Saturday, 31 May 2014

Wood avens - a great coloniser

This modest little yellow flower is one of the most prolific in our recently coppiced section of woodland.  It's very good at spreading its seeds by means of the little hooks attached to them which will catch in the fur of any passing animal or human.
Photo - East London Nature
Wood Avens is its most poetic name but it is also known as Herb Bennet because it was associated with St Benedict who founded the Benedictine order of monks.  This gave it magical powers to repel evil spirits and it used to be hung over doorways to keep the devil out.
Although it is a Geum (Geum urbanum), a genus with many pretty, cutivated flowering species, to gardeners it is known as a very persistent weed.  And 'weed' is what we often call plants which are successful at multiplying and spreading.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Pignut and Speedwell

Nature has been doing a bit of natural flower arranging in the Valley Woodland at Filnore Woods - blue Speedwell with white Pignut.

Pignut is a more delicate relative of Cow Parsley, which is going over now, while Speedwell is a low growing bright blue flower.

See them beside the path between posts 9 and 10
at Filnore Woods now.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Small copper butterfly

photo from 'urban butterfly garden'
Small Copper butterflies are now flying at Filnore Woods.
The males are quite fidgety and challenge any passing insect in the hope of finding a female to mate with.
The females fly low over the grass looking for sorrel or dock plants to lay their eggs on.  This is what the caterpillars like to munch.
The adults meanwhile feed on the nectar of many common grassland plants suh as daisy, dandelion, buttercups, fleabane, ragwort, red clover, thistles and yarrow. 
Populations of small coppers have declined because of intensive agriculture.  They cannot survive on fertilised grass swards. So our sympathetic approach to grassland management at Filnore Woods will hopefully give them a friendly habitat.
 You should be able to see them there right up until mid-October but they don't do well in cool, wet summers.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Elder and Hawthorn

As we come to the end of the month of May the May blossom on the Hawthorn is beginning to fade.  The flowers will lose their petals and develop into the little dark red berries known as haws - a great food supply for many birds and small mammals.

The flowers are still plentiful in parts of Filnore Woods.
But as one set of blossom fades, another appears.  The Elder flowers are now gracing the hedges and woodland undergrowth.

These flat sprays of creamy yellow flowers can be picked to make elder flower cordial or left to become the black elderberries which are so good for making wine or elderberry jelly.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the Friends of Filnore Woods last month was attended by 18 people.  All the usual stuff happened with the committee re-elected en bloc and reports showing we are OK financially and have achieved a lot in the past year - 
  • bridge repairs over the stream, 
  • brambles controlled,
  • path and track improvements,
  • steps built, 
  • awards from Thornbury in Bloom, 
  • health and safety policy, risk assessments and emergency first aid procedures in place
  • our first coppice coupe cut, 
  • a bat walk and a dawn chorus walk held, 
  • surveys conducted,
  • litter cleared,
  • a 10' container installed as a lockable toolstore, 
  • three scythes purchased and a start made on scything. 
Altogether a great set of achievements by the volunteer team.  Well done.

Future plans include hedge laying, charcoal making, green woodwork and even an amphitheatre for dramatic, musical and other cultural events.  I did say 'future'!  You gotta have dreams.

Come and join us. 
and you can be put on the emailing list. 
That's all it takes to become a

Monday, 19 May 2014

Tree creeper

Most of the photos of birds on this blog are not mine.  You really need a good telephoto lens to get good birdy pics. 
But I was rather pleased with this tree creeper which I snapped in Pembrokeshire a week or so ago.  I know it's rather small but you can see it in context - that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  It's halfway up the tree trunk on the exposed wood.  On the bark it would have been almost impossible to see.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Scything at the Viewpoint

For last Sunday's work morning we had another scything session. The grass is tough as it is not only this year's growth but also the underlying mass of last year's grass. You can see in the picture below, that Rex and Will are making a real difference.

Of course the cut grass then has to be raked up. 
Heavy work necessitating a break for coffee. 

Meanwhile some of the other volunteers had been clearing the footpath between posts 6 and 7, and Allan and Derek had been burning up the blackthorn we cut earlier in the season. It's too prickly to leave lying around or to include in a dead hedge.


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Conifers at Filnore Woods

 I am in Perthshire in Scotland at the moment and here there are some magnificent conifers mixed in with broad-leaved trees.  It is known as 'Big Tree Country'.

 Some wildlife prefers coniferous woodland as a habitat, including several species of fungus and insect.  Some birds,  such as coal tits and goldcrests, also thrive amongst conifers.  Here they face less competition from bigger birds who don't like the conifers.

                               Coal tit by Margaret Walker           Goldcrest by Ian at Lee's Birdwatching 

This means we could enhance the habitat at Filnore Woods by planting a few cone-bearing trees.

We have recently been donated a Norway spruce in a container.  It's about 6 feet high and would probably transplant into open ground and compete with the undergrowth.  

This could be the start of a small section of various species of conifer including larch, western hemlock and scots pine.  A good place would be the brambly area to the east of the old plantation, which was formerly a Northavon Council tree nursery.  

Watch this space!

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Dawn Chorus Walk

Last year we had 14 attending the dawn chorus walk.  This year it was only six but I failed to advertise in either the Gazette or the Thornbury Magazine.   Hopefully a few more people will manage to prise themselves from the arms of Morpheus next year.
The weather was kind which made it an extremely pleasant morning.  We started just before sunrise and the blackbirds and robins were in full voice.  In fact it was too noisy to distinguish other birds at first. 
But as we moved round the site following the route of the self-guided trail (leaflets available just inside the entrance) we heard at least 18 different species of birds including the following:  wrens, chiffchaffs, herring gulls, great tits, blue  tits, blackcaps, song thrushes, wood pigeons, collared doves, stock doves, a tree creeper, goldcrests, crows, a pheasant, dunnocks, greenfinches and a 757 high overhead (identified by Geoff).
We also admired some of the wild flowers in bloom and enjoyed the view from the top, across the River Severn.
We were home for breakfast before 7.00 am after an uplifting start to the day.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Beanpole sales

The coppicing season is at an end and we have sold some produce, mostly 8' beanpoles and some smaller plant stakes.  They sold quickly so that I only managed to take photos of the last few. 

We made £82.00 for Filnore Woods funds, which included a few donations from generous customers.  We still have some 5' hedging stakes and some rustic poles from 6' to 10' long (seen on right of the photo below and ideal for your rustic pergola).  And we can still cut to order as long as we are careful not to disturb any nesting birds.

We now have a motivation for coppicing next year. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Four steps

A group of our volunteers has completed four steps up the hedge bank to the right of the allotments.  This improves access up what was a slippery slope and was a response to a comment from a member of the public. 
We also strengthened the path by the footbridge.
If you have any suggestions for improving Filnore Woods as a place for wildlife and people, please get in touch on

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Red campion

Just beginning to come out into flower as a follow on to the bluebells, here is the red campion.  The flowers are not red but pink and a bit brighter than my photograph shows.
When the flowers are over the seed capsule is like a tiny urn full of dark brown seeds, which are scattered by the wind or anything that brushes past.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Oak apples

These galls on oak shoots are the result of an egg laid in the oak by a tiny gall wasp.  The tree produces a soft, spongey 'oak apple', which provides food for the wasp grub at minimum cost to the tree. 
The strange thing is that an egg from a different species of gall wasp will produce a different gall such as the marble gall, (which is hard and much smaller - like a marble), or the knopper gall (which is like a pine cone growing on the acorns).
Oak apples are present now on young oaks up near post 4 on the self-guided trail.