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June 2009

Out on the bike: around Langsett and back (Part 3 of 4)

Continuing on from Part 1 and Part 2… my bike ride from the Sunday before last (24th May 2009).

A dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) seedhead in a forest clearing. An old English name for the species is blowball; I like that better than the current prevalent common name, a corruption of dent de lion, which is French for ‘lion’s tooth’ – a reference to the jagged leaves.

The leaves of a wild cherry (Prunus avium). The green balls on long stalks are the developing fruits.

Wild cherries have an obvious pair of red glands on their petioles: these are extrafloral nectaries. Whereas floral nectaries evolved to attract insects (and other creatures) to assist in the pollination process, certain plants have evolved extrafloral nectaries to attract predatory insects; these mercenaries keep down the populations of plant-eating insects.

Langsett Reservoir. It is surrounded by coniferous forestry plantations on all sides except the dam wall; further back, behind the trees, the moors stretch for miles to the west and south: Thurlstone Moors, Langsett Moors, Harden Moor and Midhope Moors. The reservoir is fed mainly by the Porter or Little Don, which enters from the west and runs out to the east; a couple of miles downstream that river flows into Underbank Reservoir.

These two photos were taken from the dam wall. When I first arrived at the spot, the reservoir surface was perfectly calm. After I’d stood there awhile, mesmerised by the water, the wind picked up and the surface became slightly disturbed. This caused the phenomenon seen in this photograph: yellow swirls along the water’s edge where it lapped against the stones of the dam wall. My guess is that the yellow swirls are pollen.

A sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) inflorescence.

A closer look. Sycamore inflorescences are complex, but I believe I can tell the male parts from the female at this range – I think the the wood-coloured ‘heads’ on stalks are stamens (♂), while the bright greenish-yellow, plumper, stalk-less ‘heads’ are stigmas (♀).

Common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) flowers. They have only one style, whereas the flowers of our other native species, the Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), have two or three.

I was made aware of the sad loss of two familiar trees on this bike ride. The first was the rowan near Upper Midhope; the second was a sycamore growing next to a farm building in Upper Midhope, shown here on the 26th of March 2007. It has been cut down. Perhaps the owner of the farm building is planning to do it up and sell it as a house, and while it was fine to have a tree growing next to an uninhabited barn, it wouldn’t do to leave one so close to a home. That’s just pure guesswork on my part, but come on Upper Midhope! What are you doing to your trees?

Posted in Gone for a walk

Out on the bike: around Langsett and back (Part 4 of 4)

Fig. 1.a. Male pine (Pinus) flowers. Species unknown.

Fig. 1.b. Close-up.

Fig. 2. New spruce (Picea - probably P. sitchensis, Sitka spruce) growth.

Fig. 3. New larch (Larix) growth.

Fig. 4. Flowering pine, probably Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

Fig. 5.a. Unknown flowering pine.

Fig. 5.b. Male flowers.

Fig. 5.c. Three female flowers (red); male flowers in background.

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

Posted in Gone for a walk

A walk in the sun (Part 1): over Whitwell Moor

Last Monday (the 1st of June), in the middle of a period of brilliant weather, I went for a walk up Whitwell Moor, down into Ewden, through Millstones Wood, then back down Whitwell Moor. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were rustling…and I enjoyed every minute!

The branches of an ash (Fraxinus excelsior) hang low over an abundance of flowering cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris).

A cherry sapling (Prunus avium) growing amongst more cow parsley by the side of a lane.

The view to the west across Whitwell Moor from the Set C(r) parent rowan (right). The lush ground cover in the foreground is bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus).

Looking across the Moor - studded with naturally regenerating birch – to Emley Moor Mast. The mast is a Grade II Listed Building and the tallest freestanding structure in the UK at 330.4 metres. It may look as if it stands on top of the hill in the photograph but it is actually much further away, standing roughly ten miles distant.

Male Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) flowers.

English oak (Quercus robur) leaves in the sun.

Standing amidst the heather and bilberry, Whitwell Moor’s most iconic oak: the Lonely Oak (also an English or pedunculate oak).

A developing European larch (Larix decidua) cone. Remember all those photos of larch roses on treeblog in March? This is what they have grown into!

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The 36th edition of the Festival of the Trees is up at Roundrock Journal - go check it out.

Posted in Gone for a walk

A walk in the sun (Part 2): down the salt path

Delectable hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) flowers.

Looking up from the Ewden side at the saddle between the Salter Hills (the eastern hill is on the right and vice versa). A branch of the old salt way from Cheshire almost certainly ran close by here. Several local names on this path - which runs down to the goat willows - are linked with the route: Salt Springs Farm, Salt Springs Cottage, Salt Spring Beck, and of course Salter Hills.

This is the eastern Salter Hill, adorned with a lonely hawthorn.

The view south-east towards the wooded upper reaches of the Ewden valley, with the moors in the distance. If the horizon looks dodgy in this photograph, it’s because I replaced the original over-exposed sky with my ideal blues. I don’t normally go in for Photoshopping photos like this, but I’ve never been able to get a good shot of this valley and now I can pretend I’ve got a half-decent photo in the bag.

This year’s goat willow (Salix caprea) catkin arc on treeblog has just about come to an end. Here we see a ripe female catkin at the seed-dispersal stage. For earlier stages in the catkins’ development, have a look at some of the photos in these posts: on the 21st of March, developing catkins (not sure which sex); on the 29th of March, slightly further developed catkins (again, unsure which sex); and on the 3rd of April, pollen-emitting male catkins and female catkins around the pollen-receiving stage (this post also includes a photo of the eastern Salter Hill).

Goat willow leaves.

Looking back up the path from the group of goat willows. The non-tree greenery in the foreground is almost entirely bracken (Pteridium aquilinum), a very common fern that dies back each year but grows back often taller than a man.

The same view on the 29th of March. What a difference summer makes!

Cotton wool in the grassy ground layer. Actually, this fluffy stuff comes from the goat willow catkins. It holds several tiny seeds inside. I saw this fluff all over the place – the wind can blow it for miles!

Posted in Gone for a walk

treeblog update (Set C, Day 95): twenty-five downy birches

Downy birch No. 1 yesterday (Day 95).

Yesterday – June 14th – was the ninety-fifth day since I planted birch seeds, sweet chestnuts and rowan berries as treeblog’s Set C. To date, it appears that only the birches have met with any success. Back on the 10th of May (Day 60), I transplanted twenty-five of the birch seedlings from their seed tray into small pots. These lucky few – plus a tricotyledonous birch seedling I left in the seed tray – are all the birch seedlings treeblog will follow. Many, many more birches germinated besides, but I don’t have the room to grow on all of those!

Five weeks on from the transplanting, and only one of the transplantees has died – No. 7. It wasn’t looking very good at the time of the last birch update (Day 75 / May 25th). Back then, I still wasn’t completely sure whether these birches were downy or silver. I’ve since been back to look at the parent tree again, and I’m now confident that it is a downy birch (Betula pubescens). There might be a post to be made out of that!

Downy birches Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Downy birches Nos. 6, 9, 10 and 11. No. 9. Poor old No. 9 is the least developed of the lot – it’s hardly changed in three weeks! No. 6 has also been unfortunate. It had fallen over, hence its vertically-aligned leaf.

Downy birches Nos. 12, 13, 14 and 15.

Downy birches Nos. 16, 17, 21 and 22.

Downy birches Nos. 23, 24, 25 and 26. No. 24 had also fallen over; No. 23 is another poor developer.

Downy birches Nos. 27, 28, 29 and 30. No. 29 is the super-special tricot!

The Set C birch seed tray and the anonymous horde! No. 29 is in there, just right of centre. You’ll probably need to click on the photo and look at the bigger version to better make out the seedlings.

Posted in The treeblog trees

treeblog update (Set C, Day 95 – Set C(r), Day 33): the “rowans”

We’ve had the birches; now it’s time for the Set C / Set C(r) rowans, or those seedlings that have grown where rowans were planted. They might not be rowans. Nine seedlings have germinated in the ‘Whitwell Moor’ seed tray section, but only one has germinated in the ‘Upper Midhope’ section. ‘Whitwell Moor’ rowan (WMR) No. 1 and ‘Upper Midhope’ rowan (UMR) No. 1 both germinated before I exhumed the Set C rowan berries, removed the seeds, and replanted them as Set C(r) 37 days ago. WMR Nos. 2 to 9 germinated after the replanting, so I’m classifying them as being in Set C(r) whereas I’m classifying WMR No. 1 and UMR No. 1 as being in plain old Set C.

I photographed all ten “rowans” on Sunday – Set C Day 95 or Set C(r) Day 33.

WMR No. 1 (left) and UMR No. 1 (right). The two clearly belong to different species. So which one, if any, is the rowan?

WMR Nos. 2 to 5.

WMR Nos. 6 to 9.

All of the seedlings except UMR No. 1 appear to belong to the same species. This suggests that they are all actual rowans and not self-sown randoms, especially when you bear in mind that no similar looking seedlings have germinated in the birch seed tray. It seems too unlikely that nine seedlings of a single (non-rowan) species could have self-seeded in the rowan seed tray without any self-seeding in the birch tray. So: all of the seedlings from the birch tray appear to be the same species – downy birch; and all of the WMR seedlings appear to be the same species – presumably rowan. UMR No. 1 is presumably a weed.

HOWEVER… don’t these “rowans” look familiar? Have a look at the PSAUS photo-timeline – specifically the oldest photo. The PSAUS is a goat willow!

Posted in The treeblog trees

A walk in the sun (Part 3): on to Mortimer Road

Continuing this series of photos from a walk in the sun on the glorious first of June… carrying on down the salt path to reach Mortimer Road.

Flowering hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

A big old yew tree – in the Ewden valley. Is Ewden a corruption of Yew Dene, dene being an old British word for a wooded valley? There aren’t very many yews in Ewden today at any rate!

Yew (Taxus baccata) leaves.

The green roof overhead.

From woodland the path opens into this sloping grassy field. I bet it would be perfect for cheese rolling.

Which one do you prefer?

Bear in mind that this photo was taken three weeks ago, but look how far behind this ash (Fraxinus excelsior) is lagging in the leaf stakes. Ash is the last tree to come into leaf in these parts, but the majority of the local ashes were by this time halfway through flushing.

Shady woodland on the bank of a tiny stream, a tributary of Ewden Beck

Mortimer Road just above where the path comes out. From Jack Branston’s History of Stocksbridge:

[Mortimer Road] was named after Hans Winthrop Mortimer, Lord of the Manor of Bamford who died in 1807. He had the idea of linking the Peak with the woollen manufacturing districts of the West Riding and so reap a profit from the road-tolls. This road was to run from Penistone Bridge to Grindleford Bridge, starting from Penistone, over Midhope Bridge to Bardike and Agden Bridge, past the Strines Inn and so on. In the wall at [I think he means outside the Strines Inn] you can see a stone built in which reads “Take Off”. This was another of Mortimer’s ideas; whilst wagon horses were resting he used chain horses to pull the wagons to the given point, then took them off and returned for another wagon.

The Sanderson – Bradfield and Beyond site says that the road was built in the 1770s and that Mortimer died in poor circumstances after failing to comply with the Authorising Act of 1770. And from this Flickr page, part of a comment by ‘evissa’, who mentions a small book called Mortimer Road: the turnpike that failed:

[Mortimer] owned property in Essex, Derbyshire and London and was MP for Shaftsbury. Alas he died bankrupt.

Hawthorn flowers in their prime.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Chatsworth Park & a great veteran oak

Today was the day of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year; it is also Father’s Day, and we made an excursion to Chatsworth Park, the extensive grounds of the famous stately home, Chatsworth House. At the top of the field where we parked stood a massive oak.

Look at the size of this veteran giant! This photo doesn’t really do it justice, but in the flesh it was awesome-huge. My father is there to lend a sense of scale (and a hug).

The great oak in its entirety, albeit silhouetted by the sun. I think it’s an English oak (Quercus robur).

Proto-conkers. All of the horse chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanun) I’ve seen recently are absolutely covered with developing fruits. 2009 looks like it’s going to be a bumper year for conkers!

The River Derwent flows though the magnificent parkland.

The park is studded with hundreds of veteran oaks; this one is a typical example.

The ruins of the old corn mill. The A Taste Of The Peak District website says the mill “ceased operations in 1950 and was badly damaged when a tree fell on it during a storm in 1962.”

Posted in Gone for a walk

A walk in the sun (Part 4): back through Millstones Wood

Three and a half weeks after my walk in the sun on the lovely first of June, in this final post of a quartet, I invite you to once more join me in retracing my steps via the medium of photography. In Part 1 I walked over Whitwell Moor; in Part 2 I set off down the salt path into the Ewden valley; in Part 3 I followed the salt path to Mortimer road; and in Part 4 we shall climb back up the valley-side to Millstones Wood.




The body of water to the right is Broomhead Reservoir. Millstones Wood occupies the horizon to the left of the signpost.

A common or English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), the native bluebell of the British Isles. The English bluebell is threatened by hybridisation on a large scale with the non-native Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica).

Millstones Wood, lying one buttercup-filled field away.

Young master oak - probably an English oak (Quercus robur).

A shaggy-looking European larch (Larix decidua).

The floor of the wood was covered with these: the fallen male catkins of European beech (Fagus sylvatica).

Two catkins still on the tree, along with a developing cupule holding two beechnuts.

The fierce sun beating down through the needles and branches of a pine.

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris).

Posted in Gone for a walk

treeblog update (Set A, Day 822): grey alders & Scots pines

Cripes! I hadn’t realised how much time had elapsed since the last grey alder / Scots pine update. The last one was in mid-May: Day 782. The trees have grown a hella lot in the intervening forty days!

Photos taken yesterday (Day 822).

Scots pine Alpha: one ridonculous leader and three side-shoots. 48 cm from tip to base.

Scots pine Gamma: a modest leader and just the one side-shoot. 27 cm.

Grey alder No. 1: way overgrown for its pot. 105 cm.

Grey alder No. 2. Had its leading stem bitten off by whatever nasty piece of work is mauling the alders. Damn. 71 cm.

Grey alder No. 3: as of yesterday, now in a 35 litre pot with plenty of growing room! 109 cm. No. 4 was also repotted on Wednesday (the 24th), but Nos. 1 and 2 will have to wait until I get some more sand and compost.

Grey alder No. 4. 120 cm. The size gap between No. 4 and Nos. 1 and 3 has diminished rather! While many of No. 4’s leaves are damaged (overzealous application of pesticide?), the newer ones are thankfully healthy. I moved it out of ‘quarantine’ on Wednesday as the worst of the alder attacker’s attacks seem to be over.

When the mystery alder attacker was a new phenomenon, around mid-May, the leading stem of No. 4 had a massive chunk taken out of it. I thought the Beast would be beheaded for sure, but it fought back and has now put plenty of new growth above the injury. Here’s the scarring as it was today next to the fresh damage on May 17th. How the stem has thickened!

The post-Set A goat willow, formerly called PSAUS. Truly a healthy looking specimen, radiating vitality and vigour. 25 cm.

A wee common ash (Fraxinus excelsior), potted up yesterday from its former residence in grey alder No. 3’s old pot (see the Day 782 update). Just as treeblog has followed the PSAUS even though it was self-seeded, this cheeky chappy will become a permanent fixture in the treeblog garage. 8 cm.

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Set A cider gums update coming soon!

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Update – 29 June 2009:
Grey alders Nos. 1 and 2 were repotted into 35-litre pots this afternoon.

Posted in The treeblog trees

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