August in the Woods

Photo of Credenhill Park WoodAugust, the last meteorological month of summer. One last scamper before the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness ( Š Keats) is upon us.

The leafy trees are in full flush and the dark woodland floor is devoid of flowers. Bird song is also muted and reduced, summer visitors are headed back to Africa and the natives are skulking, tatty and tired from rearing their young. The noisiest inhabitants are the squirrels, crunching cones in the canopy. Photo of blackberriesBerries are starting to form and ripen.

The paths are lined with towering nettles waiting for the unwary wanderer to trip and fall into their stinging clutches. There is some relief from unrelenting greenery provided by the perky pink of the rosebay willowherb flowers. These plants are adept at taking over any open spaces they can put root to. They are also called “fireweed” in the USA due to being the predominant plant that pops up after a wildfire. In the UK they were known as “bombweed” during WWII as they populated bombed sites. The Native Americans used the plant to treat boils, while the Russians use it to make Koporye tea.

Photo of cuckoo pint berriesThe red poisonous berries of the cuckoo pint provide some colour in the wooded areas. Known in polite society as “lords and ladies” this plant has a wide variety of names, some of them quite rude! Herbalist Nicholas Culpeper suggested mixing the berries with hot ox dung and applying the concoction externally to ease gout. It would certainly create an interesting foot odour.

Spiders seem to be in evidence this month. There are the fascinating funnel webs of the labyrinth spider, generally found on south facing banks. While above ground a crab spider lurks on some brambles waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Crab spiders are able to change their colour from white, to yellow, to green and back to white again to blend in with whatever they are lurking on at the time. This is a rather poor example of camouflage!

Photo of field of cropsAs we head back out of the woods we can hear the rasping noises of some wasps scraping the wood off the information sign. They will carry this pulp back to make an intricate papery nest. The crops in the field are turning golden, it will soon be harvest time. See you then.




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