Nature walk from Stapleford 18 September 2021

We walked from The Granary, Stapleford, on the footpath towards Babraham past the black barn.  Our walk leader and naturalist, John O’Boyle, writes:

From the Granary we strolled along the path past two enormous white poplar trees.  Their leaves bear a white felt coating on the underside.  Common Mallow plants with bright pink flowers brightened the way.  The soft leaves of this species were traditionally used in sandwiches. A wayside weed, Bristly Oxtongue, was also seen with pimples on the bristle-bearing leaves.

Many small white butterflies accompanied our walk in addition to shiny green tinged ground beetles crossing the path.  Late-flowering bright red poppies were in evidence; these probably came from seeds thrown up by agricultural activity.  The seeds can remain dormant in the soil for decades.  There was a female hop plant trailing over a chain link fence with highly aromatic cone flower heads.  Another aromatic plant was observed , Pineapple weed, which is a prostrate species on well trodden footpaths.  It lives up to its name with a distinctive smell of the fruit.

A large swarm of Ivy Bees was buzzing close to the ground.  This species has colonised from mainland Europe in recent years.  Individuals could been seen entering small burrows where it lays its eggs and develops over winter to emerge as adults the following May.

We reached the crystal clear waters of the river where a group of children were happily splashing about in the ford.  Himalayan Balsam was seen along the banks with vivid pink domed flowers known colloquially as ‘Policeman’s helmets’. Although this is an attractive plant it is an invasive non-native species that smothers our native riverside flora, thus upsetting the natural balance.

An unexpected highlight on our return was a small murmuration of Starlings that had congregated on electricity pylon wires across the path – they took off in unison forming dramatic changing aerial shapes.

The next walk will be at The Stone House, Stapleford, on 16 October.  Further details here.

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