Thursday, 30 May 2013

Stakes and chips

Volunteers on our latest work party first of all set about improving the steps we built some months ago.  Many feet had eroded much of the soil so we re-surfaced with some woodchip, kindly donated by Andy and Lucy England of England's Finest Gardens (garden landscaping & tree surgery)
Then we set about improving the camber on the path through the Valley Woodland.  You can see in the photo below that there is a strong slope downhill, so we are fixing hazel poles on the downhill edge to stop you sliding down into the nettles - or even the stream below.
The poles are held in place by hazel stakes.
These are then nailed to the poles and sawn off flush.
We have made a good start and will be extending the path edging through the grassy bit and down past posts 10 & 11.


Friday, 24 May 2013

Tree clues on the ground

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago but forgot to post it.  It's a bit out of date now but you can file it to use next spring.

You can miss a lot by not looking up, particularly with trees.  But you can also be a nature detective by spotting stuff on the ground.  Have you seen these?
These are last year's 'conelets' from alder trees.  When you see these on the path look up and you will see this year's green conelets already beginning to form on the alders.
And what about these furry things?
Well they are the male flowers of the goat willow or pussy willow.  A few weeks ago they were on the tree and covered in yellow pollen.
But once the pollen is shed and the female flowers have been fertilised, the poor old males just drop off the tree.  Such is life!  Meanwhile the female flowers, looking like small green hedgehogs, continue to grow on the tree. 
In summer they will produce lots of fluffy seeds which fly through the air to start a new tree somewhere else.
A lot of our Wych Elms at Filnore Woods have died but there is a good one by the Leisure Centre car park.
Wych Elm on the right and Monterey Cypress half-hidden on the left
Amongst the fresh, new leaves you can see the papery green fruits. 
These fall off the tree and if it is over a path they look like green confetti on the ground.  A good way to locate one of our surviving elms.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Flowers in woods and fields

We aim to keep a mixture of habitats at Filnore Woods.  Some plants, like cowslips prefer grassland, and would find the woods too shady. 

Whereas other plants like violets prefer the cooler, shadier world beneath the trees.


Friday, 10 May 2013

Trees in flower

Here come the ash flowers and some ash leaves too. Have you heard the rhyme:

If the oak's before the ash we shall only have a splash
But if the ash precedes the oak we shall surely have a soak

Usually the oak leafs up first because it responds to warmth rather than day length, but this year it seems to be lagging behind the ash which depends on getting enough light before it hatches its leaves.

The mountain ash or rowan is no relation of the common ash, but it has similar shaped leaves so it is a bit similar to look at.  The rowan flowers are just poised to open and look very different to ash flowers.
Blackthorn has filled the hedgerows with its white blossom but is nearly over now.

And just in time, the May blossom is beginning to open on the hawthorn trees

Last year our Bird Cherry trees were in full bloom in mid April.  This year they are only just beginning to open.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Less is more

The lesser Celandine.  The leaves are green hearts and the flowers are yellow stars.

You can tell it's not a buttercup (see below).  Buttercups have five petals but celandines have about ten - can be anything between 8 and 12. 
Buttercups with one dandelion

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Dandelion flush

It usually happens in early or mid-April but this year the dandelion flush is now,  at the beginning of May.

If this flower were not so common and such a successful coloniser of lawns and vegetable patches, it would be treasured as one of the most beautiful flowers.  It is also an excellent early source of nectar for pollinating insects.  Here are a couple of hungry small bees I managed to snap before they zoomed off.
A close relative that comes out even earlier than the dandelion is the Coltsfoot, so named because of the shape of its leaves.  As you can see below, it is much smaller than the dandelion, paler yellow and has a button in the centre.
                                                                       Two little coltsfoot flowers next to a dandelion                                          This photo taken last March
The seedheads, forming now, are a bit like dandelion clocks but whiter and denser on scaly stalks, whereas dandelion flower stalks are smooth.

Coltsfoot seedheads photographed  01/05/2013