From the vaults: Housman country… (24/05/2012)

“Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows…”

Although not today as it happens. On Wenlock Edge the wood’s unruffled; barely a breeze disturbs the canopy of the trees, just a never-ending symphony of birdsong. No chill from the east, no squalls from the west; atop the ridge things are as calm and sedate as they are down in the secluded hollows. The May sunshine, following the long, wet weeks preceding it, has released insects in huge numbers, and for nesting birds, with youngsters close to fledging, the timing could not be more opportune.

The number of lightning-blackened stumps where the ridge stands at its highest above the surrounding land, suggests that the edge catches the brunt of its fair share of storms. A variety of woodland birds are not slow to exploit the weakened timber and excavate themselves a nesting place; among them the confusingly named marsh tits, which are, in fact, a woodland variety.

Expert birders might consider this to be cheating but the National Trust have built a hide, just off one of the main paths, and positioned feeders with a variety of seed mixes in a small cleared area. As a couple of non-expert birders, we were grateful for both the facility and the rest. One thing we did notice was the striking colours of the birds in the area, particularly those with any shade of red or red/brown in their colouring. Chaffinches, nuthatches and particularly a greater spotted woodpecker were all vivid against the pale green of the woodland. Whether that can be attributed to something in the soil (mostly limestone), the vegetation, or simply the quality of the seed in the feeders is anybody’s guess.

             *               *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *

What are those blue remembered hills?”

Wenlock Edge isn’t a place I know particularly well. Sometimes, on the drive home from Wales, I’d use it as a stopping off place, pull onto one of the car parks dotted along its length for a quick brew, and then stroll a couple of miles or so before returning to the journey. I’ve never pieced all of those short sections together into a single day out; it’s really more a case of half-remebered hills for me.

We’ve decided that we’ll return a little later in the year, fill in a few more of those gaps, and hopefully get to see some of the plants and flowers which are at their best in mid to late summer. Particularly the orchids: partly protected from disturbance by the fencing which runs around the perimeter of the former quarry excavations, the orchids alone justify a visit; that’s something I do remember.

This blog – dedicated to the area – is worth a look…