Greenfields woodland park.
I was returning home after a morning of discovering butterflies with Little Treasures pre-school in Dundrum.
After lots of singing and poems, I needed to stretch my legs and kept an eye open for any good place to explore. Just before I reached Cappawhite village, I passed by Greenfields woodland park. I had never been there before, and turned around in front of a house.
The car park was deserted, and soon I was slipping into my walking boots and getting my butterfly net ready. Suddenly another car pulled in quickly and parked right beside mine. The window went down, and I was sharply asked by a woman if I looking for someone as she had seen me driving on her neighbour’s yard. I explained that I was going for a walk, had turned outside the fence by the road, and left it at that.
The information panel highlighted a wide range of walks to suit all levels of fitness and time. Another sign had a warning about the presence of giant hogweed, and the dangers if the sap got on your skin. This warning is good to see as awareness and education are key to tackling the problem of invasive.
Soon I was enjoying the flower lined paths that alternate between deep shade from the trees to open and sunny grassland. The trees are still mainly conifers, but ash, willow and oak are starting the slow process of creating a deciduous woodland. This mixed stage of woodland with a carpet of wildflowers creates a rich habitat from wildlife.
I could hear the songs of several woodland species. Resident dunnocks, wrens and blackbirds were joined by spring migrants, the willow warbler, blackcap and chiffchaff. My ears were busy as in a woodland setting this is your best sense for identifying birds.
The open and sunny edge of the path were full of wildflowers, and most of these were adapted to the woodland edge. Foxgloves are biennials, meaning they produce leaves the first spring and flower in their second summer. The tall pink to white spikes of flowers are brilliant for bees. The plant grows in shady places and is a good woodland flower for a mature garden.
Bramble is another underrated climber for wildlife. It likes to expand its territory so needs a good hard pruning in autumn to keep it under control. The white flowers attract lots of insects, and I found a speckled wood and wasp sipping its nectar. Flies also seemed to like the leaves to rest on.
Nettle, germander speedwell, sow thistle, ragged robin and figwort created a natural garden that is pleasing to the eye, but also beneficial for insects. Cuckoo spit dotted the stems, and the white tailed and common carder bumblebee were gathering nectar.
A lone garden snail slowly made his way across the path. At home in my garden he would be introduced to the compost heap, but here in the woods it is an important part of the ecosystem.
I reach the first of the ponds to the sound of a singing robin. While some cover is necessary around a pond, this one was completely covered and also had a covering of a green algae,but I didn’t see or hear any water-birds. A tall alder tree hangs over the pond, and its cones packed full of seeds are eaten by siskins and redpolls.
Back on the path I met the giant hogweed. I like its large showy flowers and feathery leaves. Once you leave it alone and are aware of its potential danger, it can be admired from a distance.
Damselflies are more delicate in appearance than their larger dragonfly cousins. Like winged jewels, they flit through the air. They are easier to watch as they frequently rest on vegetation, and you can get very close for a good look. I saw one red damselfly and a beautiful blue one that moved to fast for a positive identification.
I could of explored all day but the warning calls of hooded crows marked the end of today’s wildlife adventure. On my way back to the car I enjoyed the simple pleasures of nature - daisies growing by the edge of the path, a chaffinch singing and a stunning green bottle fly.
Greenfields is a real hidden gem but needs a little bit of attention to reveal all its glory.