Posted by: lensweb | June 21, 2016

Singing in the Rain at Bradgate and Swithland

Singing in the Rain at Bradgate and Swithland

Mon June 20,  Swithland Wood  and Bradgate Park

A morning walk around Swithland Wood, then along Cropston Reservoir. Lunch at new café. In afternoon visit the ruined hall, see poisonous plants, peacocks and any deer. Explore the gorge, examine its rocks and formation.Meet 10.30am in eastern car park of Bradgate Park (Hallgates). Pay for day. Grid ref   SK 543 114  Postcode  LE7 7GQ            Leader: David Gibbons

BRADGATE PARK was first enclosed as a deer park around 800 years ago and now is a local conservation area of rolling heathland with a rugged topography as volcanic slates and granites protrude as craggy knolls through a cover of Triassic Mercia Mudstones.  Charnwood Forest is one of the few parts of England where there are exposures of rocks dating back to Precambrian time.  The local haunt of David Attenborough as a youth he must have been kicking himself when in 1957 a schoolboy, Roger Mason, found the world famous Charnia fossil when out climbing near Woodhouse Eaves.

charnia meme.jpg

Oh what a beautiful morning! A risk assessment of the threatening dark clouds decided we should take the lower route through the Park where a tarmac driveway runs through the middle. The River Lin was running wild and rain slashed down on our hooded stiffly robotic waterproofed maquettes as had a close look at crested dogs tail and sweet vernal grass. Wavy hair grass was more characteristic of the drier areas with tufted hair grass in the hollows. There were small patches of sphagnum moss and also starry polytrichum moss. In the runnels were sedges, remote and oval, and rushes, hard and soft and jointed, we looked at the laddered pith of the hard rush. Lesser spearwort looks like a buttercup with undivided leaves and the wasp pollinated water figwort has an intricate pollination mechanism. The heath grassland has a patchwork quilt of bracken, sheep’s sorrel and  tormentil, heath bedstraw, and hawkbit, meadow buttercup, blue milkwort and a very little lesser stitchwort and bird’sfoot trefoil, the different depths of soil and availability of nutrients muting and enhancing islands of colour. One butterfly braved it, a small copper which posed for a long time. Grasshopper nymphs were leaping about. A green woodpecker flew low to the ground as a yellowhammer called out for more cheese. We looked up at the beer glass shape of the old John folly and the war memorial on top of the hill to see velvet antlered red deer stags and groups of pretty spotted fallow deer move about the landscape like a living painting.  There was one white doe and a dark brown wildtype reversion.

Bradgate House was the childhood home of Lady Jane Grey, the ill-fated Queen of England. In Henry VIII’s will, Jane was named heiress to the English throne, but only if Henry’s son Edward and daughters Mary and Elizabeth died without issue. But the pious and sickly Edward VI altered the established legal succession and so Jane was crowned Queen of England in 1553, she ruled for just nine days. Mary Tudor claimed the throne, Jane was imprisoned in the Tower of London, then executed. Many of the ancient oak trees around Bradgate House were pollarded in sorrow and remembrance.

We were very surprised and pleased to see the large yellow networked flowers of henbane growing  in profusion in front of the ruins. And then David with delighted glee revealed a large plant of deadly nightshade flowering by the wall. Do the public know what a risk they take when walking in Bradgate Park? Now the sun had come out and we sat outside to have our lunch, watching a work party pick out ragwort from the sward with mechanical grabs. Cropston reservoir was dead calm.

Afterwards it was decision time again and we decided it was now dry enough to visit Swithland Woods? On our way to the cars, mauve spires of foxgloves lit up the grey slate dry-stone walls. Lime green necklaces of maidenhair spleenwort and wall rue were putting out feelers, when we were hit by another violent storm. Undeterred we drove to the woods and it was like entering a tropical house, it was so warm and humid. The woodland floor was coated with woodrush with enchanter’s nightshade along the path edge and sedges remote and pendulous. Now the sylva lit up with sunshine and we looked at the sessile oak which predominates, the craggy bark of dusky birch which can shelter many insects and even bat roosts, and small leaved limes which make an intricate leaf kaleidoscope in the ancient woodland. Imperforate St John’s Wort, common figwort and yellow pimpernel were flowers we don’t usually see and some meadow brown butterflies flew among the wavy hair grass near the fenced off steep sided old slate quarry. Spires of wall pennywort reaching up the vertical slate slabs  were the tallest ever seen, shining leaf discs footing the creamy yellow flower spikes. It is a member of the Stonecrop family adapted for surviving in dry conditions. Grey squirrels chased around the tree trunks as the robin sang and nuthatches busied in the old tree stumps, it really made an enchanted forest. Oh what a wonderful day!

Marion Bryce 21 June 2016




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