Friday, 30 September 2016

Guelder Rose

Beautiful berries, unfeasibly red.

 The berries are striking now against the green, maple-shaped leaves.  In a few weeks these leaves will be artistically coloured by autumn's crayons.  Watch out for it.  It's starting already.

This is the Guelder Rose, not really a rose but a Viburnum, Viburnum opulus. 

Monday, 26 September 2016

We mow the fields and scarper

We had eleven volunteers mowing with scythes and clearing the grass with rakes and pitchforks at the last Sunday work morning.  It's pleasant but tiring work so you can't blame them for taking the occasional rest

But when I said I was taking a photo they all set to again.

This section of meadow up by the viewpoint was mown already in May but it soon grows back.  However, taking two crops of grass off it should lower the fertility, which favours the wild flowers over the coarser grasses.

We finished it off on Wednesday 21st September.

Which included all the raking .  .  .  .  .

.  .  .  .  .  and carrying

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Conkers for the future

After two years of growth our two conker trees started to look a bit more promising this spring.

  Number one had two side shoots and number two was smaller but with two promising buds.  We had high hopes.  

They are both in the top meadow in the pylon field, between posts 3 and 4.  The above pictures were taken in February.  

In May, the fresh green leaves opened 

By July the youthful spring foliage was looking a little more middle-aged among the long grass,


and they have both survived the summer though are now turning brown.

Oh, by the way, someone has planted another horse chestnut near post 8 - guerrilla planting ?  We've left it in place.

Sweet but threatened
A little bit further along the meadow we have a sweet chestnut.  This is still rather small but is fighting for survival after several set-backs.

The two species are not related but share the chestnut name because they are a bit similar in appearance.  The Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) has a familiar leaf with about 9 separate leaflets, spreading out like a large, many-fingered hand.  Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) leaves are single and have pronounced teeth along the edge, pointing towards the tip of the leaf.

Further footnote.  The Forestry Commission has just identified and dealt with a single incidence of Sweet Chestnut Blight in one location in Kent.  

This fungal infection from Asia devastated chestnut trees in North America in the 20th century.  Widespread in Europe, it has occurred sporadically in Britain recently and been eliminated by destruction of infected trees.  If you want to read about it check the 'Forest Research' website.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Haw haw haw

You may have noticed thae hawthorn bushes turning red or brown.  This is caused by a bumper crop of the berries, called haws.

Haws are an excellent winter food for birds like finches, wood pigeons, redwings, fieldfares and other thrushes.  They are also dined on by wood mice, squirrels and bank voles. 

Strictly they are not berries but pomes like apples, pears, pyracantha 'berries' and rowan 'berries.  You can usually tell a pome by the little tufted remains of the flower at the bottom of the fruit.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Benchmark of success

Disappointed by the unauthorised removal and destruction of our viewpoint bench, we gained inspiration from the old telegraph pole discovered last spring when we were laying the hedge.

  Gone bench                            Telegraph pole

Part of the pole was decayed but we managed to salvage six 'legs'.

After much deliberation and planning, the legs were fixed in the ground and pressure treated planks were laid across the top and screwed firmly in place.

Deliberation                                 Construction

Result - bench number one.   Peter, Alan, Steve and Phil seemed pleased with their efforts.

Meanwhile over by the memorial limes Peter had made more excavations.  Legs were once again tamped firmly into place by an enthusiastic Phil.

Excavation                                     Tamping

And when all was levelled off the seat was screwed into place.

From bench 2 you can look down the hill or across the meadow to the viewpoint wood.

Bench 3 near the pylon was on stonier ground.  Quite hard work with the pickaxe.

But eventually the workers could rest from their labours and contemplate the view.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Willow blister galls

Photo: John Mills of the community orchard group

These are blister galls  or red bean galls, very common on crack willow and white willow.  They are caused by a sawfly called Pontania proxima, a sort of primitive wasp, which lays eggs in the developing leaves.  The galls are formed by the tree so that the sawfly grubs feed on the extra material without affecting the function of the leaves much.  The galls are green at first and turn red in late summer when they become more noticeable.

The adult sawfly, measuring a mere 5mm from nose to tail looks like this.


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Step repair

From time to time the poles forming our steps become unstable when the pegs holding them in place become decayed or dislodged.  

 New pegs are added and nailed to the pole

And the step is built up again with woodchip.

The woodchip eventually consolidates and traps soil being eroded down the slope, if it isn't eroded itself.  Unfortunately it is sometimes dug out by badgers for the earthworms and other delicacies living in the woodchip.  

It's an on-going job.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The Large Black Slug

Slugs are not as black as they are painted.  The Large Black Slug can of course be black but it also appears in another orange version.

  Although it can chew the odd bit of garden produce it is more interested in other stuff.  It's the much smaller common garden slug, the grey keeled slug, the grey field slug and the yellow slug that cause the most damage.

There are about 30 species of slug in the UK of which only those four can be considered pests.  It is estimated that the average garden has about 20,000 individual slugs and agricultural land will contain 250,000 per acre.  They mostly live underground and come out at night, using their slime trails to find their way back home.

Like snails, slugs have two long tentacles which they use to smell and dimly see, plus two shorter tentacles below, with which they feel and taste stuff.  In the photo above you can also make out the thicker 'mantle', the smoother bit just behind the head.  When they are alarmed they pull their tentacles in safely under the mantle.

This DEFRA site shows the 11 most common slugs   

 Defra slug identification

And this 23 page website, includes more details if you are really keen.

Identifying British slugs

Saturday, 3 September 2016


The large white trumpets of Hedge Bindweed are beautiful but unwelcome in the garden because the roots are so difficult to eliminate.  There's a fantastic display on the Thornbury compost site at the moment.

The smaller flowers  of the field bindweed are often tinged pink and it tends to sprawl through the grass rather than climbing over hedges - and compost heaps!

Both flowers have spearhead-shaped leaves but the field bindweed leaves are smaller and more pointed.