The first of our woodland walks started with us all congregating on the corner of Cleveland Street in Liverton Mines, a place that didn’t exist in 1853; we looked at maps of the area from 1853, 1893 and 1913…then off we set through the reclaimed mine spoil heaps which were planted with trees in the 1980’s.
We arrived at the top of an almost sheer set of steps which led us deep into the Clarkson’s Wood and I gave my standard advice for dealing with steep steps safely which is to pretend you are Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire going down stairs (i.e. sideways, arms out for balance and looking amazing, obviously). We looked at how the different plants changed as we descended, where pendulous sedge and enchanter’s nightshade appeared when the ground was wetter, and how to tell if the trees had been coppiced before. It was all very green, the spring flowers having by now set seed. It started to rain.
And down we plunged into the very bowels of the earth (it was quite steep) to see Kilton Beck and Petch (foot) Bridge.
Then we headed south by the beck to view an expanding patch of the locally rare Dutch Rush (a type of horsetail), and a particularly knobbly coppiced Alder tree and then up on old cobbled trackways, over fallen trees and past fungi. It rained a bit more.
Past a patch of bilberries (yes they were ripe) growing with great wood-rush, then a brief chocolate stop (lemon & mint, mint, and 70% plain) to add extra endorphins to counteract the stress of having to cross the perilously narrow bridge over the yawning chasm (I’m not making this up you know). And on…ducking under the fallen tree next to the big coppiced small-leaved lime growing on the edge of the steep cliff (don’t look down if you have vertigo…I have vertigo) and along to the end of the path where the side of the valley has slumped and been washed away with just bare earth showing. Also still raining.
Then we retraced our steps, before heading up the valley side to the coppiced oaks at the top, down a bit and past the elephant trap deterrent (definitely working as no elephants were seen) and then to a path skirting the edge between the mine spoil heaps on our right and the steeply sloping ancient woodland on our left and passing the locally scarce wood vetch in full flower, until back to the top of the steps – a full circle(ish). It stopped raining.
We made a slight detour on the way back to where the cars were parked to look masses of pyramidal orchids growing on old industrial land along with golden mellilot which was humming with bees.