A traditional Christmas

by on Dec.24, 2009, under Choppington Woods

One of our favourite events at this time of year is the Friends of Choppington Woods Christmas Walk. 

First today though, we had the little task of finishing our grocery shopping.  We took delivery of a fantastic goose yesterday, and most of our shopping had been completed a couple of weeks ago but there were a few things outstanding.  Sainsbury’s opened at 06:00, so by 07:15 we were standing in their carpark listening to Robins and Blackbirds singing, and Redwings flying over.  Soon we were on our way home with the more perishable ingredients for the next few days…but no Mince Pies as they had sold out of them already!

After a warming bacon and egg sandwich, we gathered for the walk, missing a few of our regular attendees; ill-health, the treacherous conditions underfoot and a recent family bereavement for one committee member had all taken a toll.

The two of us, Glen Graham (FOCW Secretary since the group formed), Barry Wilson (NCC Woodland Management Officer) and Heather O’Neill (Northumberland Wildlife Trust) set out from the main entrance to the reserve, with the aim of combining our walk with a good look at all of the improvements that have been made to the reserve this year.  We raised £10k in grant funding, but we’ve got a lot more value from it than would normally be achievable with that amount of money.

A stunning viewpoint, woodland ride clearances, forest tracks and multi-user path surfacing, boardwalk and pond-dipping platform, hibernacula for reptiles and amphibians, wildflower meadows and an education pack for the local primary schools all add up to the most successful year for the reserve since it was designated in 2003.

The pond was frozen solid…although none of us risked venturing onto the ice.  A set of animal tracks across the frozen surface generated much discussion before we concluded that they had been left by a Red Fox.  Evidence of some of our other mammalian neighbors was in evidence too. (and we had a Pygmy Shrew Sorex minutus on our patio this morning , but that’s another story…).

Much of the vegetation on the reserve was still encased in ice and snow as well (although the thaw started during our walk), but the white fruits of Common Snowberry Symphoricarpos albus stood out amongst the bare branches.

After our journey through the woods we arrived at Glen’s house, where Karen had prepared a delicious chili and there was a pan of mulled wine heating on the stove.  Inspired by this we warmed another bottle ourselves once we were back at home, ready for the arrival of Martin’s dad, and one of us (the one with a PhD in Medicinal Chemistry) hit on the bright idea of ‘enhancing the oranginess’ with a good shot of Cointreau…

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