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aspen (Populus tremula)

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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

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