I SAW old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadowless like Silence, listening
To silence, for no lonely bird would sing
Into his hollow ear from woods forlorn,
Nor lowly hedge nor solitary thorn;–
Shaking his languid locks all dewy bright
With tangled gossamer that fell by night,
Pearling his coronet of golden corn.
I thought I would start this post with a snippet from Thomas Hood’s poem, “Autumn”. It suits the first image on this page. It is the view from the entrance of Credenhill Park Wood, looking over the mist drenched fields below. It does all seem so still, so eerie, enveloped in a smothering blanket. However, a poem and a photograph don’t tell the whole story. Having arrived at the woods just before dawn on a foggy morn, the way lit by a full moon, it was far from silent. The woods themselves are filled with the cacophony of tawny owls twit-twooing and screeching at each other, unseen in the treetops. The commotion of chirping from crickets, unseen in the dewy grass, rises up from the ground. Dawn breaks and the audio switches to the chittering of bluetits and barking of deer as they prepare themselves for the upcoming rut.
It is starting to become quite light as we reach the grazing area. We are treated to a view of crepuscular rays breaking through the clouds. These are most commonly seen at dawn or dusk when there is a greater contrast between the sunlit gaps and the darker clouds, especially the lovely, bubbly stratocumulus clouds.
The grasses are starting to turn to the autumnal shades of brown and the decidious trees are yellowing. The wildflowers are still causing an impressionist daubing of purples and yellows interspersed with fluffy white seed heads.
On the other side of the grazing area there are some steps to help us clamber up onto the ramparts of this iron age fort. Once up there though you have to navigate the treacherous tree roots for yourself.
Circling around on the ramparts, we come to one of the gateways to the fort. Over 2,500 years ago the ramparts would have had a fence atop them and there would be mighty gates across this gap. These days you just need some sturdy boots and a fearless attitude to mud to be able to come and go.
There are many trees that topple over in these woods and they are left for us to admire their tangled root systems. Why do trees have this worrying tendency to get uprooted? When a gust of wind hits a tree, the trunk effectively acts as a lever; the taller the tree the greater the force acting on the roots. There are other factors such as any decay, the distribution of branches and leaves, the strength of the bark and its ability to sway and the quality of the soil that the tree grows in. With most trees the majority of the major roots are in the upper few inches of soil. Bottom line – stay out of the woods on very windy days and pity the squirrels!
The dead wood also provides nourishment for fungi such as this bracket fungus. I think it is a many-zoned polypore, sometimes called a turkey tail. These help to break down the decaying tree. There is scientific research being carried out into the potential anti-cancer properties of some chemicals found in this mushroom.
One of the brightly coloured yellow flowers is common ragwort, Jacobaea vulgaris. It has a wide variety of other names such as, tansey ragwort, stinking willy and mare’s fart. Cinnabar moth caterpillars use it as a food source, the alkaloids they absorb from the plant make them distasteful to predators. It is estimated that at least 77 species of insect depend upon this plant for habitat and food. Fresh ragwort has a bitter taste and is generally avoided by cattle and horses. However, if sufficient quantities of dried ragwort finds its way into their feed then it can cumulatively poison them.