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July 2011

Idyllic rurality in the lower Ewden Valley

Not yet in the Ewden Valley – this is my favourite hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

One hell of a bull at Hunger Hill.

Leaving Heads Lane, I walked through an old farm and started down to the bottom of the valley…

The pleasant, pastoral view back across the valley from the other side (near Snell House).

Lamb’s eye view?

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea).

More Hall Reservoir is looking empty again. It was about this empty at the start of the year, before briefly filling up in spring.

I passed this imposing and impressive ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in Wantley Dragon Wood. The tree would have been twice as big in its heyday when its stem forked into two equal stems a couple of metres off the ground, but one of them has been removed. The size of the trunk at ground level was incredible! It must be one of the largest ash trees in the local area.

Nearby a dragon slithers into a grassy clearing. According to the information board (sited close enough to ruin any photo from this angle) it was created by wood carver Mark Bell and dry stone waller John Alston, with the head made of elm. The sculpture represents the eponymous monster of the ancient satirical ballad The Dragon of Wantley, first published anonymously in 1685. The dragon lived across the Don valley in a cave on Wharncliffe Crags and devoured children, cattle, buildings and trees. The locals called upon More of More Hall to rid them of the dragon. After donning a special suit of Sheffield armour bristling with six-inch spikes, he hid in a well and kicked the dragon in the mouth as it went to drink, killing it. According to the information board, a “later version [published in 1765] included an explanation that it was based on a lawsuit against Sir Francis Wortley (the dragon) by other landowners, where the lawyer was More (the knight). It is difficult to know if this is true. Some of the elements could be a satire about a lawsuit; others are classic to dragon myths in this area. It is possible that this story is a combination of several tales.”

Finally, the approach to Bolsterstone from a footpath just uphill of Sunny Bank Road. Broomhead Park and Moor are seen in the background.

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This month the Festival of the Trees returns to Via Negativa for its fifth anniversary. Go read!

Posted in Gone for a walk

Four birch boletes in Langsett Woods

A couple of weeks ago I headed over to Langsett to have a read beside the reservoir (Stephen King’s Four Past Midnight, if you’re asking). At one point as I walked along the path that skirts the reservoir, I chanced to catch sight of these four mushrooms in the bit of birch woodland to my right. I was compelled to take a closer look:

My immediate thought was “birch boletes”. Back home later, using ID books and the internet, I couldn’t really do any better than that. Were they Leccinum scabrum (brown birch bolete) or were they maybe Leccinum versipelle (orange birch bolete)? Or perhaps they were Tylopilus felleus (bitter bolete) (the cap in the photo of T. felleus in my Black’s Nature Guides Mushrooms & Toadstools of Britain and Europe looks strikingly similar to the caps of my mushrooms). Nope, mine can’t be T. felleus because mine had scabers on their stalks – see the photo below.

Scabers – definition from MushroomExpert.Com: “Scabers are little scurfy things that stick up, like the scabers on the stems of Leccinum mushrooms…”

According to the same book, L. versipelle caps have an overhanging rim. Mine didn’t, so can I safely say that they’re L. scabrum? Not exactly, because all of the photos I’ve found in books and online of that species show a much darker brown cap. The Black’s guide says that “There are around 5 scaber stalk species and each is associated with particular species of tree: Red-Capped Scaber Stalk [Leccinum aurantiacum] (Aspen): stipe scales white when young; Orange Oak Bolete [Leccinum quercinum]: stipe scales fox-coloured; Foxy bolete [Leccinum vulpinum] (Scots pine): stipe scales smoky grey” - plus the orange birch bolete (L. versipelle) and the [brown] birch bolete (L. scabrum). So are my mushrooms any of the first three of these five instead? Well, after further research only led to me getting more and more bogged down… I gave up. There’s a large amount of confusion about the Leccinum species out there, even amongst the experts, and I think it’s contagious.

My four mushrooms belong to a Leccinum species; that will have to be good enough. Although (as always) if you, dear reader, can enlighten the rest of us, please leave a comment or send an email.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Sessile oak – developing acorns

These tiny acorns aren’t yet far along in their development. I’m sure this is a sessile or durmast oak (Quercus petraea) rather than an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) because: a) the leaves are stalked; & b) the acorns are stalkless (sessile).

Photos taken earlier today in Oxley Park, Stocksbridge.

Brown, many-scaled buds sit to the right of three developing acorns. I wonder if the Lonely Oak will have any acorns this year?

Colourful late-season growth was rocketing from the tips of many of this tree’s branches.

This beech (Fagus sylvatica) was loaded with cupules containing their own developing nuts.

Posted in Gone for a walk

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