As we approached the end of the ride, clearing as we went, its character changed: the ground was dryer and more level and there was more light as the finger of wood we were working in narrowed and opened out onto a field. The brash covering the ground also became more sparse. All this meant that there was a lot more ground flora; there was a wide variety of plants in their overwintering and flowerless state that I, with my paucity of botanical knowledge, could not identify but which were lovely to see nonetheless. They hinted at what was in store for the rest of the ride in a couple of years’ time and provided ample motivation for the task.

Perhaps the most exciting floral find was a cluster of at least five orchids around the stump of an old tree. They were flowerless but identifiable by their rosette of spotty leaves as either early purple orchid (Orchis mascula) or common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii). Time will tell which of these species it was!

We also had a visit from a little vole, scuttling around in the cleared area. This foolhardy fellow was probably a field vole due to its very short tail. We wished him well and left him be – hopefully he escaped the attention of the resident raptors.

The day’s work was punctuated by tea and coffee made with our brand new Kelly Kettle – an ingenious contraption invented by the Irish whereby a fire is made within a double walled metal cylinder. Water goes into the cavity of the walls of the cylinder and is heated by the fire. The high contact area between the fire and the water means it boils very quickly. There was also a fine selection of goodies including Alison’s home-made lemon cake (from her very own Turkish lemons), Claire’s home-made flapjacks, and my (shop bought) biscuits.

A very productive and interesting day was had by all, so thanks to Claire, Alison, Matt, Jane, Richard, Gareth and Joe.

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