A bright and sunny morning in early November just begged for a brisk walk. So my husband and I drove to Penarth, in the Vale of Glamorgan, and to Cosmeston Lakes and Country Park. I love this Park. There are so many options for walking and there is always something different to see whatever time of the year I visit.
The Country Park opened to the public in 1978 and gained Local Nature Reserve status in May 2013. The two former tip sites to the north were carefully landscaped to form meadows and open grassland. The two flooded quarries have become the main lakes at Cosmeston. Situated within the country park is a reconstructed 14th century medieval village. Costumed guides show visitors around the period furnished buildings. The visitor centre has a gift shop, toilets with nappy changing facility and free wheel chair hire. Nature trail and orienteering maps can also be hired from the desk. Fishing or swimming are not permitted at Cosmeston lakes due to the submerged debris in the water of the quarry. Horse riding is permitted along the mile road bridle way. Dogs must be kept under control at all times and on leads in the car park area and around the East Lake. The Park is a haven for local wildlife.
As we drove into the car park a Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), all blue, orange and green flashings, flew past us. No time to catch it on camera but we will look out for it when walking around the park. We started off from the car park and already we could see a riot of autumn colour. Willows (Salix), Beeches (Fagus), Birches (Betula), Field Maples (Acer), Cherries (Prunus), Chestnuts (Aesculus), Oaks (Quercus) and Ashes (Fraxinus) lined the route to the lake. A Magpie sat gazing at us as we passed underneath a Cherry Tree. Our first sight and sound of the lake was filled with flapping and squawking; there were Mute Swans (Cygnus olor), Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus), Common Gulls (Larus canus), Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos), Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula), and Coots (Fulica atra) all waiting to be fed by the public. Across the lake the autumn splendour asserted itself in a tableau of colour and textures. We travelled around the Eastern Lake anti-clockwise watching people feeding the birds, all of whom were eager to pick up the tit-bits as they jostled into the best positions. They would fly in, waddle about, feed then fly off. That’s the birds not the people. Interesting landings on the lake were a joy to watch. Specialist bird food could be bought at the Visitor Centre. I think they encourage people to buy this as many bring bread which has little nutritional value. The children, however, find this activity really exciting as do many adults and it gives them a day out with very little expense.
Further along the broad-walk we saw some Moorhens (Gallinula chloropus) and a pair of Mallards who were not really interested in the feeding frenzy near to the entrance. Walking through the avenue of trees, we passed people exercising their dogs and them-selves, all were very cheery and pleasantries were exchanged. There were Oak trees and Hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna) together with the many trees which I have already mentioned. In a Hawthorn tree was a fat Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) enjoying the sun and the berries, cooing away to itself and taking no notice of us below.
We passed a play ground to the right of us as we walked upon the well maintained path. There were mothers with babies in pushchairs and toddlers running besides them all enjoying the sunshine. In the middle of the green, silhouetted against the sky, was a magnificent Narrow-leaved Ash tree (Fraxinus angustifolia) a mass of purple and magenta shades. When we arrived at the tree, the grass was carpeted with the colourful leaves, I felt like taking my shoes off and running amuck on the foliage. Oh what joy! Also in the distance was another tree full of what looked like Bats, but was of course another Ash tree with branches dripping with thousands of brown seed pods. The Silver Birches (Betula pendula) were also giving a glorious autumn display, their branches drenched with golden coins. Just then a couple of horses and their riders, a cyclist and mothers with push chairs passed us. The path seemed to be very busy at that time.
My husband went to sit on one of the benches, which are found throughout the park, while I ventured down to the lake. There are also BBQ and picnic areas set aside in this part of the park as well. There were signs warning of the dangers of entering the water and I was careful not to slip.
On the lake I could see the Swans, Geese and others on the far side; but in front of me ducking and diving was a Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus). In the shallows close to the bank were red Dragonflies flitting about, in fact some were actually mating.
We left the Eastern Lake and joined the bridle-way that traverses the park from the paddocks in the north to Lavernock Road in the south, turning first right and taking the path down to the Bird Hide before returning and walking over the bridge, which separates the Eastern from the Western Lake. Sycamores (Acer pseudoplatinus) lined the path to the Hide. The overhanging branches, with their leaves starting to colour, were spotted with what looked like black spots of tar. This was possibly caused by a relatively harmless Tar Spot fungus (Rhytisma acerinum).
From the Bird Hide we saw lots of Black-headed Gulls and Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) perched upon posts which were protruding from the water in the middle of the lake. In the background were masses of Common Reeds (Phragmites australis) and Bullrushes. Just in front of these was a Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) snapping at the Dragonflies as they flew past him.
Back on the bridle path we walked through an avenue of trees which were shedding their leaves with every gust of wind; trying to capture this sight on camera seemed almost impossible. After crossing the bridge, the road had lakes on both sides and smaller paths ran down close to the water. The Swans, Geese and the Great-Crested Grebe were still visible on the Eastern Lake, while Mallards, Tufted Ducks and another Great- crested Grebe were swimming very close to the banks of the Western Lake. At the lake edge was a Spindle Tree (Euonymus europaeus) in fruit, which was overhanging the water and hiding some of the water-fowl. Singing its heart out in a Hawthorn tree was a very chirpy Robin (Erithacus rubecula).
We didn’t follow the path around the Western Lake but turned left towards the boardwalk. Before reaching the boardwalk we tarried awhile near the lake and a picnic area. It was fascinating to see Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis), Wood Pigeons and Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) quite happily scratching and foraging for food together on the same patch of ground. A man sat at the picnic table and was hand feeding some Squirrels. There were many birds landing on the bird-feeder and the picnic tables: Robins, Blue-tits (Parus caeruleus) and Nuthatches (Sitta europaea). As I was leaning against a tree taking loads of photographs, I became surrounded by lots of Mallards, both male and female, who were squawking and waddling towards some seed that a woman had just thrown onto the picnic area. The Squirrels also joined the foray. The sight and the noise was invigorating and the camera clicked ever faster as I tried to capture the moment.
Some children nearby, however, spooked the Mallards and they took to the air, flying past me and on to the lake. Here Canada Geese, Black-headed Gulls, a solitary Mute Swan and, by now the Mallards were feeding and swimming.
We reluctantly left the area and walked onto the broad-walk. Common Reeds were high on either side of us. Orange Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima) seed pods punctuated the masses of reeds and the Dragonflies were fluttering all around about. A sign situated in a clearing informs us that there are 16 different species of Dragonflies and Damselflies to be found hawking, chasing and darting around the lakes. A Buzzard (Buteo buteo) was hovering in the clear blue sky above us: testament to the fact that wildlife was flourishing unseen in amongst reeds. At the end of the broad-walk the Mallards, Tufted Ducks, Moorhens, Coots, Swans and a white Pekin Duck were congregating and hoping for another free meal. Talking of meals, it was time for us to seek sustenance in the cafe which overlooks the lake. At the exit there were some youngsters, all arrayed in red life-jackets and helmets, from the Prince’s Trust entering the water in canoes. No sightings of the Kingfisher so we will have to look out for it next time.
The birds were magnificent and I was inspired to record their flights of fancy.