Welcome to our AFON Advent Calendar! Each day leading up to Christmas you will find a wonderful new post by a different member. This years theme is your favourite nature reserve; where do you go to escape from the world and connect with nature? Enjoy!
I walk through the gate and down part of the drive until I can take the path that cuts into the woodland. A Robin sits in the trees singing his song. A Squirrel bounds through the branches and I smile as I know it’s on its way to raid the feeders. In the spring the path is lined with Snowdrops whilst in summer Herb Robert is abundant. I wander past the woven Badger sculpture into the wildlife garden. The cheeky Brown Rats scurry for cover, disturbed from their foraging. Tits, both Great and Blue, flit back and forth to take seed from the feeders. The subtly beautiful Dunnocks take food from the floor, and occasionally the garish Pheasant decides to see what the Bird Table offers. A Blackbird tilts its head to take me in its gaze. A longer wait in the garden may lead to a glimpse of a Goldfinch, or a Greenfinch, and maybe if I’m lucky a Siskin will appear. I saw my first Sparrowhawk by those feeders, and each visit I secretly hope for another close encounter, but I’m more likely to see it flying over. I leave the garden passing the flowers abuzz with life, buzzing bees and beautiful butterflies.
Walking now with water on one side, and trees on the other, I startle a Rabbit from where it feeds. A Song Thrush sings from the tree tops and the Coots and the Mallards dabble in the water. Crossing the bridge and heading towards the wet meadow, I hear a Reed Warblers song ringing out, at a certain time of year. A careful look towards the island in the lake can reveal where the Mute Swans nest, and I can battle my fear for a view of the cygnets. Yellow Flag provide a bright but short lived splash of colour on the water edge. As I walk along the river a flash of brilliant blue becomes a stately Kingfisher, an ungainly Grey Heron flaps past, disturbed from its patient hunting and the Magpies make a racket in the trees. Pacing along the board walk it’s possible to see the Goosander that decide to dally on the grounds, and in the mud by the river, my heart leaps at the sight of prints that maybe, just maybe, have been left by an Otter. I smile at the feathery balls that are a family of Long Tailed Tits moving through the trees and a Nuthatch investigates the nooks in some bark. I linger by the tree where I once watched a family of Treecreepers and where I know the Blue Tits nested. Back across the bridge and across the car park into the meadow and my walk ends in the grass that is alive with Crickets and Grasshoppers that launch themselves away from my feet.
No matter what time of year I know I can wander the grounds of the Wolseley Centre, Staffordshire Wildlife Trust’s HQ, and find some marvel of nature to wonder at, something to lift my heart, a sight that can make me forget everything but the here and now. It’s a place where I can connect with nature and do nothing more than simply be.