Bristol’s Leigh Woods proved the perfect antidote to a week stuck indoors due to torrential rain. It seems that a lot of families with young children thought exactly the same. They were there in wellies, in pushchairs, with the family dog, and on small pedal bikes and mountain bikes. All were toddling, ambling, walking, running, splashing, riding, climbing and scrambling about in the healthy, fresh air.
Sheltered by the trees the footpaths were wet and muddy, but never impassable. It did not rain again that afternoon despite the weather forecast. It just goes to show that you should never let a weather forecast keep you indoors.
The sight of an old, hollow oak tree brought back fond childhood memories of tree climbing at nearby Ashton Court. Tree-climbing looks trickier than I remember. My sister got stuck climbing behind me, so I was stuck at the top until my parents could coax her steps back down.
Young children could crawl in and out of a hollow tree on the ground. There was also a wooden play area with opportunities to practice your balance.
Someone has been building some great dens in the woods.
Tunnels of green over footpaths offer a great opportunity for young explorers, collecting leaves and sticks as they go. A favourite childhood pastime is cover different shaped leaves with paint and press their impressions onto paper in school or at home afterwards. Then, identify the trees by their leaf shapes. It is certainly one of the ways my interest in trees and botany started.
There was plenty of Clematis vitalba about. As a child, I always knew it as Old Man’s Beard for the way it sprawled over hedgerows like Father Christmas’ white beard.
The Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve is run by the National Trust and The Forestry Commission. The walking and cycling routes are well-marked. The moderate and difficult mountain bike routes are named with typical Bristolian humour and slang: Yer Tiz and Gert Lush Trails.
Parents can also bring school history lessons to life, as the woods contain Stokeleigh Camp, the remnants of an Iron Age hill fort.
Leigh Woods is surprising close to Bristol. You can see across the Avon Gorge to Clifton Suspension Bridge and all the buildings beyond it.
The Avon Gorge, like Cheddar Gorge, is of particular botanical interest due to its rare plants, especially the rare Sorbus species. It is surprising that any new tree species could still be found here. I will save the rock climbing for another day. However, it is possible to see some of the rare native species without rock climbing at all in Bristol Botanic Garden.
The leaves on the trees are only just beginning to change colour in the South West at present. The colours in Leigh Woods will only get better in the coming weeks.
© Karen Netto (Andrews)
These pages illustrate my love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. I love sharing. This blog is a showcase for my own photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics.
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