Monday, 14 March 2016

Low Barns

Yesterday I woke up to thick mist, and thought, yes! Spring! First properly misty morning we’ve had for ages, and there was something about the quality of the light that made it clear it was going ‘get out’ as they say round here; the sun would shine and we would have springtime at last.

I have got so fed up with being cold this winter. It was a slow starter. Autumn was mild, but then after Christmas it rapidly got colder and it’s been damp and cold ever since. Yesterday though! Fantastic. So I took myself off to Low Barns Nature Reserve, which I like to do regularly whatever the weather. It’s only a three mile drive, and it’s open every day; it has a café, and as I’m a member of Durham Wildlife Trusts I get free parking. What’s not to love? And of course it has wildlife. That’s the whole point.

For those who don’t know this lovely reserve, the River Wear run through it and we’re high enough upstream for it to be a lively and boisterous river rather than the sluggish thing it becomes downstream. There’s a decent sized lake with islands, and a series of huge reedbeds – all made from reclaimed land that used to be gravel pits, I believe. There are plenty of hides, decent footpaths, hidden corners, and huge numbers of birds. Don’t ask me what they are – I used to be good on birds, but seem to have forgotten all of them other than the usual suspects – chaffinches, blue tits, etc. The great thing about Low Barns is you’ll also see the ones you don’t see in your garden, so you’re highly likely to see swans, cormorants (unless they’re shags – sorry, don’t know the difference), geese, herons, woodpeckers and nuthatches. I’ve seen huge flocks of peewits occasionally, and one brilliant time I actually saw a kingfisher.

Yesterday, however, was more about the flowers than the birds as far as I was concerned. There were still plenty of clumps of snowdrops about, though they were just starting to go over. The miniature daffodils were still blooming too, but the exciting yellow was the first dandelion of the year, the first coltsfoot, and the early flush of gorse flowers. By the time I got there, which was about two o’clock, the mist had pretty much burnt off in the sun though it was still hazy; warmish, but you wouldn’t want to be without your jacket.

I walked round the lake, and a little along the path by the river, where, because of the recent flooding, the snowdrops were poking up through sand rather than the more normal soil, and there was driftwood and detritus all over the place. A fair number of trees have been cut back to open up vistas and let in more light and the catkins were starting, as well as the first, bright green leaves. There was even some blossom in a sheltered spot.

The café provided a decent scone and pot of tea, as ever, and the car park was full, but I still hardly met anyone. They were probably all in the hides, peering out with improbably long camera lenses.

I love this place. Been coming here for years. When my kids were little, I brought them, of course – more recently I’ve brought my granddaughter. I’ve taken school trips round, I’ve been round with both husbands, and if I have anyone staying with me I always try to include a trip to Low Barns. I saw a field vole one time – a ferret another. I live in hope of an otter, and I would absolutely love to see the kingfisher again. 

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