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Nightjars and Wildflowers - Summer in the Quantock Hills

So how would you choose to spend a Friday evening? In the pub? Maybe watching TV? I, along with about a dozen others, chose to spend our Friday evening in the Quantock Hills searching for the mysterious nightjar. The walk was organised by Peter Baker, of Durborough Farm, near Aisholt, and we set off just before dusk on a warm, still evening. After walking a mile or so, we settled down on the hillside and in silence, sat and waited… and waited. For a while it seemed all we would find was midges, but then a dozen or so red deer on the opposite hill side lifted our spirits. As night fell, the main attraction started as the nightjars began calling, or churring as it's known. Sat in the dark in the middle of nowhere, their continuous trill is quite an eerie sound, but I feel so privileged for having been allowed to hear it. Talking to Pete later, his more experienced ears picked up about five nightjars calling over the half hour or so that we sat listening. After a difficult climb down the hill in total darkness, we stopped near the copse where they had been heard in the hope of seeing one fly, but sadly no joy.

As if the nightjars weren't enough, making our way back to the farm by torchlight, our night got even better when Pete spotted a solitary glow worm, glowing brightly to attract her mate. A rare sighting that was truly spectacular. Even Pete had never been lucky enough to see one before. To top the night off, on reaching the farm, we were then treated to Tawny Owlets in the tree calling loudly to their parents for food. A wonderful evening and one of those walks that will always be thought of as special, a rare chance to experience life in the Quantock Hills after dark.

Why do one walk though, when you can do two? So the next day we were back at the farm again to do another walk with Pete, this time round his hay meadows. Since March the farm has kept their sheep off several of the fields in order for the wild flowers to be allowed to grow and flourish. On a very hot afternoon, Pete and his wife took us round the meadows showing us the various flowers such as yellow rattle and sorrel and the butterflies. Totally different to the previous night but still special in its own way. One particular highlight was the spotted orchid which is growing in abundance in the fields.

Overall, both walks were thoroughly enjoyable and so informative. They were free of charge too, all Pete asked was for a small donation to the Aisholt Church fund if we had had a good time. He plans to run further walks later in the year, in particular a fungi walk.Walks will be advertised on the Quantock Hills AONB website. I for one will definitely be going again. How else would you want to spend your Friday evening?

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