Oakwell Hall Country Park

THE NATURE TRAIL at Oakwell Hall Country Park starts in the picnic area; ‘Blackthorn attracts Bullfinches in winter which eat the nutritious buds . . . ‘

I smiled and thought wouldn’t it be great if birds turned up on cue but the first bird that I saw as I left the car park and entered the Picnic Area was a Bullfinch flying off towards the hedge opposite. I came across a group of three later on the trail.

From the viewpoint on the nature trail.

The trail sketches in a historical background to the park. Once it’s been explained to you, you can see the evidence of one wood having been cut for firewood at the end of the Second World War and another wood having been planted after the closure of ¬†Gomersal Colliery.

The multiple stems of this sessile oak, each 60 or 70 years old, are a clue that it was coppiced – cut back to the stump – in the middle of the last century.

The trail also helped me identify the plant that I’d drawn by the little stream in what had been a railway cutting. There are no flowers at the moment but the trail illustrates Brooklime, a plant that I’m not very familiar with.

I think this is Broad Buckler Fern, growing in the shady, damp woodland of the old railway cutting.

By coincidence they also illustrate Comma Butterfly which I was surprised to see, very briefly, flitting through a patch of sunlight at the woodland edge where an iron aqueduct carries a stream across the railway cutting.

The drier soils of the northern part of the wood ‘have favoured the development of a Brich wood’ the trail guide tells us, ‘though native Sessile Oak is slowly spreading into this area.’

There’s still fungus about, for instance in the wood on the site of the old colliery I found a group of this fungus with a pale grey cap, a cap which becomes concave as the fungus grows. I haven’t attempted to identify it.

They were growing in swathes in mixed woodland.

Finally, stepping out of the woodland for a change, here’s cranesbill that was growing on open, drier ground along the edge of the old railway. It grew to about 2 feet, 60 centimetres, with flowers up to an inch and a half, 4cm across.

Link: Oakwell Hall nature trail PDF version; printed version available in the Visitor Centre.

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