Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Forest of Dean 31st March - 2nd April 2010 When will Spring be here?

A very noisy hide adjacent to a small pond full of smooth newts at Highnam Woods, RSPB reserve nr Gloucester started the day on the 31st of March. An open hide, that it is it has no back but it does have a lot of feeders around it so very close views of titmice, inc' marsh and great-spot woody. The rest of the reserve was walked in pouring rain and a very squelchy underfoot pathway. Interesting swift sculpture along one path. Ravens overhead, 3 blackcap, 1 willow warbler and 3 chiffs seen and heard amongst the expected woodland birds.

Afternoon, reached Lower Lydbrook on the river Wye. Lunch, a tin of sardines and a couple of hot crossed buns shared with some mallard gave a relaxing opportunity to watch a group of hirundines over the river; mostly swallows but also 5 house martins [164]. Also a male goosander was on the water. Had seen some lovely views of the Black Mountains on the way, with them being covered in snow.

Stayed at the beautifully situated Welsh Bicknor Youth Hostel, after visiting Goodrich Castle in the afternoon. For a place to stay away from the rat race there can't be many more lovely spots. Great hostel.

Up early on the 1st of April and out for 6.00am to try to get a lesser spotted woodpecker but no luck. Good dawn chorus though with drumming great spots, singing blackcaps, chiffs and a female grey wagtail by the river. Should have played an April Fool trick on the staff at the hostel but I won't divulge why. Weather was cloudless with a gibbous Moon setting. It wasn't to last.

Was met by Chris, the new RSPB warden for Symonds Yat, at the bottom of the hill and he kindly took the panniers off the bike and I had an easier ride up it. Down came the rain again but not before having great views of the peregrines and a goshawk, which although circling a distant ridge, was seen through a telescope. [165]

Dipped hawfinch at Speech House with it still raining hard and then got mandarins on nearby pools. [166]

A nice walk around a pretty birdless RSPB reserve at Nagshead, well until the rain came down again in bucketfuls. Met Barry the warden, another birder and a rarity on my birding trip. Would liked to have stayed the night here and been there for the dawn chorus but it was pouring and I'd booked a night at St Brievals Youth Hostel. Got there in the dark to find it was a large castle. Bruilliant place and brilliant people staying there. This included a lovely family from Belfast and 3 fabulous Australians; Mark, Janet and Niamh Clemens from Tasmania. Great to meet you.

2nd April, Weather - pouring rain. Joined a tour of the castle/YH and saw the 'oubliette'; a large hole beneath a dormitory where in medieval times they used to throw miscreants in and 'forget' about them. Nice! If you want to see a ghost then stay here. Over 7 different ones have been seen or heard here. Unfortunately I didn't see or hear one. My bedroom, the Gaurd Room is supposed to have a gost that strangles you, or pushes you according to how he likes you. I left late in the morning not having been pushed or strangled but having fixed the broken back brakes.

Cycled down to Bigsweir on the Wye. the last time I'd been here was when I was a teenager and a school organised canoe trip down the Wye. How did we get out of our canoes at this place. The river's tidal here and the banks are immense and muddy.

Tintern Abbey next and the rain stopped as I arrived. Paid a smaller fee that usual because of my English Heritage membership, for now I was in Wales.

A brilliant viewpoint found after a long climb was the next stop. Views over the Wye, Chepstow and then on towards both bridges over the Severn. I just wondered why they don't make the place a little more visitor friendly with a panoramic viewpoint terrace and a cafe. Would be a great place for one.

More heavy showers but at least these were accompanied by superb rainbows, mostly doubles and one was at my feet whilst I sheltered. Where was a pneumatic drill, for the pot of gold was beneath the tarmac path.

Got to Newport Wetlands Nature reserve late in the evening but that's another story.

all the best everyone

Gary x

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gary. Thanks for the great wrap. We thought you were pretty special too. We are off for 2 weeks tomorrow to Paris and one more week in London after that! We missed out on Tyntern Abbey as the weather was awful...again! Have had an interesting couple of days in London: Westminster, the Palace and lots of walking, the Eye, Trafalgar...more walking, and more walking!! Today (day the election was called by Gordon Brown) was sunny and actually Spring-like. I hope the rest of your trip is as interesting as the first part. Keep up the great work! Seeya...catch up some time. Mark (Clemens)