10 May 2017

Westward Ho!

Gough's Coppice, Ragleth Wood and Hill - Wednesday, 3 May 2017

The title is often the starting point for my reports. Trying to think of something that is a light-hearted reference to the events of the day can be a little taxing. So, thank you David for entitling one of your pictures "Westward Ho!" which I think is an appropriate heading for the day.

Here is the picture:

Photograph: David Williams
It shows three of us near the summit of Ragleth Hill towards the end of our visit looking to the west over Church Stretton and Long Mynd.

Back to the beginning. 

Eight of us journeyed westward to Church Stretton to meet a more local resident on the former main street through Church Stretton. From here we walked up to the lower entrance of the Woodland Trust's Gough's Coppice. 

The Coppice is quite compact being a small deciduous woodland bordering a belt of conifers on the north-west facing slope of Ragleth Hill. The path that serves as the entrance however is very much "man made" with Laurel in abundance.

However it proved to be a rich hunting ground - for me as the others left me behind as I beat here and swept there.

When I emerged from the confines of the entrance I noticed I was alone. Where were the others? There was a choice of paths. Which one did they take? I knew which one I had planned to take but was that the one the others had taken? Eventually I saw one of the group having a sit down further up the other path so I made my way towards him.

En route I tapped a tree with fresh leaves and out fell a Birch shieldbug

Yes I know the leaf it is on is a dead oak leaf but it provided a better background than a white tray. Please give me a liitle credit for actually learning something from the people with cameras. Not all their talk and advice is wasted on me.

I would have shown the shieldbug around but there was no-one to show it to. Now as anyone who has handled a shieldbug will know, once they are on your hand they are very reluctant to depart and this one was no different. Eventually I freed myself and continued up the slope and into a large patch of bluebells.

At the top of the slope I met up again with the rest of the group.

Today we had someone who was interested in molluscs. This is not a group we are familiar with and any we come across are generally ignored! Finding molluscs seems to involve spending a  lot of time crouching down and peering at the undersides of stones and dead wood. But it is rewarding. Here are two different snails on a stone

Zonitoides nitidus (left) and Discus rotundatus (right) - Photograph: Mags Cousins
You even check the stones in water. The following photograph is a River limpet which are found under stones in streams, rivers and even the margins of pools. (I never knew these existed!)

Photograph: David Williams
Other finds of interest were Platybunus triangularis

Photograph: Jim Cresswell
 And the moth Adela reaumurella whose males have amazing long antennae

Photograph: David Williams
Towards the southern edge of the coppice is a small stream. Sweeping this yielded a female Chalcosyrphus eunotus

Photograph: David Williams
This rarely encountered hoverfly species is found around the specialised habitat of semi-submerged logs in streams.
Close to the stream were some horsetails which were identified as Wood horsetail

Photograph: David Williams
Lunch was taken by the stream.

A few of us took advantage of the footbridge over the stream which proved to be an excellent place to perch and rest our weary legs.

During lunch Baccha elongata was observed stalking about the undergrowth

Lunch over we made our way out of Gough's Coppice and started our ascent of Ragleth Hill. On our way out of the coppice we saw the hoverfly Ferdinandea cuprea 

Photograph: David Williams
This is an early season hoverfly that can be found "sunbathing" on the trunks of trees.

Looking westward we caught glimpses of the Long Mynd and Church Stretton through the trees

The first part of the path up Ragleth Hill is very steep so there were plenty of stops to inspect the trunks of path-side trees, admire the view of Caer Caradoc, etc. 

Eventually the path flattened out and we wandered through the upper reaches of Ragleth Wood. Here we were accompanied by a Red admiral

Photograph: Jim Cresswell
We came across many fine old oaks. One oak was distorted by what I assume are canckerous growths

Other oaks had crevices where windblown soil and other debris had accumulated. Ferns and Wood sorrel took advantage of this.

Photograph: David Williams
Some of the oaks were in flower. 

Oak catkin and currant gall - Photograph: Jim Creswell
Above the tree line we paused and contemplated life, the universe, everything. Just an excuse for a rest really. But what a good spot.

Onwards and upwards we went until we reached what we decided was the summit. Here more resting opportunities were taken advantage of.

What a splendid place to be, with a full circle view of the surrounding countryside. It was well worth the effort. 

Church Stretton, Caer Caradoc and Hope Bowdler - Photograph: David Williams
The above photograph can only give you an idea of part of the view. If you left click on the photograph you should be taken to a new window where the photographs are enlarged.

Now all we had to do was get down again and return to the cars.

My thanks to The Woodland Trust for permission to do what we enjoy doing in Gough's Coppice and to the snappers who provided the photographs that supplement my own.

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