Today has been very hot here (I’m currently writing this outside in about 24°C and hoping that the correct photos made it up because its not the easiest to see!) and in hindsight I should have chosen a different activity for today, but never mind. I went out, I enjoyed the sunshine and I came home again a little stung from nettles, a little snifflely from my hayfever deciding today was a great time to kick in properly but very happy! My random snippets of wildlife information today come once again from my AA Book of the British Countryside. I’m still working my way through ‘B’ as I haven’t been doing much reading recently, however some interesting facts:
- There are 4 species of plants in the balsam family, only one mentioned in this book. Its called a “touch-me-not” because if you touch them ever so slightly the seed pods will burst and scatter seeds everywhere. From what I can find out this is common to all four balsams.
- Bats’ skeletons look surprisingly similar to humans except that their fingers are more elongated and forms the structure for the wing membrane.
- A honey-bee colony can have up to 60,000 bees, which are mostly worker bees! Seems such a large number!
Sadly Colin has no exciting wild adventures to share today, but he has been given a new treat which is basically a bar of seeds and vegetables to munch all. All healthy, natural goodness. He seems to approve!
I apologise now for a lengthy post!
But I haven’t told you all about today’s adventure yet! Today I decided that I was going to explore somewhere new without the aid of my phone (or a map!). I knew I wanted to end up at Soham Meadows (a BCN Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve) and that I wanted to start in Soham as I didn’t fancy parking my car in a layby on the A142!
I parked up in Brooke Street on the south-east side of Soham, conveniently close to a public footpath. This footpath led, I hoped, to the Soham Lode which would lead me to the nature reserve fairly soon. I didn’t manage to get very far before I had crossed a field and found my way blocked by a pair of horses. They were very friendly and let me stroke them and one of them sniffed me all over hoping for some food (sadly I only had my lunch with me and I wasn’t willing to share). However, they refused to move out the way so I could get through the kissing gate at the end of their field! So, resolutely, I turned round and headed back the way I’d come (fortunately not too far!).
Hmmm. Now how to get there? I knew there were a variety of footpaths that headed across to the A142 (which I knew I needed to reach and cross), I also knew that I was probably at one of the most south paths. I decided to retrace my steps back to Brooke Street and follow the street north, hoping at some point to reach the Lode itself.
As a quick diversion, the term lode is medieval and is just another word for a watercourse. There are seven main lodes in Cambridgeshire which are man-made and some are believed to be Roman in origin. The Soham Lode was dug in the 17th century and joins the River Snail to the River Great Ouse in order to reduce flooding around Soham and Fordham areas. There was also originally a mere at Soham and the Lode diverted water away from it.
Eventually I did find the Lode and some very cute babies. There was a family of cygnets with both their parents and a family of ducklings although I couldn’t work out where their mother was sadly! As I followed the path round some houses (hoping it would lead me back to the lode) I also meet an adoreable lamb that seemed to have escaped its field through a rather large hole in the fence to munch what I can only assume was tastier grass!
The path did indeed lead me back to the Lode and I followed the Lode for a while. I passed into a field containing a herd of horses including some rather sweet little foals. Fortunately these horses were further away and didn’t seem to mind a rambler wandering alongside the water and let me be!
At the end of path round this field, to my delight was the A142. I knew that I should try and cross this if I wanted to reach the meadow I was aiming for! I climbed a stile into an overgrown section that led up to the bridge. Clearly there aren’t too many people walking round this way to visit the reserve! The busy road was successfully crossed and I proceeded to follow the Lode on its other side (because it was an obvious and less overgrown footpath). Shortly I discovered that I could see the entrance to the meadow. But…on the otherside of the Lode! Yet again I turned round and headed back up to the road bridge to cross over. Note to self, remember to check which side of the water you want to be on…
This path was very overgrown, and I would caution anyone going to Soham Meadows to watch out for the large amount of Hemlock as Hemlock is very poisonous. I believe it to be hemlock based on the description from my wildflower book and a variety of internet sources and having been shown some by a Wildlife Trust employee. Fortunately I don’t think hemlock will harm you if touch it, but you certainly don’t want to break its stem and get its sap on you in case you accidentally pass the poison onto anything that you might eat. I felt compelled to give this warning just in case, and it did get me interested in finding out a bit more about the plant. You’re welcome to skip the next paragraph.
Hemlock looks suspiciously similar to plants such as Cow Parsley and Hogweed, but the main difference is that the stem is covered with purple splotches instead of being green. If in doubt whether the plant is indeed hemlock or not, I would definitely err on the side of caution and please don’t let your children play with it! Hemlock’s poison is made up of five alkaloids (substances which originate from plants and have significant physiological effects on humans). The most significant is coniine. This is paralysises the body, initially from the limbs and eventually paralysises the lungs and respiratory system. A mere 0.1g is enough to prove fatal to humans. Apparently Socrates was sentenced to death for his ideas and had to drink a cup of hemlock juice. So there we go…and interesting diversion into a poisonous plant. Onto to happier things!
Eventually I did actually make it to the reserve! It was so wonderful, yet possibly a bit too warm! It felt like everything was just too sleepy to be bothered to move. I wandered happily around the reserve, snapping some photos, stopping for lunch and getting excited over the flowers! First a few photos of the reserve and some of the less interesting (although still wonderful) plants.
First up in the exciting flowers was the Common Milkwort – a cute, little plant with delicate, blue flowers.
Second up was Birdsfoot Trefoil – much larger than I was expecting it to be!
Third up was the Bugle. These were fairly abundant and seemed to be beginning to fade.
Fouth up is the beautiful Early Marsh Orchids. So tiny and delicate, once I’d found one I managed to find a load more. I was hoping for some Bee Orchids but sadly I didn’t find any and I got too warm to continue searching.
Finally, probably my favourite, was a common twayblade. I only found the one, but it was surprisingly tall, but with beautiful, tiny and fragile flowers.
After a nice time spent among the flowers, I headed back up the path and across the road and attempted to follow the Lode home in the same way. My way onto the path was now blocked by the herd of horses with their foals. So I once again turned round and took the very much overgrown path on the other side! After passing through a few more stiles I was treated to a delightfully shady section where I paused and waited for some horses to move and took a large amount of photos of which I’ll post just a few!
I realised that I was about to reach the very first point I had to turn around after being blocked by the first horses! So I was happily treated to the short journey back to the car where I drank a large amount of water before heading homewards to write this all up!
I had an absolutely wonderful time today, even if I ended up a little bit too warm. It’s lovely exploring somewhere new, and I particularly loved trusting my instinct and realising that my sense of direction isn’t quite as bad as I think it is! Sorry for the long post, but I had a lovely time!
Shining lode, tiny flowers
Sleepy with the heat