Our friends and neighbours at Southridge generously allowed us access to their land earlier this week. Leaving the public bridleway on the other side of the farmhouse we encountered some orphan lambs, who having exhausted the automatic teat feeder on the gate were looking to us for milk before giving up and re-seeking the welcome shade of the stonewall.
The first field we cross is in the lea of a small plantation of densely packed conifers. Many of the farms hereabouts have such a legacy from the days of generous government grants and tax breaks for upland farmers. A featureless monotone block it may be but a useful cashcrop nevertheless, echoing as it does the presence of the vast commercial forest visible to the west. This permanent grass pasture has been newly placed in the Higher Stewardship Scheme so it can be managed instead as a traditional hay meadow. The second field we wander through is much longer established so now presents as a species rich rippling swathe of flowers and grasses. By the old oak (pictured above) we drop down to the burn in its secluded vale. To our left the plantation has disappeared, given way to a totally different and infinitely richer localised ecosystem. The coombe’s steep slopes are now graced with native deciduous trees, and at bottom a dense white carpet of flowering wild garlic. At its boundary a trickle of narrow stream breaks from cool green cover to join the main stream.
Find myself in awe of this all too rare woodland habitat, precarious and accessible only to birds and agile beasts, pictured here, hanging precipitously above the burn. Countless centuries of erosion has dramatically cut, shaped and carved the bedrock sandstone to which it clings and thrives, safe from depredation. The stream’s clear unhurried water is at low levels during this driest of dry Mays. We rest and at our feet in the meadow grass, grazed by sheep and lambs, are cross leaved saxifrage, daisies, violets and buttercups. Later I spy a dipper under overhanging tree branches but it breaks cover and whirls away downstream.
We cross the Byway Open to All traffic (BOAT) mentioned in a previous post at the outbreak of the Corvid 19 pandemic, used and abused by groups of trail bikers and 4×4 motorists. More welcome are the serious mountain bike enthusiasts; this being part of an official long distance north-south all terrain cycleway. It’s peaceful and undisturbed the day we visit, without the roar of engines, slews of mud and discarded litter that accompany the petrolheads’ progress…Yet in law they have as much right to pursue and enjoy their recreation as we have ours. C’est la vie.