…… when it’s a recce for a future walk.
On July 10th I’ll be leading a guided walk as part of the Friends of the North Pennines’ Walking Festival and today I popped out to see what delights can be expected along part of my route. Of course a lot will change in the next five weeks as Summer takes control of blossom and foliage. Such is the joy of seasonal countryside – you never walk the same path twice.
I parked in the village of Whitfield, in the River West Allen valley, and set off up a steep road at my favourite walking speed.
Soon I was able to leave the tarmac and enter the shade of Monk Wood. The track runs for a mile through the wood and I just walked to the end and back again. Some of the sessile oaks here are at least 300 years old and are marvellously gnarly and twisty. The wood’s designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest also commends its lichens, rare wood fescue, an uncommon vetch and various other special trees and plants.
Whatever its special scientific interest, it’s certainly special to walk through.
At the southern end of the wood the track leads into a sloping field with a clear view of the wide valley. The fleeces of grazing sheep looked a little dingy against the bright white of hawthorn blossom and the carpet of pignut flowers. The roots, or tubers, of pignuts are edible and it’s thought the plant is referenced in the nursery rhyme ‘Here we go gathering nuts in May’. Any squirrel will tell you there are no hazel nuts to gather in May.
Turning back into the wood I retraced my steps. The wildflower colour palette now changed from white to mainly blue (although no bluebells) – mini forests of bugle, peeping faces of speedwell, and vivid purpley-blue cranesbill. There were dozens of foxgloves in bud, so they might be the floral stars of my guided walk next month.
The animal stars could be the cute goats in a field at the northern end of the wood.
The Friends of the North Pennines’ Walking Festival runs from Saturday 30 June to Sunday 15 July, details at http://friendsofthenorthpennines.org.uk/north-pennines-walking-festival/
There’s more information about Isaac’s Tea Trail at http://www.allenvalleys.com/isaacs-tea-trail/