Sunday, 28 October 2018

Colours of Autumn

Sunset from the Chalkpit
Common Darter in Houghton Brook

Green, white and gold in the Chalkpit

An abundance of red berries in Sewell Quarry amongst the yellowing silver birches

View north east from Sewell Quarry towards HRN2 and the new warehouse, with Wingfield beyond
Looking south west along the Chilterns towards Totternhoe Quarry, Ivinghoe Beacon and Wendover Woods


Thursday, 16 August 2018

Houghton Regis Northern Boundary with Chalton and Chalgrave

On a very hot, still afternoon I visited the spring at Kingsland, on the edge of Parkside, and found it still wet, even after months of drought.  The area was green and full of life in contrast to the brown fields around, a lovely sight and a vital resource for insects and birds.

A speckled wood butterfly alighted on the grasses and a handsome hornet hoverfly (below) paused long enough for me to admire its yellow and red colouring, designed to deter birds from attacking it. 

The eastern boundary with Chalton Parish runs along the ditch on the other side of the field close to the Woodside Link, then turns west along the Sundon Link.  At the new roundabout on Sundon Road the boundary continues to follow the ditch but this time the Ouzel Brook is flowing west... when it does flow!  An elevation of 126 metres above sea level is marked at the roundabout making this a watershed. 

A footpath follows the track alongside the brook and hedge which veer left while the boundary carries on in a north-westerly direction across the A5 towards the ridge, which it reaches at its highest point of 133m offering wonderful views in all directions.  Below, the sun sets behind the ridge.

View from the footbridge over A5 towards the Sundon Road bridge
View from the ridge 

View across a barley field towards the Chalkpit
The boundary dips down towards New Barn then bears left away from the path along the line of pylons behind Grove Spinney (below) next to Grove Farm. 
Looking east from the bottom of Lords Hill B5120

The new roundabout on the A5 with a grand view of Chalk Hill

Pegasus crossing on Lords Hill
While the pylons march across these arable fields, the boundary with Chalgrave Parish sticks to the hedge marked at intervals wherever a footpath strikes up the hill towards Wingfield. 
This is a delightful path to walk along, wide and smooth with all sorts of wildlife sheltering in the hedge and ditch alongside...
...and scenes of rural life just over the hedge!
After the reservoir, opposite Thorn Farm, the path turns up or downhill while the boundary continues along the hedge to the A5 Watling Street shown below.  
I will leave the boundary here to pick up another time and connect with Sewell Greenway.  For now, here are some more views of the changes taking place in Bidwell.
As I climbed the hill towards Wingfield, more and more distant views appeared until I could see Blows Down in all its glory, Dunstable having disappeared in the dip between.  Houghton Regis is surrounded by lovely vistas which lift my spirits when I take to the footpaths.  The northern boundary certainly has some treasures to reveal to those who make the effort!

Monday, 28 May 2018

Exploring the Green Boundaries

This month I thought I would explore the green boundaries of Houghton Regis from east to west with the camera.  We start at the Community Orchard on the boundary with Luton by Wheatfield Road. 

Along the footpath south of the Woodside Link we find a wonderful display of red and white campion.

Across the stream is the chalk meadow where  tufted vetch is blooming.

The Woodside Link runs across our boundary into Chalton Parish.  The road embankments and verges are covered in wildflowers including campion and ox-eye daisies, a wonderful sight for walkers and cyclists.

It appears the cycle paths alongside the Woodside Link are being protected from incursions by banks of soil.  I hope these will be grassed over.

Now we go to the western border where Sewell Greenway starts in Totternhoe Parish but moves into Houghton Regis before exiting into Dunstable.  I'll do the northern boundary another time.

Just across the border is Totternhoe Nature Reserve where I filmed this corn bunting singing for all its worth.
From the bottom of the Greenway you can look up to the village of Sewell, and the two County Wildlife Sites above it.
From half-way up there are views across the Sewell fields below towards the A505 Leighton Buzzard bypass.
And this is the view east towards Maidenbower at the top of the escarpment.

The hamlet of Sewell is accessible from the Greenway.
A walk along Sewell Lane gives more lovely views.
Back on the Greenway is a helpful Information Board.
At the top of the climb is Maidenbower, site of an ancient hill fort of national significance.  This scheduled ancient monument is in Houghton Regis.
Views to the north-west from Maidenbower are long and wide, a beautiful and peaceful spot.
The town boundary is east of Maidenbower running along the edge of Dunstable.  It then turns west again alongside Sewell Greenway and at the old Tidy Tip turns north-east running along the crest of the hill, with the two County Wildlife Sites, Barley Brow and Suncote Pits, right on the boundary.  


At the A5 the boundary turns south-east along the road then north-east around the edge of the Chalkpit Nature Reserve, another green boundary.  In the south-east quarter the boundary touches the corner of Dog Kennel Down then runs through Woodside Estate.  The former wooded boundary between Luton and Houghton Regis was sadly cut down and replaced by the Woodside Link.  The replacement planting of thousands of trees and hedges has now taken place and hopefully eventually will hide the road.  So we return to the Community Orchard where we began. 

Thank you for joining me.  Next month I look forward to exploring the northern town boundary, much of which is still green and runs along footpaths. 


Saturday, 7 April 2018

Looking for New Life in March and April

I was lucky to catch this pair of frogs spawning!  When they separated I could still see them clearly on the bed of the stream the water is so clear.



Can you find two insects in the picture below?

Part of the planned seeding - Speedwell...

Shepherds' Purse (white) and Self-heal (pink)
So what else lives in the stream?  This is the spot we tested for water quality.

And here are some of what we found...
Freshwater shrimps - the larger male holds onto the female until she sheds her skin and he can mate with her.  Now I know what the egrets and herons we often see fishing in the stream are looking for!  There are also midge larvae, water hoglouse and leeches.  

 It's a bit of a mystery what's going on in the borrow pit, but these Canada Geese love it, and the Reed Bunting below.  Others have told me they've seen several varieties of duck, a little ringed plover again and even a snipe! 

To finish off, here is video of one favourite spot, where the south-flowing Ouzel Brook joins Houghton Brook underneath a grove of rare native Black Poplars.  I have been unable to spot where this conjunction appears on the HRN1 plans so far.  Clearly there is plenty of water in Ouzel Brook at the present after all the rain and snow we've had in March, but sadly its path along the hedge is blocked with debris and rubbish.  The hedge and ditch could (and should) become a vital green corridor for wildlife in the new estate. 

I love watching the ripples and reflections at this spot, it's very restful.  Other items that glint in the sun are not so welcome as creatures could get trapped inside an aluminium drinks can or plastic bottle.  Only at this time of year can one see the bed of the brook so clearly before vegetation grows up in and around the stream.  See what you can spot in the water while you can; shrimps, fish, snails and soon tadpoles are all there to be spotted with the naked eye, and you even may be lucky enough as I was to see a frog.  The easiest place to spot activity is against the golden gravel background in sunshine.  I am hoping I might also see sticklebacks one day.
 For more details of where to spot what, please contact me via the 'contact' button.  Don't miss the opportunity to spot spring happening right here!