VILLAGE residents enjoyed a stroll through a recently improved woodland area.
In warm sunshine and no perceptible breeze, the party of 16 from Hebron set out from East Mill to take advantage of the revamped and drained paths through Bluebell Wood and beyond to Howburn House.
The event was Hebron Community Association’s annual village walk and one of the organisers, Rona McWilliam, said: “Our expert leaders Alan Davison and John Caffrey informed us as we went along of the reason why the woodland remained on the steep slope and the evidence of its past management in the form of non-native trees – sycamore, beech, chestnut, larch and even sweet chestnut and surprisingly few native oaks, hazels and bird cherries.
“The importance of the continuity of woodland on steep slopes for the survival of the ancient woodland floor flora was obvious with carpets of native bluebells, wild garlic and cuckoo pints in flower and wood anemones and celandines already in seed.
“Not content with plants, we spotted no less than five butterfly species – Orange Tips, both male and female, Large Whites, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckle Wood – and listened for the mewing of Buzzard through the frequent Chaffinch song.
“Alan produced copies of old maps and photographs to illustrate aspects of the history of the area, the former Howburn Colliery and waggonway, the Racecourse and the County Asylum, before we emerged onto the flat farmland above the steep valley.
“The Greater Morpeth Development Trust is to be thanked for making the wood more accessible and its plans for continued management.”
The woodland is at least 9,000 years old and over the last four centuries it has accommodated a variety of uses.
When the party reached Howburn House, Juliet and Emily Brewster served an al fresco lunch of soup, crusty bread and home-baked cakes with iced drinks.