Sunday, 30 November 2014

Meadows and Bumble Bees

image from

One of our aims at Filnore Woods is to create flower-rich fields by mowing the grass annually. 
This meadow is near Thwaite in Swaledale
This is hard work with scythes, so we may not be able to cut as much as we would like.  However if we maintain a long grass habitat it is at least good for voles,

which may attract raptors like kestrels and barn owls.

 Where we can maintain annually cut grass, this will encourage wild flowers, which in turn will favour the many insects that enjoy the pollen and nectar provided by the flowers.
 photographed at Filnore Woods

One important group that we hope to help is the bumble bees, and here is a link to an identification guide for the eight most common.

On Tuesday 11th September there was an interesting Bumble Bee feature on Radio 4 in the programme called "The Life Scientific." with Professor Dave Goulson, who founded the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust.

  He lamented the loss of 97% of flower-rich hay meadows in England since the second world war. 100 years ago we had 7 million hectares so apparently we have lost 6,790,000hectares.  Here are some pics from Filnore.


There are 24 different bumble bees in Britain, only one honey bee species and 225 (! ! !) solitary bees. All these, plus numerous flies, moths and other insects, are important for pollination and are under threat.

photos from bumblebee conservation trust website
As Dave Goulson says, "Something is going wrong with our countryside.  Everything's disappearing."

We must do what we can.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Clearing brambles update

Eric and Andy  cleared the brambles up near post 7 at the Viewpoint (see photo for 20th October posting), and Alan and I burnt them up earlier this month.
Brett donated several young beech trees a few years ago and we have had to rescue them from being overwhelmed by brambles.

Hopefully they are sufficiently well-established now.
Even more brambles have been cleared near post 19 and burnt on the old cowshed site.  We cleared the cowshed area in February last year  (see below)
but it has overgrown again.
Eight stalwart volunteers turned out today, a damp and gloomy one, and the tide of brambles was pushed back a little.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Redwings have arrived

A flock of 15 to 20 redwings were seen today at Filnore Woods by our bird surveyor, Rob Collis.
When the winter weather hits Scandinavia and the Baltic states, they forsake the birch and conifer forests and fly to Britain, crossing the sea at nght.
Today Rob saw them feasting on the large variety of berries at Filnore.

Photos from various internet sources - thank you.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

From dry streambed to 'raging torrent'!

A short video of the stream tumbling down the slope and just fitting inside the culvert under the track.
If we get floods this year I'll try and get some pics for you.  It can be quite dramatic - well in a small way - but let's hope the culvert can cope this year and the track stays relatively dry.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

November blooming

It's always cheering to see a flower perkily defying the November weather.
This is a Wood Avens or Herb Bennet and was shining away today at Filnore Woods.
Although I was glad to see it, it wasn't really very BIG.  Can you spot it right of centre in the photo below?

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Meet the Filnore Friends

Here's a save-the-date warning
for your diary.
On Friday 5th December the Friends of Filnore Woods will be having an open social evening at the Swan Inn in Thornbury High Street, South Gloucestershire, England 
[full address incase any of our friends from Ukraine,
Taiwan or USA want to call in.]
Alan, our secretary says:
'I have booked the upstairs room of the Swan Inn  . . . for Friday 5th December from 7.30 pm.  If you have been to one of our AGMs it's the same room as we used for them.  If not it's up the stairs you can see in front of you as you enter the pub. 
I hope lots of you can come along to have a chat over a drink or two and get to know some of the FFW members you may not have seen before.
We are not being charged for the room but I suggest we have a collection box that people can put some money into for the Swan's charity of the month.'
It would be nice if we got some curious non-members too.  It's open to all. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Welcome area

 At our November 1st work morning we scythed off the grass one last time before winter, producing a goodly pile of 'arisings'.
The 'welcome area' just inside the main entrance to Filnore Woods, is beginning to look more welcoming.
Over by the 'White House' you can see a large pile of bits of old iron and other stuff which we have found on the site.
There are more bits of agricultural junk pulled out of the hedge
To the left of the fire site, where you can see Alan burning up the last of the elder twigs cut out of the hedge, is a charcoal kiln which will be in production some time in the future.  To the right are some more, larger pieces of elder.  These will probably be left as a log pile in the woodland to be a shelter and food source for invertebrates.
Around the edge of our grassy patch the brambles try to encroach, so we have been cutting it back to maintain and even increase the amount of grassland.
And this one little oak tree, which had been flattened by pylon contractors' vehicles several years ago, may one day be a gathering place for future events.  On the right you can see what it looked like in January 2012, held up by stake and a piece of rope.

This is what the welcome area looks like now
But it was only back in March 2012 that we were clearing off several years' growth of bramble
We thought we'd done the job, though admittedly it was more chopped bramble than grass.  This picture was taken in April 2012.

But then by August we were taken over by nettles, formerly hiding under the brambles.

It is only by repeated mowing that we shall achieve our meadow with a beatiful and varied assortment of wild flowers.
Come and learn how to use a scythe next summer.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Tiny wasp nest

We hadn't opened the left hand door of the White House (our tool store) since earlier in the year.  When we did we discoverd a tiny wasp's nest just inside at the top.
This is probably the starter nest built in the spring by a queen wasp.  She would have been planning to lay the first eggs of a future colony here and bring on the first batch of workers to take over the nest building and care of the next brood.
But somethng probably stopped the operation.  Most likely she started a bit soon in the year and was killed by a surprise late frost.
Sad that all her work came to nought.
Image from

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Visit from Crossways Junior School

A few weeks ago, thanks to their teacher Sadie Tully, 16 members of Crossways Junior School, two from each class, came for a walk round Filnore Woods. Their classes are named after the trees Ash, Beech, Chestnut, Hawthorn, Juniper, Maple, Oak and Willow.  

After a slightly cautious start, they soon  all got into the spirit of the woods.

The wonder of beech nuts

Ash keys raining down on small heads. 
 "Do they really unlock a door in the tree
leading to fairy land?" 
"Only if you pick the right key."

One of our young visitors organised the others into seeing how many people it would take to reach all round this old tree.  I'm afraid I can't remember the answer.

We exlored the woods from bottom to top.  Some of the children were already familiar with the place and following this visit we hope more of them will take their parents there.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Leaf mines on hogweed

Although it's very common at Filnore Woods, Hogweed is very obliging in that it provides flowers pretty well all year round.  Even today it is still producing new buds for the next bunch of flowers. 
It will grow in long grass, amongst nettles, on the edge of the woodland, in hedgerows,
anywhere where it can get enough light.

The flowers can be creamy white or tinged pink.  They are arranged with the longest petals on the outside of each circular flower cluster with about a dozen clusters
in each big umbel, like a sort of firework going off.
Today I noticed some strange, white markings on some of the hogweed leaves. 

A closer look revealed a tangle of little, white lines
snaking all over the leaves
Each thread is the tunnel left by the larva of a tiny fly.  The larva (or grub) eats away the green cells of the leaf as it crawls along, without damaging the upper or lower membrane of the leaf.  As the grub gets fatter the tunnel gets wider and you can see this when you look closely. 

  Eventually it is ready to pupate and drops out of the leaf to become an adult fly in its turn, and repeat the cycle.