After a heathland Bioblitz, it’s time for a change of scene with a walk in Guildford’s Riverside Park (sounds posh, doesn’t it! :D) , a lovely nature reserve maintained by the local borough. The 80 hectare park is made of four different habitats : meadow, wetland, woodland and open water, with the river Wey weaving through it.
While walking along the river, we were greeted by summer “snow” :
…which is in fact willow (Salix sp) seeds and their cottony fibers!
At this time of the year, the banks of the river are teeming with wet-loving flowers, such as the striking Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus) or the Hemlock Water-dropwort, a sweet-looking but poisonous umbellifer (Oenanthe crocata).
But it was also a nice opportunity to try out my new compact camera on insects – and I must say I’m not disappointed : say hello to a hoverfly!
Of course it’s a riverside reserve, so dragonflies and damselflies are hard to avoid : here the Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) perched on a nettle leaf, and the Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens). It does not appear “banded” to you? Only the male shows a dark “band” on its wings, the female instead has a gorgeous emerald green colour.
Turning away from the river path, we arrived in the meadow area of the reserve, where the yellow buttercups and trefoils mix joyously with the pink and white clovers. Interestingly, the lake and meadow were created by gravel extraction during the construction of the nearby A3 highway…man-made diversity!
Two rather discrete plants for to add to my records : the Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale) and the Grass Vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia, a relative of sweet peas, with unusual, grass-like leaves) :
The wetland area is home to sensitive species of amphibians, birds and insects, but boardwalks have been designed, allowing people to get a close look at this unique habitat with minimal disturbance to plants and animals. An interesting, raised view of the wetland, with the tall, bluish leaves of Water Dock (Rumex hydrolapathum) :
A dead-end in the boardwalk leads to a secluded area, where specially designed observation windows allow nature enthusiasts to spot wetland birds, insects and mammals without disturbing them :
Overall, it’s a lovely reserve, and the diversity of habitats on this medium-sized site provides so many opportunities to discover exciting things…if only the noise of the A3 wasn’t so loud and constant 😦