In this three-part series we asked the Leica Sport Optics Ambassadors, and some close friend’s of Leica, what their favourite local walk is. Join Leica as we travel across the UK, uncovering new spots to inspire you to get outside and explore with fresh eyes.
Ruth & Alan, Leica Sport Optics Ambassador
We live in Llandudno on the North Wales coast, and the headland of the Great Orme is our very favourite walk. There is always so much to see and it is always different.
The birds and wildlife on the Great Orme vary greatly from season to season which is one of the reasons we love the walk so much. Some of the residents we love to see are Red-billed Chough, Peregrine Falcons, Stonechats, Atlantic grey seals and of course the “world famous” Great Orme goats.
We take this wonderful walk all year round and it is always rewarding but if we had to pick one time of year it would be May. The breeding season is in full swing with thousands of sea-birds on the towering cliffs and the chance of migrant birds dropping in, May 2020 produced a beautiful flock of eight Dotterel.
You can read lots more about our walks and other adventures by visiting our website here www.birdwatchingtrips.co.uk
Luke Massey, Wildlife Photographer/Cameraman and Leica Sport Optics Ambassador
My favourite walk in the UK is along the ancient River Ver, a chalk stream. Its importance to the Romans led them to build Verulamium, the third largest city in Roman Britain. You can still see remnants of the city walls, and even visit a hypocaust or theatre a stones throw from this walk.
Starting in the small village of Redbournbury (if you’re lucky you can pick up some trail snacks from the amazing bakery based at the mill there) take the Ver-Colne Valley footpath towards St Albans.
The meadows immediately outside of Redbournbury hold a myriad of life. All year round kingfishers and grey wagtails should be around, and if you’re really lucky you may see one of the local barn owls. In winter the river edges can be home to snipe and green sandpipers, whilst in spring and summer, yellow wagtails can be seen flitting around the feet of the grazing cattle.
As you reach Shafford Farm keep an eye out for little owls and grey herons who frequent the area, in winter water rails may be skulking in the reeds.
As you cross the Roman Road have a look down from the bridge into the River Ver and you may spot a chalk stream specialist, the brown trout.
You’ll have one of the best views of St Albans cathedral as you head toward the city. Along this path you’ll also be in a great spot for raptors; red kites, buzzards, kestrels and even peregrine falcons can be seen overhead.
Just before crossing the road you’ll see the Roman theatre to your right, and in winter there may be lapwings and golden plovers feeding in the arable fields around you.
After crossing the road you enter St Michael’s – one of St Alban’s prettiest suburbs. Stop by the Roman museum, grab a pint in one of the many ancient pubs, take a stroll round Verulamium park or stroll up Fishpool Street into St Albans. And remember, keep your eyes peeled, there’s something to be seen all year round.
Follow Luke’s work on his Instagram page.
Ollie Olanipekun, Co-Founder of Flock Together and Friend of Leica
My favourite nature walk is a mix of dense forest and open space, I like how both give you that sense of scale in very different ways. Shirley Woods in Croydon is a great green space to offer you this mix of perspectives. And you also get a great view of London city as a bonus.
On my last visit there I spotted a Green Woodpecker as well as some beautiful Jays. I want to say I also saw a Treecreeper but can’t be 100% sure.
My favourite time of the year to visit Shirley woods is definitely in autumn, I’ll never get over the range of colours you’re presented with. And then when autumn moves into winter there’s something about walking in the cold that really does it for me.
Ollie uses the Trinovid 7×35. He says, ‘The Trinovid 7×35 have been an excellent upgrade, the classic look and feel hide an incredibly advanced pair of binoculars. The clarity is unmatched with minimal adjustments needed. It feels like I can see into the future with these binoculars’.
Learn more about Ollie and Flock Together on their Instagram page.
Ryan Dalton, Host of the ‘Into The Wild’ podcast and Friend of Leica
For me, my favourite nature walk is also, conveniently, the closest large green space to me – Hampstead Heath. 790 acres and the highest point in London, Hampstead Heath never fails to take visitors’ breath away. With a mixture of recent and ancient woodland, open fields, meadows and large ponds, Hampstead Heath attracts many nature visitors and supports some impressive urban wildlife.
The great thing with Hampstead Heath is, once you start looking for wildlife, it’s hard to stop seeing it. It also changes depending on what time of day you go. In the last 6 months, with UK lockdowns attracting more and more people to visit green spaces, I’ve found myself visiting earlier in the morning or later in the evening. This is when the wildlife really comes alive. From greater spotted woodpeckers, tawny owls, kestrels, king fishers to hedgehogs, bats, frogs, newts, grass snakes and even a small population of muntjac deer. Hampstead Heath has such a variety of life for a busy London space, it’s a magnet pulling me back at any given opportunity.
Although you can see something everyday of the year at Hampstead Heath, no matter what the season or weather, my favourite time to visit has to be late spring and early summer. Mainly because I’m a skinny lad and I can’t stand the cold but on top of that, that’s when wildlife is thriving. In the meadows you have hundreds of swifts swooping down feeding on the many insects. In the hedges and woodland areas, butterflies and other flying insects fill every flower (side note, last year me and my girlfriend spotted a purple emperor butterfly which is a mega big deal). Then the ponds are bubbling with ducklings, signets, fish jumping out of the water for insects, and crayfish feeding in the shallows. Forget running, cycling, a coffee and a catch up, at Hampstead Heath all you need is your eyes.
Ryan Dalton, has been using the Trinovid 8×42 binoculars for their universal usage and impressive optical performance. He says, ‘Since using the Trinovids, it’s been like having HD TV in my eyes!’.
Check out Ryan’s podcast ‘Into The Wild’ here: https://intothewild.podbean.com
Also available on iTunes and Spotify.