Curlew Walk

A walk with Mary Colwell and volunteers from the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust

A few weeks ago, I received a call from the secretary of the local Staffordshire Wildlife Trust group. I was told that Mary Colwell's Curlew Walk was going to pass through The Roaches, and she wanted experienced and knowledgeable people to join her. Naturally, I was excited to be a part of something so important and agreed to join the walk.

Mary (who is the lady in the blue Curlew jumper in the photo above) is completing this walk to raise awareness of the Curlew, whose numbers have been declining dramatically in recent years. In fact, it is currently on the British Trust for Ornithology's Red List ( Her walk takes her from the west coast of Ireland to the coast of Lincolnshire. Along the way she is meeting lots of people, all of whom have an interest in and concerns about the Curlew.

Our part of her walk, which was just under six miles and took 2 hours, started at Marsh Farm. This is both a Peak District National Park Ranger Station and a local office for the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust team who look after The Roaches. From there, we all car shared to get everyone to the start of the walk, which was just off the main road, near to Black Brook nature reserve.

You can view the full route here, but an overview is below.

During the walk (at about the one mile mark on the map above) we stopped for a listen. After only a few seconds we heard a curlew (you can hear a sample of a Curlew call on Mary's website), but we couldn't see any. Even with my powerful Luger binoculars, the Curlew is still an elusive bird! They are nesting in the area between the two mile mark and the country lane shown to the left of it. It was though the birds were tormenting and teasing us - their haunting calls echoing through the valley. Eventually, when we got closer, we were very briefly able to see one! We were all rather excited - a little bit like when children go to see Santa!

There wasn't much time to take photos today, as Mary has a lot more walking to do and needs to maintain a reasonable pace to keep up with her schedule. We did stop for a tea break though, so I took some photos of the local deer.

While we were here we heard a Cuckoo. It was resting on a fence post a distance away. Sadly, even with my camera on full zoom (I'd remembered my SLR and long lens this time!), it was too far away to get a photo of. Once we'd walked further on and were close enough, it had left.

During the walk, I got an opportunity to discuss with Mary the issues Curlews face. We also discussed ways of getting people more interested in wildlife and the environment, as well as my background and decision to change career.

At the end of the walk, Mary handed out some Curlew pin badges to everyone, presumably in the hope they would pin them on their clothing. I took one and immediately pinned it to my rucksack along with my other badges. It's the one right in the middle in case you don't know what a Curlew looks like - but you should do by now, as you will have definitely looked at Mary's website...

Before she left for the next section of her walk, some of the group were taking Mary to The Roaches Tearooms for a meal and further discussion. I've not been there for many years - and the last time I went it wasn't very good, but I'm told it's much improved now. Sadly I had other commitments so I made my way home.

I really enjoyed meeting Mary and the walk in general. She's a very intelligent and passionate person, and deserves much more recognition for the hard work she puts in the raise awareness about the birds she loves.

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