Sunday, 26 March 2017

Edstone (butterflies at last)

Male Brimstone at Wilmcote

We thought we might see some people on the towpath on Saturday as it was the weekend and sure enough, when I opened the back doors at 8.30 a large group of walkers had already gathered by the aqueduct.

Walkers getting ready to walk to Stratford

As it was forecast to be such a nice day we packed a picnic and cycled the 5 ½ miles into Stratford.  It wasn’t long before we saw our first butterfly of the year, a male Brimstone – see picture at the top.  Suddenly it seemed they were everywhere and we saw at least 15 individuals during the day.  They were all males, which are distinguished by their bright yellow colour; females are much paler, almost lemon coloured.  Unlike most butterflies Brimstones never open their wings at rest.  The Brimstones seen at this time of year have overwintered as adults, usually in trees hidden in ivy leaves.  The wing shape is noticeably leaf shaped too to aid their camouflage.

When we reached Wilmcote we caught up with the large group of hikers I had seen when we got up in the morning.  A cyclist was telling them that the towpath had collapsed half way down the 11 lock flight and there was a diversion through a field.  He said it was extremely muddy and best avoided.  The group leader had a change of plan and they set off to walk into the village to visit Mary Arden’s house (and probably one of the pubs) instead.  We carried on regardless.

Karen waiting for me and Buddy to catch up at one of the Wilmcote locks

We soon hit the diversion and cycled along the footpath at the edge of the field.  It wasn’t that muddy so we weren’t sure why the cyclist was putting the hikers off.

After five miles we hit the start of Stratford and saw our first Small Tortoiseshell of the year followed almost immediately by a Peacock.

Peacock taken by Karen last year – the one we saw today didn’t stay still long enough for us to get a shot

Small Tortoiseshell by the canal in Stratford

We chained our bikes up at the end of the canal at Bancroft basin and walked up to the market.  During the winter you can moor for 14 days in the basin but from April to October it is 48 hour only.  We had hoped to get here a lot earlier this year so we could stay for two weeks but the lock closures have prevented us.  As it is we won’t be arriving until April so we will only be able to stay for two days.  There is a lock at Bancroft basin that leads onto the River Avon so we will probably head onto the river for a while after the two days and then return to the basin for another couple of days.

Tourists everywhere at Bancroft basin (me being a tourist by taking pictures)

We had our picnic on the banks of the river in the unseasonably warm sunshine.  Again it was packed with tourists – I seem to remember that Stratford receives the largest number of tourists outside London.  Karen remarked how ironic it is that we don’t like being amongst people but we chose to come into Stratford to have a picnic; however, there is a sense of being alone even in a crowd.

Our view across the river into the RSC theatre whilst having our picnic

On our way back home to the boat we saw a Comma butterfly.  This made four different species on the first day of seeing any butterflies this year.   In 2015 we saw our first butterflies of the year in Stratford too but it was over a fortnight earlier – we saw Small Tortoiseshells and Brimstones on March 6th that year.

Comma at Edstone by the boat
Catherine is coming to visit us for Sunday so I suspect we will have a good walk with her.

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