Field Notes - Walk 4

Field Notes - Walk day 4

Saturday, May 28, 2011
Wylam – Riding Mill. Natural Historians: Tina Wiffen, Steve Westerberg and Kieth Bowey

View VARC Walk 4; 29th May 2011 in a larger map

From our start at Wylam railway station we walked over the bridge and down the steps to join a rough sandy path. We now continued around the Haughs, keeping close to the river and then crossing back to the southern side via the old railway bridge. We next went around Hagg Bank and under the Spetchells on the way to Ovingham Bridge, where we again crossed the Tyne. The route now followed the river closely, walking through the Tyne Riverside Countryside Park. Our next stop was Ovingham (where we stopped for lunch). From here, we cut across fields along a public footpath, through Bywell Haughs to Bywell Bridge. We stopped at Bywell Castle before joining the metalled road to Styford Bridge. Next, unfortunately, we had to cross over the river along the main A68, ending by walking to the A695 into Riding Mill. Here our journey ended at the railway station.

Day 4: 29th May; Wylam – Riding Mill: Natural Historians - Keith Bowey and Tina Wiffen


From our start at Wylam railway station we walked over the bridge and down the steps to join a rough sandy path. We then continued around the Haughs, keeping close to the river and next crossing back to the southern side via the old railway bridge. We then went around Hagg Bank and under the Spetchells on the way to Ovingham Bridge, where we again crossed the Tyne. The route then followed the river closely, through the Tyne Riverside Countryside Park. Our next stop was Ovingham (where we stopped for lunch). From here, we cut across fields along a public footpath, through Bywell Haughs to Bywell Bridge. We may stopped at Bywell Castle before joining the metalled road to Styford Bridge. Unfortunately, we then had to cross over the river along the main A68, ending by walking next to the A695 into Riding Mill – not the nicest way to end what was a very lovely walk. Here our journey ended at the railway station.

 

We had hoped to see a Red Kite on this walk. Following their reintroduction to the Derwent Valley, they are now colonising sites further afield in the North East, but the weather was very poor. Along the river, we caught a glimpse of female Goosander, and saw signs of Dipper around both Wylam and Ovingham bridges. Sand Martins were feeding over the water, Swifts too – although,sadly, we didb't see a Kingfisher (they have been seen along this stretch of the river).

 

One particular area of interest on this walk are the Spetchells just past Hagg Bank (approx. 1.5 miles after Wylam). This area is home to a variety of lime–loving plants including Bee Orchid, and is the only area of chalk grassland in Northumberland - the soft chalk is a nesting site for Sand Martins. The name "Spetchells" is ancient and its meaning uncertain, but it is shown on O.S. maps of the 1860's. The heaps are the legacy left to Prudhoe by I.C.I. - the result of manufacturing ammonia during World War Two. They are estimated to comprise two and a half million tons of chalk. Some attempt was made to remove them, but the wagons could not cope with the rate of production of waste, let alone tackle the existing heaps. Wylam and Ovingham on the other side of the river were occasionally covered with white powdery chalk. To stabilize the heaps they were grassed over in 1971. Later, Ash and Sycamore trees were planted on the slopes and hornbeams on the top. This has been largely successful although the rabbits tend to undo some of the good work. Some natural colonisation by chalk-loving flora and fauna has taken place[1].

 

WE had hoped to see a variety of buttlerflies and insects on this part of the walk, including White-letter Hairstreak amongst the Elms around Bywell Castle, Comma, Common Blue, Small, Large and Green Veined White, Dingy and Large Skipper as well as both the Five and Six-spot Burnet Moth and the Banded Demoiselle Damselfly. Unfortunately the weathewr was both wet and windy - and we saw very few instects! We did see small flocks of Long Tailed Tits, Blackcap and Common Sandpiper. Along the paths we spotted Soldier Beetles and amongst the flora at this time year were the white umbellifers - Cow Parsley and Hogweed.

 


[1] See www.prudhoe.org/walking/walk4p2.htm for more details or contact Prudhoe Community Partnership, 82 Front Street, Prudhoe, Northumberland NE42 5PU