The Forncett Nature Matters Spring Walk

The sun shone warmly on the day a group of nearly 30 people gathered to enjoy the route and learn from local ecologist Simon Attwood. Simon arrived with a telescope and a mobile telephone which proved to be very useful.  The walk took us down past Forncett school through a lovely piece of land, luxuriant in flora, past the 'Site of Special Scientific Interest' where hazels are beautifully coppiced to offer rich sources of cover and food to birds and pollinators. From thence we went over a well maintained wooden pathway, set among, what is in summer, a profusion of reeds, (happy with the wet habitat), and wildflowers which in July and August are a magnet for darters, butterflies, dragonflies and countless pollinators.  Reaching the top of this path we turned left and shortly, through a gate, entered the Tas Valley Way:  here we walked along a wide ridgeway between a hedge on the right and a steep bank to the left dropping down to a water meadow.  In high summer the bank is studded with wild flowers.  Plants, happy in damp conditions, thrive here. This landscape is startlingly beautiful, a mosaic of habitat and flora, giving a richly changing colour scheme as the eye wanders across to the River Tas.

2023.04.29.Walk.Photo C Jordan sm Simon Attwood, our local ecologist, helping everyone learn a bit more about a rich environment. Photo: Claire Jordan

 Simon gave helpful explanations and answered questions.  Every so often he would say "ah, that's a greenfinch", or a jackdaw, or yellowhammer. He told us about the various apps. we can install to help us identify sights and sounds of interest.  To demonstrate, he merely held his telephone aloft, and his app. called Merlin Bird ID, at once distinguished between the sounds of birdsong to tell us which birds were in our vicinity.  Identifying birdsong is a tricky business, and this piece of technology, certainly simplifies it. He also mentioned eBird, both are by Cornell Lab. He explained that 7 to 7.30 am is a more rewarding time to listen to and identify birdsong as at that time birds are far more active and noisy. After choosing suitable places, he set up his telescope and invited walkers to use it.  It took a tiny adjustment to make it suitable for individuals and the magnification was extraordinary. I was lucky enough to see a slender pale linnet, a musician of the birdworld, showing a pinkness around his breast, sitting among the boughs of a tree, probably resting while his mate sat on their eggs.

After crossing the farmyard, we traced the long line of the young hedge, planted by a group of willing Forncett volunteers during Covid. Our tree warden had secured the whips and trees and the farmer had made his land available and been very helpful.  The hedge was healthy and well grown and it was satisfying to reflect that every one of the hundreds of plants would be a food and shelter source for insects, birds and small mammals, so necessary amidst farmland.

2023.04.29.Spring Walk.Photo L Preece
Robert Maidstone - our local bug specialist. Photo: Linda Preece

Finally we turned opposite the village hall to cross open fields and the Tas.  At the hall, refreshments were waiting and Simon generously gave a talk, supported by clear slides about surveys and data collection, their importance and use in developing our understanding and knowledge and  how they need to be carefully planned with clear objectives.  I reflected that Simon would have been pleased by the clear and enthusiastic commitment of so many in Forncett, to do what we can, to support nature.  FNM hopes to encourage people to work collectively to this end.

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