#StayWild Tip: Take a break in nature. Switch off your computer at lunch or in the evening and relax outside.
The Scottish heatwave continues, and in Callander where I work at the Youth Project it was no exception. I routinely try to abandon my desk, ideally for my entire lunch hour, not only for the clear health benefits of getting up off my backside and changing posture, but also for the mental benefits of spending time in refreshing air, with senses stimulated, and concentration and energy levels revived. This is especially true on hot days, although I try to get out come rain or shine, and there is a lot to enjoy while exploring the wild fringes of the town.
For Day Eight I chose my regular 5k walk from Bridgend to Gartchonzie Bridge along Invertrossachs Road, a single track to the southwest of town. It forms part of National Cycle Route 7 and is bordered by the Coilhallan Woods to the south, and farmland and the riverside of Eas Ghobain to the north. Although I have walked variations of this route many times (and quite often don’t make it as far as Gartchonzie because I’ve seen or heard something fascinating), the changing seasons mean that there are always interesting things to see. This walk will no doubt pop up again in future wild days!
Today, in seriously hot sunshine, I chose to explore a little path over a stile that I had never crossed before (close to the big red 7 in the middle of the map above). I could see it led down to the river – always enticing – but also that there was an islet and some convoluted river banks worth a look. Best of all it was beneath the shade of the tree canopy! I found a wonderful little network of grassy paths, winding though the undergrowth, managed with clear sensitively for nature by someone, perhaps from the nearby Holiday Park. Much of the path followed the riverbank which was very pleasant and calm with the sounds of water and bird song
Wild flowers and the uncurling fiddleheads of ferns were everywhere, and there was a lot of activity in the trees, with a lot of small birds flitting about. I enjoyed the close company of a willow warbler collecting insects from the leaves, and was very fortunate to observe a family group of nuthatch, with juveniles being fed by their parent as they sprang from tree trunk to treetrunk.
Many of the flowers and trees I recognise I have learned to recognise, and I enjoy taking photographs of those I am unfamiliar with (or have forgotten about) in an attempt to identify them later on. Sometimes these can be incredibly familiar and taken-for-granted little things that I have barely ever paid attention to, and it is remarkable how often these have associated interesting facts or biological quirks.
I know there are a couple of invasive species along the riverside here; Japanese knotweed and skunk cabbage. Skunk cabbage in particular strikes a little chord of fear in me, something I can only assume is linked to my absolute terror of the Triffid alien plants featured in the 1980’s TV series based on the novel by John Wyndham. The huge structure of these cabbage plants, and the bizarre, tongue-like flowers when in bloom certainly give me the willies.
I soon had to head back along the road to work, and I spotted a lot of these web-based structures in the hedgerow. There were no obvious eggs, larvae or baby insects inside, and with some of them the leaves had been pulled in to form shelter. I’m not sure what creature makes these, so if you do please let me know!
There’s always something new and interesting to see, even on the most familiar of journeys. You just have to look with attentive and generous eyes.