Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Spring flowers

So many changes at this time of the year.  That's why I'm blogging so much at the moment.  Here are some photos of spring flowers from Filnore Woods -  some of them in focus!



Wild Arum or Cuckoo Pint or Jack in the Pulpit

Meadow Buttercups

Lady's Smock or . . . .     
   . . . . Cuckoo Flower (or Milkmaids, as I learnt today)

Lamb's Tongue or Ribwort Plantain


Ground Ivy

Bird Cherry high up and low down

 Bitter cress very low down

 White Deadnettle

and its relative, Yellow Archangel

The Blackthorn is nearly finished, 
dropping white confetti on the paths below

Wild Pear with its purple anthers like little black dots

and of course Bluebells

Hopefully Filnore Woods will look like these woods near Tortworth in years to come

Monday, 27 April 2015

Coppice produce

Our main reason for coppicing in Filnore Woods is to enhance the habitat.  By cutting down some of the shrubs and trees we let more light in.  This can result in coarse growth of nettles and brambles at first, but ultimately we hope to promote woodland flowering plants and ferns.

 A secondary purpose is to make use of the cut material.  Our annual sale of bean sticks and plant stakes earns us a bit of cash to support the work in the woods.

We can cut wood to order: beansticks, peasticks, rustic poles for pergolas, stakes of varied thickness, etc.  any length and any diameter.  We are also thinning out the trees so just ask if you think we might be able to provide what you need.

Alan saw this rival enterprise in Kampong Chhnang in Cambodia.

Alan says:

Kampong Chhnang is a major fishing port on the Tonle Sap river in Cambodia just a bit downstream from the Tonle Sap lake. Further down, the river feeds into the Mekong.
As you approach it up the river you pass through a collection of houses, shops and even a school and church that all float on the river. It’s generally known as the ‘floating village’ and is quite amazing to see. As you travel upstream it peters out and becomes the land based town of Kampong Chhnang.

If you put Kampong Chhnang into Google there are lots of pictures to be seen.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A mushroom for St George

Simon Harding photographed these mushrooms at Filnore Woods actually on St George's Day, 23rd April.  That's why they are called St George's Mushrooms.  Field Mushrooms, the ones we commonly eat, appear in late summer and autumn.

St George's Mushrooms are perfectly safe to eat as long as you get the right one.  Apparently the taste is good.  Don't use these photos to identify them.  Learn from an expert. 

This view from undeneath shows the whitish gills below the cap.  Thank you, Simon, for the pics.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Robin reminding you

Like the blackbird, and the song thrush, the ROBIN is a worm-catcher so he has to be an early bird.  These three are some of the first to start singing in the dawn chorus.

Here is a three minute song by a Robin from TelsWeb on YouTube.  Try closing your eyes to concentrate on listening so that you can recognise the song next time you hear it outside.

Robins are one of the few birds that sing all the year round.  So there is a touch of winter about this varied and tuneful song.

Dawn Chorus Walk 5.00 am Sunday April 26th

Friday, 24 April 2015

Ground Ivy

Just one of the many tiny delights provided by springtime flowers.  This is Ground Ivy.  It's not related to ivy but it does retain its leaves through the winter.  In sunny places the leaves turn purplish. 

The plant was also known as Gill and was used to flavour beer before hops were introduced to England in the 16th century.  As well as gill-beer, gill-tea was also used as a cough cure.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Song thrush

We used to have a thrush's anvil in our garden - a stone used by a song thrush to bash snails on to crack the shells.  This was good for the garden as it kept the snails down, and also meant we could hear the thrush's distinctive song.  The population of song thrushes has been in decline for a while now but we still have some at Filnore.

You can tell a song thrush because it repeats a lot of its phrases two or three times.  
Here are a couple of videos with sound from youtube.  
First from Superbarney79.  Thank you Superbarney.

And a slightly more hesitant singer 
from Bernard Wellings in Colwyn Bay.  Thanks, Bernard.

We shall hear thrushes on the
Dawn Chorus Walk round Filnore Woods, 
Sunday 26th April, 5.00 am

Monday, 20 April 2015


We have some wood anemones, also known as windflowers, in one location in Filnore Woods.  They are in bloom now.

Hopefully they will spread by seed and rhizome.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Ash trees in flower

Look up at the leafless ash trees and you will see that many of them are flowering.  You may also see the spent male flowers on the ground under the trees, so look down as well as up.

The male and female flowers are similar but occur on different trees - usually.  The tricksy thing about ash trees is that they sometimes change sex, so a male tree one year may be female the next, or even carry some branches of each sex.


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Clues on a tree stump

Can you see this hazel nut, which I found balanced on top of a small tree stump?  There is a hole in it with tiny tooth marks round the edge.  It can't be a squirrel because they split the nutshell open.  And it's not totally round so it won't be a dormouse.  Anyway, dormice are unlikely to have colonised our woods as they find it difficult to migrate.

So it could be a vole or a woodmouse.  Here's a useful chart from the People's Trust for Endangered Species.

Unfortunately my photo is not clear enough to see the toothmarks so I shall have to go back and see if the nut is still there in the coppice plantation.

But I am pretty sure we have voles and woodmice at Filnore - and squirrels, of course.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

More clues on the ground

I realised the pussy willows had been flowering when I saw these furry catkins with the remains of yellow pollen, lying on the path under the trees

And a bit further along I came across some fallen alder cones, now empty of seed.  

These clues are helpful for locating trees you didn't know were there.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Clues on the ground

All trees have flowers but usually high up where the sun can reach the twigs.  Often the first evidence is flowers or bud scales on the ground.  

I found these fallen cherry flowers on the ground between posts 15 and 16 in the tunnel through the old council tree nursery.  

There is a row of ornamental Japanese flowering cherries there, which I had forgotten about.  

So when walking I try to remember to look up above and down on the ground as well as straight ahead.  Maybe that's why I trip over so often.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Dog's Mercury

This unassuming little plant is just coming into flower at Filnore Woods.  
It carpets the floor in places.

There are several explanations for the name Dog's Mercury.  Apparently 'Dog's' is to show that it is not the true Mercury, another name for Good King Henry, a plant which used to be eaten as a vegetable.  Dog's Mercury, however is poisonous.  Don't try it !

Strangely, it is quite unusual to find female plants.  The photo above shows male plants in flower.  So It spreads by underground rhizomes or runners rather than by seed.

If you find it in a wood it is probable that the wood has been there for a long time.  Our hedges, where the plant is mostly found at Filnore, are quite possibly the remnants of really ancient woodland.

Dog's Mercury thrives in the shade of woods and hedges and can spread on dry, alkaline soil at the rate of a metre per year.  But it is out-competed by other plants in the open.  

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Elder contortions

Is this Elder tree embarrased or something?
It's a piece of natural sculpture between posts 15 and 16 on the Filnore Woods trail. 

Check your nearest elder tree and you may be surprised to find red shoots starting into life already.  Elder is one of the first trees to send out leaves in the spring.

As well as elder flowers in May 

and elder berries in August

dead elder wood is the favourite food of the Jelly Ear, Jew's Ear or Judas' Ear fungus

We usually say Jelly Ear nowadays but it got the name Jew's Ear because elder was traditionally thought to be the tree that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from.