I am currently staying in Bristol with my son and family, and as they always do when I am here, they make great efforts to take me out to places they know that both I and the children will enjoy.
On Sunday we drove out to Willsbridge Mill, a Local Nature Reserve, which the website describes as ” Set in a peaceful valley on the edge of Bristol, Willsbridge Mill is an impressively restored 19th Century Corn Mill and Long Barn, located within a stunning 22 acre nature reserve.” It continues ” This green oasis, which was once a bustling industrial site, now supports an amazing array of wildlife habitats – woodland, ponds, meadows, scrub, quarries and a demonstration wildlife garden, running along the fast – flowing Siston Brook. The reserve is home to kingfishers, dippers, owls, foxes, badgers, and bats.”
After several days of rain and general dampness, the ground in the wildlife garden was soggy and its plants bedraggled, there were a few pond skaters skimming over the surfaces of the ponds and a robin piping a few phrases of song, but apart from that there was little movement.
One of the trails around the reserve is the Sculpture Trail, which features ” striking environmental sculptures made from local materials”. There is also a sequence of attractive brass leaf-shaped plaques bearing different designs, which today were the only indicators of the wildlife that frequents the reserve in spring and summer.
We followed the pathway to Hawthorns are laden with good crops of haws, but there were no signs of these particular ones being eaten yet.
On the wooded side of the pathway, on a bramble leaf in a patch of sunshine a Dark Bush Cricket sat having a meal.
The Dark Bush cricket is a common animal across the southern half of England, occurring in gardens, hedgerows and on woodland edges, where they can often be seen in quite large numbers sunbathing on bramble patches. Males are very aggressive, fiercely defending their territories against intruders. Females lay their eggs in late summer in rotting wood or bark crevices; the young crickets emerge 18 months later, so odd-year and even-year dark bush-crickets never meet.
The stream that flows through the woodland is Siston Brook; it flows fast here and its energy once powered Willsbridge Mill’s water wheel. The stream rises five miles away at St. Anne’s Well, just south of the village of Siston and is a tributary of the River Avon, joining it at Londonderry Wharf, near Keynsham.
A tree has fallen on one side of the stream bank arcing gracefully over the water to form a natural bridge. It has continued to grow, pushing out branches that now grow vertically from the original trunk; those that touch the ground have probably put down roots and appear to be growing as independent trees.