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Friday, 25 March 2016

Highs & Lows

It's raining as I write (Thurs 24th March) but we've had some lovely weather over the last week or so. There is a real Spring feel to the Woods and the previous rain has given a lush green to the meadows.
The bluebells are more plentiful and there's a covering of garlic leaves. I was given some useful tips by a lady who was gathering them yesterday. The younger leaves to mix with rocket for salads and the slightly older can be blanched in boiling water. After very thorough washing of course !!

There is a good show of Blackthorn blossom in the meadow. A very pretty flower but do be careful of those thorns. Blackthorn of course gives us sloes in the autumn and some people steep sloes in gin and sugar to make sloe gin but there are other recipes you can use. If you eat one directly from the bush your mouth will feel unpleasantly dry. Despite knowing this I can never resist eating a few when they are soft although they never seem to be quite ripe.... and then there is the stone in the centre to deal with.

 Blackthorn wood has been used to make walking or riding sticks, and was the traditional wood for Irish shillelaghs.
Blackthorn can be confused with Hawthorn but the latter blossoms in May after the leaves show whereas with Blackthorn the flowers come first. However, there can be no confusion in Autumn because the fruit of the Hawthorn are red haws.
Both of these plants are very important to wildlife. The flowers produce nectar for bees and other insects while the leaves are a valuable food source for the caterpillars of several types of moths and butterflies. The thorns give protection for nesting birds and they will feed on the fruits in Autumn and winter.
 The Friends of Badock's Wood held a Litter Pick on 19th March. There were 12 of us and you can see that we collected a good amount of rubbish. A big Thank You to all our volunteers who turned out to lend a hand.
Jerry of the Park Dept is helpful and arranges collection very promptly.
During the morning a walker mentioned that there was a collection of Nitrous Oxide capsules near the Playing Fields. Unfortunately we couldn't find them at the time. I went back on the Monday morning and was surprised what a hoard it was. It is called 'laughing gas' because of it effects which accounts for its use as a 'legal high' but it is properly used as an anaesthetic and also for making whipped cream.

They were left on the track between the trees at the corner of the playing field which overlooks the Triangle. There are several tracks like this one which go between the trees and are well worth exploring. However, they are quite narrow in places and easily become blocked with fallen branches. This hoard of N2O capsules can be seen on the right of this photo and consisted of 15 empty boxes each of which had contained 50 capsules. Some of these 750 capsules had been tied up in plastic bags and others left strewn around.  There were also many balloons scattered about which had been used in the inhaling process.
I had taken a large plastic bag to put it all in but I found I could hardly carry it. The capsules are made of steel. I struggled halfway across the Playing Field when someone came to my assistance. A big 'Thank You' to that gentleman.
I wonder who sells these whipped cream capsules in such quantities? I'm sure they will be under no illusion that the buyers are making whipped cream. Someone is making a lot of money from selling harm. Needless to say, the police are monitoring the situation. Click here for more information.

This photo is taken from the other end of this same track. The track goes between the trees over toward the top of the Wildlife Park. You can look down on the river and the two bridges below.  You can see the native bluebells flowering near the top of the slope. One of the benefits of taking these lesser used tracks is that you see things from a different perspective.
The Wood Anemones below are beside the stream on the right as you walk towards the Wildlife Park.

I mentioned last time that The Friends of Badock's Wood had been short-listed for a Green Volunteer Award. Well, I can tell you that the group were awarded the title for 2016. This is a great achievement and is recognition by the Conservation community of the work that FOBW has done over the last 15 years in transforming Badock's Wood from its  poor and neglected state of the late 20th century to its present revived condition as a Local Nature Reserve. There are many Nature Reserves and Parks around Bristol and for FOBW to be recognised in this way is a great encouragement to all those who have given time and effort into restoring and maintaining it for people and for wildlife...
...and they do need encouragement to continue. Because Badock's Wood is an urban Nature Reserve it needs constant attention.
I suppose the most obvious is litter but perhaps this is also the easiest to deal with. It just takes constant vigilance and dedication from our volunteers.
River pollution from drains is another problem and each pollution event can have long lasting effects. It takes time for water creatures to repopulate areas after being wiped out of an area by chemicals.
We also have acts of intentional vandalism. The FOBW works with the council to agree which trees should be removed or pruned but from time to time we find that other trees have been cut down or branches cut off and left. In many cases this damage is permanent.
These are just some of the things that FOBW deal with and the support and encouragement of the Public is vital.

I ought also to say that as well as the FOBW being awarded the Green Nature Award, our secretary, Frances Robertson was awarded the Individual Award in recognition of all the work she has done over the years towards bringing Badock's Wood to its current condition. Among other things she has organised the Annual Program of free events and walks, she has worked hard to obtain grants for essential works as well as the carvings that you see around the woods. She also maintains the FOBW emailing list, so 'Well done' to Frances and also 'Well done' to the whole of FOBW as a group.
To learn more about the Bristol Natural History Consortium and the award click here and then select 'projects'. Hopefully this will be updated soon with the 2016 winners.

 We have two types of bluebell in the wood. The larger plant is the Spanish Bluebell which arrived in the UK in 1683 but only in recent years has it spread so quickly, perhaps because of changing gardening habits. Our native bluebell is slower growing but is more fragrant and a violet blue whereas the Spanish Bluebell is non scented and paler. Unfortunately the plants easily hybridise and so there are many plants that are mid-way between the two. To try to encourage the native variety the FOBW each year remove as many of the Spanish variety as possible. Hundreds of native bulbs were planted a few years ago and it is hoped that these will increase as the Spanish decrease. There will be a work party event on Saturday 9th April to remove as many Spanish bluebells as possible while leaving the Native ones. If you would like to be involved in this work then contact the event leader on
If you would like to know more about the difference between these two plants see here and here.

What a difference a day makes !!  I have woken up on Good Friday to a beautifully sunny day and I was in the woods by 7am. This dog certainly was taking advantage of the weather by taking its human for a walk. You can see more of the Blackthorn but this time on the edge of the Sports Field. This field is often called the Horses' Field by locals and they will tell you why.

These Cowslips were in the meadow this morning. There were several plants but soon there will be almost a carpet of them. These are a favourite of many, including my wife. Look for them in the small piece of meadow between the path and the School or Greenway Centre.

Now is an exciting time to walk  in the woods because there are new things to be seen every day. New flowers appearing and the leaf buds are bursting on the trees. Particularly the Horse Chestnut buds are very noticeable and look wonderful pointing towards the sky.  Birds and squirrels very busy with all their activities. Yesterday I saw two pairs of jays having a dispute about territory. Today I saw two wood pigeons unsettling two jackdaws by threatening to head butt them... in a gentle pigeony sort of way of course. I think my favourite viewing yesterday was of a goldcrest having a combined wash and shower in the brook near the Triangle.  It wasn't at all concerned about us watching, we were just a few feet away. I'll sort the photos and put one in next time.

  • The next FOBW Work Party is planned for Saturday April 9th. Contact Siân on if you would like to help.
  • If are interested in joining the FOBW Litter Pick group then contact me on
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  • If you would like to be notified of future posts put your email address in the box at the top right side of this page.
  • You can comment on anything in this blog by writing to me at:
  •  You can check out the FOBW website on

mike townsend

Monday, 14 March 2016

Spot the Deliberate (?) Mistakes

 We'd had strong winds and heavy rain overnight when I went for a walk Wednesday morning (9th March). Muddy in places but plenty of life in the river. I was listening to the wind in the tree tops and watching them sway and I noticed that the song thrush's song wasn't as relaxed as usual. Not really surprising because he was up there amongst all the action.
It was a lovely morning for a walk as long as you were dressed for it and I was enjoying it.
I got into conversation with someone about what a gem the woods are and how lucky we are to have it here in this part of the city.
 But then I was surprised when he said that he didn't believe in picking up after his dog. I don't think anyone had actually said that to me in the woods before. Of course I know some people don't do it but nobody has actually said it to me. Even when I explained that people can become blind from contact with dog faeces he was unmoved. It wasn't the time or place for a lengthy debate but it gave me cause for thought. I am grateful to the vast majority of dog walkers who do pick up after their dog. The place would be unbearable even for dogs if only half the faeces was cleared. If anyone needs convincing of the importance of picking up after their dog here are a couple of interesting links. Why pick up 1?   Why pick up 2 ?

 After a while I recovered my calm and was able to focus on the beauty of the wood again. I put in the photo of this grey wagtail because it was the first one I'd seen this year with a black bib.  This is the summer plumage of the male. He'll be thinking about territory and looking for a grey wagtail that hasn't got a black bib. Next time you see one look for the bib. Actually within minutes of seeing this bird I saw the sparrowhawk again gliding between the trees so these smaller birds mustn't get too distracted or they'll be on the menu.

Now for the competition.There are two mistakes in this notice but I'll let you have the satisfaction of finding them for yourself. The answer will come later but look closely at the wording.
Meanwhile, lush green leaves of wild garlic are beginning to fill in the bare areas of the wood's muddy floor. Soon I am sure the wood will be filled with the familiar smell and then the white flowers will appear. Whereas we normally buy garlic cloves for cooking, when it comes to wild garlic it is the lush leaves that are the most useful. I know people do use them for cooking but given our previous subject any garlic from Badock's Wood will need a very thorough wash.
Almost every year someone in the UK mistakes Lily of the Valley or some other plant for garlic and this can have a fatal outcome so care is needed when picking it. 
You can see from the photo that the garlic leaves are at an early stage but already with the moss and Hart's Tongue Fern they are giving the wood a touch of Spring.
There is a lot of Hart's Tongue on some slopes of the wood and this is a sign that not much light is reaching the ground. This year there will be a program of removing some trees and thinning others to allow more light in and so more ground cover and more variety of smaller plants. You might see orange, pink and green marks on trees that are destined to be removed during the year. The selection of trees has been carried out by a tree specialist. In fact this might have to be postponed until the end of the year because it is illegal to disturb nesting birds and of course you will see that many birds are carrying nesting materials already. For a brief note on the relevant law see here.
The two mistakes on the sign might appear trivial at first but they do have a greater significance.
The first is a trick question because despite what the sign says, the bin was removed completely, it wasn't 'relocated'. The bins at the wood entrances were already there. The second mistake is that it is Badock's Wood and not Badock's Park. Again this might seem trivial but there are important differences in the way that Parks and Woods are treated by the Council and in the way in which they are developed. Badock's Wood was designated a Local Nature Reserve in 2008 only after a lot of work by the FOBW. Certainly the emphasis underlying the Management Plan of Badock's Wood is to maintain it in as natural a condition as possible. For many people this is the essence of its attraction.

This photo of bird tracks was sent to me by Graham Mullen, the webmaster for the Friends of Badock's Wood website. We don't see many water birds in the wood during the day because of the number of dogs visiting. I would have been puzzled but I did see a moorhen a couple of weeks ago at the Doncaster Road end of the Trym and the tracks look exactly like the ones  for moorhen on the internet: see here.
They are clearly not webbed as would be the case for a mallard or gull. If you are in the wood at a quiet time of day you might see moorhen or mallard so keep a watch.
Until fairly recently I thought that animal spoor only referred to their 'droppings'. In fact it refers to any trace that animals or birds leave behind such as these tracks. It can also refer to broken twigs or scent. See a definition.  If you're interested in looking for signs that wildlife leave behind then you might like to see The Nature Trackers Handbook by Nick Baker. It's fun just to read and a good gift for budding nature enthusiasts. See here.

I was pleased to see on Sunday morning (13th March) that at least two of our newer bird boxes are attracting attention. It's too early to say that the birds have taken up residence. Each box has a number which you can just see in the photos. So this is 5 Lakewood End. It is just inside the Lakewood Road entrance on the left. A bluetit also went into No 7 Meadow View.There are 20 of these newer boxes around the wood and a few older ones, so keep a watch out for them and see if they are being used. Particularly if you see birds carrying nesting material to them.

Spring is a time of year when so much is happening in nature and it's romantic to think that the Wood is waking up after a long winter. Although we haven't had long periods of freezing weather or lots of snow, it has been a mild, damp winter and it is good to have a few days of clear skies and some warmth from the sun.  The floor of the Wood is certainly becoming greener with each passing day and leaf buds and blossom are opening on the trees. There is a lot of bird song and activity as they compete for territory and for mates, as well as thinking about finding a suitable site and then enough nesting material to build.
Now is a good time for us to get out into the woods with eyes and ears open to see what is happening all around us.

  • You can click on any photo to enlarge it.
  • If you would like to be notified of future posts put your email address in the box at the top right side of this page.
  • You can comment on anything in this blog by writing to me at:  .
  • Any views expressed here are my own and not those of the FOBW.
  • I know it's short notice but the Friends of Badock's Wood AGM takes place tomorrow evening (Tuesday 15th March) at 7.30pm in the Greenway Centre, Doncaster Road. If you have something to say about Badock's Wood, then that is the place to say it. Click here  to see the agenda.
  • There will be a Litter Pick on Saturday 19th March, meeting at the Lakewood Road entrance at 10am. Please email if you would like to take part. Equipment provided. The wood is a gem; let's keep it that way.
  • The Friends of Badock's Wood have been shortlisted for a Green Volunteers' Award for all the good work they have done to maintain and protect the wood as a Local Nature Reserve. Well done and well deserved !! To find out more click here.
mike townsend

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Spot The Difference

I was surprised recently to find that the dog poo bin had been removed from the Triangle. It was probably the most used bin in the wood. I was mainly surprised because it seemed there were discussions still going on which might have stopped this happening.  It was clearly a shock to many dog walkers because for a short period they continued to leave poo bags on the small square left by the removal. A sign has since gone up asking dog walkers to carry their bags to the bins close to the entrances.
It is frustrating for those who try to maintain the wood for the benefit of walkers and wildlife to have decisions made like this without being able to have any input into the discussion.

 On a more positive note we were able to make a good contribution towards clearing litter from Trymside open space on the other side of Doncaster Road from Badock's Wood. This was a joint venture between Bristol Avon Rivers Trust (BART) and the Friends of Badock's Wood (FOBW) to publicise the need for caution in what we put into the storm drains by our roads. All this goes directly into the small River Trym that runs through Trymside and Badock's Wood towards Westbury on Trym. Harriet Alvis from BART painted yellow fish by the drains to raise awareness. Although only four of us turned up to clear the litter from Trymside we worked hard and did manage to collect 21 bags of rubbish. However, we weren't able to move the wheelie bin full of rubbish that someone had tipped over in the stream. It was too heavy. Hopefully the council will be able to clear it away. You can see Harriet's delight at the anticipated success of the Yellow Fish project. Thank you Harriet for all the work you do towards keeping our waterways clean and clear for us and for wildlife. Have a look at BART's website here. 
Another welcome sight last week was this Sparrowhawk sitting in a tree near the steps from the Trym up to the meadow area. Then on Saturday (27th), during our regular bird survey, we saw it sitting in a tree close to last year's nesting site, which unfortunately fell in the winter storms. Hopefully it will nest in the wood again this year, although the smaller birds might wish it would nest elsewhere !!
This jumble of twigs amid branches on the right is in fact a work in progress. I saw it in Stoke Park last week and I first noticed a magpie fiddling a stick into exactly the right place to strengthen his roof. This is a magpie nest and in the photo the bird is actually inside the nest. There is still a lot of work to be done but it is taking shape. Since I saw this I have seen several magpies in Badock's Wood working on their nests. Look out for them carrying sticks and watch to see where they go. You might be lucky and be able to watch their nest building skills.

Last time we saw the small red flower of the Hazel Tree beside its catkins. here is the flower of the Alder. When pollinated by pollen from the catkins it will turn into the green fruits that you see on the tree and then the small brown cones that distinguish it from the Hazel. It's worth walking over to the tree to take a closer look. I've just learned that Alder has several interesting uses. For example: the wood of some species is used to smoke various foods such as coffee, salmon and other sea food. Also, most of the pilings that form the foundations of Venice are formed from Alder trees. If you'd like more information, such as the use of Alder in guitar making, click here. 

There's a lot of bird activity at the moment. Many birds are in their breeding plumage and the males particularly are looking very smart. This nuthatch had been hunting for insects in the rotten wood but was taking time off to call from this high vantage point. If you stand and listen for a while, you might be surprised at the number of different calls you hear. You might not be able to identify them all but there's still pleasure in hearing them. Listen to the distinctive sound of a nuthatch  here. Then listen in the wood.
This is a poor photo of a goldfinch but it does demonstrate its beautiful colours. They are often seen eating small seeds such as thistle or teazle although they will take the niger seeds from garden feeders. This one was with a small flock in the lane going down from the ceramics to the stream and seemed to be nibbling at the fresh, tender leaf buds.
The FOBW Work Party worked hard on Saturday 5th March to clear Wilson's Honeysuckle from the steep slopes around the Triangle. You might see mounds of the plants on the slopes, which are left as habitat for some of the smaller birds and possibly also small mammals. We then moved amongst the trees around the sports field and removed more, as well as half of an overgrown lilac shrub before the five of us ran out of time and energy; perhaps the younger members of the group still had energy !! Thank you Siân for organising this activity and to the volunteers for giving their time and effort.
Keeping the wood in the condition that we all like to see it takes time and commitment. If you would like to join one of the small teams of volunteers to help with managing the plants or with picking up litter, both vital activities, then contact the relevant email address at the bottom of the page.                                                 Removal of some of the dog and litter bins in the wood is an indication of the council's reducing investment in the wood. It is left to volunteers more and more to cope with a lot of bureaucracy to get funds for replacing the steps for instance or for printing leaflets and programmes. None of this is guaranteed. 
Spring is definitely on it's way. Despite the occasional frost and also snow in some parts of the country we have snowdrops, crocus, celandine and the first bluebell flowers are beginning to open.
I was walking with my wife this morning, Mothering Sunday, and we saw a bluetit enter one of the boxes we put up last year. A foretaste of an exciting year to come in Badock's Wood  !! 

mike townsend

  • The Friend's of Badock's Wood have been short listed for a Green Volunteer Award..... Thank you to all who nominated the group... See here.
  • The FOBW Annual General meeting will be held at the Greenway Centre in Doncaster Road on Tuesday March 15th at 7.30pm. If you have any views on the way Badock's Wood is managed or how it could be improved then this is the place to put forward your thoughts. You will also learn what plans there are for the Wood. See here.

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  • To learn more about the History of Badock's Wood or FOBW click here.
  • To receive regular emails from the Friends of Badock's Wood contact
  • To help with Work Parties, occasionally or monthly, contact Siân at
  • To help with the Litter Picks contact me at
  • The next Litter Pick will be on March 19th.
  • If you wish to receive notice of new editions of this blog put your email address in the box at the top of this page.
  • To leave  a comment about the blog you can contact me at