December gives us dark mornings and evenings but this gives us opportunities to watch wildlife at dawn and dusk without having to get out of bed at an unearthly hour! Most of the trees will have lost their leaves giving us better views of the birds and squirrels!
Leaving the café follow the walk/cycle path towards the car park. There are some interesting plants in bloom at the park entrance here. The first one you will see is the Winter Jasmine. Its yellow starry flowers brighten up the lower corner of the Italianate Rose Garden. Walking towards the car park look out for the pink flowers on the winter flowering Heather.
Return to the main walk/cycle path look out for signs of the spring bulbs emerging along the base of the Italianate Garden wall. These bulbs were sourced by the Friends of Avery Hill Park and will brighten up the park in the weeks to come. Passing the Winter Garden look for five magnolia trees, gifted by the New Eltham Allotment Society. Their flower buds, covered in silky hairs, are swelling showing us that spring is not far away!
Keep right at the fork in the path ahead; walking along beside the Avery Hill Road boundary on the left you will see the light green feathery leaves of Hedge Parsley. This wildflower reminds us of the agricultural past of the park. You’ll find plenty more as you walk round the hedgerows in the park! On your right look out for the first signs of the dark green leaves of Snowdrops emerging. Planted by the Cub Scouts of 1st Royal Eltham, this brave little bulb has earned itself the name of “Frost breaker”!
As you walk along the south boundary of the park, past the University student campus, keep a look out for birds. There may be two migrant members of the Thrush family, Fieldfare a larger bird with spotted chest and prominent eyebrows; and the smaller Redwing. This looks very like our common Thrush until it flies away when you will notice its red “armpits”! Both these birds love the berries we have in our hedges. Listen out and you will undoubtedly hear the screeches of the Ring Necked Parakeets; you can’t miss them in their bright green plumage! You may be able to hear the Robin singing too; this little bird likes to remind us that Christmas is near!
High in the trees on your left as you walk nearer to the path down to 40 Foot Way see if you can spot the Squirrel’s dreys. These nest like constructions are stuffed with dead leaves to keep the Squirrels warm. Does this make you feel glad you’re not a Squirrel! Brrrh, looks a cold and drafty way to sleep in winter!
Continuing around the path bordering the Rugby field you may well see more birds feeding on the Hawthorn berries in the hedgerow beside the path. Keep going along the path until you get to the zig zag before the MUGA. The very large tree, last in the row of trees making the avenue beside the tall Holly hedge; is a Caucasian Wingnut.
The only one in our borough, this tree was planted by James Boyd in 1885. This lovely old tree is usually the last in the park to loose its leaves for the winter. How’s it doing as you pass by today; still green or in autumn colour or has it succumbed to the winter winds? This is the end of your walk of the month…the café awaits!
All parks have a great history, created as public open, green spaces by visionary men and women for the people to enjoy.