Saturday, 29 April 2017

A walk with an Oil Beetle, noisy sheep and a rare water valve

A few photographs from a walk this week in our locality. A complete contrast to the scenery on our recent trip to Mull, posts for which will follow once I pull my finger out and get the SD card out of my camera. In the meantime, enjoy some West Country scenery.
The circular walk started and ended in the nearby village of Luckett, just 2 miles from where we live. A not-too-challenging 5.6 miles in glorious weather and equally glorious countryside.
A lovely find by one of our group. It's a quite rare Black Oil Beetle. This group of insects (there are several different types in the UK) have a unique and fascinating life cycle. The eggs hatch and a larval form known as a triungulin emerges. This climbs into a neighbouring flower and hitches a ride on a visiting bee. It is taken back to the hive and lives there on bee eggs, honey and nectar until it is an adult, which leaves the hive and starts the life cycle all over. I find that amazing, and you should, too. And if you are lucky enough to spot an Oil Beetle, do take a photograph (showing the thorax, if possible, as this aids the type identification), make a note of where you saw it and send details to the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, who will add the details to their database.
Looking south-ish towards Kit Hill with its iconic stack on top. In the foreground is a field recently sown with a crop and covered with permeable plastic, which acts as a cloche and aids germination. There's obviously been a change in farming practice this year as we seem to be seeing more and more fields covered in this stuff. It doesn't look good but does get better when the crop gets going and breaks through the plastic to cover it in green.
Lady's Smock (Cardamine pratensis) or Cuckoo Flower, so called as it was thought to flower when cuckoos made their first appearance each year. Across the country these plants are becoming rarer as meadows disappear but around here there seems to be plenty of them.
Is there any flower more vivid than the Bluebell? It seems to be a good year for them. But the Spanish variety continues its challenge of our native species. Will Brexit halt them in their tracks? It's definitely one immigrant I'd like to keep out.
Curious calves coming to take a look at our motley band of walkers. I've been around animals long enough to take them in my stride but I recognise that, to the uninitiated, a group like this trotting towards you at speed can be quite alarming.
Ah, that's better. Kit Hill towering over 'normal' fields without the plastic. It looks tranquil, and it is, but this belies the mining and quarrying activity that would have set the area buzzing 150 years or so ago. At least 4 mines and 2 quarries would have been obvious then, with a few more down in the valley bottom where the tree belt is now.
The mining heritage of the area is gradually becoming less visible as sites are absorbed back into the landscape. But there are a few buildings that are being restored and converted into dwellings. Here is the engine house at Broadgate and it is in about Year 5 of the renovation project. It must be a labour of love and I've enjoyed watching the new building rise out of the former ruin. 
Let joy be unbounded. It's not often we come across one of these. It's a granite trough with, and you'll never believe this, a Prewett and Sprong Mark III Overhead Ball Valve Dispenser. These are so rare, they have almost mythological status in the world of Ball Valve Spotters. Wow, to me at least. Whilst I enjoy paroxysms of pleasure, Mrs P usually sighs, rolls her eyes and walks quickly on her way, shaking her head.
Finally, a video clip of sheep. Just sheep, doing what sheep do in a very noisy way. We couldn't work out why they were making such a din but they were clearly spooked about something. Was it the colour of my socks or my daft headgear? Or, perhaps, they were getting excited about the forthcoming General Election? After all, a lot of people will be voting like sheep but let's leave that to another day.

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