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October 2011

Set A grey alders update (April & September 2011)

Grey alder No. 1 last week.

On Thursday I visited the grey alders (Alnus incana) with my father (Day 1646 – 4 years, 6 months since I planted them as seeds). The weather was the epitome of perfection. This autumn heatwave / Indian summer we are having is incredible. All three surviving alders are doing well, and I’d say that Nos. 2 & 3 are actually thriving despite their past hardships.

No. 1 again from a different angle, showing how leant over it has become in its exposed location. Taking account of the lean it is now 2.5 metres tall but the full length of the tree from base to tip is 3.3 m. No new sheep damage, but the stem is an ugly, scaly mess to 85 cm from the ground thanks to past injuries.

Here’s No. 1 back on the 27th of April (Day 1491 – 4 years, 1 month since planting). Apparently I never put the photos from that visit on Treeblog and I’m not sure why. Back then it was just coming into leaf and retained a more upright posture.

Here’s a look at some of that sheep damage to the lower stem. Nasty.

This is grey alder No. 2 on Thursday, looking shorter than it really is because of the bracken. I reckon it’s the best of the three at the moment, which is quite a departure from the early days when No. 2 was always the smallest. (No. 4 was always the biggest, R.I.P.)

No new sheep damage; excellent condition.

No. 2 in April, before this year’s crop of bracken had grown up.

There had been a little bit of fresh sheep damage in April, but I don’t think there’s been any since.

Grey alder No. 3 last week. It sure has put on a lot of crown growth since my last visit, when it had just suffered a catastrophe – the top had broken out!

A new leader is now growing from 2 inches below the stump.

No. 3 in April. The top must have broken only just before my visit, but I have no idea how it could have happened. Surely wind wouldn’t have been able to snap the top of a supple little sapling, but a couple of pieces of bracken hanging from its branches maybe do point to a powerful wind. Bizarre.

What a shame.

Now then you lot, I’ve prepared thee a treat of three tables containing height and girth measurements of the three alders collected on various visits. The trees were planted out at the beginning of April 2010, so the first height measurements were made when they were still in the back garden. These figures are not super-accurate, but we do our best!

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
28/03/10 2.07 1.59 1.90
25/09/10 2.80 2.50 2.75
11/02/11 - 2.45 2.75
13/03/11 2.70 - -
29/09/11 2.50 3.05 2.75

Table 1. The approximate heights of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in metres.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
20/06/10 4.0 2.0 4.0
25/09/10 5.0 4.5 5.5
11/02/11 - 5.0 6.0
13/03/11 5.0 - -
29/09/11 6.0 7.0 7.0

Table 2. The approximate girths at breast height of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in centimetres.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3
20/06/10 9.0 9.0 9.5
25/09/10 9.5 11.0 11.5
11/02/11 - 10.5 12.0
13/03/11 9.5 - -
29/09/11 11.5 13.0 14.0

Table 3. The approximate girths at ground level of grey alders Nos. 1, 2 & 3 in centimetres.

Posted in The treeblog trees

A glorious Indian summer: Five familiar friends

A familiar rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) on Whitwell Moor.

The weathermen forecast a startlingly hot few days last week – 25°C for the end of September in Sheffield certainly made me open my eyes – so I took measures to make the most of this unexpected resurgence of summer by taking a couple of days off work. Instead of sweating buckets trapped in a pair of chainsaw trousers, I was out roaming the moors and woods having a whale of a time. Wednesday was incredible but Thursday was truly the epitome of an autumn day; it’s just a shame that the sun sets so much earlier now than it did in the height of summer.

A familiar downy birch (Betula pubescens) of extraordinary girth, also on Whitwell Moor…

…and growing beneath its spreading branches, this little bolete (some kind of Leccinum, I think).

Hallo! It’s the famous Lonely Oak!

Last year I couldn’t find any acorns on the L.O., but there were a few on one side of the crown last week. I confess I collected some. Perhaps there will be a treeblog Set E next year?

One of my acorns. The Lonely Oak is an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), so the acorns are attached to the tree on little stems.

Looking north from the ‘back’ of the L.O. towards Hunshelf Bank. Looking over its shoulders?

A familiar pair of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) between the Salter Hills.

Chilled-out cows in the next field.

The eastern Salter Hill, complete with solitary hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).

Gorse (or furze or whin: Ulex europaeus) - one yellow drop in the ocean.

Posted in Gone for a walk

In the Valley of the Beeches

XL European beech (Fagus sylvatica).

Somewhere in the Ewden Valley there is a special piece of woodland full of absolutely enormous beeches. (No, not Spout House Wood. These are bigger…) Beeches with massive-girthed trunks that seem to go up for miles. Beeches with almost ramrod straight stems. Beeches that even though of gargantuan stature are still in the prime of life. No grizzled dotards here; well, maybe a couple. Just beautiful, jaw-droppingly large trees.

I’m pretty confident this one is the biggest of the lot. I’m calling it the King of Ewden. I think that’s suitably grand. It’s a shame my photo really doesn’t do justice to this titan’s size – it’s a hundred times more impressive in the flesh. There is a car-sized wound on the other side of the trunk, seriously! I’m going to have to go back with a tape measure and take some DBHs as proof!

One of the smaller ones?

Another giant. How many are there? I’m not sure. Thirty? Forty?

Imagine climbing that! Imagine the view from the top!

I wish I had more photographs to share, but being under those monster canopies, in the bottom of a valley, late on an autumn afternoon… the light wasn’t great. I’ve got a mind to go back and carry out a more comprehensive study. These are trees worth getting excited about. If only the person / people who planted them could see them now!

Several Piptoporus betulinus (razor strop or birch polypore) fruiting bodies on a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens).

This big oak (probably Quercus robur) looked stunning as it caught the late afternoon sun. I love trees.

Posted in Gone for a walk

A glorious Indian Summer: aspens in Ewden!

Looking back at the Salter Hills.

These photos were taken in the midst of our fantastic autumn heatwave. To make the most of the perfect weather, I went for a walk up in the upper reaches of the Ewden Valley. I can’t believe a fortnight has passed already!

Looking across the valley to Park Cote, as it is marked on the map. ‘Cote’ is an old Middle English word meaning ‘small shed or shelter for livestock or birds’, or ‘small cottage’. There is clearly a ruined stone building there (see the bigger version of the photo), and I think I have spotted a second ruin hidden amongst the trees to the right of the former. I’ve never been over there but they are on my list of places to investigate.

A small pool on the tributary of Ewden Beck that flows down Oaken Clough. All the becks were in very low flow.

Walking up the side of Ewden Beck, you’ll eventually reach a section with steep cliffs to the right of the river all grown over with trees. When I suddenly caught sight of a lot fluttery, trembling leaves, I realised with some excitement that there is actually aspen (Populus tremula) growing in the valley! There were quite a few of them on the cliffs, mixed in with downy birches (Betula pubescens) and oaks. Aspen is a fascinating species; while it has a huge range across Europe and Asia, it’s not a common tree in Britain. Seed production rarely occurs here, the reasons for which are poorly understood. It can spread freely by vegetative reproduction, however, sending up suckers from roots that grow into trees that are clones of the parent (ramets). Self-perpetuating clonal colonies are thought to be capable of living 10,000 years or more (but I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t theoretically live far longer than that). Anyway, the aspen here in this tiny section of the Ewden Valley is perhaps a miniscule remnant population, clinging on in an area inaccessible to sheep, deer and axe-wielding humans, that has survived from the days (upwards of 2,000 years ago?) when this whole area was clothed by forest not moor. That just blows my mind.

A search on the internet for other aspens in the vicinity threw up a mention by Mickleden Beck (about 4 km away) – but a quick reccy there this arvo drew a blank. (Although I did find a massive veteran alder right beside a huge holly… but that’s another story!)

The best of the autumn aspen colours.

Looking toward’s Thorpe’s Brow in the late afternoon golden sunlight.

The lower Ewden Valley – less wild, but still beautiful.

Posted in Gone for a walk

Autumn colours

Posted in Miscellany

Around Broomhead Reservoir

A couple of weekends ago I was down at Broomhead Reservoir, taking advantage of the low water level (though it isn’t as low as the neighbouring More Hall Reservoir) to see if I could find any remains of Broomhead Mill. I couldn’t.

In the foreground is the old course of the Ewden Beck, the river that flows into the reservoir. Normally this section is submerged beneath the waters of Broomhead, but while the reservoir is low the old channel gets to remember what it was like to once have been a river.

This old stump and dry stone wall are also normally submerged in the reservoir. The wall runs along the edge of a tiny valley where Allas Lane Dike, a small stream, once ran down to join Ewden Beck.

At the reservoir’s high water mark, a bit of erosion has exposed the roots of two trees. On the left, a common alder (Alnus glutinosa); on the right, an oak (either pedunculate or sessile).

Looking across the reservoir to the northern shore. The water surface was very calm, but it wasn’t quite still enough to produce a perfect mirror image of the trees over there.

As I stood gazing admiringly across the water, I heard a splash and automatically went for the camera. A fish had surfaced and triggered a series of ever increasing circles.

In a bit of woodland next to the reservoir I spotted a couple of huge brackets on a dead birch stem just as the light was beginning to fail.

They were: Piptoporus betulinus - razor strop or birch polypore.

Something – a woodpecker, I presume – had drilled a hole in the rotten stem, and wee flakes of dead wood had rained down upon both brackets. Nature’s brilliant, eh?

Posted in Gone for a walk

treeblog update: the Set A Scots pines; PSAUS; the Set D beeches (October 2011)

Scots pine Alpha.

For the first time since April (!), here’s an update on the progress of the two Set A Scots pines; I took the photos yesterday, 1,677 days or 4 years & 7 months since I planted them as seeds.

Scots pine Gamma.

Well aren’t they both doing well? Absolutely spiffingly, even if I do say so myself.

A closer look at the centrepiece of S.p. Alpha’s highest branch whorl. All of this has grown this year. One whorl a year with Scots pine saplings!

Here’s something novel for you: a bird’s eye view of Scots pine Alpha…

…and Scots pine Gamma. The size difference is just as apparent from above.

The PSAUS. It doesn’t look very healthy here, but that’s because autumn has removed most of its leaves. Its actually doing rather well, but could do with a bigger pot as a matter of some urgency.

The two Set D(b) European beeches are also making their first appearance since April. I planted these as nuts 760 days or 2 years & 1 month ago.

Beech Alpha. This seedling is the offspring of a cut- or fern-leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica var. Aspleniifolia) but it appears not to have inherited the cut-leaf characteristic. Booo!

Beech Beta. This seedling is the offspring of a normal European beech – as you can see it is identical to its nurserymate. Its mother is a fine specimen of a beech – a ‘plus tree’ – so I have high hopes for this fella.

* * * * *

Now for some quantification... The following table shows the approximate heights in centimetres for all five trees, measured yesterday. The heights of the Scots pines and PSAUS as recorded on the 19th of August 2009 are also included, along with respective height growth in the intervening period (expressed as percentages).

Tree Height
Aug 2009
Oct 2011
Height Increase
Scots pine Alpha 50 108 116%
Scots pine Gamma 30 73 143%
PSAUS 33 71 115%
European beech Alpha - 20 -
European beech Beta - 27 -

Posted in The treeblog trees

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