This Saturday my friend Jeff and I went for a day out with the Conservation and Wildlife Society (CAWS) to Buxton Heath to do some conservation work on the sight as well as have a day out to a nature reserve. It was a wonderful day out that was definitely worth it, even when including the early Saturday morning struggles I had to get myself to the pick up point for 9.20 am. I’ve been to Buxton once before (remember? link) and enjoyed it, so I had high hopes for this time around too. We were a small gang this time, only a mere 8 volunteers, but I enjoyed the small crowd and would also enjoy the pleasantly, contently, peaceful atmosphere among the group for the rest of the afternoon. In the morning we cleared some bush and cut down birch and willow trees, maintaining the open marsh and bog habitats that are vital to many invertebrates as well as local and migrating birds. It was labour intensive, but in a rewarding and serene way. It felt good to do some manual labour and work off some steam. With saw in one hand and pliers in the other, we drove back the succession line of trees and expanded the wetland area. With instant results as well, it felt good to do something and actually see a difference straight away too. The feeling was bitter-sweet though, being that the beautiful birch tree is probably one of my favourite trees and here I was cutting them down. As time went on my technique dramatically improved (thanks to some advice from Jeff and a bit of gold ol’ practice) I got quite good at sawing trees, something I was quite proud about.
Finally we carried some of our fresh cut branches and trees back to our main base on top of the hill where some members of the group had a fire going and were burning it all. We ate lunch among the heath and lichen and enjoyed the peacefulness, some light conversation, the odd spot of bright sunshine between speeding clouds and some beautiful views. Most importantly I enjoyed my kaviar and cucumber sandwiches and hot cacao I brought in my flask. Even more importantly, I enjoyed some bonfire marshmallows courtesy of one of the reserve staff that had brought them along for the group. Sticky, gooey, smokey, sweet marshmallows in front of the warm fire pit definitely went down a storm. As we ate our lunch and had our marshmallows I enjoyed looking out on the reserve I could see a mosaic of browns, reds, yellows and greens of tufy heath and flowing grasses, sedges and rushes, melting quite beautifully into each other. The odd towering oak stood out in the low lying open landscape, breaking up the subtly soft colours with contrasting darker greens and yellows.
After lunch we cleared up a little before setting off on walk around the reserve to see some wildlife! And BOY did we see some cool stuff! We trekked out of the marshy areas to higher, dryer ground where we came across the reserves resident wild Dartmoor ponies grazing in the afternoon sun. They were all human friendly and were not disturbe by our presence at all. In fact, a couple of them aproached us and got incredibly friendly. Unable to pet them, with orders from the reserve authorities, we eventually moved one. Although I did give one cheeky pony a little kiss on the muzzle, as he/she sniffed me out and nuzzled me. It’s a very special moment when an any wild animal (well at least mostly wild, apart from the twice a year health check up done by the reserve) wants to check you out and allow some interaction between you and them. I cherish every one of those kind of encounters.
The rest of the walk I spent most of my time taking photos of all the fantastic fungi I encountered on the reserve. I was blown away by the shear amount, sizes and diversity of them, I don’t think I have ever seen so many, and so many beautiful fungi in all my life. The weather conditions have been very wet this last week, so it’s understandable why all these fungi have sprung up so beautifully for their autumnal arrival. My favourites were the “fly agaric” fungi with intensely red with white spots on (Amanita muscaria), it was so vivid and radiant it felt a bit magical and fairy tale like. As it get’s older the cap turns from a round ball to a flattened shape, and the colours mature from red into a mixture of pink, orange, and yellow. Other abundant fungi included the densely packed pale-yellow Sulphur tufts (Hypholoma fasciculare), but the “fly agaric” definitely were the main treat. We also found some yellow brain fungi (Tremella mesenterica) and many others we didn’t identiy.
All in all, the perfect Saturday spent outside amongst some wildlife with my good friend Jeff.