Brian Fereday’s Nature notes were written on his monthly walks around our farm trail. Brian lived and worked in this landscape and knew it intimately. We are lucky to have his records of the changing seasons and the comings and goings of the flora and fauna throughout the years. Here we revisit his January walk.
At this time of year, although the light is increasing, sunlight is needed for the human eye to appreciate depth and colour in the world. The views encountered on the farm walk are no exception. Although the wet and windy weather has its own attractions, January sunlight can make a huge difference to the enjoyment of the route. Days of rain have brought mud to most parts of the path so a walk in the sunshine, looking at colour and texture make the effort more worthwhile. However, it is also worth persevering on wetter, danker days as there are things to be seen.
On the dull days, the tree shapes have a starkness against the sky. This is especially so in the case of the hedgerow trees where the whole shape of the tree can be appreciated. We must admire the sculptural shapes of these large old trees, standing exposed in the storms. This is the best time to photograph these trees when their structure can be readily seen.
The becks through the farmland and through the wood are running very strongly, which is not surprising after so much rain. On looking at the beds of the becks and the water flowing down the becks all living things appear to have been flushed out. There has been such a sustained flow of water that the stones in the beck and the water running over them seem to have a sterilised appearance. Life will still be in there and any barren areas will soon be recolonised when spring and summer come.
The consistently mild weather has encouraged some plant species, not that these species need much encouragement, to send up early, fresh green shoots. The signs of new shoots are all along the walk, if you search, and are refreshing to see. These species being Dog’s Mercury, Marsh Thistle, Greater Willowherb and even Bluebell produce early shoots every year especially under the cover of hedges or woodland. However, the best effort to date has come from a large Primrose plant just on the left at the top of the lane on leaving the car park.
In the tops of the taller trees lookout for Jackdaws and Rooks. At this time of the year, they gather with mating in mind, just another sign of the coming Spring. They make much noise and then fly off to settle again. No doubt there is a pattern to all this activity. Across the main road at Fellside the Jackdaws in the barn have already taken up residence, but not breeding yet.
On the way back from the wood to the car park notice that Growing Well’s garlic bulbs in the field have begun to produce shoots too. This means that the Wild Garlic, plus a host of other bulbs, will be stirring under the soil. As indeed they will have been doing since well before Christmas.
Next month, if this weather continues, there will be more plant species to find, if only in the form of fresh shoots. If the weather for January doesn’t please you – remember, the February sun, on a still day and in a sheltered place is the best sun of the year.