DCS: Local Heritage Event:
Spring Walk to Upwood Meadows and Lady Wood
Saturday 27th April 2013 Return to Alumni Events
The DCS spring walk caused much worry this year because of the inclement weather which had made long-term predictions of plant flowering times extremely difficult. Lady Wood has a marvellous display of bluebells normally interspersed with white greater stitchwort and the adjacent Upwood Meadows has about 5000 green-winged orchids so we were hoping to get a lovely view of the bluebells and a view of a few of the orchids. Matthew Hamilton who is the Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust Reserves manager for Cambridgeshire was to be our guide and when he visited the wood 4 days beforehand there were only 4 bluebells in flower! On the day, 22 of us arrived at the Cross Keys Public House at Upwood in the wind and rain. It was miserable. We arrived at 10.00 a.m. so we could order our food for lunch and to use the toilet facilities then began the walk under thick cloud but with no rain at 10.30 a.m. The weather steadily improved from then onwards with no rain but a coldish wind.
We arrived in Upwood Meadows and Matt explained about the history of the 3 fields and told us that the story was that of a very wet, poorly drained area cultivated by ridge and furrow which can still be obviously seen. It was such poor land it was only used by the very poor if nowhere else was available. However the Black Death took it's toll of life locally and it had not been cultivated since. The meadows were discovered as a valuable ecosystem by Terry Wells midway through the 20th century and it was bought to save 2 of the meadows intact but just too late for one of the 3 which had been improved with fertiliser. That meadow will take several centuries to return to it's previous state but it does have some value even now. Matt took us through the meadows pointing out the profusion of yellow meadow ant ant-hills and showing us how to identify many of the plants by virtue of their early leaves. The green-winged orchids had not been tempted to raise their leaves above the ground but there were lots of cowslips out together with a few mousetails. The meadows are full of colour throughout the year and Matt told us what to expect for those intending to return which seemed to be most of the party.
Next it was Lady's Wood, an ancient woodland which historically was managed as a traditional coppice although many trees were felled in 1951. A short walk took us there. A few warm days had provided miracles with the woods full of blue from the bluebells (although not too many greater stitchworts were showing), together with bright yellow patches of lesser celandine and green swathes of dog's mercury, a plant associated with ancient woodlands. Chaffinches, wrens and blackcaps sang around us. We stopped in the middle of the wood at a pond and watched the newts and admired a lovely bank of flowering primroses.
All too soon it was time to return to the very comfortable Cross Keys for a very nice lunch before 8 of us moved on to Woodwalton Fen for a walk led by Terry and Helen around the Fen including a look inside the Rothschild Bungalow, built by Charles Rothschild for people who needed to stay and study wildlife at the beginning of the 20th century. We saw a few marsh Harriers but probably because of the wind we missed the nightingales singing and finished about 5.00 p.m. Annoyingly Terry and Helen returned straight away to do more on a survey they take part in and heard the nightingale just where we had been. Despite that the day had turned out to be most enjoyable despite the inauspicious beginning.
Matthew Hamilton was excellent and I quote 2 of our party "It was a delightful day on Saturday, and it was lovely to discover deliciously seasonal aspects of the Cambridgeshire landscape at Upwood Meadows and Lady's Wood." and "We did enjoy the walk on Saturday so much. What a splendid person Matt is. So much information. Can we bottle him somehow?". Need I say more! Thank you Matt. Thanks are also due to the people at the Cross keys who were very efficient, very generous, allowed us to park in their car-park all morning and who provided much needed excellent food and drink. Thanks are also due to the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire who make all the reserves they own open to the public.
Pictures by Helen & Terry Moore
(Click on the pictures for larger versions) Return to Alumni Events