If you fancy seeing a real riot of nature this weekend or next weekend, the Oxenhall and Dymock Daffodil weekends are a must. They’re a celebration of the wonderful sign of the coming spring which we all love to see – the daffodil. In this case, it’s the wild daffodil which grows in profusion through the woods and fields around three villages – Oxenhall, Kempley and Dymock. Never mind those hosts of golden daffodils in the Lake District, Wordsworth could easily have been writing about his walk through the countryside in the Forest of Dean.
Each village takes it in turn to host the weekend – last week’s was due to be in Kempley but was cancelled due to the snow. This weekend is centred at the Oxenhall village hall and next weekend, Dymock village hall is the host. Today and tomorrow, the wardens from Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust will be leading guided walks around Betty Dawes Wood, a trust reserve which is one of the jewels of the daffodil woods. The walk is just 1.5 miles long and flat, on the whole, so a good place for a family outing if you’ve got small children. The wood will probably be muddy after all the recent rain and snow so go prepared with wellies or walking boots. There’s also a 5 mile guided walk leaving from the village hall at 10am.
After the walks, be sure to leave time for a visit to the village hall to indulge in the delicious cakes, pasties or even a lunch. The cakes are usually fab, home baked by the villagers themselves. Plus there’s a plant and white elephant stall, and an exhibition in the church by the local history society. All the monies raised go to local clubs and good causes. Dymock’s weekend includes a craft fair in the village hall.
All-in-all, I love these weekends and revel in the shear ‘Englishness’ of them plus the infectious enthusiasm and love of the volunteer for ‘their’ daffodils and their villages. These weekends are the real annual harbingers of spring for me.
Cherington pond is a jewel of a place, hidden away at the bottom of a secluded valley not many miles away from Stroud but feeling like it’s in its own world. It offers a variety of different wildlife in one small area – the water birds that live on the open water plus those that prefer the seclusion of the woodland that wraps itself around the pond; the shallow stream leading into the pond where once a pre-occupied water shrew bumbled along looking for food, quite oblivious to my great bulk standing just inches away. But in February and early March, it’s the spectacle of the snowdrop carpet gracing the woodland floor that makes this an ideal place for a Sunday (or any day come to that) stroll instilling a feel-good factor that far out-weighs a bucketful of prozac.
This constantly wet, miserable weather may not be great for the seratonine levels or make you want to abandon your dormouse impersonation curled up in a warm corner somewhere, but it is ideal for one thing – waterfalls. It’s little known that Stroud has a waterfall – OK, it’s not a niagra falls-type waterfall or even a ‘stand at the bottom and get covered with spray’ waterfall. But, nethertheless, a waterfall it is. And it’s found near a place with a name that makes you want to walk there – The Heavens.
So winter has finally started – at least according to the Met Office for whom the 1st December marks the beginning. For astronomers, we’re still autumn until the winter solistice (21st December) which seems a bit late to me. Whatever date you choose, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed with autumn this year. I’d been planning to post a series of blogs highlighting the best places and walks where you could appreciate the full majesty of the glorious seasonal colours. Instead, the trees seem to have gone from green to bare branches in almost one fell swoop. Yes, there has been a degree of colour change, but the usual yellows, reds and oranges have seemed muted. I feel you’ve cheated me, Mother Nature! I find these riotous colours are one of the autumnal delights tempering the thought of winter’s cold, short days. That, plus the wonderful bounty of berries and fruit, and the comforting chutney-making.