Our club was started in 1852, by the Rev. WM. Symonds who was its President for 18 years, until 1870. The early members met in the Burrows family House on Belle View Terrace, Malvern, where they planned programmes to study botany and geology, along with some eminent scientists of the time, such as Chs. Hastings, who started the BMA, and also friends and associates of Darwin, - for the mid-1800’s was still the bright new morning of the scientific age!
Members kept wonderful notes in these magazines, of nature, and weather conditions and landscape details of the time. The magazines can be accessed at Malvern Library - they are in locked shelves, but can still be read on the library premises, accessed with permission, the oldest being hand-written in Victorian script, sewn together, and bound in leather, you have to ask for a key-and read them in the library.
Records reveal that members went on summer outings and had winter lectures, just like we do today - but they also went on “Rambles” in an out-door group which they called the Welly Club (so-called as welly boots were the usual footwear.) You can read - “We delight in finding interesting plants and butterflies and dig for fossils like seekers of buried treasure” (Needless to say, - we still study plants and butterflies in our present Welly group, but we don’t dig for fossils any more - although we do observe the various sub-soils which provide diverse environments for local wildlife.)
And so, our Welly group continues after 166 years!
Today we are a small but enthusiastic group who enjoy about 5 field trips a year, - car-sharing to go to local areas of special natural interest, sometimes with a leader with knowledge, - the aim being to experience wildlife close-up and in detail, rather than to go on a walk - as in a walking group-aiming to cover miles for exercise! But what we do try to do, is continue in the spirit and purpose of the original club’s ethos.
Welly Club Review - 2019.
The first Welly Club trip of 2019 was to Chaddsley Woods on 7th March. Spring was late and the weather was cold and windy. As we walked along the wet footpath, we could see that the estate workers had been felling non-indigenous trees to allow local trees to grow. The tips of bluebell leaves were pushing through in sheltered places on the woodland floor, and we saw a plate-sized rust-coloured funghi which we identified as a beefsteak fungus (see gallery photo). We will do this walk at a later date in 2020, to see the habitat in a more advanced state.
On 28th March, a group of us went to Upton Warren to the two lakes. At the first, a freshwater lake, we viewed birds from the hides, and met three professional birders, who showed us how to use the daily diaries in the hides to record our observations with date, time and habit of the birds. We saw bramblings, teal, buntings, Canada geese and avocets. The Moors lake provided better facilities for bird-watching being quieter and more secluded, away from the general public, noise and disturbance.
The 4th April was another appalling day in this very wet spring so sadly this event was cancelled.
13th June found us at the WWT Education Centre at Lower Smite Farm. It was another damp day, but warmer. It had great potential for our studies as it had four different habitats, including an orchard, a pond surrounded by benches, a small wood and a managed wild-flower meadow, all set around the farm with interweaving grass-mown paths. We saw meadow buttercups, poppies and cornflowers emerging, but few birds or insects due to the drizzling rain.
On the 25th July, Bec Baker (Malvern Trustee) met us to study the trees at Guarlford. In contrast to the previous walks, it was the hottest day on record at that point, so we wore sunhats and cool clothing and needed to shelter under the canopies of the road-lined trees as we studied the features of the habitats of each tree. Bec showed us an assortment of species of trees including the English oak which takes 40 years to fruit and whose trunk was being inhabited by wasps and it's leaves by greenfy. Wild ash was growing in the hedges. and nearby there was a small-leaved lime, which Bec told us, in the past, would have been stripped, soaked and woven and used to make rope. There was a beautiful ornamental copper beech and a North American red oak grown for its colour. It was surprising to discover that these mature trees on the roadside near the Bluebell pub and extending down Guarlford Road were all so different, planted to give variety and colour. Further down the road, the grass verge widens to form a small meadow set back off the road. This is now under the protection of the trustees, and trefoil, St John's wort and tortoiseshell butterflies can be found there. By now it was too hot to be out in the open, so we walked back to enjoy a cool drink at the Bluebell before heading home.
(Bec has promised to takes us further down the toad for part 2 in 2020)
There are of 5 Welly Club outings planned for 2020. They will be on Thursday mornings between 10-12pm, and all are to local wildlife reserves. Please see the programme page for details.