Friday, 30 January 2015


We have nearly finished cutting the hazel, dogwood, spindle and other shrubs of the 'understorey' in this year's coppice coupe.

We have started sorting the harvested wood into bean poles, firewood, hedging stakes, and rustic poles, plus hetherings and weavers to re-inforce our laid hedge.  We have also received requests for den-building poles, path edging poles and logs for conservation log piles.
The whippy tops and trimmed twigs have been built into 'dead hedges', not to keep people out but to remind us next year where we stopped cutting, and to dispose of the surplus material.  It will all rot down after a few years.  Anyone who wants some of these twigs for pea sticks should email and we'll cut some to order.

Smaller sticks are trimmed and sharpened for use as stakes for any number of small jobs round the site.  We shall be selling as much of this produce as we can in April.
If you do walk into the area we have coppiced, watch out for the freshly cut stubs, which can easily trip you up.
In last year's coupe, alongside this year's, we have stacked up some of the unused wood as a habitat for invertebrates. 
Several of our most spectacular beetles, such as this Harlequin Longhorn Beetle, need dead wood to feed on for the first few years of their lives.  Although this is an image from wikipedia commons, I have seen this species at Filnore in summer, feeding on flower pollen.
Although the wood looks very light now, we found that once the leaves come on the trees it is still very dark in summer so we need to thin out the trees a bit more to encourage flowers and ferns on the woodland floor. This also gives the remaining ash, oak and maple trees more room to grow. Here is one ash tree after felling, on its way to being something different, such as charcoal or tent pegs.  Ash is also one of the best firewoods.
Must remember not to chop this tree down, with its nest box. 

Sunday, 25 January 2015


If moles go without food for long they starve, so they have to keep going through winter.  Much to my annoyance they throw up molehills on my lawn but there again they are doing a good job mixing,  aerating and draining the soil.  So I put up with them.  Really I should be honoured that my garden is a sanctuary for such pefectly designed little furry digging machines.
 Molehills at Thornbury Leisure Centre
Molehills are clearly obvious when in an open area but a bit harder to notice under a bush.  Every time you see one, be glad that at least some of our native mammals are not yet extinct. 
 Molehill under brambles near post 5 at Filnore Woods
Molehills are made when the mole comes up for a breather after digging a tunnel in its search for worms.  To keep a worm fresh for later, the mole bites it behind what you might laughingly call its head, to paralyse it, and stores it in an underground larder.  A bit like us popping some sausages in the fridge. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Wild arum

One of the earliest woodland plants to appear in spring is the Wild Arum with its spearhead shaped leaves.  Its scientific name Arum maculatum means 'spotted lily' and the leaves are often, but not always, spotted black. 

Sunday, 18 January 2015

A place for wild things

This is the view, on a January afternoon, from the pylon which stands incongruously in the grassland at Filnore Woods.
While our intention is to provide a place for wild things, it is very much with people in mind.  We want you, whoever you are, to come closer to nature.
So this view combines both the natural and the man made.  A path through the grass between two areas of woodland leads down to an ancient hedge.  Beyond it in the middle ground we can see the roof of the Leisure Centre on the left and the Industrial Estate on the right.  In the distance is the mighty River Severn, with the Forest of Dean a hazy presence on the far bank. 

Human habitation and natural habitats form a complex mosaic, a sort of sustainable co-existence.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Hazel catkins again already

Hazel catkins are already golden with pollen in some places at Filnore. 

Some bushes are further forward than others and in the shady parts of the wood the catkins are still dormant.
But in sunny places the hazel bushes are decorated as if for a late Christmas.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Dangerous trees

The silver maple tree in the foreground had a dead stem branching off from the base.  Already in April 2012 it had been marked with an orange spot to show it was ready to be removed.
But somehow we never got round to doing it and now the windy weather has removed it for us.  In the photos below, taken from the other side, you can see the broken stub and the long, dead stem leaning against some other trees.

This was now slightly more risky to walkers so the stub was shortened and the broken stem was taken down and made into a sort of bench for weary walkers or those who just want to sit, listen and look.
The other, larger, leaning silver maple tree shown in the photographs will also have to be taken down eventually as toastools of the velvelt shank fungus have appeared, showing that there is some decay in the stem.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Harts Tongue Fern

You might not recognise this as a fern but it is the Hart's Tongue Fern, (Asplenium scolopendrium) . 
The strap-like fronds (as we call the leaves of ferns) last through the winter and new ones uncurl in the spring.

Although it will grow in any soil, it prefers limy conditions and will even grow in the mortar of walls.   Where you find it growing you can guess that the soil is probably alkaline.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Recognising winter trees

Some trees are just as easy to identify in winter as they are in summer.  Silver Birch trees have a slender drooping shape with very fine twigs.
But the white bark is an even clearer indication that they are birch.

Other trees with distinctive bark are the aspen with its diamond shaped LENTICELS or breathing holes, and the Cherry with lenticels in horizontal bands round the trunk.

Some, like the Bird Cherry below, are harder to recognise but looking closely you can see the little orange lenticels.

Here's the wrinkly bark of an old Elder tree with moss growing all over it.

One factor that makes bark recognition more difficult is that the bark changes as the tree gets older.  Rather like humans, as a tree gets older it loses the smooth skin of youth and gets more wrinkly and characterful.  In the pictures below you can see the contrast with the smooth bark of a young hawthorn and the more flaky bark of a mature hawthorn.

And on the hawthorn shown below you can see both kinds of bark on the same tree.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Brambles are evergreen

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When we think of winter evergreens, it's holly and ivy and fir trees and pine trees that come to mind, but the humble bramble also keeps its leaves on through the winter. 
Each leaf is made up of 5 leaflets, all on thorny stalks with hidden thorns on the veins on the underside of the leaf. 

It's a prickly character and a very successful coloniser of open ground at Filnore Woods. 
Although the leaves are still green now, they are beginning to get brown spots and will gradually turn browner and browner until the new leaves pop out in spring.