Look out for the Good Journey Mark – where car-free visitors are welcome and enjoy a discount
What you might see on aLocal strollin Summer
Lots of us have been exploring our local area. We're walking and cycling in countryside near to home more than usual while we can't travel further afield. Here are a few things to look out for this summer that you can spot almost anywhere: in fields, in woods or by water. Birds, animals, flowers, trees and insects all help make our daily walk more interesting. And if you need to stay at home and isolate, check out the Wildlife Trusts' webcams. You can watch all kinds of birds - Dorset barn owls or puffins on Alderney - from the comfort of your sofa.
1. Colour in the fields
On a summer walk along local paths, you can spot all kinds of flowers, bees, butterflies and birds – even wild animals like deer and rabbits. The fields are fringed with yellow buttercups, pink campion and lacy cow parsley and the hedges have garlands of wild roses.
- Flowers – there are red poppies, blue cornflowers and big white ox-eye daisies lining the footpaths in summer. But there are smaller flowers to look out for too – tiny scarlet pimpernels, delicate pale blue speedwell, or pineapple mayweed, a common yellow flower like a daisy. With frondy leaves and no petals, the flowers smell of pineapple when you crush them.
- Butterflies: besides the red admiral and peacock mentioned in our springtime Local Walk feature, keep an eye out for yellow brimstones or brown and orange commas with their distinctive ragged-edged wings. Or orange tips (as the name suggests, the male has white wings tipped with orange). The beautiful small tortoiseshell has orange wings marked with black and fringed with blue.
- Birds: Swifts swoop overhead in summer, catching insects as they fly. They migrate from Africa and arrived early this year. They are in decline overall, but this seems to have been a relatively good year for them.
- You might spot big birds of prey circling the skies too, like fork-tailed red kites (now common around the Chilterns and elsewhere) or buzzards, with their fanned tail and rounded wings.
2. Food in the hedgerows
Walking in the countryside and cooking at home have become a bigger part of life for many of us. So it’s not surprising that some people are also getting more interested in foraging for free food along the edge of the fields and woods.
- Elderflowers – by June, they are almost over, but if you can catch any of these creamy, delicately-scented blossoms, try this simple recipe for homemade elderflower cordial. Dilute it with water, fizzy water or even champagne for a drink that is summery and refreshing. If you’re too late, wait for the glossy black elderberries (in about August) and use them to make hedgerow ketchup.
- Jack by the Hedge – also known as Hedge Garlic or Garlic Mustard, it has small white flowers and round green leaves that have a distinctive garlicky smell when you crush them. Dave Hamilton, who wrote a guest blog for Good Journey about car-free Ancient Sites, has a new book about Family Foraging and suggests – among other great ideas – that you can stuff these leaves with couscous and make Jumping Jack Wraps.
- Blackberries – After a sunny summer, expect some early blackberries. The first ones should ripen in July and there will probably be more of them ready to pick until well into autumn. There are lots of great recipes like jam and crumble. And this blackberry tart (even simpler if you use readymade shortcrust pastry!)
3. Surprises in the City
Local walks round urban streets and parks can still have plenty of nature-spotting opportunities, from seagulls over a river to squirrels in the playground. There are often garden birds and insects, roadside flowers and trees like limes, plane trees, ornamental cherries and copper beeches. Some birds and animals – think squirrels and pigeons – are particularly well-adapted to city life and thrive in urban environments.
- Rose-ringed parakeets have become quite a common sight across the UK, since they first escaped from zoos and aviaries in the 1970s. They are especially common in the greater London area, where they live in big squawking flocks. They favour parks and large gardens with plenty of food.
- Urban foxes have cleverly adapted to life in towns and cities, eating food that humans throw away and living under sheds or railway embankments. You are most likely to spot them in the evening, hiding behind bins or parked cars.
- Grey squirrels are also abundant in parks and urban woodland, where they have a second litter of baby squirrels in June or July.
- With fewer people about, there have been plenty of wildlife sightings in towns and cities this year, from the mountain goats in Llandudno to fallow deer on the lawns of an East London housing estate.