When I went to see David Wright, what immediately struck me were his wider interests. The honey cakes I was offered led me to find out more about his beekeeping. So, it seemed fitting that when it was time to take a portrait photo, we did this in his garden, preferably in front of his hives. As they were hidden out of sight it soon became clear that honey bees are not David’s only interest and that he knew a thing or two about the plants and trees around him too. He kindly offered to share some of this wider knowledge through a wildlife walk around the Western General’s grounds.
We arranged to meet on a Thursday afternoon and I picked David up from his house. Once we got to the Western our walk started outside the new MRC building on Crewe Toll Road West, a fine example of how a modern approach to landscaping is bringing a more varied flora. A wild flower meadow planting has attracted hover flies and the plants include Red clover, Bladder-campion, Salad burnet and Sorrel (the last two of which we tasted!). In a nearby border, Rosemary and Cotoneaster bushes were humming with tree bumble bees.
We continued our walk towards Maggie’s Centre, next to which is Amanda’s Memorial Garden. This is a peaceful haven, with mature trees with bird boxes and fragrant shrubs. Then on to the old tennis court, for many years used as a car park, but still with remnants of a previous flora, with Timothy grass, Red clover and Bird’s foot trefoil. A walk up the main drive towards the Lions outside D block took us under a mature walnut tree which had just shed its catkins. Finally, a walk alongside the southern perimeter wall, took us past Male fern and Cow parsley and then alongside the small stream that runs above ground for a short distance between the WGH and the houses in Craigleith Hill Avenue.
On a walk a week previously, David had recorded more than 80 species of plants in the Western grounds and noted 12 species of birds – a full list can be found here. However on the sunny day that we visited it was noticeable that there was little insect life to be seen and that the site would benefit from efforts to increase its natural biodiversity. However, our brief walk left me with a totally different view of the Western!