Credenhill Park Wood Reopened

Credenhill Park Wood was closed to the public in September 2018 to carry out woodland management work. This involved thinning out conifer trees to allow more light in for deciduous trees and woodland plants. The wood is now open again and starting to look autumnal. I was just passing and haven’t explored its new look properly yet.Hill covered in autumnal trees

Previously conifers had been cleared to form a “grazing area” at the top of the iron age hill fort, exposing the mounds of the ramparts.photo of undulating grassland surrounded by trees

November Colour

After so many storms there doesn’t seem to be many colourful autumnal leaves left on the trees. However, there is still autumn colour to be found. The smoke tree seems to have managed to retain most of its leaves, sheltered by the conifers.Photo of smoke tree autumnal leaves

A snapdragon plant that I bought cheaply from a DIY store on account of it being nearly dead has made a remarkable recovery despite my care and has started to flower.

The last of the cyclamens are blooming on the lawn.Photo of cyclamen

The golden rod has gone to seed and is now more of a silvery rod.

Michaelmas daisies are paying no heed to the religious calendar.Photo of michaelmas daisies

There is always herb Robert to be found.Photo of herb Robert

The purple bee lavender is looking glorious, but watch for lurking spiders when you admire it.

Evening primrose is the best substitute for the missing yellow disc in the sky.Photo of evening primrose

Fox and cubs are a blaze of orange amongst the murk.Photo of fox and cubs

And of course we have the usual autumnal suspects of berries …

…and fungi.

Autumnal Seed Heads

As the garden dies back towards winter dormancy, the seed heads make for attractively melancholic scenes. The skeletal remains of the smoke tree frame a wintry sky.Photo of flame tree in autumn

The golden rod looks more like silver rod.Photo of golden rod gone to seed

Bladder campion husks contrast starkly against the autumn colours of their background.Photo of bladder campion seed heads

Michaelmas daisies add some soft fluff to their autumn backdrop.Photo of Michaelmas daisy seed head

They glow spookily in the darkness.Photo of Michaelmas daisy seed heads at night

Trees and their Leaves

You cannot avoid noticing at this time of year trees and their leaves. One minute they are there all green and fulsome, the next they are varied shades and falling rapidly to the ground.Photo of leaves on ground

It is interesting to note that some trees lose their leaves before others. All deciduous trees lose their leaves each year.  During autumn there is less sunlight available for photosynthesis, the green chlorophyl decreases revealing the red and yellow pigments within the leaves. Photo of trees losing leaves

The tree will lose water needlessly through its leaves, so the sap carrying veins gradually shut down. An abscission zone forms at the base of the leaf consisiting of weak cells in the top layer and tougher ones at the bottom, eventually the weak cell layer is broken and the leaf falls off. Photo of autumnal trees

This varies between different trees, for instance beech and oak trees have a very weak abscission layer and often keep their dead brown leaves throughout winter.Photo of autumnal trees

So there seems to be a genetic variation in drop rate, but individual trees are also affected by disease, pollution, street lights, temperature and other environmental variations.Photo of autumnal trees

The rowan tree has lost most of its leaves, but there are still a lot of berries on it. I wonder why the birds haven’t been eating them?Photo of rowan tree in autumn

We have had a couple of light frosts just recently, just enough to give a light sparkle to the fallen leaves.

Foggy Hallowe’en

In the UK we woke up to fog on Hallowe’en. Despite the clocks going back, the mornings are still dark and the fog was swirling around the street lights.Photo of foggy street

The cobwebs in the autumnal garden were saturated with the moist air.Photo of cobweb

I don’t think insects like to fly in the fog, the tatty webs seem empty.Photo of cobweb

They did seem to make suitable Hallowe’en decorations though.Photo of cobweb

This is what happens when you fire the camera’s flash at fog.Photo of fog water droplets in flashlight

As the day and the month of October ended, a thick fog once again descended on the deserted streets.Photo of foggy street

The street lights scattered through the branches of a fog shrouded tree. See you in November.Photo of foggy street

Horse-Chestnut Tree in October

The horse-chestnut tree in October is bursting with fruits, otherwise known as conkers.Photo of horse-chestnut tree

These are starting to split open.Photo of conkers ripening on tree

Now is the time to collect the fallen fruits to play the traditional children’s game of conkers.Photo of fallen conker

Here is the tree with the rising sun bursting through the canopy.Photo of horse-chestnut tree with sun flare

And here’s the same tree bathed in autumn sunshine.Photo of horse-chestnut tree in autumn

September in the Woods

Photo of mist over fieldsI 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.

Photo of Credenhill Park WoodI 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.Photo of crepuscular rays

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.

Photo of fort gatewayCircling 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.Photo of toppled tree's roots 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!

Photo of turkey tail fungusThe 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.

Photo of common ragwortOne 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.

Photo of woodland trailThese early September mornings are distinctly chilly, so it is time to head home for a warm drink. See you next time.

A Sniff of Autumn?

I must apologize (or are you relieved?) for being a little neglectful recently. Chaos has been reigning, more than usual, in the Ratz household and so I haven’t written any posts for a while, nor checked out my fellow bloggers as much as I should have done. I hope that normal service will be resumed soon.

Photo of blackbird

A Young Blackbird

Thanks to Hurricane Bertha, the UK was treated to the coldest August since 1993. The previous eight months had been warmer than average. Now we are in September and we have had quite a few mild and sunny days. I believe the blackbirds may have sneaked in a second brood.

A short bimble around the garden seems to indicate that Autumn is on the way.

The roses have given way to rose hips, you might like to revisit my post here.

The blackberries are also ripening nicely, along with the apples, they should make a nice crumble. I blathered about brambles in this post here.

Also the quince is ripening, if you wish to see the blossoms that produced this fruit, then take a look here

.

Well, this post will have to be like me, short and sweet. Take care gentle readers, until next time.

A November Garden Bimble

As the poet John Keats informs us, autumn is the “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”. Very poetic I’m sure you will agree. I on the other hand just think it is too dark and chilly. I jest with you, of course I love autumn, the colours are just beautiful.photo of autumnal trees

So, what can we find by pootling around the garden in the early part of November? For one thing I am amazed that there are still so many leaves on the trees after the recent gales.

Like it’s owners, the garden has mostly gone to seed; the berries are bursting, the fungi is fun, the roses are hip and the leaves are feeding the worms.

Some confusion arises with the use of the word autumn, in the USA the term is fall. Fall is actually the original English term, from “fall of leaf”. During the 16th century this was shortened to fall. In the 18th century the term autumn, from the French word automne became trendy in England, but by then the English speaking USA was already well established and sticking with the word fall.