About a mile or so from home we're really lucky to have the most fabulous RSPB nature reserve nestled in the gorgeous Coombes Valley, part of the bigger Churnet Valley landscape that we call home. Today was the reserve's annual open day so when the rain had cleared and the mist had lifted, we popped over to have a look at some of the exciting new things we heard had been happening.
It was the most brilliant afternoon of discovery and exploration. A new trail has been laid, opening up access to some of the younger woodland that the RSPB manages, as well as new footpaths to make the site more wheelchair, pushchair and family friendly. It's quite a small reserve with tons of different habitats including meadows and native woodlands that cling to the hillsides.
Today it was great to get involved in all the extra activities so we pond dipped, finding water boatman, pond skaters and mayfly larvae as well as a lovely whirlygig beetle, before heading into the brilliant new yurt where the Staffordshire Bat Group had the tiniest pipestelle bat to show us. There was lots to learn as well from the woodland team at the Churnet Valley Living Landscape Partnership who are working really hard to take care for this special valley.
Then we strolled around the woodland where you can make dens to your heart's content, search for bugs, explore the storytelling circle and see where, very soon, a new aerial walkway will give you the chance to get a bird's eye view of the woodland from the treetops! There's a certain eight year old who just can't wait for that!
I got quite over excited about these marvellous little fairy houses the volunteers have worked so hard to create. They're completely magical and I was totally absorbed in the detail of doorways, window frames, roof tiles and even lanterns and garden swings they'd made. Come nightfall there'll be a wonderful little party going on here!
We could really feel autumn upon us this afternoon, especially with the mist lingering and that dampness in the air that heralds the change of the season. My most favourite moment was when a huge flock of sixty or more goldfinches flew above our heads.
Coombes Valley is a truly special place and free to visit. The RSPB are doing terrific work improving the site and managing the landscape for wildlife and visitors to all get the most out of it. Thanks to all the staff and volunteers we met today who were really friendly and welcoming and helped us find out so much more about our lovely local reserve. We'll be back again really soon,
Where's your favourite wild place to visit?