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  • Julie Muller

BUCKHOLT WOOD - Chasing Cheese

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

(Nearest post code - GL4 8HD)

Visited by Zak and Shep

Zak, a Border Collie, enjoys a walk through a sea of copper beech leaves in Buckholt Wood
Zak strolls through the Autumn leaves in Buckholt Wood in Gloucestershire

It was on a changeable morning in November when Julie and Rose brought us to explore Buckholt Woods, one of the woods that make up the Cotswolds Beechwoods and Commons SSSIin Gloucestershire.

Julie managed to park in a tiny car park close to the village of Cranham. The car park seemed to be crammed full of cars. One particular car caught our eye as it seemed to belong to a local dog walking service. I wondered how many dogs we would meet.

Although it wasn’t a really sunny day, the rich carpet of russet beech leaves on the floor gave a rich warm glow to the woods. There were just enough leaves left on the trees to form a canopy over our head to protect us from the threatening rain clouds – not that Shep and I worry too much about the rain!

The woods were absolutely full of people, many of them, accompanied by our canine friends who ran excitedly through the autumn leaves kicking them up as they ran.

We climbed the hill and left the main throng of dogs and their humans behind.

On one side of us, the ground dipped steeply away firmly pinned in place by tall majestic beech trees. In places, Cotswold stone walls, in various levels of disrepair and festooned in ivy, ran along the side of the path interrupting our view. Shep couldn’t resist squeezing through the gaps in them to find what was on the other side. I peered through after him. The ground was littered with old and rotting trees lying prostrate on the ground - the ideal home for a wealth of beetles as well as lots of other invertebrates. There was a lovely smell of autumn in the air.

The ground became more bumpy and uneven under our paws as we trotted along. The cool damp air made the underlying Cotswold stone slippery under paw. Shep and I were sure-footed enough but Julie and Rose made slow progress as they walked up and down the hills.

We crossed a road and followed the steep path up to Cooper’s Hill Nature reserve - famous for its annual cheese rolling race which takes place in late May. In pre Covid years scores of humans come here to chase a large Double Gloucester cheese down one of the steepest hills in Gloucestershire

As Shep and I gazed down the hill, it started to drizzle gently. The sun threw rays of light between the gentle jets of water creating tiny rainbows. The wind blew causing the treetops to wave rhythmically high above us. The boughs creaked and scraped against each other.

Through the trees we caught glimpses of the city of Gloucester nestled at the bottom of the slope and beyond that magnificent far-reaching views towards the Malvern Hills.

I had no idea just how high that we had climbed until the path took us back down the hill. The descent was treacherously steep. Rose and Julie clung on to the trees for support.

I stuck to Julie like glue and barked encouragement because she has a horrible habit of falling over. Today, she stayed up right – phew!!

At the bottom of the hill, we passed a small number of cottages before finding ourselves back in the woods. The path was as muddy and slippery as before. Soon we started climbing again and came upon a particularly large and impressive beech tree, its ancient sprawling root system exposed to the elements. Despite its girth, the tree somehow seemed fragile and in need of cushioning against the ravages of increased paw and foot fall from dogs and their humans. We didn’t go too close.

Just past the tree, we heard the delightful sound of a small stream. It would have been such fun to jump in for a quick paddle but Julie kept us out because she knew that living in the clean, clear, fresh water were White Clawed Cray Fish. These animals, which look like miniature lobsters, feed on plants and smaller invertebrates found in the water. In the past you could have found these animals living in streams all over the UK but sadly, a combination of human disturbance and the introduction of an alien species of crayfish, have seriously reduced their numbers. The introduced Signal Crayfish are bigger than the native crayfish and they compete with them for food. However, even more importantly, they carry a disease called Crayfish plague - a fungal infection which is lethal to the White Clawed Crayfish whilst the Signal Crayfish themselves are immune to it.

This is one of the reasons why Julie kept us out of the water. We dogs, and our humans, love exploring the countryside. As we do, we pick up all kinds of debris on our fur, toys, clothing and boots much of which will be completely harmless. However, there is always a chance that we might introduce something damaging into the water without us even knowing it.

Our walk was coming to an end. We were tired and keen to get back to the car. As we left the woods behind us, we walked along the bottom of Cranham Common which is another part of the SSSI . The ground above us tumbled down the hill , bumpy with ant hills and dotted with scrubland. Hiding in the scrub were several Belted Galloway cattle chewing away at the grasses. We trotted past, keen to avoid them but excited by the prospect of a new adventure - Maybe not today though!!

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