gatepostgatepostCoxley Valley, 5.30 p.m., 45ºF, 8ºC: At the entrance to the woods this rough hewn stone gatepost stands by the beck next to an ivy-covered alder. Fresh leaves of wild garlic grow behind it, escaping being trampled on a wide and muddy stretch of the path.

There’s a bit of an evening chorus amongst the birds – the wistful robin, the monotonous wood pigeon and the powerful projection of the wren – but when the blackbird starts singing we’re in a different league: melodious, mellow and relaxed.

Tropic of Coxley

Coxley beckhawthornThere’s a tropical feel to Coxley wood this afternoon. On the path beyond the old quarry the beck flows at the foot of a steep earth bank and, on what I remember long ago as being an open grassy space, lush wild garlic, now in full flower, spreads between tall alders and willows. Also in full blossom a straggly hawthorn bush arcs its branches in front of the quarry face.

song thrushSong thrushes are remarkably loud, repetitive and insistent, like tropical birds. I’m also picking up an unfamiliar ratchet-like sound. Not a mistle thrush, I realise that it’s the neighbours’ dog, Poppy, pulling on her extendable lead.

The top end of the wood is looking equally good with the oaks in fresh leaf and dripping with little light green catkins.

lapwingThere are more song thrushes singing as we walk alongside the canal. On the Strands, the marshy field between the river and canal, a lapwing is calling. I’m glad to see them making a comeback over the past two months I’ve occasionally spotted them flying over our street, not so far away.