30 Days Wild: Exploring Holme Fen Nature Reserve

On a sunny but blustery Saturday my partner, Alex, and I headed to Holme Fen Nature Reserve near Peterborough for 30 Days Wild.

We entered the reserve and found that, to my surprise, it was a dense forest that featured almost entirely silver birch trees. It was stunningly beautiful, tall strips of white amongst a sea of dappled silvery green. To me birch tree leaves often seem to flicker with rapid movements like birds. The twitching of the leaves in the breeze had me grabbing for my binoculars more than once.

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

Our first wild encounter was a red shield bug sat in the tall grasses next to the path but it did not sit for our cameras. Further on a distinctly marked butterfly floated up from the foliage. A red admiral according to Alex. As far as I’m aware, not being very good at butterfly ID, I’ve never seen a red admiral before so I was thrilled to see it.

ss2

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

We followed a path that vanished into thick fern under a ceiling of vivid green. It was soon difficult to judge if this was an official path or one made by curious feet. Perhaps man is not so cut off from our past as we appear to have some innate desire to step off the beaten track. Our ancestors once lived whole lives bordered by crowded forest such as this. Indeed, this forest felt truly primeval, with its jungle of fern, a red ground twisted by roots and a myriad of silver trees bursting from strange places and left to lie wherever they fell. Was that shriek from a passing train on the nearby railway or from a distant dinosaur hidden in the trees?

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

An unexpected body of water emerged. We sat on a moss carpet at the water’s edge to enjoy the view, framed by leaves from low branches. Hundreds of cobalt blue damselflies danced across the water’s surface. We soon carried on to discover what other hidden treasures this place held. The path continued to follow the edge of the water which featured a swan pair, their signets, mallards and coots.

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

The fern became unruly now, eclipsing the path and trapping our ankles. Distracted, at first I didn’t quite notice an echoing sound that was once so familiar to me. It then dawned on me with a surge of excitement that it was a sound I hadn’t heard since I was a child, one that I had always loved to hear and mimic. The sound of a cuckoo!

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

Past the jungle we discovered a mini headland jutting out into the water. The perfect spot to absorb our beautiful surroundings and watch wildlife.

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

I lay there on the moss-covered ground with the sun on my face, watching swifts swooping overhead, cormorant and tufted duck floating on the water, damselflies hovering next to us and hearing cuckoo booming in the trees. Lying there I knew this was my new favourite place. I felt the outside modern world melt away leaving nothing but the joy of being in nature. Exploring the reserve had been the perfect wild adventure, and to think I might never have discovered the magic of this place without 30 Days Wild.

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

Photo by Sally Smurthwaite

Blog written by Wild Horizons member and Rutland Nature Reserve volunteer Sally Smurthwaite. See more of her 30 Days Wild adventures on her own blog here.