14 people met at the west end of Bluett Avenue for a circular walk taking in the Old Toll Road, Hersey Nature Reserve, Oakhill Road, the footpath alongside Westbrook House, passed the Wishing Well, up Farm Shute (Nettlestone Hill) and down the bridleway at Fairy Hill to return to our cars.
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta)
Photo: Dave Trevan
The first point of interest was at the junction of Bluett Avenue and Salterns Road. James Kirkpatrick, a banker, saw an opportunity to make some money by starting a saltworks on the site of the silted up Barnsley Creek. So in 1790 he purchased the row of cottages opposite called Saltern Cottages for the workers to live in. He then had an embankment built across the old creek (now Duver Road). Sea water was collected during the summer months and placed in evaporation ponds and collecting pans where the water could evaporate until a strong brine resulted. The residue was then collected up and boiled in large iron pans until salt crystals were produced. The salt works were in operation from about 1800 until 1819 when Kirkpatrick sold his estate. The government imposed a high salt tax and at the same time there was increased competition from the cheaper mineral salt mines in Cheshire which resulted in the works eventually being abandoned. We visited Hersey Nature Reserve which is the site of the salt pans and Barnsley Creek. Barnsley Creek was used as a harbour for medieval ships until it silted up in the 16th century. Corn was shipped up to the water mill at the top end of the creek.
We looked at the beach and out on the Solent using the telescope and had good views of a Cormorant resting with its wings outstretched. Their wings are not water proof and have to hold them out to dry after fishing. Three Great Crested Grebes were on the Solent and on the shore eight Sanderling were busy on the water’s edge catching food also there were three Oystercatchers resting. About ten Turnstones were disturbed by dog walkers and they took refuge on the water outflow pipe from the reserve.
On the reserve we had lovely views of Little Egret and a smart Greenshank as well as Mallard, Little Grebe and Tufted Duck. Some lucky people saw the Kingfisher flying by. During the rest of the walk we were able to add to our bird species list including Redwing, Buzzard, Kestrel, Green Woodpecker and heard the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. In all 35 bird species were noted.
Except for about the last week the winter has been exceptionally mild and we have seen some unseasonal wild flowers in bloom so we noted those too.
Winter Heliotrope,(Petasites fragrans),Gorse(Ulex europaeus), Daisy (Bellis perennis),Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber,Evening Primrose (Oenothera sp.) , Primrose (Primula vulgaris) Dandelion (Taraxacum agg.)Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris), Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna), Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) Smooth Sow Thistle (Sonchus oleraceus) Wavy Bittercress (Cardamine flexuosa) Speedwell(Veronica sp.)Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus)
Snowflake (Leucojum sp.), Greater Periwinke (Vinca major), Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), Red Campion (Silene dioica), Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) 20 species.