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 Si├ón 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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mike townsend

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