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Soggy Robin: Brown Robin

Posted: Sunday 30th September 2012 by Steve_and_Beth_Pipe

Zoned PolyporeZoned Polypore

Sometimes the very best things are right on your doorstep.

I'll admit it, we didn't need to go far to explore this nature reserve; we live in Grange-over-Sands and the track in front of our house borders the far reaches of the Brown Robin Nature Reserve. We also had the luxury of a knowledgeable guide all to ourselves. This isn't a perk of blogging for the CWT, one of the local volunteer reserve managers had kindly laid on a guided walk which was open to everyone, the problem is it was tipping down with rain so we were the only people who turned up, which was a huge shame as Tony was delightful and we learned a huge amount about the flora, fauna and history of this fascinating site.

We met outside Grange-over-Sands station and walked up to the entrance to the reserve which is tucked away behind the carpark of the Netherwood Hotel (if you're driving then there's parking available there too.). While there are several paths and tracks around the reserve, many of them were very boggy due to the recent weather so best advice is to make sure you're wearing some weatherproof boots. The first thing we learned was the difference between a Beech tree and a Hornbeam, that's the benefit of having a guide, you can ask lots of questions, and Tony was polite enough not to laugh at any of them. Turns out a Hornbeam has pointier leaves which are more deeply ridged than the Beech tree and the reason they're important is because they apparently attract Hawfinches. Over recent years Hawfinches have turned up wherever the Hornbeams have been coppiced, although to be fair they've been heard more than they've been seen; despite hearing them on many occasions over the past couple of years Tony has only ever seen one twice.Cones

We also learned about the importance of creating wildlife corridors, either planting hedging where none previously existed or removing sections from overgrown areas. A wildlife corridor allows creatures who prefer that particular environment to move from one zone to another. For example a long area of hedge has been created to link 2 sections of woodland. To the untrained eyes (like ours) it just looks like a field boundary, but to those in the know it's a highway for creatures to move more safely between the woodlands. I think my favourite story concerned the "Gatekeeper Butterfly" who apparently lurks around gates but isn't fond of going through them unless they're open, thus the removal of vegetation, or the creation of a clear corridor in an overgrown area, will encourage them to move through an area they wouldn't previously have visited. Nature at its laziest perhaps?

As we made our way onto the top of the reserve Tony pointed out many things we would otherwise have missed – badger setts carved deep into the hillside, ant mounds which indicate how well established the area of land is and the beginnings of mushroom season with assorted brightly coloured fungi beginning to peek through the undergrowth. He also showed us the difference between the area where the deer graze and the fenced off section where they're not allowed. The fenced off section had a lot more vegetation across the woodland floor whereas the unfenced section had been grazed clean. To be fair we already knew a little about this as we've occasionally had them visit our garden; they're expert at stripping the leaves off our apple trees and have munched a lowly magnolia sapling to the point of extinction – I have to admire the tenacity of the plant that it's still hanging in there, until their next visit anyway.

Rufous GrasshopperTony then took us up to the charcoal burning/ wood workshop area for a much needed cuppa. After a quick rest and some essential sustenance he showed us how all the wood working equipment worked. Much of it has itself been made on other woodworking equipment which rather begs the question how was the first ever one made? I'm not known for being good with my hands so I left that part to Steve, but I'm now very keen to get a little wood workshop set up in our garage. I'm not 100% sure what we'd make and why, but even just playing with the various devices for a few minutes allows you to feel how therapeutic working with wood is and how a slightly wonky item made by your own hands is worth so much more than something mass produced with no feeling. Although a mass produced item would probably be rather less likely to injure you than anything made by me.

By now the heavens had opened and it was absolutely steaming down so we decided to call it a day. If you're looking at the photos and wondering where the sun came from, that's because Steve was despatched at a later date to get some shots of the place looking lovely and sunny so we could properly do it justice. Many of the CWT reserves are rather remote, but there really is no excuse not to visit this one and yet it appears to be a rather well kept secret. It's only 5 minutes walk from Grange Station or, more importantly, 10 minutes walk from the Hazlemere cafe which is well worth knowing if you happen to visit on a day when the weather is less than kind. Fortunately for us we were soon home curled up on the sofa with a mug of tea and a biscuit or two. And I had the nerve to suggest the Gatekeeper Butterfly was lazy...

You can read more blogs about Life & Hiking in Cumbria by Steve & Beth on their Cumbrian Rambler web page.


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