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Larix - the larches

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Summer in March: A walk on the moors

A couple of days ago I returned home from half a week on Mull & Iona, where I saw an enormous fossil tree… but that’s another post! The weather up there was for the most part dull and drizzly, and in Sheffield today it put down a few inches of late snow. Yet before I went away we had some incredible weather at home. It was like high summer, but in March…

Holt House, an abandoned farm on the other side of the Ewden valley, stands close to some quite old and fairly gnarly trees. In the foreground, Rhododendron ponticum is colonising the moorland – it has already claimed the valley side down to the river. It would be the mother of all nightmares to eradicate at this stage, and it gets worse every year.

Park Cote, the walled area, is on the same side of the valley as Holt House. With another abandoned building or two (they draw me in!), it’s been on my list of Places To Visit for a while now.

A typical Oaken Clough scene: a lovely, big, lichen-encrusted birch, plus rowan, more birch, bracken, moss, holly, heather, lichen-encrusted rocks, a wee burn… it’s paradise.

Birch.

A rowan in its prime leans out over Ewden Beck high up the valley. The river was very low; much of the riverbed was exposed and dry. This section is bare bedrock.

A close-up of one of the exposed stumps you sometimes stumble upon out on the moors, usually in groughs: relics from a time long ago when the moor was not a moor but a wood. The peat preserves the timber really well.

A larch rose in the making! I love larch roses. They can’t fail to put a smile on your face.

Holt House again, surrounded by mature sycamores. Today it’s just a deteriorating shell, but when I win the lottery (once I’ve started playing the lottery) I’ll do it up and turn it into treeblog HQ. That’s the dream!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Tall trees at Diana’s Grove, Blair Castle (with a note on Britain’s tallest trees)

A fantastic avenue of lime trees running towards Blair Castle from the front gates.

The day after I walked around the Hermitage at Dunkeld I climbed Cairn Gorm - my sixth Munro - on a beautifully clear but cold day, and the day after that I set off on the long drive home. My great Scottish excursion had just about come to an end, but I still had something left to look forward to in Blair Atholl.

In May 2008 I arrived at Blair Atholl station with a couple of friends from university. We’d caught the train from Edinburgh and were just setting off on five days of walking and camping, going to Aviemore via the Minigaig Pass, the Linn of Dee, Loch Etchachan, Loch Avon, and Glenmore. From the station we walked up past Blair Castle and entered a small wood called Diana’s Grove. An information board by the gate got me pretty excited. Under the heading ‘Some Notable Trees’, it listed ‘Tallest Japanese Larch in Great Britain’, ‘5th tallest Douglas Fir in Great Britain’ and ‘Tallest Red Fir in Great Britain’! We had only just started our hike, so didn’t hang about, but I remember being impressed by a grove of very tall conifers.

Three and half a years later and I was back. The same information board tells how Diana’s Grove was set out in 1737 and takes its name from the statue of the Roman goddess of hunting that stands there; that it is renowned for its exotic conifers; that some of the first European larch (Larix decidua) to be grown in Britain were planted there in the 1730s by the second Duke of Atholl; and that the seventh Duke introduced Japanese larch (Larix kaempferi) in 1884 and replanted much of the grove.

Many of the trees in the grove are numbered. On the left in this photo: No. 47 – a grand fir (Abies grandis), which was 62.7 metres tall with a diameter at breast height (dbh) of 180 cm when climbed by a team of arborists in February 2009, making it one of the tallest trees in Britain. Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland by Owen Johnson (The Tree Register Handbook – published 2011) gives the grand fir national champion for height as a tree at Ardkinglas, Argyll, which measured 64.3 m tall with a dbh of 210 cm in 2010 (it was planted in 1875).

On the right: No. 45 – a Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), now the tallest tree in Diana’s Grove. It measured 60 metres tall with a dbh of 131 cm in 2007 according to my Champion Trees, which lists the tallest Douglas fir in Britain as a 63.8 m tree with a dbh of 180 cm (measured in 2009) at Stronardron, Argyll.

Unfortunately a storm in March 2010 blew the top out of the grand fir. I think it still has a far more impressive trunk than the Douglas fir it now has to look up to.

The statue of Diana, Roman goddess of hunting. A small plaque on the plinth states that the original statue by John Cheere was erected by the second Duke of Atholl in 1737. It was replaced (by the seventh Duke) in 1893 after the ‘Great Storm’; the replacement was restored in 1997.

Champion Trees lists a giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) growing in Diana’s Grove, on a mound of earth called Mount Strange, as the national champion of its species for height; it was 54.5 m tall with a dbh of 151 cm in 2007. (A few days earlier in my trip I’d visited Britain’s widest conifer, another giant sequoia at Cluny House Gardens near Aberfeldy - Champion Trees lists that one as being just 41 m tall but having a massive dbh of 360 cm!) I did see the Mount Strange sequoia but I didn’t take a decent photo so you’ll have to make do with the mushroom.

According to an information board there, the Mount Strange tree was grown from seed collected from the Grizzly Giant, the largest redwood growing in the Mariposa Grove of Yosemite National Park, California. The mound on which it grows was reshaped in 1884 to match the diameter of the trunk of the parent tree (according to Wikipedia the Grizzly Giant has a dbh of 780 cm these days!) - it initially commemorated “the 2nd Duke of Atholl taking his seat in parliament. He had recently inherited the title Barony of Strange through his paternal grandmother and went under this to parliament in 1737, the year in which Diana’s Grove was originally laid out.”

Of the red fir (Abies magnifica), which I don’t believe I could find, Champion Trees lists the Diana’s Grove tree as being 41 metres tall with a dbh of 163 cm in 2007 (and gives its date of planting as 1878). It is the red fir national champion for girth, but there is a taller red fir listed at Dunkeld House (43 m tall with a dbh of 127 cm when measured in 2007).

This is the national champion Japanese larch for height. According to Champion Trees it was planted in 1886, and in 2007 was measured at 44 m tall with a dbh of 97 cm. There is, however, a Japanese larch with a greater girth at Barton House, Warwickshire – that tree is listed as having a dbh of 115 cm in 2007.

This excellent noble fir (Abies procera) was growing in the castle grounds outside of Diana’s grove. It’s neither the tallest nor the broadest of its species, but it is nevertheless an imposing beast.

Fungi growing from the base of one the limes on the grand avenue.

In my last post I wrote that the tallest tree in Britain was the Stronardron Douglas fir near Dunans Castle, Argyll, which was measured by a team of tree surgeons in February 2009 and found to be 63.79 m tall. You may however have noticed that in this post I have mentioned a 64.3 metre tall grand fir at Ardkinglas, Argyll, but this tree was measured more recently, in 2010. Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland was only published last year, and it is a definitive guide (and well worth investing in). I give it the last word:

The Ardkinglas grand fir grows in a fairly exposed spot beside Loch Fyne and, since 1991, has died back twice but regrown vigorously. In April 2010, it was climbed by a team of tree surgeons led by Iain Campbell Duncan and found to be 64.3 m tall. Its closest rival was a Douglas fir at Stronardron, Argyll, which was climbed in 2009 and was 63.8 m tall (and growing steadily); a Douglas fir of identical height at Lake Vyrnwy, Powys, split and was felled in 2011. Heights of 64 m have been claimed for ‘Dughal Mor’, a Douglas fir in Reelig Glen Wood near Inverness, Highland, but it is probably nearer 62 m. Another Douglas fir at the Hermitage, Dunkeld, Perthshire, grows on the steep bank of the Braan burn and is 65 m from its tip to the lowest exposed roots, but only 61.3 m to the ground on the top side when climbed in 2009.

The best trees in several stands of Douglas fir and grand fir in Snowdonia, planted by the Forestry Commission from 1919, passed 60 m around 2005 and seem likely, within a few more years, to provide all of our tallest trees.

…And that, I promise, was the last post from my November trip!


Posted in Holidays and field trips + Notable trees





Woodland restructuring at Langsett Reservoir

Four weeks ago I went for a walk to Mickleden Beck to see what kind of trees grew there; I’d heard a rumour of aspen. My route took me past Langsett Reservoir, where some pretty big changes have been taking place over the last year or two. Much of the conifer plantation on the south-west side of the reservoir has been clearfelled and subsequently replanted with native species.

According to an information board erected by the owners, Yorkshire Water, the woods are being restructured as part of the East Midlands Woodland Bird Project:

Planted in 1962, comprising approximately 25 hectares of coniferous woodland, the North America plantation including Delf Edge and Mauk Royd is being managed to help native woodland birds… We’re felling most of the coniferous trees whilst saving and protecting key native trees. The area will be re planted with oak and birch trees to develop new upland oak woodland, with woody shrubs like hazel, blackthorn, alder, willow and rowan.

I wrote a post here about the same time last year, while the conifers were still being felled.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the new woodland develops!

Larch. Whether European, Japanese or Dunkeld (hybrid), I wouldn’t like to say. I am not confident telling the three apart.

I failed to find any aspen at Mickleden Beck, but I didn’t search for long. What I did find was this incredible veteran alder (Alnus glutinosa) growing beside the stream. It is truly ancient, and is perhaps an old pollard. And keeping it company through the years is an ancient holly (Ilex aquifolium)! Both trees were in shade by the time I got to them, so I didn’t get any great photos – but I’ll be back!

On the return leg, Langsett Reservoir and the surrounding moors were lit by the late afternoon autumn sunlight.

That’s Hartcliff Hill in the distance there.

A peaceful pool on Midhope Moors. I hope those clouds lend some symmetry!

The reservoir was still illuminated as the day slid into twilight.

A lonely, half-dead birch that had once grown amongst the conifers has been left standing after all the felling. It’s in a bad way, but it is possible that next year it will produce seed and its offspring will be a part of the new wood. The three bracket fungi are Piptoporus betulinus – razor strop or birch polypore.

The birch has managed to outlive the conifers that suppressed it all its life, but for how much longer?

Langsett Reservoir at dusk.


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This month’s Festival of the Trees is hosted by Georgia at local ecologist. There are a ton of great links, as always – something is bound to pique your interest!


Posted in Gone for a walk + Notable trees





Macro monochromes from around Whitwell Moor

Taken August 3rd.

Larch cone.

Larch cascade.

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) bark.

Beech (Fagus sylvatica) leaf.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) berries.


Posted in Gone for a walk





A summery walk in spring (Part One)

As evident from the buds on this tree, the local hawthorns (Crataegus monogyna) are primed and ready to explode into flower. Driving back to Yorkshire from Wales on Easter Monday, I saw plenty of hawthorns further south that were already white with blossom.

The ashes (Fraxinus excelsior) are in flower at the moment. The structures in this photograph are female inflorescences; I could see no male flowers on this tree. Apparently ashes can be monoecious or dioecious, but dioecious individuals are rather more common.

The bilberry bushes (Vaccinium myrtillus) were also covered with flowers. The new leaves are such a vivid green – they really liven up Whitwell Moor.

Seen on a larch (Larix decidua): something caught half-way between being a flower (larch rose) and a cone.

I saw lots of beeches (Fagus sylvatica) in full leaf; I also saw plenty that still looked bare, like this one on the edge of Millstones Wood.

A closer look shows that it has at least begun to adorn itself in greenery, and reveals that the tree is actually in flower. There are both male and female flowers in this photograph.

Poking up through the leaf litter: a wee rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) seedling.


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This post is continued in 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.

Oak.

Beech.

Larch.

Whitwell Moor.


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Snow, beautiful snow (Part One)


Posted in Gone for a walk





Hallowe’en (Part Three)

An ash (Fraxinus excelsior) with interesting feet. This may be a tree that has been coppiced (by man or by nature) in the past to leave a great, gnarly stool; while the two stems are not that old (half a century or more?), the stool and roots could be many times older. It is growing on a slope just above a steep drop into a river - years of soil creeping down the hill and falling over the edge have probably given rise to the stool’s exposed position.

This larch rose has me bamboozled. It’s either really late or really early (larch roses come out in the springtime). Maybe when all of its friends started to turn into cones, its development was somehow suspended.

This is one bombed-out wreck of a tree. The trunk is extremely rotten and, as you can see, not all there. Yet this ash still lives – see those branches at the top of the photograph!

On larch (Larix).

This little brook in Crookland Wood joins the Porter or Little Don River just above Brook House Bridge. I can’t find this short section named on any map, but the three tributaries that combine to form it are Hagg Brook, Kiln Bank Brook and Badger Lane Brook. It is probably one of those, although much of the water came cascading out of a mysterious stone culvert.



While I can’t recall ever seeing this stream before, I’ve certainly heard it. No wonder it’s so noisy – thing’s full of little waterfalls.


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Hallowe’en (Part One)
Hallowe’en (Part Two)

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Have a look at this new blog written by a British ex-pat living in France and managing his own woodland: My French Forest. There aren’t many posts up yet but it is an interesting read from someone who has obviously got a lot of experience.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Hallowe'en (Part One)

After a night in town dressed as a zombie steel-pirate, I required a dose of fresh air to purify my brain. There’s an old barn I found photographs of on Flickr that I’ve been wanting to visit for a couple of weeks now, so that’s where I headed: Swinden Barn. It was a very foggy day.

My eyes were drawn by a young field maple (Acer campestre) standing out from the misty gloom with an impressive display of yellow autumn leaves.

This auld track goes by the name of Badger Lane. It is home to a rather haphazard avenue of oak trees.

Each cobweb drooped under the weight of a thousand tiny jewels.

Part of Badger Lane is lined with some really strange trees that look as though, at some point in the dim and distant past, they were trained to become a hedgerow. But these trees aren’t the species to make a hedgerow: downy birch (Betula pubescens), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). What is the story here?

This sycamore grows immediately to the right of the one in the previous photo. They might well be the same tree. Viewed as a whole, it is one long tree.

Swinden Barn. It is the only remaining building of Swinden Farm, which was apparently occupied until the 1930s or 1950s and demolished in 1991. The barn is in good condition. It’s hard to see from my photograph, but the end wall on the left shows that a smaller building was once attached to it. The end wall on the right, which cannot be seen at all in my photograph was very interesting in that it is covered with another wall built of uncut stone in the style of a dry stone wall. It didn’t look as though this was once the end wall of another building, so what was it built for? Another wall close by the barn has stone shelves built into it. A very interesting place indeed – how I wish I could see how the place looked when the whole farm was there (working time machine required). From the Peak District National Park Education Website:

Farms in the water catchment area of the reservoirs were seen as a danger to the purity of the water… The water catchment area was ‘sterilised’ by eliminating any cattle from the land around. Sheffield Corporation Waterworks therefore allowed a policy of depopulation of the farmed land around the reservoirs to control pollution of the water catchment area.

In the Swinden area, (whose name Swine Dean meant the wooded area where pigs foraged for acorns) there were five farms which all fell into decay. Swinden Farm was the last to be abandoned and was lived in until the 1930s.

[To put all this into context, the nearby Langsett Reservoir is the one that necessitated the depopulation of these farms. Work on the reservoir started in 1889 and it was completed in 1904. Another of the five depopulated farms is North America Farm, which I have been to loads of times; I don’t know anything of the other three.]


In this part of the woods fallen larch needles had coloured the floor a strange butterscotch hue. This photo doesn’t do it justice.

After descending down a steep slope I was pleasantly surprised to come out on the banks of the Little Don River, only a few hundred metres upstream of… (To be continued).


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Hallowe’en (Part Two)
Hallowe’en (Part Three)


Posted in Gone for a walk





Cone and eggs

A not-yet-fully-developed European larch (Larix decidua) cone.

A bird’s nest sits about head height in a burnt Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris). Are those blackbird (Turdus merula) eggs?

Photographs taken on the 20th of June.


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This month’s Festival of the Trees is hosted by Yvonne of The Organic Writer. FOTT #49: go read!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Spring and decay (24th April 2010)

A European larch (Larix decidua) female flower. The larch roses have arrived later than they did last year, but they were out in force last weekend when I went to check on the progress of the Set A grey alders.

A mature birch polypore a.k.a. razor strop (Piptoporus betulinus) bracket on a fallen downy birch (Betula pubescens). Razor strop fruiting bodies are annual; this is one of 2009’s.

Wee mushrooms growing on another fallen birch.

A gnarly, lichen-encrusted rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) twig with unfurling leaves.

A pair of sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) seedlings growing in the fork of a mature sycamore.


Posted in Gone for a walk





An early spring wander (21st March 2010) (Part Two)

A dead and rotting birch (Betula). I think the little bracket fungi you may be able to make out are birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus), but they’re pretty poor attempts at fruiting bodies.

This picture is classic Millstones Wood through and through: all rocks and twisty beeches.

This particular beech (Fagus sylvatica) has a splendidly green trunk thanks to a coating of enthusiastic leprose lichen.

I rediscovered this larch (Larix, probs decidua) wound. It hasn’t changed much since the last time I remember seeing it, on the 3rd of January 2008. I first saw the wound on the 4th of April 2007 when it was still very fresh.

Blue sky, shadows, Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), rocks, and bilberry. What more could you want?

This dead branch reminded me of the chair in ‘Jacob’s’ cabin…

I suppose that to most people this is just a photo of a dirt floor - or more precisely, a photo of a woodland floor covered in old pine needles and bits of pine cone. But I hold a sort of weird fascination for this shining gold-silver pattern.

At one end of Millstones Wood, before it peters out into a grassy, trig-point-topped Salter hill, there grow a few stunted Scots pines and larches. Over the stone wall on the right of this photo there is a field full of gorse (Ulex europaeus) that has recently been completely burned, presumably with a view to control / eradicate it. Whether purposefully or accidentally, the fire spread over the wall where it destroyed several of the stunted pines and seriously singed a few more.

This poor pine is like one giant piece of charcoal now.

Pine cone. Victim.


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Early this morning, under the cover of fog, treeblog history was made: grey alders Nos. 2 & 3 were released into the wild in a special covert op! Parts 3 & 4 of Operation Alder shall commence next weekend, all being well, and after that I shall produce a post detailing the daring exploits of these guerrilla plantings!


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The April 2010 edition – #46 – of the Festival of the Trees is now up at Vanessa’s Trees and Shrubs Blog. Go and drink your fill of this monthly pleasure!


Posted in Gone for a walk + The treeblog trees





BudWatch (21st March 2010)

I went out for a wander on Sunday and was slightly disappointed to see such little springly progress from the buds on the locally-growing deciduous trees.

Hazel (Corylus avellana) buds and catkins. The catkins – some folks know them as lambs’ tails – are made up of male flowers. A female flower is hiding in the upper-centre of this photo.

Birch (probably downy birch, Betula pubescens).

English oak (Quercus robur). I’ve noticed that the terminal buds are often flanked by a pair of smaller buds, although the terminal bud in this photo has lost one of its two buddies. (It’s the Lonely Oak!)

Larch (probably European larch, Larix decidua) pegs and a ‘bud’ of some sort – maybe a flower very early on in development? I was very disappointed to find that there were no larch roses on this tree at all; this time last year they were out in force!

Goat willow (Salix caprea). On some of the trees catkins were already forming! I noticed that the buds on the trees with catkins were a light green while the trees without catkins had reddish buds (as in the above photo). Is this a way to tell the male trees from the female trees?

Common alder (Alnus glutinosa). Distinctively purply-velvety buds.

Hawthorn (probably the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna).

Here’s a wee hawthorn story: I was at college today, being taught how to use Tirfor winches in the context of stump removal. It is an agricultural college, and someone in the equestrian section pointlessly wanted a small section of hawthorn hedge, about five metres long, removing from a little patch of grass next to the stables. It was the remnant of a hedgerow that was mostly destroyed when the stables were built – a hedgerow probably laid down hundreds of years ago. Our instructor, an arboricultural legend (who shares my view that it is a great shame to get rid of something planted so long ago), reckoned it probably dated from the mid-eighteenth century, perhaps from medieval times; possibly, if it was Midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata), it may have dated from as far back as the tenth century! The roots were certainly grand old things.

European beech (Fagus sylvatica). The buds are easily identified with their long and pointy ways. ‘Cigar-shaped’, some say.

Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa). Unassuming, eh?

And of the buds of other locally-growing tree species that I saw up close but are MIA from this post… Common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) buds showed no signs of opening yet, sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) buds were green and swelling, and elder (Sambucus nigra) – I saw a couple of elders with closed buds but one growing on a south-facing slope was covered in tiny green leaves, yippee!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Exploded larch 2010

On Saturday I returned to Derwent Dam to check on the state of the exploded larch I discovered a year ago. Not a lot has changed.





Only fifty metres or so away up the hill was another toppled larch that I didn’t notice last year. This one didn’t look as if its demise was as explosive as the other; more of a folding than an exploding. Both prostrate trees are aligned in more or less the same direction: pointing uphill (south-east, I think). I reckon it most likely that they were just blown over in strong winds, perhaps even on the same day.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Exploded larch

On the 28th of February 2009 – over a year ago! – I went for a walk around the Derwent and Howden Reservoirs. I saw something in a plantation on the hillside: it was an exploded larch.

Explosivo!



Treeoxyribonucleic acid.


Posted in Gone for a walk





In the evening sun (20th February 2010)

I like the summ— miss the summer

After finding the way… Millstones Wood in the evening sun.

In the evening sun: the beast of a beech and friends.

In the evening sun: a larch and a beech.

In the evening sun: an oak and a beech.

In the evening sun: Scots pine and beech; and in the foreground, mounds of dead bracken.

In the evening sun: beech (Fagus sylvatica) bark.

In the evening sun: a close look at part of a giant burr on an English oak (Quercus robur).

In the evening sun: the mighty mega-burr in all its tree-consuming glory!

In the evening sun
In the evening sun
In the evening sun


Posted in Gone for a walk





Finding a way (20th February 2010)

Hawthorn (Crataegus, probably monogyna).

Not much snow on Ewden Height.

Snow on a rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) branch.

Linear shadows cast by a cluster of stick-like junior rowans growing around the trunk of their parent.

A stunted larch (Larix, probably decidua) surrounded by rowan saplings. This part of the moor is fenced off, presumably to prevent sheep grazing and thus promote tree regeneration (although one sheep had somehow gotten into the enclosure). Aside from this larch, the trees were mostly young rowans (berries, dispersed by birds), with several birches (tiny seeds, wind-dispersed). I also saw a holly (berries, dispersed by birds) and an oak (acorns, ???!).

This picture brought to you by the nineteenth century. Well, it could be!

Hey Paul, your hat’s falling off. That’s Millstones Wood in the background.

A wee lichen growing on a wee hawthorn. None of the buds on the trees I saw yesterday were showing signs of opening just yet. Give it a month…


Posted in Gone for a walk





Five favourite photos from 2009

A few weeks ago I had a look back through the photos that have appeared on treeblog over the last year and picked out my favourites. Then I agonised over whittling them down to a final five – my five favourite treeblog photos from 2009.

22nd January 2009 The Lonely Oak on Whitwell Moor at sunset. The Lonely Oak, an English or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), is very probably the tree that I have photographed the most and very probably the tree that has appeared most on treeblog (excluding those that I’ve planted myself). It stands within a half-hour walk of my house, on one of my favoured walking routes; it has tons of character; and it is highly photogenic: it’s the Lonely Oak. This photo originally appeared in the 32nd edition of the Festival of the Trees (February 2009).

2nd February 2009 We received a pretty heavy snowfall at the beginning of last February. This was the first decent amount of snow we’d had in ages so I went on a walk to make the most of it. Out in the fields, the snow was drifting behind the walls. Walking along a footpath hidden beneath this drift, I was ploughing through waist-high snow in places. It was either that or slide down a gorse-covered hill! The wind blowing through the gaps in the dry stone wall was sculpting fantastic shapes… Millstones Wood can be seen in the left half of the background.

21st March 2009 Larch flowers – probably European larch (Larix decidua). The one on the right is a female flower, known colloquially as larch roses – they take a year to ripen into seed-containing cones. (The flower on the left is too undeveloped for me to tell whether it’s a male or female.) I find it quite humbling to think that that last spring was the first time I ever came across these beautiful little flowers. How did I ever manage to miss them before? Spring 2009 was a fantastic spring - loads of surprisingly warm days with amazing clear blue skies. I was regularly out and about making personal discoveries in the shape of alder catkins, hazel, goat willow, and, of course, larch roses. Saturday the 21st of March was one of those glorious halcyon days.

24th May 2009 The 24th of May was a beautiful day in early summer and I went out for a ride on the pushbike. I was cycling down a firebreak in a conifer plantation next to Langsett Reservoir when I spotted this perfect dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) clock almost glowing in the late afternoon sunlight as it filtered weakly through the trees.

12th September 2009 This whopping great fungus was growing from the base of a Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in Millstones Wood. I didn’t know what species it was at the time, but I now think it’s chicken of the woods (Laetiporus sulphureus). [Update (July 2010): Wrong! It’s a dyer’s mazegill (Phaeolus schweinitzii).] I took this photograph on a walk with my dad one lovely day at the end of summer. My main aim for the walk was to collect rowan berries - which are scheduled to be planted as treeblog Set D(r) this March - but it also took in Pike Lowe, Ewden Force, and some incredible moorland along the way. Perfect.


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You may also be interested in…
Five favourite photos from 2007 & Five favourite photos from 2008


Posted in Miscellany





A wintry walk through the woods (Part 1)

The Long Lane ash. Have a look at it in early October and late November 2008 and early February and late May of this year. I’ve somehow started keeping a record of this tree.

There was a bit of snow put down before the weekend, so I went for a walk up to Millstones Wood yesterday afternoon to partake of the wintry atmosphere. It was biting cold and as I walked up Long Lane I was stung by flurrying microsnow. Once inside the wood, the snow eased off but the temperature fell even lower. It was proper Baltic. The ground was dusted with frozen snow and the footing was alternately slippery then crunchy. A robin flew across my path without stopping to say hello. I climbed partway up a reclining tree, but away from the warmth of a fleecy sleeve my fingers quickly protested the intense cold.

As I neared the other end of the wood more flakes began to fall.

Millstones Wood. Many of the beeches are rendered a vivid green by coatings of leprose lichen.

Leaning larches.

A wee spring that oozes out of the ground beside a large beech was frozen solid. An icy waterfall in miniature.

Almost every tree in this part of the wood is a European beech (Fagus sylvatica).

The frozen floor: twigs, beech leaves and snow.

An evergreen Scots pine breaks up the monotony of bare branches.

This afternoon it snowed again, and really went for it. There’s now a proper covering down. If it snows again in the night and recovers the roads, there is a chance that tomorrow won’t find me at work. It’ll find me roaming abroad with a grin on my face.


Posted in Gone for a walk





A late autumn’s afternoon wander (Part 2)

Autumnal larch (Larix decidua) needles.

Photos taken on Sunday the 15th of November.

To Whitwell Moor…

Could this be… a golden chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius)? Y-yes?

Mycological bird-bath.

These are immature amethyst deceivers (Laccaria amethystea). I know they are because I overhead some people in the woods say they were .

A Malus fruit – perhaps a small crab apple? Aah, Millstones Wood – you and your mysterious Maluses!

The Lonely Oak, looking all apocalyptic and stuff. Yeah, but not really. It’s a fake. A fraud. A Photoshop phoney. The sky just wasn’t red at all.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Autumn in Millstones Wood

A beech (Fagus sylvatica) in Millstones Wood. Big in real life, small in this photo.

You hear a lot of people saying how autumn is their favourite season; how nice the leaves look when they’re red and orange and gold. Well, my favourite season is summer. Autumn always feels sort of sad to me. All the good weather, all those hot summer days… those precious few months when all of the countryside is really alive… they’re history once autumn rolls round. Autumn, when all the while winter looms on the horizon. It’s depressing to think how far away spring waits.

I might have just made my outlook sound entirely bleak, but it isn’t really. A heavy snowfall will redeem a whole winter, and autumn does have a certain melancholic charm. And of course I understand the yearly cycle and appreciate its inevitability. But I can’t dream of a better fantasy than one perfect, eternal summer.

Photos taken on Saturday the 31st of October.

A large part of the wood is dominated by beech. Beech leaves decompose a lot more slowly than those of many of the other broadleaved species in Britain. That might be the main reason why the floors of beechwoods have relatively little vegetation compared with other flavours of woodland.

The sky was overcast so the light in the wood wasn’t very good. An old post has some photos that I took on a wander in nicer weather in October 2008 if you’re into that kind of thing.

Is it a beech tree? Is it a space tentacle?

A lovely beech.

A mushroom growing in a patch of bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). I reckon it belongs to the same species as the mushrooms in the previous post, but that doesn’t help matters seeing how I dinnae know what bloody species they are.

Eurolarch (Larix decidua): the best non-native, naturalised, deciduous conifer going.

A beech leaf glows orange beneath a wee pool in the crook of a bough-trunk juncture.


* * * * *

The forty-first edition of the Festival of the Trees is over at Blog do Árvores Vivas. Go read!


Posted in Gone for a walk





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