Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Trip Report 20th March: NORTH WESSEX DOWNS, Wilts


I was hoping for some good weather to be able to attract a good turnout of members, but was very disappointed to wake up to a cold, grey and breezy day. At least it wasn't raining!
Therefore, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find 17 others awaiting my presence in the Natural England car-park, at the edge of the Downs. So that made 19 of us (counting myself & Janine) which was a great turnout!
We began our walk by climbing the fairly steep slopes of Knapp Hill, where we had cracking views of both singing Skylark and Meadow Pipit. At the top of the hill, we took in the fantastic views, and scoured the wooded valleys and fields below for possible Red-Kites, as I'd seen one here a week ago, whilst doing a 'recce'. The lack of raucous noise from the large Rookery below told us that this morning, at least, was unfortunately Raptor free!

The wind was particularly cutting and very cold, so we made our way back down the hill, and continued our walk up towards the Wansdyke, which is a particularly well preserved 5th century boundary between two Saxon villages.

A Brown Hare was seen crossing the arable field to the left of us, but there was no sign of the displaying Lapwings that I had seen the week previously. We continued along the field boundary, following the contours, and trying to protect ourselves from the cold wind that chilled us to the bone! A couple of flyover Yellowhammers and a distant calling Linnet were the only notable birds, and scant reward for our efforts.

At an area strewn with lichen covered boulders on a grassy slope, we all decided on a 'brunch break' and used the opportunity to escape the wind for a few minutes, and refuel with food and drink, before continuing on our way. Looking down towards the farm buildings, we picked out 6 Roe deer, including a couple of last years youngsters. With the aid of Philip Delves 'scope, we all got good views, as they grazed at  the edge of the field.

We were not expecting much in the way of invertebrates, on such a cold and overcast day, but with Bens help, a Gorse Shieldbug {Piezodorus lituratus} and a few 7-spot Ladybirds {Coccinella septempunctata}, were found hiding amongst the freshly blooming clumps of Gorse, as we traversed along the path, past the 'White Horse' cut into the hillside. By this time the cold of the day had drained us, so we decided not to climb up Walkers Hill, and made our way back down towards the car-park.

Though we hadn't seen any great numbers of birds apart from a few flocks of Starlings, or in fact, bird species, and the overall general natural history of the area had been somewhat disappointing, due entirely to the cold weather, the walk was a great success, with all enjoying a lovely country ramble over and across beautiful chalk Downland, with fantastic views.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Saltford GeologyMeeting Trip Report Saturday 12th March 2016

Sixteen Bath Nats members were joined rather unexpectedly by sixteen Open University Geology Group members outside Saltford Post Office on a morning of hazy sunshine, posing quite a challenge for our leader, Simon Carpenter, to manage. After crossing the railway line we came to our first stop outside the toilet block adjacent to the riverside car park, which we were informed was constructed from local white lias (not white lies!). Gryphaea) in situ. After a pub lunch, we walked to the most spectacular exposure of our visit, in a private garden, before returning to our starting point via church, manor house and war memorial.
white lias
We then climbed up to the old railway line that is now a cycle path and walked east, to our first main stopping point, where rocks overlying the ‘Cotham Marble’ had recently been exposed. We learned that the marble is a stromatolitic limestone, resulting from the growth of cyanobacteria, which has the appearance of a rural landscape in its cut and polished faces. Here Simon also dispensed the contents of a bag of gritty material into our outstretched hands. Close examination revealed that this was full of shiny, reddish-purple fish teeth. We then walked back westwards to two larger exposures where we were able to see large ammonites and nautilus as well as ‘Devil’s Toenails’ (

Fossil grit

Alan Rayner