Spring Nature Walk at Brinkburn
Nestled in the heart of Northumberland, Brinkburn is a place of rare and enduring beauty. As I set out on a walk through its woodlands and streams, I was struck by the tranquility of the area, and the rich diversity of flora and fauna that is found here.
One of the first things to catch my eye was the wild garlic growing abundantly along the stream. Its broad green leaves and delicate white flowers exuded a pungent aroma that hung in the air, a reminder of the rich medicinal history of the plant. For centuries, wild garlic has been used to treat a variety of ailments, from sore throats and digestive issues to high blood pressure and even tuberculosis. Today, it remains a popular ingredient in many culinary dishes, adding a unique and flavourful twist to everything from soups and stews to pestos and marinades.
As I continued along the path I was delighted to spot delicate white flowers blooming on slender stems. These were wood anemones, a beautiful and fragile spring flower that thrives in shaded woodland habitats. Here a hazel coppice provided the perfect growing conditions for these flowers, with dappled sunlight filtering through the canopy and rich, moist soil at their roots. This species spreads extremely slowly in nature at just a metre per century and so is used to indicate ancient woodland . It’s thought provoking that some of Brinkburn’s wood anemone patches will be considerably older than the priory or any other signs of human history here.
Nearby I noticed the bluebells that were almost coming into flower. Their delicate blue petals added a splash of colour to the woodland floor, while their sweet fragrance filled the air. Bluebells are one of the most iconic sights of British springtime, and have long been celebrated in poetry and literature for their beauty and grace. They are also an important indicator species, providing valuable information about the health of local ecosystems. Changes in the timing and abundance of bluebells can indicate shifts in the local climate, as well as changes in land use and management.
Young ferns were unfolding their delicate fronds, while lesser celandine and butterbur bloomed in the sun-dappled glades. These plants, like many others in the area, have their own unique histories and uses. Lesser celandine, for example, was traditionally used to treat a variety of ailments, including wounds, boils, and rheumatism. Butterbur, meanwhile, was used to wrap butter for transport and storage.
As I made my way towards the river, I kept an eye out for otters, one of the most elusive and charismatic animals found here. Although I didn't spot any, I did see faint signs of their presence in the form of tracks and spraints (otter droppings) on the muddy banks of the river. Otters are a key indicator species of the health of river ecosystems, and their presence is a sign of clean water and healthy fish populations.
As I walked deeper into the woods, I saw the freshly broken shells of hazelnuts - signs of small mammals having eaten hazel nuts stored overwinter. A little further on were footprints of deer on the woodland paths; evidently these are numerous here but during the day hidden away from human visitors. These were all reminders that Brinkburn was not just a place of beauty, but a thriving ecosystem, teeming with life and activity.
Finally, I came across a reed-lined pond, where I saw hundreds of tadpoles swimming among the weeds. The pond was a haven for a variety of aquatic life, from dragonflies and water beetles to frogs and newts. It was a reminder that even in the smallest and most hidden places, life finds a way to thrive and flourish.
As I made my way back home, I couldn't help but feel grateful for the opportunity to experience the beauty of Brinkburn's natural wonders. It was a reminder that even in the hustle and bustle of modern life, nature has the power to heal, inspire and renew.