Winter highlights around the Maidenhead and Cookham Commons
With frost in the air and long hours of darkness, winter can be a quiet time for nature. Plants withdraw into the earth, trees change colour and animals prepare for a scarcity of food. Yet winter also brings new faces to the landscape and chances to glimpse some of the more shy and retiring characters.
Discover the ancient and notable trees of Maidenhead Thicket. These venerable old trees are rich in wildlife and biodiversity and are often at their most striking during the autumn months. So escape the hustle and bustle and come for a breath of fresh air among some ancient leafy giants.
Autumn and winter are also great times to spot fungi. With a delightful variety of colours, shapes and textures the fungi ‘fruit’ can be found on the woodland floor as well as on trees and deadwood. For a festive splash of colour, look out for holly and yew in the woodland undergrowth whose deep green foliage and ruby red fruit will brighten up a winter walk.
Lunch is provided
Trees and shrubs are a hugely important food source for animals in all seasons, but especially in winter. Acorns, hazelnuts and conkers drop to the woodland floor at just the right time of year whilst fruit in the hedgerow is ripe and ready for eating.
Sheltering in the miles of hedgerow and shrub of the Commons you might see some travellers from colder climes. Birds like the redwing, fieldfare and dunlin can be spotted feasting on hawthorn berries, sloes and rose hips as they pass through the UK on their way to North Africa. The best places to see migrating birds are around Pinkneys Green Common and Pinkneys Drive wildflower meadow.
Spot other animals stocking up for leaner times through the woods and grasses of Maidenhead and Cookham. Winter Hill woods, north of the Brick and Tile works, are a more remote and quiet spot of Maidenhead and Cookham Commons, so a great place to sit, watch and listen in peace and quiet. Sooner or later you'll hear a scuffle and a roe deer may venture out to graze.
Snow, frost and damp ground in winter creates perfect conditions to spot animal tracks whilst walking through the countryside. Deer, rabbits and birds leave footprints, why not follow a trail and see where it leads? Also look out for nibbled nuts and berries along the way. You can sometimes tell what critter has been feasting by the teeth marks it leaves.
Try adventuring across the open meadows of Cock Marsh and Cookham Dean Common to go animal tracking or look overhead to see red kites soaring in the cold, crisp air.