Monday, 12 June 2017

River Hull. Stage 12. The straightened Hull, New Cut to Emmotland

An overcast, windy day, with brief sunny spells, I headed to Hempholme for a new stage of the river. As I crossed Bethell's bridge, the first road bridge since Hull Bridge, it started raining. The clouds moved fast and I waited the shower in the parking lot in the car. Today's circuit involved going down river from Bethel Bridge, turning right on Scurf Dike to join the old course of the river Hull and back up from Hempholme Lock. This section of the river Hull is under Driffields Navigation and was straightened in the early 1800s between Hempholme Lock and Bethell's Bridge, bypassing in 1km the meandering old course of the river Hull. As I looked over a small ditch of transparent water by Scurf Dike, a Kingfisher darted away as a blue lightning strike. Scurf Dike is directly connected to the river, and a small brick footbridge of a single arch crosses it. It's got abundant emergent vegetation and water plants. There are woods at both sides of the dike. A Garden Warbler sung from a bush at the other side of the dike. Large carp could be seen swimming through the water. A brief sunny spell brought a few insects out.
 The old course of the river is now an overgrown deep and narrow creek carrying a trickle of water, and the public footpath around the southern section of it appears to have been only trodden by roe deer in recent times. I managed to avoid the nettles and trundled on, briefly stopping to watch a Buzzard being mobbed by a Carrion Crow. I was relieved to finally get to the wooden footbridge over Beverley and Barmston Drain just north of Tophill Low nature reserve.
 I joined the start of the stage at the lock and weir and crossed to the other side of the river to hace a closer look. Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins and Swifts flew over the river. It didn't take long to walk the mowed footpath by the New Cut and then to Emmotland. In Emmotland Junction the river joins Frodingham Beck and there is a metal footbridge over it, and the footpath continues along Frodingham Beck. I must inadvertently flushed a female Goosander from the river, which was a nice surprise. She flew up in a circle and then south. The next stretch of river up to Corpslanding does not have a public right of access. I crossed the footbridge and continued for a little while alongside Frodingham Beck on an overgrown path and then returned to Bethell's bridge for a spot of lunch. 

Part of the New Cut, the straight navigable section of the river Hull, looking south from Bethell's Bridge just after a shower. 
Mute Swans by the bridge.
Tree Sparrow chirping. They are quite numerous around Bethell's bridge.

Boat Moorings with Bethell's bridge on the background.

The beautiful Scurf Dike.
Footbridge over Scurf Dike.

Singing willow Warbler. 
Mayfly by Scurf Dike. 
Two Roe Deer resting on a grassy ride. 
Scurf Dike. 
Old course of the River Hull near Bethell's bridge.
Small Tortoiseshell Caterpillars. 
Azure Damselfly. 
Sedge Warbler by the old course of the River Hull.
The wooden footbridge over Beverley and Barmston Drain.

Hempholme Lock. 
Weir from the East bank.
A group of Mute Swans fed on the clear water of the river upstream of Bethell's bridge. 
Emmotland Junction and Footbridge.
Looking down onto the river Hull upstream from Emmotland. The plant is Potamogeton crispus I believe.
Looking upstream from Emmotland Junction. The River Hull on the left.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

River Hull. Stage 11. Baswick Landing to Hempholme Lock

After a couple of days of heavy rain the river was the highest level I've seen, but the water was still quite clear. Clumps of vegetation rafted downstream. I joined the west bank of the river by the Beverley and Barmston drain, opposite High Baswick and walked upstream. This section of the path is by the Yorkshire Water Treatment works and Tophill Low Nature reserve, but there is no access to the reserve from the river bank, something that would increase disturbance to these sensitive bird breeding wetlands. In this stage the river is quite wide in places and there are some areas of flooded willow carr. Shortly after reaching the bank I surprised a couple of fox cubs, who scuttled away after giving me a curious look. A little further a young buck Roe Deer was dozing on the bank and took a long way to react to my presence. When it noticed me it jumped and bounded along the bank for a long while.
 It wasn't long before I reached the junction with Mickley Dike, which brings water to the river from the Beverley and Barmston drain, pumped up at Hempholme pump station nearby. The Beverley and Barmston drain was a key development to drain the low lying terrain of the west side of the river floodplain.
 The stage finished at Hempholme (or Struncheon Hill) Lock, by the side of a low weir, where it is possible to cross to the other side of the river over a foot bridge.
 This stage is just less than 5 km long. After the quick walk up the river I spent the rest of the day at Tophill Low Nature Reserve, but I've written that in a separate blog post.
The path by Beverley and Barmston Drain as it joins the river bank. 

Fox cub. 
Roe Deer buck.  
River Hull, looking north. 
Some Willow and Glyceria fen/carr. 
The river is joined by Mickley Dike, a lovely spot with plenty of emergent vegetation, pools and willows. 
One of many Swifts flying low over the trees today. 
Approaching Hempholme Lock. A pair of Tufted ducks on the river. 
A view of the straightened river upstream from the lock. This is part of Driffield Navigation.
This is the first weir in the river. At this point the river stops being tidal. 
A male Swallow near the lock.

For more details of each stage click on the Walking the River Hull tab above.

A long day at renovated Tophill Low

I ended up arriving to the reserve before 8 o'clock. A windy, mild day with sunny spells. I headed for the new hide but it was still closed. The new pond looks great already and I found the new walks very exciting too, it feels like walking on fen and carr, which would have been the original habitat on the banks of the river. 
I moved to the south end of the reserve. Several orchids, including bee orchids are blooming on the sides of O res. In south marsh east, the surprise was a drake Mandarin, starting to lose it's breeding plumage. Something, probably a raptor, spooked all the birds in the marsh and the Mandarin didn't return. 
 I moved on. On a large hay pile, I spotted a grass snake, then two others sunbathing during a sunny spell. The first one appeared a bit sluggish and ready to moult its skin, it's eyes cloudy, but the other two were quite active, they tongue-flicked repeatedly and slithered away (top). These were my first UK grass snakes, and given that the Spanish ones have been given new species status, I can say my first ever grass snakes!
 It was far too windy and not sunny enough for insects, but the sunny spells brought them out in the sheltered spots. Hoverflies, five species of Odonata, Speckled Woods and Red Admirals were on the wing.
On the way back the new visitor centre was open and I had a look. The views over D res are amazing and what a great idea to have a wood-burning stove to keep the watchers warm in the winter months. I like the great library too! There has been a lot of work and a lot of thought put into making the reserve more attractive for the general public and I do hope it pays off.
 I still had some time so I headed back to South Marsh East. I was lucky to have a Little Gull, my first of the year and a nice addition taking me to 166 species.
The new pond by the reserve entrance. 

Two young Shelduck. There appeared to be three families in SMW. The drakes were quite aggressive, attacking black-headed gulls and anything that approached the ducklings. 
Black-headed gulls mobbed the pair of Lesser Black-backed gulls repeatedly.
A bad hair day for a Drake Mandarin. 
Fledgling Pied Wagtail. 
One of the Grass Snakes. The cloudy blue eye shows that it is about to moult its skin. 
A pair of Common Terns with Black-headed gull neighbours. 
Dozens of Swifts and House martins flying low over D res. 
The large woodland hoverfly Volucella pellucens feeding on Bramble blossom.
View from the new hide/visitor centre. 
Greenfinches and Goldfinches in the feeders. 
The bumblebee mimic hoverfly Volucella bombylans.
Speckled Wood. Two on the wing. Also a few Red Admirals.
Five Odonata species were on the wing. This Large red damselfly near North Marsh. 
Female Black-tailed Skimmer near the path to the Watton hide. 
A Four-spotted chaser near the works.
Many Azure about... 
and Common Blue Damselflies. 
Bee Orchid. 
Little Ringed Plover. 
Little Gull in SME. 
My 4th grass snake of the day.