Fiona Brown led a walk on Wednesday 16 January, starting from Mattingley. It was a grey morning, initially dry, but as the walk progressed, there was first drizzle, then harder rain. The walk started at the church, an interesting building of timber and herringbone brickwork, dating from the late 15th century. A winter cherry was flowering in the churchyard. The route led on footpaths across farmland to the River Whitewater. Several Buzzards, plus flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares were seen. Dark red Alders marked the line of the river. The path led through the garden of Dipley Mill and out to the road through the village. There was a brief diversion to the bridge to get a better view of the front of the mill and to admire the drift of snowdrops beside the mill pool. The fluting call of a Mistle Thrush was heard nearby. The walk continued across more farmland to Sherwoods Farm and the lowest of a series of ponds. Hazel catkins were fully out here and there were a few flowers on a Cherry Plum bush. The next destination was West Green Common. Two avenues, bordered by big oaks, cross the common. A few of the oaks have died, but they have been left as standing dead wood. Hazel Dormice have been found here, and a programme of coppicing has been started, to try to improve the habitat for the Dormice. At the far side of the common, there were information boards and wooden posts, and on the posts were clusters of ladybirds. Most were red 7-Spot Ladybirds, but amongst them was an 18-Spot Ladybird which was smaller and orange with white spots. The route led across the track to West Green House and across grass parkland. On the fence at the entrance to the parkland, there was a string of yet more ladybirds, this time even smaller and dull yellow with black spots. They were later identified as 16-Spot Ladybirds. The next track led back towards the Whitewater valley. At one point, the track dropped more steeply as it went through a section with sandy banks where there were many Badger holes. After crossing the river, the track led back towards Mattingley. Pussy Willow and a single Lesser Celandine were in flower along this stretch. The final path led back through woodland to the church. A fallen tree was coated with a black fungus from which black club-like structures projected, identified as Dead Man’s Fingers. The walk was followed by lunch at the Falcon in Rotherwick.
Pictures by Laurie Haseler