The first field trip by the then newly formed GNS took place in 1948, the rendezvous point being “A Bus Stop” on Leckhampton Hill. No details of the trip were recorded and there is no known anecdotal evidence of where the trip actually took place, or of what was observed. However, it was decided by the committee that a celebratory and commemorative general walk and field trip ought to be undertaken by some of the society’s present members.
The date was set for 13th December 2008, the meeting point being the former Brownstone Quarry at SO 951 179 which is in itself a Local Nature Reserve. The meeting was led by Andrew Bluett, the membership secretary and attended by 10 members, Mike Smart, Juliet Bailey, Colin & Ingrid Twissell, Ken Cservenka, Drs M Astle & M McEllin and their daughters, Alice & Katie McEllin, two of the younger and newer members of the Society. The final member of the party was Brian Bailey, both as a member, and in his capacity as BBC Radio Gloucestershire’s roving reporter on matters of countryside and nature and whose work features in Vernon Harwood’s radio show on Sunday mornings and which celebrates the “Spirit of Gloucestershire”.
The party took a route from the quarry car park to Hill Farm, then roughly north-east across the cultivated land to the intersection of the Cotswold Way which was then followed along the ridge of Charlton Kings Common from which there were magnificent and uninterrupted views to the west and north as far as the Black Mountains and Clee Hill, then roughly south over Hartley Hill to Hartley Farm and back along the minor road to the start point.
Wildlife noted during the walk featured an impressive list of birds (given that it was a very cold, frosty and windy day on an exposed hilltop) including a flock of up to 65 Golden Plover, a similar number of Lapwings, flocks of finches, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, Buzzard & Kestrel, a few Tits and winter Thrushes and a mixed flock of Corvids (all of which were recorded as “Roving Records” for the BTO Atlas project) . Dr Astle discovered a large lump of the local soft Oolitic limestone embedded with a variety of ancient fossilised marine shells, Juliet Bailey identified 19 species of Lichen and noted 5 flowering plants – Gorse, Dandelion, Groundsel, Oilseed Rape and Sherherd’s Purse. Mammals seen included 2 Roe Deer and Rabbits, the local Hares proved elusive.
Hartley Farm is in itself interesting, the farmer, Mr G Powell, is very conservation minded and keeps footpaths open and well marked, rotates a variety of crops, keeps a flock of true Cotswold Sheep (now a rare breed), maintains Badger gates and two large areas of Grass Ley which have been undisturbed for many decades and are therefore wild flower rich. The Roe Deer are regular and reasonably easily seen, game cover for Pheasant shooting interests provides both food and habitat for a variety of birds and other animals. In good years up to 3 pairs of Lapwings breed, usually on the Linseed drilled fields, there are perhaps a dozen pairs of Yellowhammer, resident Kestrel, Buzzard, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks and occasional Grasshopper Warbler. Migrating birds pause on the hilltop and farmland including Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Stonechat, Cuckoo and the like.
For those interested in taking a walk anywhere on Leckhampton and Hartley Hills, apart from the above, Charlton Kings Common attracts a variety of wildlife, is reasonably good for Butterflies, is an excellent place for reptiles with both Adders and Lizards easy to find, holds Edible (Roman) Snails and is an excellent viewpoint, whether just taking in the scenery, or for watching passing bird life. The area is interesting for geologists and for industrial archaeologists alike. There are a number of marked footpaths offering a variety of routes – the only limit is the amount of energy one is prepared to expend…!
During the walk, Brian Bailey recorded some material which was later broadcast on BBC Radio Gloucestershire on Sunday 18th January 2009.
To those who took part, thank you for your company, to those unable to join us, I recommend a walk on Leckhampton & Hartley Hills, the area is both fascinating and invigorating, whatever your field of interest.
Sample the GNS field trip from the comfort of home and listen to these sound files made by Brian Bailey for BBC Radio Gloucestershire during the 60th Anniversary Leckhampton trip.
The files include interviews with GNS recorders and give a flavour of this key part of the Society’s many activities. The recordings are from Vernon Harwood’s radio show “The Spirit of Gloucestershire” made available by courtesy of Brian Bailey and BBC Radio Gloucestershire – copyright remains with BBC Radio Gloucestershire.