Blog written by Jeni Bell

Coombe Bissett Down Nature Reserve always has something to catch your eye, and on my most recent visit to the site, I was not disappointed. Spring had certainly sprung here. Everything had that lush quality to it; the trees were greener, the birdsong louder, and the rolling downs of the reserve were slowly starting to speckle with the colour of wildflowers.

My visit was to explore the new walking trails marked out on signposts. There are 4 set routes covering different parts of the reserve: a short walk, a flat route, and a couple of longer ones with more challenging, steeper sections. All are waymarked, and all have beautiful views of the reserve and the surrounding area.

I had chosen to follow the 2-mile Valley Loop, marked with green arrows. It takes in most of the reserve on an hour’s walk. There are steep sections on this path, but also some well-placed benches to get your breath back.

As I entered the reserve through the kissing gate at the carpark, I was greeted by a droning buzz coming from the hedgerow. Further investigation found the buff body of a white-tailed bumblebee, busying itself in search of spring flowers. It was certainly in the right place to find some.

Not far into the walk I noticed a cluster of bright blue petals amongst the grass. Germander speedwell. It felt fitting that the first wildflower I encountered was this little gem. Speedwell is often thought of as a good luck charm for those on their travels. A good omen for the rest of my walk.

photograph of a blue germander speedwell plant

Snatches of skylarks were swept up in the wind, and in the distance the bleats of the Herdwick lambs could be heard. I stopped to watch for a while as a gang of them ran up a particularly steep slope, before careering back down the other side. Some snoozed in the sun at the bottom of the valley, sheltering from the wind.

Photograph of herdwick lambs

The real stars of the show though were the cowslips. Present on almost every part of the walk. There were big sweeping expanses of them, trickling yellow across the steep slopes. As well as smaller clusters dotted throughout the site. It was a joy to encounter each of them, their sunshine blooms bowed and nodding gently in the wind, highlighting the health of the area in which they grow. Despite facing declines due to habitat loss, they appear to have found a safe haven here at Coombe Bissett.

Photograph of a cowslip

In total I spent much longer than an hour on my walk, although I wasn’t strictly walking the entire time. The best bit was sat on one of the benches taking in the view.

It won’t be long before the cowslips are joined by a myriad of other wildflowers: pyramidal orchids, harebells, knapweed, common rockrose on the slopes, and a whole variety of vetches (just to name a few).

I wonder what I’ll see on my next visit, and which waymarked walk I’ll choose.

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