Today as the weather has warmed up and the sun is seeping through a thin cloud layer, we decided to take a twenty-minute drive out to Attingham Park for a walk through the woodlands where snowdrops are the stars in February. It was half-term so the woods were colourful, bright coloured anoraks, scarves and hats as families took to the paths. Every child seemed to have found a suitable rustic walking stick from the undergrowth. It was great to see young families out enjoying the natural world.
As we passed through the stable block the sound of vigorous hammering filled the air echoing around us. A noisy coffee break but we enjoyed watching youngsters wielding hammers busily constructing nest boxes. A great idea from the National Trust. Every family leaving Attingham today has at least one child clutching proudly a newly built nest box.
Once into the wood itself we seemed to be guided along by Robins who entertained us with their songs.
The snowdrops are small this year and very slow to develop. Many are just at the early bud stage and those that have come our sport small blooms. The swathes under the tall bare deciduous trees were far less vibrant than expected so the beauty was to be found in the little clumps hidden away deeper into the woods.
But there was far more to the woods than Snowdrops and the temptation to photograph the textures and patterns found there was easily given in to.
The earliest of woodland shade loving plants are beginning to appear taking advantage of the light filtering through the veil of bare branches above them. The arrow shaped leaves of the Cuckoo Pint are glossy and shine out amongst in the monochrome leaf litter.
Leaving the woodland we took a track across the Deer Park. A warden appeared on a mini tractor closely followed by herds of excited deer. The tractor was pulling a trailer full of feed! This was an unexpected opportunity to see the park’s deer close up.
The deer may be the biggest and most obvious creatures here but the littlest are also of equal importance. Where the trust have been clearing dead and damaged trees they have taken the opportunity of creating habitats such as log piles, brash stacks etc to attract insects and invertebrates and small mammals. The woods here are now well-known for the population of Lesser Stag Beetles. In some places fallen branches and larger trunks are left to rot away to become hosts to fungi and multitudes of minibeasts.
This fungus seems to be leaking from the cracks in the dead bark, like woodworker’s glue seeping from a joint.
This dead tree left standing for fungi, invertebrates and insects looks dramatic alone in a clear area of parkland. Woodpeckers will enjoy attacking the peeling bark and rotting wood in search of tasty morsels.