Clay Lane has memories for me ever since I first moved to this town...
For a long time, "Clay Lane" was just a park where you went to try and play football or cricket on grass that was far too long for the purpose, on awkward slopes. It had a reputation too, as being the sort of place where "rough kids" played. I certainly got a cricket stump across the head there once. Long story.
There was a renowned conker tree called "King Kong" in another field a little further on and a scary, Scooby Doo kind of haunted house up the hill behind the trees. I was barely brave enough to climb the fence that protected it. One time we went onto the lane proper, a bunch of friends and myself, and we were convinced we were going to be chased and killed by Hells Angels - actually a few kids on tinnily buzzing mopeds.
There were skylarks nesting in the long grass, I used to watch them soaring skywards, singing wildly, before plunging back to ground like arrows. I haven't seen one since. A sign of our times.
Nowadays, I run along the actual Clay Lane on a regular basis. In spring and summer, it is a green tunnel of bramble blossom alive with butterflies; orange tips, speckled woods, brimstones and green veined whites. When you reach the farmland at the end of the lane, yellowhammers clatter through the hedgerows, and there might be a buzzard overhead, soaring on the updraft from the slope.
In winter, as it is now, it is a muddy slog past bushes still full of hips and haws, made occasionally wondrous by fogs and hoar frosts dusting everything in white. But it is also the best spot in Newark to see winter thrushes at the moment, and in my experience it has always been the most likely spot to see bullfinches.
Fieldfares and redwing tend not to come into town to ransack berry laden trees until the weather gets really cold and hard. But Clay Lane, right on the edge of a busy urban residential area, has the berries to attract them without the people to disturb them, and my recent runs have found me flushing flocks of 20 or so fieldfare out from the trees as I approach, their pure white bellies flashing in the sun as they fly off. They always seem a little easier to spook than the redwing - which are present on the lane in smaller numbers at the moment - despite the fact that they are a far sturdier looking bird.
There are flocks of goldfinches around too, always a pretty sight twittering in the trees, their bright red faces always reminding me of mini-babybel cheeses.
How odd, that a bird should remind me of cheese.
Copyright Cream Crackered Nature 21.12.13