Blluebells (Photo © Harry Appleyard)
Over 30 members turned out for our first Tuesday evening walk of the season. In a cold spring week we were fortunate to enjoy a dry and sunny, if chilly, evening. Linford Wood, right in the centre of MK, is our largest ancient woodland site and always a delight at this time of year. Following a brief introduction, we entered the wood and were treated to the sight and sound of a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling from high up in an oak.
The usual spring flora of Bluebell, Wood Anemone, Primrose, Lesser Celandine and Greater Stitchwort were on display although it was clear that the cold spring had delayed the flowering of several species, whilst extending the flowering season of others including Early Dog Violet. Some of the ditch banks had fine patches of violets and anemones. We spent a little more time looking at the flowers of strawberry plants before we settled on Barren Strawberry.
A highlight for some of the group (i.e. those near the front!) was a Roe Deer buck, who crossed the central bridleway ride in front of us before leaping effortlessly over a dead hedge into the closed off ride. It was great to see this animal displaying the agility it is known for. Eagle-eyed Harry Appleyard managed to catch the moment. Roe are becoming more and more frequent in MK and although they are more welcome than the introduced Muntjac, we hope that their numbers do not grow so high that the woodland flora suffers.
We also heard plenty of birdsong along the main ride, with Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs noticeable. A Jay flew overhead as we waited for the deer to re-emerge. A brief detour allowed us to see two Early Purple Orchid spikes half in flower. Ironically, these are rather late this year.
Martin led the group along the grassy ride known both for its wood carvings and for Herb-Paris. Eventually, we were able to find a good number of plants a few meters off the pathway with just one or two in flower. A first for some of our group and quite an achievement in view of the recent cold conditions.
We concluded the walk with a brief visit to the edge of Stanton Wood (on the opposite side of Saxon Street from Linford Wood). There is a nice stand of Wych Elms at the entrance of Stanton Wood and perhaps the best displays of bluebells and cowslips were to be seen on the steep banks either side of the redway here. As the light was fading rapidly, we quickly made our way back along V7 to the car park, where we were serenaded by a Song Thrush. A pleasant start to our outdoor season.