Monday, 18 April 2011

Walking the Parks and Dene

Wild Garlic


Comma Butterfly


I have my eye on you!

Far from the Maddening Crowd.

17th April. The chill of the morning (Sunday) soon disappeared to ensure that it was bright and warm. The light proved to be perfect for showing Jesmond Dene at its best. Too many people about at times for my liking and few birds, but as always an interesting walk from Heaton Park entrance, through to Armstong Park and onwards through the dene up to South Gosforth, passing much of historical interest along the way. I see there is work being done around the area of King John’s Palace so maybe the council have decided to make more of this ruin, which incidentally has no connection to King John. The more appropriate name for the building is Adam’s Camera, named after Adam of Jesmond and it is believed to have been built in the thirteenth century. It more than likely had farm buildings, stables of some sort and even brewing facilities surrounding it. King John’s well further down the path in Armstong Park is nothing more than a bit of Victorian work, possibly using stone from King John’s Palace. I also got my eye on some nice footwear hanging from the shoe tree. There’s certainly better quality stuff there than I was wearing on my feet!

Bird life appeared to be quite sparse today. The highlights were a pair of Nuthatch, a Treecreeper, Stock Dove and eventually a fleeting sighting of Kingfisher. Blackcap was heard. I don’t recall being in the dene on a Sunday since my childhood. The excellent weather had attracted the crowds and it was like the ‘old days.’ After a cuppa in the newly renovated cafĂ©, of which a good job has been made, I took a look around Pets Corner. It to has been renewed and is looking far cleaner and appropriate for the few animals that were there. As well as the pigs (see Porkaa Jokeaa) I found the goat breeds represented included a Guernsey Goat. This particular breed of goat was featured on television only last week as it is now a very rare breed. I learnt from the programme that during the war the starving inhabitants of Guernsey had taken to eating the goats during German occupation. The breed more than likely would have become extinct had it not been for one lady on the island who hid the goats in caves at night. I expect she was thought to be eccentric at the time. The Guernsey Goat is now bred in other parts of the UK. As with all of the rare breeds, the wider area that they are dispersed over the better, as this ensures that disease is not such a threat to the breed as a whole. Just the same as with wildlife conservation. The Guernsey Goat in the Dene was a little beauty, but was shy when it came to having its photo taken!

I really enjoyed the walk through the dene, especially once I was out of the crowds. Not many folk seem to choose to walk too far which means you can have a reasonable amount of peace and quiet even when the place is busy. I found a Comma Butterfly sunning itself on one of the many bridge walls. It kept out of reach of a good photograph initially, but then landed closely and was not flighty at all. The sunlight showed it off to its best. I was amazed so many people walked past it without evening realising, or perhaps in some cases, not caring that it was there. One family seemed more content to stand on the bridge and listen to their radio. I wondered why some people choose to go out on what are wonderful days in wonderful surroundings and take their damn radios with them. Other butterflies seen were Orange Tip, Small Tortoiseshell and Small White.

Plants seen included lots of freshly flowering Wild Garlic and Butterbur. The Butterbur is also known as Wild rhubarb and Butchers rhubarb. Its large leaves were used for wrapping butter in the days before refrigeration and have also been used as umbrellas and sunshades, such is there size. The plants scientific name is Petasites hybidus. Petasites derives from the Greek petasos, meaning a broad brimmed felt hat. Like Coltsfoot, the plant flowers before the leaves grow.

I kept a look out for Grey Wagtail, Dipper and Kingfisher all along the burn. I was surprised to find only the latter bird, and that was only a very fleeting glimpse. I heard the Kingfisher coming, or I would have missed it completely. By now I was well away from the ‘maddening crowd’ and enjoying the coolness of the shaded burn. I eventually reached South Gosforth feeling that I had enjoyed a really interesting walk.

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