So, to give you a flavour of how I drag my body around, this was a fairly typical run I had at 3pm this afternoon, on a pleasant, cobalt skied day with a bit of a breeze.
I guess the first point of interest I come to is the cycle path by the fishing lake just off London Road. Normally this time of year, a lot of Brimstone butterflies are to be seen along here, but at the moment there hasn't been one - a lot of Orange Tips though. On the lake are Mallards (no longer having mating squabbles, some swans (hilarious "Don't Eat the Swans" signs still around much to amusement of local polish folk) and Canada Geese. Usually there's a few Tufted Ducks about, but not today - maybe they are nesting - and the solitary Great Crested Grebe I've been seeing was on holiday as well. The Coot and Moorhen chicks with their enormous comedy clown feet will soon be out, I reckon.
You can follow this path all the way to the Railway Station but it becomes a bit of a bleak urban dung heap further along with an algae choked drain alongside that some waterfowl still find attractive for some reason.
So I turn off up onto Clay Lane, and bypassing the main park follow the main lane till it turns to dirt track. All sorts of funny little paths to follow here, I turned off the lane onto a path that leads up past some attractive stand of trees (see previous pic) rather than follow the lane to the end as I sometimes do.
See, in the countryside now. Ten minutes from the town centre on foot...
This path leads up to the back of the old part of Beacon Hill estate, and last year Ringlet butterflies would erupt out of the low bushes alongside in large numbers as I stairlifted my body past - it is quite a steep little climb but with a fantastic view to the south when you get to the top. This year, the Ringlets are still in bed at the moment.
Cross the estate, then cross the road (careful!) and you come to the signposted east entrance to Beacon Hill nature reserve.
This first involves a long run between a long copsey thing and a farmers field - I've never really seen anything that exciting along here, but that'll be my useless fault - today a Buzzard could be seen in the far distance. The path then drops down to the new tree plantation, again last year Ringlets were abundant along here but now, a few Speckled Woods made an appearance at weekend to join the ubiquitous Orange Tips. At the other end of the nursery (following picture) I take the path as it drags west up a slope - favourite spot for small flocks of Chaffinch earlier in the spring - and enter the large open meadow where there are large amounts of rabbits to startle and imagine putting in a pie, and later in the year birds foot trefoil litters the ground.
I turn off here, and exit down the hill into the northern industrial exit - past some weird industrial enclosure warning of "explosive gases", and an odd area next to it I call "Butterfly Park", a scrubby sort of wasteground of Buddleiah and a tall yellow god knows what weed that in 2009 was full to the brim of Peacocks and huge numbers of Painted Ladies. Last year...zip.
After this, well it's all boring till you reach the river, and attractive though it is there's not a lot to see. However, by the town lock a Heron is often to be found standing tall and silent, and a Cormorant fishes down here, which I always find fascinating to watch, where will he pop up next? The other day he was drying his wings on an island in the river, watched by an attractive couple as I strode by, totally cream crackered...