18 Aug 2022

Wild About Wildlife: 'Exploring O’Brien’s Bridge'

Wild About Wildlife: 'Exploring O’Brien’s Bridge'

I have received several emails over the years from people, singing the praises of the River walk in O Brien’s bridge. This was on my list of places to visit and recently we got the opportunity, when my daughter paid a visit to one of her school friends.

We parked down near the playground that is still closed, even though the travel restrictions have been lifted. The broad sweep of the river is inviting and we could not wait to get exploring. The lawn by the river’s edge is well trimmed, with only a few red clover flowers for bees. This neatness is balanced out by a beautiful wildflower edge that runs alongside the entire river walk.

Yellow water lilies were just starting to come into flower and there were a few low growing alder and willow trees. Swallows were busy catching insects over the river and occasionally coming down to take a sip of water.

The wildflower edge is brilliant for nature. Figwort, nettle, nipplewort, ragwort, wild valerian, sow thistle, meadow vetchling, germander speedwell, knapweed all support insects and birds. Bramble had just started to flower and we saw a buff tailed worker bumblebee.

Beside the Nan Hogan 1916 memorial garden two men are busy unloading a truck for building work. This is a hopeful sign that life is returning to normal. Nan Hogan garden has an interesting mix of trees, shrubs and flowers. A housesparrows and pied wagtail have made their home here and there is plenty of food and nesting locations and especially in the ivy growing on the wall.

Harry was fascinated by the old farm machinery and amazed how anyone could work these heavy and awkward tools. In one bed we recorded cosmos, honesty, verbena and nepeta. Lovely colours and lots of food for pollinators. Nearby is patch of broad leaved dock and this supports the caterpillars of moths, butterflies and beetles. Mountain ash trees have been newly planted and their berries will be eaten by hungry birds in early autumn.

Rose beds are quite traditional and I love their formality and colours. Other colourful shrubs are ceanothus, Chinese lantern tree, Japanese maple, weigela and st Johnswort.

We left the garden and the tall flowers of ox eyed daises have been allowed to grow freely along the path. A small tortoiseshell butterfly was busy feasting on the nectar. We also found a stately thistle and they are such attractive and important flowers for nature and I wish they were appreciated more.

The path becomes more sheltered and lined with willow and blackthorn. Elders white flowers and the pink blossoms of the dog rose break up the green mantle. Woodland birds are also common here. We heard the chiffchaff, blackcap and the warning calls of a robin.

Across the river the cows were grazing peacefully and the yellow flowers of flag iris are clearly visible.

We crossed over the first humpback bridge. Shade loving flowers abound from wood avens, ground elder and the stinky leaves of hedge woundwort.

I swept the net and got a real shock when I disturbed two chickens and they have a large garden all to themselves. A small fairy garden entices us in. We passed under a trellis and while we did not meet any fairies, we spotted loads of bees. The planting is really beneficial for wildlife.

The tall spikes of lupines were been visited by common carder and garden bumblebees. Cotoneaster, foxglove and mountain ash will all provide essential food for pollinators. We could have explored for miles, but Lucy needed to be collected, but we will definitely return with a few more hours to spare.

As we turned for home we listened to the softer tones of the magpie calls. Parenthood has softened their harsh calls.

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