It may be January but there’s plenty to see. Who says everything is dead in winter!
From the café go towards the Winter Gardens and just follow your nose; there’s a heavenly smell from the Christmas Box plants at the top of the wall in the shade of the Cedar tree. There’s an even better place to enjoy this plant in the upper Italianate Rose Garden. Just relax on the bench and drink in the fragrance. Hopefully you’ll get some sunshine too!
Follow the walk & cycle route, east alongside Avery Hill Road; there’s just one Alder tree on the right near the path here. Easy to spot as it’s the only tree to have cones and catkins at the same time!
Keep your eyes on the playing fields on your right and look out for the sea gulls. They spend a lot of time here during the day If you see a few “tap dancing”, they’re not auditioning for “Strictly Come Dancing”, simply hunting for worms! Usually you can see a smaller gull, the Black-headed. A bit of a daft name in winter, as it won’t have a black head until the breeding season. Two sorts of Black Backed Gull, lesser & greater like being in our park and if you’re really lucky you’ll see the Common Gull, easy to spot with its green legs. The noisiest bird in the park is the Ring Necked Parakeet. This bright green bird is hard to miss; it hangs out in family groups and between them they make a great deal of noise! Around dusk they will gather in flocks of 20 or more and fly off to their communal roost at Hither Green. See if you can spot the Owl nesting box in the trees on your left. There are 20 bird, bug and bat boxes in the park.
When you get to the bridge over the stream, look to your right again; there is a Hazel tree here. Its yellow catkins are a welcome sight in January; there are more Hazel trees along the Green Chain walk; see if you can spot the tiny red star shaped female flowers! While you’re walking around the edge of the rugby field (its old field name is Grey’s field) Have a look at the colour of the twigs on the trees in the hedgerow. Who said twigs are all brown! Can you spot the yellow twigs on the willow and the purple twigs on the birch?
Keep going along the walk and cycle path crossing the stream for the second time. This is Pippinhall Stream, it rises on Pippinhall Farm and is one of the headwater streams for the River Shuttle. At this time of year there is always water in the stream; further down its course you can find freshwater shrimps and sticklebacks swimming about. Passing the holly hedge on your left look out for any berries left on the bushes; the birds love to feast on them! You may be lucky enough to spot a Little Owl flying alongside the holly hedge and out across the playing fields. This smallest member of the owl family often hunts in daylight.
Return to the café for a welcome hot drink to warm you up at the end of the walk.
All parks have a great history, created as public open, green spaces by visionary men and women for the people to enjoy.