• In the woods - discoveries and thoughts

    In between the days working on my forthcoming book I've been out and about in the local woods and, as seems to happen so often, discovering the unusual or previously unnoticed trees. One only has to take a slightly different turn in an otherwise familiar wood, or perhaps see a location that most of the year might be shrouded in foliage, to make new discoveries.

    Nupend Wood, near Fownhope, is an outlier of the Haugh Woods group that cover a large portion of the Woolhope Dome. Some folks have been barracking the Forestry Commission forever about their (perceived) mismanagement of these woods, and no doubt they have some valid points, but beyond, and sometimes in amongst and in spite of the ranks of conifers the irrepressible broadleaf trees, along with many veteran yews, are still a prominent feature of these woods. Nupend is a fairly small tract of woodland, but is actively managed by the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. I walk through it several times a year and love the rich mix of trees and wild flowers to be found there as well as the birds and butterflies that good practise have drawn in. The impressive ancient small-leaved lime coppice stool that clings on to the edge of one of the numerous and long disused quarries is a tree I've never spotted before, although I must have walked within thirty or forty feet of it many times. All the branches and stems that you can see in the picture almost certainly emanate from the same tree. Dating such a remarkable tree is well nigh impossible, but 3-500 years wouldn't be out of the question and perhaps it's considerably older and, just for a change, humans can take the credit for keeping it alive and kicking. If it hadn't been coppiced regularly down the years it might easily have expired long ago. The conundrum now is what will be the best management plan for its future... undoubtedly more coppicing, but after such a long spell of non-intervention I hope this will be done in several cycles rather than one fell swoop.

    A few days later & I found myself in Badnage Wood, near Tillington, to the northwest of Hereford city, enjoying the late afternoon sunlight driving into the edge of this predominantly oak wood. In the western edge of the wood that I walked there is little evidence of much truly old growth, most of the big oaks looking about 80-120 years, and mostly planted trees reared as standards I suspect as not a lot of evidence of old coppice. Looking up I was reminded of an article I saw recently about crown shyness between trees (see Crown Shyness on Wiki) & yes, there it was - distinct borderlines between the adjacent crowns of the oaks. Pointless my regurgitating everything from Wiki, but it's just one of those casually noticed phenomena that suddenly makes sense.

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  • ... and then this happened

    Heading home last night and spotted some great light on a hedgerow ash. Ran across the field to catch a picture before the storm clouds blacked everything out... and then this happened. How often when you see a rainbow & there isn't a decent picture to be made? Perhaps it's a little optimistic to have a rainbow over an ash tree.

    A few talks coming up this month for anyone interested:

    14.10 - West Midlands Tree Wardens Forum, Birmingham - "Ash"

    15.10 - 'Out of Nature' exhibition at Newport House, Almeley - "New Perspectives of Ancient Trees"

    19.10 - Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, Swansea "The British Oak"

    24.10 - Stoke Lacy Garden Club - "Treescape"

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  • Down to the Jurassic Coast

    It's been a busy spell & to those who visit regularly I extend apologies for lack of new posts. With work on my new book taking me away rather a lot the ol' blog has been somewhat neglected.

    A few days out down in Dorset couple of weeks back and it just reminded me what a stunningly beautiful part of the world it is. Time to unwind, mooch the hills, wander the beaches looking for fossils, dip a tentative toe in the briny (brrr - too cold for me, but Jan's all the way in) then find some great pub food or fish and chips on the sea wall at Lyme.

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  • Not quite found for a pound, but still an exciting find

    Those of you who visit regularly down the years will know that I'm a bit of an addict for the car boot sales on a weekend. Often I walk round and find nothing that takes my fancy, but last Sunday was the day I found an absolute gem. It cost a tad more than £1.... but not a lot, and is one of the rarest bits of pottery I think I've ever found.

    This little transfer printed milk jug celebrates the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway on 15th September 1830 and depicts the mighty Moorish Arch tunnel portal on one side and a very quaint depiction of one of those first trains full of little folks on the other side. Obviously the event pretty well dates the jug to 1830 or very shortly after & it would appear that it may have been made at the Herculaneum Pottery in Liverpool, although it bears no marks. A tiny bit of damage to the rim & some slight staining, but it is almost 200 years old!

    Found for Pound will return shortly with a few unusual summer finds...

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  • Strange being haunts this wood

    One of our nearby Herefordshire woods that I've been visiting for 25 years contains a truly weird and remarkable phenomenon on one of the ash trees. Burrs are not particularly common on straight growing woodland ash trees but a good bit more than 25 years ago something caused this tree to produce this strange 'ash-beast' that emanates from the trunk. Slowly, slowly it gets a little bigger each year, gathering more moss and ferns as it grows. My only hope is that nothing untoward happens to the tree, either natural disaster or some bright spark deciding to fell it. I have a suspicion that any forester with his wits about him might just be a little wary of causing such a tree any harm.

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