Thursday, 29 December 2016

Jack Frost the artist

A sunny, frosty morning is what winter should be like, so seeing this sunbeam lighting up a patch of frosted grass I was drawn out.

The little frost crystals seem to cluster at the tip of the grass blades.  Now why is that?

In amongst the grass are old leaves from last year.

A hazel leaf edged with white

 But not all leaves are dead.  
The veins on these nettle leaves are left green while the rest is frosted. 

On a flatter bramble leaf there is an even scattering of frost granules.

And primrose leaves are outlined with sugary icing.  
A promise of spring flowers to come.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

A step change

The path up from the Valley Woodland to the Viewpoint is fairly steep and in wet weather was becoming slippery.  So we installed a dozen of our locally grown steps.

Before and after

The poles were from our coppice so we first had to work out how to space out the available material.  

Here is Alan solving the puzzle. 

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

The sides were placed first and then the steps cut to fit.

Hazel pegs were driven in to hold everything in place.

Here's Roger drilling guide holes and Will nailing the stakes to the poles to secure them in place.  Plus dog Mia lending a helping paw.

Lastly the stakes were sawn off flush and then woodchip, brought up from our pile, was tipped behind the risers to produce steps.  Derek in action below.

From scattered poles to useful steps.

Extra photos supplied by Derek (he with the woodchip bag)

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Shell shock

This is a corner of our tool shed container, which we call The White House.  Originally painted white it is gradually toning in with the landscape thanks to rust and the growth of algae on the paintwork. 

But a few days ago I noticed a strange pattern  .  .  .

White trails through the grey-green algae

I think it has been caused by a snail or snails eating off the algae and thereby cleaning the white paint.  The jagged marks must be where the snail has been moving its head from side to side as it crawls along, scraping off the algae.  The spikes suggest that some of the tracks were formed on the way up and some on the way down.

Snails eat with a sort of rasping tongue called a radula.  You can see it on this video.

Or you can see it for yourself by smearing some flour and water on a sheet of glass.  Put a snail on the glass and watch from underneath as it feeds.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

More autumn leaves

Further to my posting of 26th October, here are some more autumn leaves.  In photo 1  there is one large PLANE leaf contrasting with NORWAY MAPLE leaves and one cherry leaf  (the small green one).

Photo 2 has a PLANE next to smalller, finely divided SILVER MAPLE leaves.

Golden brown BEECH leaves are slow to rot down and can suppress plants trying to grow below beech trees.

Photo 4 shows golden yellow ASPEN leaves, almost round and with scalloped edges

Lastly here are the heart-shaped leaves of SMALL-LEAVED LIME, still on the tree.

An extra identifier for lime is this small bunch of seed-containing fruits attached to a leaf-like bract, now all turned brown. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Winter's Tails

Long-tailed tits are easier to spot now that the leaves are coming off.  They like to flit through the world in little groups titting away to each other.  You hear them arrive and by the time you have spotted them they are off to the next bush or tree in their quest for hibernating insects.

If you get a close up view you can see their detailed black and white colouring with pinkish shoulders, and of course their long, black and white tails. 

But they are constantly on the move, acrobatically searching the trees for food.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Figures in the mist

What better way of brushing away your cobwebs on a misty November morning than wielding scythe and pitchfork at Filnore Woods.  Alan, Phil, Jim and Peter at work.

At the risk of boring you with repetition, the reason we cut and remove the grass is to reduce the fertility, so that coarse grasses, thistles and docks are given a check.  This in turn will heighten the chances that other wild flowering plants will thrive.  We want more wild flowers and plants 
(a) for their own sake, 
(b) to provide food for beetles, bugs  and other insects, 
(c) as a resource for a variety of bees and other pollinators.

In short - to increase biodiversity on the site, which might then spread to other places nearby.

 Gatekeeper butterfly

Monday, 21 November 2016

Oak in the landscape

From the Filnore Woods viewpoint, the landscape colours can be watched as they change gradually - and sometimes suddenly.

On the left in the photo is an oak turning golden brown, but in front of the large, half-bare beech tree to the right there is another small oak tree which is still green.

Saturday, 19 November 2016


The dense undergrowth along the hedge next to the allotments was cleared in an hour the other day by Alex and his tractor mounted flail.  Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough to get a 'BEFORE' photo.  So this is halfway through.

The tractor is fairly new and shiny.  The job was commisioned by Gary from South Glos.  We needed access to the hedge to rejuvenate it.

You can see the hydraulically powered flail at the end of the  arm reaching out across bumps and stumps.  Alex found lots of pits and mounds where children had built bike ramps twelve or more years ago.

  The ride is wider again, like it used to be, and will hopefully dry out better now and not be so muddy 
once the grass re-colonises.

Thursday, 17 November 2016


In summer Bryony drapes itself unobtrusively over hedges and shrubs, but in autumn when the leaves have withered the bryony berries shine out like scarlet M&Ms, but 
please don't eat them as they are poisonous.

These berries are black bryony but white bryony berries look similar, although the two species are unrelated.

Monday, 14 November 2016


Who's that sitting in the grass?  (See Alan's finger pointing).

I have made few postings on reptiles or amphibians on this blog, but here in the grass of the welcome area, on a bright November morning, hopped a bright-eyed common frog.

After posing for a photo he hopped off into the grass.  I wonder how many more there are hopping round the place.  They are supposed to be hibernating at the bottom of a pond by now, so he's a late sleeper.  

Frogs re-emerge in February to mate.  I was once working on a pond restoration job on February 14th, Valentine's Day, and the pond was full of frogs on the job.  A happy day.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Spindle tree at its best

Brilliant colour of leaves and berries in the November sun

This is the native Spindle Tree, a small tree or more of a bush really

The pink fruits split open to show an orange nut inside

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Turdus viscivorus

If you have an apple tree with some windfalls on the ground, you may have heard or even seen a mistle thrush scoffing the fruit and chasing off other birds including blackbirds and songthrushes.

The picture below shows a mistle thrush on a rowan twig which she has stripped of berries

I said you may have heard one.  They have a merry song, a bit like a blackbird's but briefer, but what I have heard lately is the rattling contact call, like an old-fashioned wooden football rattle.  You can hear the songs of both song thrush and mistle thrush on this BTO video, and right at the end the rattling call.

I used to think they were rare but Steve Gilliard showed me a nest in the fork of a tree at Thornbury Leisure Centre this summer.  We had to keep our distance otherwise the parent bird would not go to the nest with food for the nestlings, for fear of giving away its whereabouts to predators.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Clearing paths

Me, Alan and Peter shifting some of the brambles cut to widen the path leading to Vilner Farm.
Photo: Brett Harrison

More work on the steps by the footbridge:  Peter, Jim and Andy cutting back encroaching vegetation.

Before and after.
                                                   Roger in the jungle

 A tousled Eric with Alan, scything up near post six.

Warm work whether now in October or back in July.
Photos: Derek Hore