A gloriously sunny day with a chill wind in the car park, but very sheltered once into the woods.
We set off from the car park to stand near the water treatment works, where once lime kilns and a cottage with vegetable garden stood, then walked over the footbridge to stand next to the site of the old watermill where we discussed its history and looked at old photographs from 1890 and maps from 1853.
And then we scuttled off into the shelter of the blackthorn tunnel where we saw cow parsley starting to flower with greater stitchwort, Lords-and-Ladies, and red campion. The deeper in to the wood we moved the more we saw the plants associated with ancient woodland; dog’s-mercury with seed heads forming, bluebells, wood sedge.
The ramsons were in full flower here where they had been in tight bud up at Hagg Wood on our walk only a few days ago and there was hardly a wood anemone flower to be seen just many developing seedheads.
There were speckled wood and orange-tip butterflies flitting around in the open areas then pausing to sun themselves on the plants growing by the path. We looked up to see one tree covered in great big oak apple galls and nearby a sapling whitebeam coming into leaf.
By the wet rock face before the first boardwalk we saw liverworts and herb-Robert seedlings and at their base pendulous sedge with tufty male stamens at the ends of the triangular flower stems.
On a sunny day at this time of year the light in a woodland is a delight and the stream, now that the water is clean (fish were seen and old otter spraint), sparkled and gurgled its way down to the sea as we walked alongside it.
We heard the sound of a Chiffchaff singing its name; once discerned from the background of birdsong it became a constant refrain throughout the walk. Apparently, this wasn’t just the one bird following us around for our three hour walk relentlessly Chiffchaffchiffchaffchiffchaffing but that the wood was peppered with them and they were all relentlessly Chiffchaffchiffchaffchiffchaffing whenever we walked by. I don’t think it was personal, but it certainly felt it. There were other birds too that more expert ears picked out, including at one point a Tawny Owl.
Chocolate stop was an interesting sea-salted caramel milk, a dark pistachio and a fine strong flavoured espresso dark and was just before the climb up and over the steps. Once on the other side we said hello to the fold in the rocks that’s not been properly explained yet before moving on along the path. We sneaked round the barrier across the old path and walked along past a clump of goldilocks buttercup to talk of old fields in the wood and fords across the stream, before carefully navigating the start of the path repairs (from soil slumping) so we could walk to the end of the wood to reach the bridleway.
From the bridleway we walked up towards Brotton until on the edge of the wood we looked at some huge goat willow specimens and from there turned left along the top of the wood to talk of bracken and the shading effect of a hazel bush before walking along the new path back into the wood.
Here we stopped to note that the wood here was an example of hazel coppice with oak standard trees; the trees grown for timber and the hazel cut for its flexible rods to make lobster pots, baskets, hurdles and even the wattle of ‘wattle and daub’ house walls. And then down past bluebells and patches of wood anemone to the main path where we meandered our merry way out of the shelter of the wood back to the cold sea wind of the car park.