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Wild About Wildlife: Exploring forgotten lanes

Wild About Wildlife: Exploring forgotten lanes

Go explore says Albert as spring is just starting to bloom in Limerick

Curiosity has brought me off the well-worn track many times and a side road is something I find very hard to resist exploring. Most are gentle cul de sacs that usually end in the yard of a house or a half hung farm gate. On this day, this one had the added benefit of tall hedges. These had trapped the weak midday sun and this made it slightly warmer than the surrounding countryside.

A long and tall loniceria hedge bordered one side for around 20 meters. The sheltered base had brought on a flush of plant growth. Sow thistle with its rosette of weak spined leaves and the feathery leaves of cow parsley.

Red dead nettle was flowering and this nettle love to grow in disturbed ground like gardens. I have also found it growing in lawns and this is one flower that the bumblebees love to visit.

I walked down a steep hill following the side of a stream all the way to the bottom. I can’t see the stream because of the tall hedge, but I can see the tops of alder trees that grow along its bank. They have well developed catkins or flowers and these are purple in colour.

At the bottom there is a farm house and a yard. The animals are feeding in the shed and the owners have also put up a few bird feeders. On a sheltered sunny bank they have also planted primulas that are in flower.

Native primroses are also braving the spring and it is a real thrill to find these flowers. In my village they can found under the conifer hedgerow, but only the crinkly leaves are showing. The shade and north facing aspect means they don’t flower till late in the spring.

Nearby hazel trees have long green catkins. They are common in the sheltered valleys and are often an indication of ancient woodland. This has been cut back several times or coppiced and there is at least 40 two meter long poles. These would have been used by the farmer for making fences, and it is such a pity that this traditional craft, has been replaced by barbed wire and electric fences.

Ash trees covered in dark mosses and lichens line the path. This is one effect of the shade and lack of light. The minuets pass by but there is still no end to the road. I keep going for past one more bend and up another hill.

I can make out the distinctive shape and colour of the bark of mountain ash trees. Their red berries would have been a welcome feast for hungry birds during the winter. The air here is very clean as leafy lichens hang of the branches of the hawthorn trees. These species only thrive in unpolluted environments.

Only a few hardy birds spent the winter here.

As spring progresses more species return to nest and raise their families. I heard the song of the robin and wren and the warnings calls of blackbirds.

I passed an abandoned house but the barn is still in use by the farmer. I can see the fresh tracks for the parked up tractor on the mud in the yard.

Curiosity satisfied I start to long walk back home.

At the sides of the roads stones line the banks. These were taken from the soil when the fields were been first brought into use. The spaces between them provide mini homes for plants, insects and animals.

After one more climb I suddenly reach the end. There is an occupied house and a farm gate blocks me from going any further.

For More or 089 4230502. Albert is also available to do walk/talks with schools, tidy towns, youth and community groups

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