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December 2010


The power of three. Oak stems in Pot House Wood: an old coppice?

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The fifty-fourth edition of the Festival of the Trees is online now at Windywillow. Go read!

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I’ve been asked to feature “the growth and development of [a] unique species as a festive gesture… representative of a huge community effort”.

The Knitted Christmas Tree is over 15 feet high, has over 4,000 knitted leaves, nearly 2,000 knitted decorations and the tub, bark, grass, parcels and star are all knitted. It was made to raise funds in support of John Grooms Court in Norwich [which] is run by the charity Livability and provides accommodation for 20 physically disabled young adults.

Find out more on YouTube and Facebook.

Posted in Miscellany

Snow, beautiful snow (Part One)

I met a horse. It was digging for grass with one hoof.

We are in the grip of an exceptionally cold spell – what the media are calling The Big Freeze. Temperatures this low this early in winter are unusual (something to do with a powerful La Niña this year), and man are they low. Even at midday Sheffield is still shivering several degrees below 0°C and some nights we’re plumbing minus double figures. These low temperatures have come with one of the heaviest falls of snow for a fair few years. Again, it’s unusual to see a snowfall this early in the winter (blame La Niña). After a bit of snow on Friday the 26th of November, it put down a substantial amount on the night of Monday the 29th. It snowed on and off throughout the next day, then went absolutely bonkers during the early hours of Wednesday morning (the 1st of December). The snow continued with some fairly heavy showers during the day but it had more or less petered out by Thursday. We got a wee bit more on Friday night but by then it had already started to thaw, or thaw as much as it can in these freezing conditions.

What’s all that got to do with trees? Not a lot, but I do like snow. Call it context for a little walk I went on yesterday…

This pleasant little oak was basking in the last of the Sun’s golden rays.

The track by which this oak grows had been ploughed, leaving snow piled up as high as the walls that run alongside it.

Further down the track, a Scots pine also enjoyed the golden sunlight. I enjoyed the Scots pine, particularly these illuminated needles.

Close by grow my favourite pair of Scots pines. Maybe I should think of a name for these two. The Two Brothers? The Two Sisters? The Two ____? The ____ Pair? Maybe not.

I am fascinated by the left-most (western) pine’s dual-layer canopy. Simply incredible! Look at it glow in the light of the setting sun.

Try another angle; the pine is still perfection.

The Sun sets over Broomhead Moors. Shadow slides from the Ewden Valley, soon to swallow the Salter Hills. But this walk ain’t over yet…

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Snow, beautiful snow (Part Two)

Posted in Gone for a walk

Snow, beautiful snow (Part Two)

When the Sun goes down the trees turn black.

The Lonely Oak.

Rabbit tracks.

Bird tracks.

Scots pine.




Whitwell Moor.

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Snow, beautiful snow (Part One)

Posted in Gone for a walk

The Capon Tree in the snow

I spent a few days in Edinburgh at the weekend catching up with old uni mates. While I was studying, travelling between Edinburgh and Sheffield usually meant a long car journey. After making the trip a few times I found out about the Capon Tree, a veteran sessile oak (Quercus petraea) on the route just outside of Jedburgh in the Borders. On the journey home for Christmas 2005 I made my father and sister - who had driven up from Sheffield to collect me - stop at the tree in the dark! Since then, whenever I’ve taken this route I’ve always kept an eye out for the Capon Tree as I’ve passed. I’ve stopped a few times since – most recently on Monday when I was driving home from Edinburgh in the snow.

I’ve seen various sizes and ages attributed to the Capon Tree, but to avoid confusion I won’t repeat them here. The tree is a relic of the ancient Jed Forest which once covered much of the region. It used to consist of two upright stems but sometime during the twentieth century the tree fell in half; one of the stems remains upright and the other is supported almost horizontally by several sturdy beams keeping it off of the floor. The tree is alive and looking healthy but it’s totally hollow at the base; several people could comfortably fit into the space between the stems. I noticed a few mushrooms and icicles growing on the deadwood in there.

A fairly comprehensive web page on the Capon Tree can be found at John Peters’ photography site, complete with photos of the tree in leaf.

There’s a close-up look at some of the rotten timber inside the hollow:

In 2002, in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the Tree Council designated the Capon Tree as one of fifty Great British trees ‘in recognition of its place in the national heritage’.

The Capon Tree stands in a small field between the A68 and the River Jed, just south of Jedburgh. If you’re ever in the vicinity it’s well worth a visit, particularly if like me you’re a fan of impressively massive and ancient trees. I’ve heard of another giant oak nearby called the King of the Woods, but I’ve yet to seek it out. That’s a pleasure for a future journey!

Happy Christmas!

Posted in Notable trees

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