The Friday natural history walks resumed on 11thFebruary. This year they start at 10.30 a.m. Over the 2010 season the average number walking was 9, with larger numbers walking at the ends of the season, for instance 14 at the end of October. Numbers have been smaller so far in 2011.
It was a splendid autumn for fungi in 2010, with many field mushrooms in the grassland and many species of less edible fungi in the woodland. The autumn colours were better than usual.
The spring began cold and late but the unusually dry February and March weather has allowed things to catch up. The spring flowers were in prime condition on 25th March, with many celandines and primroses, good displays of violets, one very fine group of wood anemones in the woods and many more in the garden. The very first bluebells were showing colour so the display will improve from now until mid- late April. The small trees with brilliant white flowers are cherry plums, the smaller shrubs with creamier flowers are blackthorns. It looks as if this will be as excellent a year for bloom and fruit on the wild shrubs as last year so the guelder roses, wayfaring trees and spindles will put on fine shows. It is too early to judge what will appear in the Hidden Valley during the summer but, after the damp late summer, there may well be even more orchids than last year.
There has been a lot of forestry work during the winter that has opened up the woodland to improve views of the house and of the bluebell areas. A new fence has been erected,which has necessitated clearing brambles (which will return) and revealing the foundations of wartime huts. Next year there should be excellent displays of foxgloves in the areas where soil has been exposed. The park is an excellent area for butterflies and already there are many sulphur yellow brimstones in flight. These, also peacocks, small tortoiseshells, red admirals and commas will have hibernated during the winter. On 25th March the first “new season” butterflies, orange tips, were noted in the garden. Many other species will appear as the season progresses.
There are no public footpaths through Basildon Park so it is a privilege as well as a great pleasure to explore its natural history.
The walks are led by members of the Reading and District Natural History Society, with the Warden Granville Nicholls scheduled to lead the walks on the first Friday of each month during 2011. The walks set off from the stable yard at 10.30am and last no more than 2 hours. There are many opportunities to return earlier.
Please wear sensible shoes for walking as the ground can be muddy and uneven at times.