you through some of the most stunning countryside in South Shropshire.

I love the views from Hopesay Hill towards the Burrow and the views from Bury Ditches.

The aim is to complete the 80k walk in 24hours. This brand new long distance walk will take you along the Shropshire Way main route and some of it’s shorter walks.

The check points will provide the opportunity to sample local produce and when you finish back at the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre there will be a breakfast provided for participants.

The Walk will be raising funds for Grow Cook Learn who run the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre and Onny Meadows.

There is a £40 entrance fee and there are still places available. Contact the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre on 01588 676060 to book your place.

It would be great to see this Walking Festival become an annual event supported by the whole

Medlars

I was asked about Medlars after a recent blog where I had talked about them in one of the hedges at the Onny Meadows.

Medlar (Mespilus germanica) are thought to have been cultivated for over 3000 years but they certainly have since Roman times.

The Medlar is a small tree or shrub which is short lived and originates from Southwest Asia.

There was thought to be only one species until 1990 when another new species was found in North America.

The tree grows to about eight metres high.
It has greyish brown bark which has deep vertical cracks.
The leaves are dark green,with a hairy underside, which turn red in Autumn.
The flowers are white with five oval petals. Medlars are self pollinating with the help of bees.
The fruit is reddish brown about 2-3cms across with wide spreading sepals around what looks like a hollow central pit.

Medlar Illustration

Medlar Illustration

 

The botanical illustration above is from the original book source: Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany, and permission was granted to use under GFDL by Kurt Stueber.

The Medlar fruit can only be eaten after it has been bletted.

Bletting is the softening of fruit beyond ripening. Bletting brings about an increase of sugars and a decrease in acids and tannins.

So when to our eyes they look ready to eat when other fruits are they are not.

They are then left for a few more weeks until they look rotten and brown, then they are ready this will be in Winter.

Medlars are ready to eat when they can be spooned out.

I have to say they do not appeal to me but they apparently taste of apple sauce.

Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre

Entrance to the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre

The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre

The Secret Hills Discovery Centre in Craven Arms was opened in 2002 and run by the County Council.

It was set up to encourage tourism to the area.

The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre changed its name in more recent times and is now run by a charitable organisation, Grow Cook Learn.

There is an interactive exhibition which has a replica mammoth skeleton on display. Much of the exhibition refers to the Iron Age.

At the entrance is a small furry mammoth, called Tusker, to welcome children to the Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre.

The cafe provides lunches using local produce. On Sundays there is a roast dinner, booking recommended. You may just want to pop in for coffee and cake.

There are benches outside where in good weather you can sit and enjoy your food and drink.

There is a shop which has maps and walking books about the local area or where you can pick up a special gift.

The Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre runs courses for adults and children. During the school holidays it is always worth checking if there is something going on that might interest you or your children.

Entrance to the Discovery Centre is free but there is a charge for the Exhibition. Car parking is free or you can give a small donation.

Don’t forget there are the 35 acres of the Onny Meadows to explore as well.