The mist lifts reluctantly from the ponds in the valley bottom and the young trees, mere saplings really, emerge slowly, shrugging off their foggy veil. A heron, feasting on the frogs that have come to the ponds to breed, startled by my presence, lifts slowly into the air, and flys away shrieking loudly its displeasure at having its feeding disturbed.
I recalled this memory of early spring recently on a cold winter’s day as I trudged through the rain, stopping briefly to look down into the valley, the ponds and the trees.
The Old Lightwood Road Reservoir site must hold many memories for Buxtonians. A spot of wild camping perhaps on a warm summers evening, exams finished and the holidays to look forward to. Maybe it was an illicit dip in the reservoir or more recently, since it has been dismantled, searching for and collecting frog spawn from the ponds that have formed in the valley bottom.
The naturalist and nature writer Mark Cocker, talked about Lightwood in his August nature diary in the Guardian. Cocker was brought up in Buxton and spent a lot of time in and out of the woods at Lightwood. While he lamented the loss of species such as the wood warbler, lapwing and ring ouzel, he noted that the area was undergoing a sort of rewilding with the removal of the sheep from the hillside.
Gradually nature does its work, birch and alder saplings are taking root in the valley bottom and a young wood is developing, slowly changing the soil and allowing other species to thrive.
During the summer on warm sunny days the marsh bedstraw, ragged robin, and bird’s foot trefoil are host to a dozen species of butterfly. In the skies above a hobby effortlessly twists and turns to catch a dragon fly, while on a thermal a buzzard soars and circles seeking out the slightest movement that will hint at a meal in the undergrowth far below.
As summer gives way to autumn, we are left with the ravens harsh croaking and the wind creaking through the trees. Flocks of Goldfinches seem plentiful this year and there appear to be quite a few wrens, alarming and darting from bush to bush. The activity at this time of year is about building up reserves and feeding up on the fruits and berries. Winter is round the corner, and the days get shorter, so opportunities are scarce. And so it begins all over again.
This is a special place. We need to treasure it. Give nature the time and space to work and then watch and marvel as the changes unfold before us, season to season, year by year.