Thursday, April 05, 2007

Golden Acre Park

As I've said many times before, I'm very fortunate to have countryside almost on my doorstep and even when that's not enough, there are several beautiful parks within a few minutes drive.

Today was a stunning Spring day with a cloudless sky and temps good enough for a t-shirt if you were under 30 or so.......and a light jacket or a fleece if like me, you've not seen 30 for a decade or two.

In my case, I also blame the blood thinners !!

I wanted a change from my normal walking routes around the estate and so I drove 10 minutes to Golden Acre Park which is 137 acres of park, lake, forest and floral gardens about 6 miles north of Leeds city centre.

One of the first species of flower or plant you come across in the park is the aptly named Yellow Skunk Cabbage which is normally found in the northern and eastern states of America - hence it's 'proper' name of Lysichiton Americanus.

Don't worry, this is the first and last time I'll identify anything on this post as I don't want it to be a serious or educational entry.

God forbid.

Ok it's more because I can't identify anything else and I'm only able to talk about this one because there was a sign giving it's name AND it gave off a nasty smell just like....a skunk. I say, it, but there were dozens of them in a small pool area just at the entrance to the park.

So much for getting fresh air on this walk !

I'll have to just line up the rest of the
non animal photos now as I've no idea what they are.

None are flowers of course and so I guess they'd come under the general classification of blossoms.

As it's only early April, the park is still coming out of it's winter hibernation and it'll be a while before the flower beds burst forth in a stunning display of colours and variety.

Click on any of the photos to enlarge them - and you might need to do that with the one above as it does look like it's got a covering of snow.

The trees and bushes were doing their best to compensate for the lack of colour elsewhere. This was great from a visual point of view but not good from a photographic point of view. Everytime I tried to compose my shots, the wind would pick up and gently move the branches - making my life that much more difficult.

Sometimes a lack of colour can be just as pleasing to the eye as vibrant reds and greens and yellows.

I know white IS a colour but you know what I mean.

Once again I'd taken my monopod with me instead of my tripod and it came in very useful at times.

It gives a degree of stability without taking a long time to set up. In fact, I leave it connected to the camera most of the time and simply compress it down to it's minimum length when taking action photos.

The park has several hills and steep climbs and the monopod came in handy as a walking stick.

I'm not quite at THAT age but after walking around for about 3 hours, I was happy to have it for the final climb back up to the car !!

Golden Acre Park can be entered from the top or the bottom and today I'd driven to the top car park which meant I had a downward walk to start with, which is what I wanted.

This walk is along an unpaved but smooth path that winds it's way down to the edge of the forest area and on towards the lake.

Well it's a bit of a fib to call it a forest as it's really just a wood at best.

The path then takes you over a narrow bridge and on along the edge of the lake to an area where the visitors congregate to feed the assorted wildlife which treat the lake as home at this time of year.

Despite it being a few days before Easter, the park was relatively quiet and almost free of visitors.

Apart from loving couples who were lying on the grass all over the park discussing world events (yeah right !!) , there were a few families with young children who were enjoying feeding the ducks and swans. Well they were throwing bread crumbs AT the ducks and swans who were ignoring them for the most part as they are probably the best fed wildlife outside of a zoo.

I love how they glide over the water. For a change the park lake is very clean and you can clearly see their 'feet' working away like motorised paddles under the water while above, all is calm and serene.

There was a delightful family unit with mom and dad and about 8 or 9 cute little ducklings in tow.

As with the lambs I photographed a few weeks ago, these young 'uns never strayed far from their parents and it was funny to see them all wheel around as one unit any time someone or something came too close to them.

What they lacked in size, they more than made up for in speed and mom and dad had a hard time keeping up.

Control was maintained by a series of alert quacks but also aided by the inbred sense that the ducklings had to not go off too far from their parents while wanting to explore their big new world.

As in the human world, everything can't be peaceful and harmonious all the time and fights do break out.

I've no idea what caused the big fracas while I was there but I'm sure it had more to do with raging hormones than empty stomachs.

It was certainly a sight to behold as about 6 swans tore into each other for a good 30 seconds - it started on dry land and then progressed onto the water, at which point I took a series of photos.

I'd no idea what I'd got as, for the most part, all I could see were flapping wings and a melee worthy of a bunch of fighting soccer hooligans.

When the dust (and the water) settled, I checked the photos and realised most weren't worth keeping as they just showed a huge mass of intertwinned swan bodies. This one I liked though, even though it was at the end of the skirmish when only 2 swans were still nipping at each other.

Now we all know that swans have short fuses and can be threatening when they themselves feel threatened, but I certainly had never thought of ducks as being ill tempered.

I was sitting on a bench near the lake reviewing my photos to that point, when two ducks approached with little or no fear of me.

Suddenly one of them lost it's cool and basically attacked the other one. In a rare example of animal bullying, it pinned it's colleague 's head to the ground and kept it there for some time.

I just couldn't sit and watch this injustice anymore and having taken the photo, I calmly, and with no thought of my personal safety, told the bully to behave and let the other one go.

Sadly just like when I did the same at school, I was totally ignored so I stood up and this did the trick. The ducks parted........turned and savagely attacked me leaving me bleeding and close to death by the side of the lake.

Oh I'm only joking of course. No, I killed them both and will have them tomorrow for supper.
Death to all bullies.

There was a large information board nearby with images of all the waterfowl likely to be spotted on or around the lake and I wish now that I'd taken a photograph of it......cause then I might know just what the hell I DID photograph.

This fella was quite unmoved, literally, by my presence as I crept, ninja-like, closer and closer to him....or her.

By now it was after 6pm and the birds were settling down for the evening.

All over the park, they were meeting up with their buddies and sitting, if that's the right term, on the grass.

The ducks just sat......and closed their eyes. The swans had a much more impressive and elaborate ritual where they did a lot of preening, followed by a bit of neck and wing stretching and would finally squat down on the grass and lower their long necks down onto the tops of their bodies and end up like a large white bowling ball. Well only the white swans could do this of course !

This is a photo of such a white swan just on it's way down, so to speak.

One leg has already been lifted upwards and the whole body is now on it's way down to the ground.

The neck is also on the way to ending up nestled on top of it's body and in about 2 seconds, the long necked, graceful creature I'd seen gliding over the water was effectively curled up like a huge marshmallow for the evening.

Isn't nature wonderful ??

I felt like an intruder in some sort of vast countryside bedroom, so I tiptoed away and headed back to the car.

Just to prove there is other wildlife in the park apart from those of the watery persuasion, here is a final shot I took on the way out.

I'm not quite sure what he has in his paws but he was pretty skittish and didn't care for my approach.

I guess the squirrels in Buttonwood Bay are much more used to humans and maybe this one had good reason to be suspicious of me.

It certainly wasn't going to approach me and as such, this was as close as I got. After this photo, he scampered off into the woods.

Maybe it was past his bedtime too.

I got to the car and 10 minutes later I was back home. It may not have been as energetic a walk as I'm used to, but I think it's good to throw in something different now and then.

I didn't work up a sweat or anything. I'd even taken the hills slowly so as not to get out of breath.

In fact, all in all, you could say it was just......a walk in the park.


Daphne said...

Oh yes, always worth a visit, Golden Acre, and I enjoyed your photos too. It was my main source of frog spawn when I was a child and as a result our garden is now very frog-filled.

Erika said...

Hi! Great post. I enjoyed reading about your walk in the park. Your pictures are great, love the close ups. What kind of camera are you using? You are right about the squirrels in Buttonwood Bay, they are all over the park.No squirrels here in Wachula, probably no food or the people are not as friendly?? Have a great day.

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