In welcome sunshine but with a sharp breeze eight members joined Sue Norvill and myself at Lonk House Lane in Baildon. The aim of today’s walk was to look for signs of Spring in Tong Park. “Lonk” is the name of a breed of sheep (ref. Donald) and the residential property replacing Lonk House Farm buildings was passed as we climbed the stone stile at Farm Gate on to the field track into the valley. Here, Sally (G) saw a “ferrety” like animal avoid identification as it shot across the path! Soon, some 300 feet below, the large pond and Tong Park cricket field, often claimed as having the ground with the most scenic approach in Yorkshire, came into view. The ground had thankfully dried considerably since recce time so underfoot problems were minimal.
Signs of Spring were there but needed to be looked for. On the pond a pair of mute swans glided majestically. Male mallard with their emerald green head plumage shining in the sun escorted the less flamboyant females. Coots and moorhens with seemingly brighter white or red frontal shields darted across the water or spent time on the shore perhaps, as I like to think, investigating nesting sites. A pair of goosander was observed and one of Canada geese, also a number of black headed gulls.
Alder catkins had finished shedding pollen; the smaller female flowers were noted as was the lilac colour of the swelling buds. Bullrushes on the hillside were bursting and releasing their seeds and cottony down much of which will become nesting material. In the drain from the hillside Hemlock water dropwort was starting to shoot and cinquefoil was spreading along the drain sides. Continuing ahead, impassable due to flooding at recce time, we crossed the bridge over Gill Beck and entered the woodland. Snowdrops, a few celandines and opposite leaved golden saxifrage were in flower. Ramsons was well through and brooklime crept along the wetter areas. A flock of long tailed tits zipped through the trees and, in a sizeable pool, a few front runners saw a pair of Mandarin ducks before witnessing their flight. Sue got a photo as compensation for the rest of us! Much of the overall greenness of the woodland carpet was due to the luxuriant and varied moss carpet on fallen trees. Lichens too were well represented on trunks and later on field walls. Although the stream does receive sewer overflow at necessary times, we commented on its clarity while acknowledging that not all pollution is visible. We were also impressed by the lack of litter. On leaving the woodland John saw two buzzards.
We retraced our steps then Sue led the majority up the moderately steep grassy slope to access the field paths over to the Moorside area of Baildon. They took lunch in Hallcliffe Community gardens where winter flowering heathers were attracting lots of bees. A short section of roadside walking led them to access the outward route and return to the parking place. The smaller party, including myself, took lunch by the water. A heron performed a circuit of the pond before landing in a tree. As soon as it settled the gulls lifted off the water and flew at it as though mobbing it. We added robin, blackbird and carrion crow to the list before returning to our cars by retracing the downward path.
The welcome sunshine, good turnout and camaraderie of the group led to an enjoyable visit to another local site. Thanks to Sue for helpful discussion and co-leadership.