I’m lucky to have countryside on my doorstep, and a wood and river within easy walking distance, so most of my wildlife ramblings are very close to home. Sometimes though I like to go further afield, which can be a bit problematic as I don’t drive. Fortunately my husband is usually very amenable to acting as a chauffeur at weekends, but one of the things I thought I would do while writing this blog is explore a bit more using public transport.
Last week my daughter was home from university so we decided to take advantage of the fine sunny weather and catch the train to Weston-super-Mare. We travelled to Weston in a carriage full of excited children with mums, grannies, child minders and aunties, all with buckets and spades heading for a traditional day out at the seaside. We had other ideas, we hopped on a bus in the town centre and made the short trip to Uphill, a mile or so further along the coast. www.uphillvillage.org.uk/downloads/HillBrochure.pdf
I had been to the reserve once before, looking for bats and glow worms, and I had always promised myself I would go back in the daytime. It was spectacular. The bus stopped close to a huge limestone cliff with a lovely church and a beacon perched on top. We walked along a tarmac path with the cliff on our left and the sea and Brean Down on our right, past a blackthorn hedge. As we were admiring the frothy white blossom I heard the unmistakable song of a chiffchaff, surprisingly it was my first of the year. I wondered how we were going to get up the cliff, but at the end of the path there was relatively easy climb up a grassy slope to the beacon. There were extraordinary views from the top. We could clearly see Glastonbury Tor above the Somerset Levels, then as we turned to the north towards Weston the scene became far more urban and we could see the Grand Pier and Marine Parade with the town, housing estates and trading parks spreading out behind them.
The grassland is famous for wild flowers and butterflies, but it was early in the year so, although there were plenty of peacocks and small tortoiseshells, the chalkhill blues and green hairstreaks which I hope to see in the summer weren’t in evidence yet. Just as well, my daughter likes butterflies she is nowhere near as enthusiastic about them as I am, and it really wouldn’t have been fair to expect her to wait for hours while I stalked them with the camera. This was a reconnaissance trip and I had sold it to her as a beautiful walk not a major photographic expedition! Now I know how easy it is to get there independently I’ll definitely go back.
As we walked back along the beach towards the donkeys, tea shops, and sand sculptures of Weston-super-Mare, I wondered how many of the countless holiday makers and day trippers who visit each year knew about the flowers and butterflies of Uphill, just a short bus ride away. Don’t get me wrong, I love Weston, but I know where I would rather be.