Gloucester Wildlife Trust on the wild side of the Golden Valley
The sultry days of summer are coming to an end and the trees are preparing to put on their autumn colours. Sue Bradley discovers a valley that’s spectacular in September and quizzes ceramicist Mary Rose Young on her wild life
Stroud’s Golden Valley is a celebrated beauty spot, particularly in autumn when tree leaves blaze yellow and orange. This area lying between Chalford and Sapperton is well known to train passengers who travel through it on their way to Kemble and beyond; indeed Queen Victoria described it in her journal as “pretty and picturesque” following a journey made during the 19th century.
Venture beyond the tracks to find a hidden world; a wildlife-rich corridor of woodlands, the River Frome and the remains of the Thames and Severn Canal, which nature has gradually reclaimed over the past few decades.
No visit to the Golden Valley – also known as the Frome Valley - is complete without a stroll through Siccaridge Wood near Sapperton, a semi-natural ancient woodland that’s been coppiced for centuries and is home to a variety of wild creatures and plants such as herb paris, lily-of-the-valley, angular solomon’s seal and bird’s nest orchid. It’s a place of great beauty throughout the year but particularly in spring, when sweet-scented bluebells turn its floor to a sea of blue and wild garlic fills the air with its distinctive fragrance and sends up its emerald leaves and constellations of white flowers.
Siccaridge Wood is one of the few places in the Cotswolds in which the hazel dormouse makes its home, numbers of which are closely monitored as part of a national scheme, while huge wood ant nests can be found on the ground and silver washed fritillary and comma butterflies flit around the open rides.
Just beyond the wood is Daneway Banks, the steep sides of which have almost lunar-like bumps made by generations of yellow meadow ants. This nature reserve is a classic example of limestone grassland and supports a wide range of wild flowers, including common rock rose, wild thyme, marjoram and cowslip; a number of orchids can be found here - frog, green winged, bee, fly and greater butterfly.
It’s also home to the large blue butterfly, which has been successfully
Bluebells by Dave Kilbey
Large blue butterfly by Dave Simcox