De-fencing on Freefields (and more)

I haven’t posted for a little while so this is a brief update on a few things that have been happening here at the Bath  Skyline.

We recently finished off some work removing an old concrete and barbed wire fence from the skyline path that separated Freefields (partially council owned land) and Monument field, which is used as a sports field by Prior Park College. The transformation of the space is quite astonishing – It is not until one removes the fence that you realise how oppressive and enclosed it felt. The path has now been liberated, opening it up to be part of the woodland it runs adjacent to – there is now a completely different feel to it.

While we were there, we discovered a strange pale flowering plant without any leaves amongst the shaded vegetation that neither Tabi nor I had come across before – toothwort.


Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) – This plant has no photosynthesising tissue as it parasitises the roots of hazel and alder trees

Also, tucked away in a corner of Freefields are two of the most beautiful beech trees that Rob has introduced me to. Where the soil has been eroded, the roots spill up and out of the soil and down the bank like lava and you can see amazing cross sections of the bedrock where the roots have grown down through the layers of limestone. Sadly, these trees have been quite mistreated, having been used as air rifle targets and a fire burnt in the hollow of one of them.


Rob standing with the two amazing beech trees in Freefields to demonstrate the scale.

We have also started our seasonal path clearing, using brushcutters to cut back the spring growth – mostly brambles and nettles – along the skyline trail on Claverton Down. The cut plant material is then slung into the dark hedge to avoid the nutrients going straight back into the soil to feed the next growth.


Tabi and Miles clearing the verges along the skyline path on Claverton Down.

We had another Wild Wednesday where we got the kids bug hunting and snail racing. We found some really interesting little creatures – of which I, regrettably, have no photos because I was too engrossed in learning about creepy crawlies with the kids to think about taking any. We had a shiny metallic lime green weevil, some other bulbous iridescent green beetles, rove beetles, a speckled wood butterfly, a red admiral butterfly and a couple of grotesque looking mites that were bright orange (clover mites, perhaps?), amongst other common inverts.


Speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) – identifiable by the three eye spots on each hind wing, it is common in and around the edge of woodlands.

We have been seeing loads of holly blues and orange tip butterflies around this spring, especially when walking around Prior Park. It seems that there has been quite a significant boom in their population this year that has been noted across much of the country. It is not fully understood why we have seen these population surges, though i expect the bout of early warm weather has probably had something to do with it!


My failed attempt at catching a good shot of a holly blue – they are not easy to photograph when they are dancing around in the sunshine.

In other news, James, the farmer, has welcomed a couple of alpacas into his flock to look after the lambs. Apparently, their instinctual herd mentality means that they will protect the young by fending off marauding foxes. They’re very funny looking creatures and we’ve all been enjoying them as our neighbours.


Two black alpacas amongst a flock of white sheep – Rainbow Wood Farm

Finally, we’ve done a whole load of work up on the balcony and the pond, which is looking absolutely fantastic – so much so, that it is deserving of its very own post, which will follow shortly.



  1. Clare Pooley · May 10, 2017

    Fantastic beech trees! Such a shame they have been vandalised.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ntbathskyline · May 12, 2017

      Hi Clare, thank you for reading 😊 I know! It is terribly sad and very difficult to actually prevent these things from happening. As a community, we can only continue to educate and spread awareness in the hope that people will learn to take more care.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ian Critchley · May 12, 2017

    You’ve certainly been busy – as a frequent walker of the Skyline, I certainly see the improvements. Great work by all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ntbathskyline · May 12, 2017

      Thanks Ian! I’m so glad that we are able to help maintain this beautiful natural space for everyone to enjoy 😊


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