Enjoy the great outdoors with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust

In this month's Cotswold Nature, Emma Bradshaw of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust has a spring in her step as she pulls on her walking boots to get closer to nature, and discovers more about hedgerows and the elusive brown hare along her way...

If you have a spring in your step, why not venture outdoors and discover the wildlife and wild places in the Cotswolds. Some lovely walks and countryside are accessible by a short car or bus ride.

Be prepared1. Look at a map before you set off, and plan your route. You may want to take in a pub for lunch along your route or places of interest such as historic houses, villages and churches. 2. Look at the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sun cream in hot weather or, more likely, waterproof coat and hat when it rains!3. Wear sturdy shoes or walking boots.4. Be quiet – very difficult if you are walking with children or in a group, but you are more likely to chance upon wildlife if you are quiet and don’t wear clothes that are bright or rustle.5. Additional things you may want to take are snacks and a drink, a compass, binoculars and camera. I always take a small blank notebook when out with my children and we draw our walk as we go, drawing leaves and bark rubbing to make it interesting. Oh, and don’t forget some sweets as motivation for little legs!6. Remember the countryside code.

Some of our favourite Cotswold spring walks:

The Golden Valley walk, between Stroud and Cirencester. This five-mile walk takes in four of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s most beautiful nature reserves, packed full of bluebells and carpets of wild garlic. You could easily take in lunch at the Daneway Inn, The Bell at Sapperton or the Crown at Frampton Mansell.Slad Valley walk, near Stroud. A more strenuous nine-mile circular walk, around the stunning Slad Valley, this includes Elliott Nature Reserve at Swift’s Hill, which boasts an amazing 13 different types of orchid, including frog, bee and early purple. A slight detour to the Woolpack Inn, Slad, is recommended for a pint with a view and good food and company.Greystones Farm Archaeology walk, at Greystones Farm Nature Reserve, Bourton-on-the-Water. Perfect for a Sunday stroll, a walk around this reserve which has a scheduled ancient monument, a Neolithic settlement and late Iron Age ramparts, as well as beautiful wildflower meadows and Cotswold rivers. Within walking distance of Bourton-on-the-Water, so you can enjoy a cream tea after your walk.

Free walk leaflets for all of the walks detailed above are available by calling Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust on 01452 383333.

WILDLIFE ON YOUR DOORSTEP - HEDGEROWS

Most Read

Cotswold hedgerows range in date from medieval assarts to 19th-century enclosures and were used to divide agricultural land between landowners and occasionally formed boundaries between parishes, often resembling woodland edge and scrub habitats. Since the Second World War, it is estimated that we have lost 200,000 km of hedgerows in England. Hedgerows are very important for wildlife and are recognised as a priority habitat for conservation action within the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). Hedgerows contain a wealth of different plant and animal species, and across large swathes of the countryside are an essential habitat and refuge for the majority of our farmland wildlife. Hedgerows can also provide a habitat for threatened species, such as the brown hairstreak butterfly and the dormouse.

THINGS TO DO IN MARCH WTIH GLOUCESTERSHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST

Oxenhall Daffodil WeekendSaturday, March 6 & Sunday, March 7, 2-4pm. Location: Betty Daws Wood & Gwen & Vera’s Fields Nature Reserves (SO 696284) Guided walk at 2pm. Circular walk begins at Betty Daws Wood and takes in Gwen & Vera’s Fields Nature Reserve. The walk is around two miles on uneven ground through woodland and meadows and lasts around two hours. A shorter walk for children and families leaves from the same location at 2.30pm and lasts about an hour. There are light lunches from 12 noon and teas until 5pm at Oxenhall Village Hall, and daffodil displays at Gwen & Vera’s Fields Nature Reserve from 1–4pm. Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust Staff and members will be on hand with information from 1pm (Saturday only).

Butterflies of the CotswoldsThursday, March 11, 7.30pm‘The Two Sues’ Sue Smith and Sue Dodd are experts on butterflies and have been given spirit-raising talks for several years. Sue Smith is the Chairperson of the charity Butterfly Conservation, Gloucestershire. Cost: �3 per person. Venue: Painswick Church Rooms, at the top end of Painswick’s Stamages Lane Car Park, just off the A46. Everyone welcome.

Daffodils and poemsSunday, March 28, 2-4pm. A guided circular walk within the famous ‘Golden Triangle’ of wild daffodil sites. We will stop at Wildlife Trust nature reserves along the way while following in the footsteps of the Dymock Poets. Starting at Dymock church where there is very limited parking. The walk will take roughly two hours, with rough terrain and stiles to negotiate. Please pre-book your place on tel: 01452 383333. Directions: Meet at Dymock Church, Wintours Green, Dymock, Gloucestershire, GL18 2AG.

MY FAVOURITE PLACE: COTSWOLD WATER PARK

Cotswold Water Park Nature Reserves Manager for Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust By Steve Edmonds

Choosing a favourite place when you have only recently moved to an area might seem a little bit tricky, even arbitrary perhaps. However, in my short time in the Cotswolds, one place in particular has quickly become the obvious and only choice. That place is Whelford Pools, one of the few Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust nature reserves in the eastern end of the Cotswold Water Park where I am lucky enough to work. I guess it’s no surprise that I have such an affinity for freshwater; we had five ponds in our south Devon garden when I was growing up – I found them so enchanting that one day I got extremely close to underwater life, falling in headfirst!I’m a little more restrained now, content to view the abundant wildlife at Whelford from above; the great crested grebes engaging in what must surely be one of nature’s most beautiful courtship rituals, the stoat popping his head up and down out of rabbit burrows, evoking childhood memories of ‘whack-a-rat’ at the village fete, and the great spotted woodpeckers using the best hammer-action drill I’ve ever seen. I can’t wait for the cast of dragonflies to play out their territorial acrobatic displays.But even without this fine array of specimens, laid bare Whelford is sublime, go there at dawn and see the mist rising off the still water at first light and you won’t want to move a muscle. It’s that pure simplicity of freshwater that captivates me, take me to a wood and I’ll find the river running through the bottom of it, take me to the moors and I’ll find the bog with a trickling stream.Take me to Whelford Pools and I’ll be happy.

UNCOMMONLY COMMON... BROWN HARE

Hares are elegant and mythical creatures that have come to symbolise both the arrival of spring and our wild British countryside. With the grass shorter and the days becoming lighter, March is the time when we are able to catch a glimpse of the hare’s strange courtship boxing ritual. This bizarre sight was once believed to be males fighting over females, but it is now thought to be the females defending themselves against over-amorous males or testing their strength and eligibility as a mate.Hares prefer open farmland, but if there’s none around they’ll make use of woodlands and hedgerows. They don’t live in an underground warren like rabbits; instead they sculpt a shallow hole into the ground with tufts of grass and mud to hide in. This means that they are particularly vulnerable to predators and farm machinery, so they have sharp senses and are able to use this hollow as a starting block if they need to escape quickly. And quickly they do – hares can run up to 48 miles an hour, making them the fastest UK mammal on land. They can also leap a distance of eight feet and can jump almost as high!Unfortunately, as farming practice becomes more intensified, the land has become less hospitable to hares and a 75 per cent decline was recorded over the last 50 years, causing the UK Government to draft a Biodiversity Action Plan to increase hare numbers.

Where to see hares this spring:- Hares can be found throughout the Cotswolds and the Severn Vale, but are less common around the Stroud Valleys and Forest of Dean.- Hares have been spotted in the woodlands at Midger Wood Nature Reserve, south of Nailsworth.- Coombe Hill Nature Reserve is managed using traditional farming methods from which hares benefit.

KNOW YOUR HARE FROM YOUR RABBIT!

RABBITS- Live in large social groups- Easily seen in fields and on verges- Small in stature- Move with small hops close to ground- Survive by hiding from predators

HARES- Largely solitary existence- Mainly found on open farmland or grassland - Larger and more upright in stance with long back legs and long ears with black tips- Move with large leaps and bounds clearing the ground- Survive by outrunning predators

WALK 4 WILDLIFE - SUNDAY, MAY 16

Take a walk on the wild side… and join us for the first Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust ‘Walk 4 Wildlife’, led by BBC TV’s The One Show wildlife presenter, Mike Dilger.This five-mile walk* will take you through the Golden Valley and four of our loveliest nature reserves (Daneway Banks, Siccaridge Wood, Three Groves Wood and Strawberry Banks). You’ll have a chance to enjoy the scenery, meet like-minded people, and raise much needed funds for the Trust to be able to protect this area, and many more nature reserves around the county, for the benefit of wildlife.We’re planning a great day, including children’s entertainment, live music and refreshments – so why not get all the family involved! There’s no minimum sponsorship to raise, and everyone who completes the walk will receive a special Walk 4 Wildlife medal.Dogs are very welcome to join in the fun and will receive their own sponsorship form and a Walk 4 Wildlife dog tag on making it to the finish line!

MEET MIKE DILGER

BBC TV The One Show’s wildlife expert has very kindly agreed to lead our inaugural walk this year, so bring along your wildlife questions. Register by calling us on 01452 383333. Special walk T-shirts can also be bought from �8.50 including P&P (please state size required on ordering).

*Please note this is a moderate walk with some steep climbs and is not suitable for wheelchairs/pushchairs. Suitable for children over six who are deemed competent to walk five miles. Refreshment stops and toilet facilities will be available along the route.

Can’t make it?If you are unable to join us on the day but would still like to support us, why not sponsor either our own Chief Executive Dr Gordon McGlone or our special guest, The One Show’s Mike Dilger! Give us a call and let us know who you’re supporting on 01452 383333 or simply send us your cheque with the name of your chosen walker. Although we aren’t making this a competition, Gordon is secretly hoping he can raise more money than our celeb! You can also show your support by downloading and displaying the event poster. Your Walk 4 Wildlife can make a difference. Please join us!

Comments powered by Disqus