The Shire Country Park Friends

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Nature Notes

Mick and I walked through Priory Fields Nature Reserve early in 2014.  Inspired by the frosty morning and the need for fresh air and some exercise .  It turned out to be an ideal time.  Priory Fields is at the southernmost end of the Shire Country Park.  There are entrances from the canal but the main access point is from Priory Rd.  Behind Lampost 6/9.  The footpath on the side of the entrance ends here and there is a long bend in the road where traffic appears quickly and without warning.

The route through was quite muddy but because of the hard frost the mud was hard and served as a good base.  The start of the path from this end is made of hard core and is a firm foundation.  Fallen leaves had naturally disintegrated and become mashed into what looked like a mixture of dark all bran and soggy cornflakes but it was hard and easy to walk on.

The path is alongside the pool which is considerably larger than it appears from the roadside in Priory Rd.  This road was constructed on top of the dam to the pool.  Numerous seagulls mixed with the ducks, and a heron was immobile on  some branches steadfastly facing upstream.  Was he or she ignoring the busy traffic or facing into weather.  Further along we noticed another heron flying in so perhaps the watchfulness was because of an awareness that breeding would begin soon.  Mating can begin in February.  Time to choose nesting sites perhaps.

The brook flowing through Priory Fields if the Yardley Wood Brook which rises near Prince of Wales Lane and flows into the River Cole.   Although nearly a mile long parts of it are culverted and run under the Stratford upon Avon Canal.    The recent rain had not covered crossing points completely and we were able to negotiate these easily.  Parts of Priory Fields are very, very marshy but although the white frost had disappeared the ground remained hard and the chunky outlines from the boots of previous walkers were firmly held in place. Some large feet had walked this way.  They reminded me of horseshoe prints and a sudden realisation dawned that of course, horses may well have walked or trotted this very path.  There used to be a windmill nearby until the 1950’s.  We passed a mature apple tree, the apples scattered on the ground like so much manna from heaven for the wildlife.  We saw the scattered feathers of a seagull, of which there are many on the pond, a welcome meal for a resident fox I should think.  Grass lay in limp and weary tussocks of yellow and green stripes and pale brown fronds covered the stubby knots of potential ferns.  Tiny stands of frozen water made miniature ponds amongst the frozen footprints of previous walkers.  Tiny works of art all of them.  

The path we took leads to the Stratford upon Avon canal and looking left we could see the bridge supporting the main road running through Solihull Lodge.  Turning back from the canal we left the main path and diverted along another to come out further along the canal.  Here houses had steeply sloping gardens running down to the water and they had made the most of this advantage.  These houses would look liked millions of others from the front but a garden leading to water lends itself to all sorts of  imaginative and individual ideas.   

Later in the day it would become too marshy to divert from the path but we felt we could successfully explore the boundaries and ended up, and this was a major surprise to me, on the playing fields of Maypole Football Club. I recognised it instantly my mind flying straight back to a not dissimilar cold morning standing on the sidelines watching our youngest son playing for Maypole Juniors.  Goodness what tricks time was playing on me this morning.  We took a turn around the changing rooms, of necessity alas, well barricaded and re-entered Prior Fields.  

Moving on we reached a boardwalk.  We could have rejoined our original path but decided, the frost still holding, just about, to take the board walk.  This is a very short length and passes through and ends, as you might expect in extremely marshy land.  We could just about squelch through and eventually re-joined our original path.  We met a man and his dog and later a woman and two children.  There was litter here and there which was not of such huge amounts that it could not  easily be removed  on a work day but this area which is maintained by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust does not currently have a volunteer group to attend to these mundane but rewarding tasks.   It would not take too much effort to clear the litter and cut back some brambles which will come the summer block a few paths.  Having walked in a very short space of time numerous varieties of habitat exposed in a period where potential life lies dormant, it becomes apparent what a rich and valuable area for wildlife this is apart from any oasis of green for visitors to enjoy.   It felt quite sad to reach the entrance again to realise that the information board about the area, standing just a few yards from the path is now complelely surrounded by shrubbery.  In the summer it will completely disappear.  Returning home a welcome coffee assisted me in writing this blog.  As I finished writing I looked out of the window.  It was dark and grey and raining.  How fortunate the bright sunny interlude we had enjoyed.

Mick and I walked through Priory Fields Nature Reserve early this year.  Inspired by the frosty morning and the need for fresh air and some exercise .  It turned out to be an ideal time.  Priory Fields is part of the Shire Country Park.  There are entrances from the canal but the main access point is from Prior Rd.  Behind Lampost 6/9.  The footpath on the side of the entrance ends here and there is a long bend in the road where traffic appears quickly and without warning.

The route through was quite muddy but because of the hard frost the mud was hard and served as a good base.  The start of the path from this end is made of hard core and is a firm foundation.  Fallen leaves had naturally disintegrated and become mashed into what looked like a mixture of dark all bran and soggy cornflakes but it was hard and easy to walk on.

The path is alongside the pool which is considerably larger than it appears from the roadside in Priory Rd.  This road was constructed on top of the dam to the pool.  Numerous seagulls mixed with the ducks, and a heron was immobile on  some branches steadfastly facing upstream.  Was he or she ignoring the busy traffic or facing into weather.  Further along we noticed another heron flying in so perhaps the watchfulness was because of an awareness that breeding would begin soon.  Mating can begin in February.  Time to choose nesting sites perhaps.

The brook flowing through Priory Fields if the Yardley Wood Brook which rises near Prince of Wales Lane and flows into the River Cole.   Although nearly a mile long parts of it are culverted and run under the Stratford upon Avon Canal.    The recent rain had not covered crossing points completely and we were able to negotiate these easily.  Parts of Priory Fields are very, very marshy but although the white frost had disappeared the ground remained hard and the chunky outlines from the boots of previous walkers were firmly held in place. Some large feet had walked this way.  They reminded me of horseshoe prints and a sudden realisation dawned that of course, horses may well have walked or trotted this very path.  There used to be a windmill nearby until the 1950’s.  We passed a mature apple tree, the apples scattered on the ground like so much manna from heaven for the wildlife.  We saw the scattered feathers of a seagull, of which there are many on the pond, a welcome meal for a resident fox I should think.  Grass lay in limp and weary tussocks of yellow and green stripes and pale brown fronds covered the stubby knots of potential ferns.  Tiny stands of frozen water made miniature ponds amongst the frozen footprints of previous walkers.  Tiny works of art all of them.  

The path we took leads to the Stratford upon Avon canal and looking left we could see the bridge supporting the main road running through Solihull Lodge.  Turning back from the canal we left the main path and diverted along another to come out further along the canal.  Here houses had steeply sloping gardens running down to the water and they had made the most of this advantage.  These houses would look liked millions of others from the front but a garden leading to water lends itself to all sorts of  imaginative and individual ideas.   

Later in the day it would become too marshy to divert from the path but we felt we could successfully explore the boundaries and ended up, and this was a major surprise to me, on the playing fields of Maypole Football Club. I recognised it instantly my mind flying straight back to a not dissimilar cold morning standing on the sidelines watching our youngest son playing for Maypole Juniors.  Goodness what tricks time was playing on me this morning.  We took a turn around the changing rooms, of necessity alas, well barricaded and re-entered Prior Fields.  

Moving on we reached a boardwalk.  We could have rejoined our original path but decided, the frost still holding, just about, to take the board walk.  This is a very short length and passes through and ends, as you might expect in extremely marshy land.  We could just about squelch through and eventually re-joined our original path.  We met a man and his dog and later a woman and two children.  There was litter here and there which was not of such huge amounts that it could not  easily be removed  on a work day but this area which is maintained by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust does not currently have a volunteer group to attend to these mundane but rewarding tasks.   It would not take too much effort to clear the litter and cut back some brambles which will come the summer block a few paths.  Having walked in a very short space of time numerous varieties of habitat exposed in a period where potential life lies dormant, it becomes apparent what a rich and valuable area for wildlife this is apart from any oasis of green for visitors to enjoy.   It felt quite sad to reach the entrance again to realise that the information board about the area, standing just a few yards from the path is now complelely surrounded by shrubbery.  In the summer it will completely disappear.  Returning home a welcome coffee assisted me in writing this blog.  As I finished writing I looked out of the window.  It was dark and grey and raining.  How fortunate the bright sunny interlude we had enjoyed.



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