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Autumn at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Autumn is once again a receding memory, growing dimmer everyday as we continue the inexorable slide into the darkest depths of winter… But try hard enough and it’s still possible to cast our minds back to a time when the trees still had leaves; when warm shades of gold, orange and red coloured the landscape; when the mercury didn’t sit so low in the thermometer.

I moved up to Edinburgh from Sheffield at the end of September. (I lived here for the best part of four years previously, while I studied ecological science at the University of Edinburgh.) My flat is no more than a ten minute walk from the outstanding botanic gardens, which are one of my favourite things about living here. I paid the gardens three visits with my camera in one week soon after I moved in. How about some autumnal photographs then?


28th September 2013

This towering deodar (Cedrus deodara) grows close to the East Gate. It is a beautiful and imposing tree, one of the finest in the gardens.

Looking up into the hefty crown of the deodar - how many branches? How many growth points? What tonnage of timber?

A neighbouring big, old sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) seems sadly to be in serious decline. The tree was rather sparsely foliated at the time of this visit, but at that point in the autumn natural leaf loss would have been premature. It’s a shame because it’s another fine tree. A major branch has a few old wounds on it, one of which sported a nice bit of fungus. It’ll be interesting to see how the tree looks in spring.

I came across these Pholiota squarrosa mushrooms growing at the base of a big European beech (Fagus sylvatica). They were also growing around the base of a nearby heartnut, a variant of the Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia var. cordiformis). P. squarrosa is a parasitic white-rot fungus that attacks a wide range of host trees.

This mushroom was growing under a pine tree… …along with its wee pal.

This dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) in the Chinese Hillside part of the gardens was positively radiant. The needles - here so vibrantly illuminated - are now long gone, this being a deciduous species.


29th September 2013

This oak really stood out from the crowd!

A nice cider gum (Eucalyptus gunnii) growing in front of the 1960s glasshouses. At least this tree will keep its leaves all winter long.


3rd October 2013

Autumnal maple leaves.

On this visit I was quite keen to get some photos of the mushroom population. There weren’t so many of a big enough size to stand out as I strolled along, but if I just stopped for a moment to study the mulch that surrounds the base of every tree, there were far more mushrooms to be seen than most people would have realised. Perhaps these are waxcaps of some sort?

The distinctive spiny cupules of sweet chestnut. Apparently the nuts can’t attain their full size in the British climate, so the roasting chestnuts that appear in the shops for winter are imported from the continent. I had a bag of roast chestnuts at Edinburgh’s European Christmas Market last week – they were enormous and very tasty!

I’m fairly sure this is a hare’s foot inkcap (Coprinus lagopus). This mushroom is quite interesting; according to Wikipedia, “As the mushroom matures, the shape of the cap becomes more conical or convex, and finally flattens out, with edges curved upward. The veil is initially whitish, then turns to a silvery grey or grey-brown; it eventually splits up, becoming hairy (fibrillose). ... In maturity the gill edges dissolve (deliquesce) into a black liquid. These mushrooms are evanescent, lasting only last a few hours before death…”


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Britain’s widest conifer, a giant redwood, at Cluny House Gardens

Britain’s widest conifer.

After I’d been around the Birks o’ Aberfeldy, I drove to the nearby Cluny House Gardens because I’d recently heard that Britain’s biggest-girthed conifer grows there…

…and I wasn’t disappointed. What an impressive tree it is! Not only is the trunk massively massive, it also reaches some pretty lofty heights. This champion tree is, surprise surprise, a giant redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) a.k.a. a Sierra redwood or giant sequoia or Wellingtonia. An information board in front of the tree informs the eager tourist:

A Perthshire plant collector, John D Matthew, introduced Giant Sequoias into the country from California, in 1853. The two Cluny trees were planted around this time possibly from the original seed collection. This magnificent specimen stands at around 45 m (135 feet) in height, has a girth of 11 m (35 feet) and is the widest conifer in Britain.

Giant Sequoias are very fast growing averaging 0.75 m (2 feet) per year in height until they reach a height of about 60 m (200 feet). Vertical growth then slows down but growth of the trunk continues at a rate of 50-70 mm (2-3 inches) a year sometimes as much as 150 mm (6 inches) annually.

The woody cones are 50-100 mm (2-4 inches) long and roughly spherical reaching full-size in the first year but maturing in their second. They can remain on the tree for over 20 years. In their native woodlands in California, forest fires are necessary to open the cones while they remain on the tree. The heat releases the seed which falls and germinates in the ash. The trees themselves are protected from fire by a very thick fissured layer of soft bark up to 300 mm (12 inches) thick.

A bit of zoom to peer into the canopy.

This is the massive tree at ground level with a human scale. It’s much more impressive in real life. The Tree Register’s excellent handbook, Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland by Owen Johnson, lists the tree as having a diameter at breast height (1.4 m) (dbh) of 360 cm and a height of 41 m in 2009. By comparison, the largest tree in the world (by stem volume) is the giant redwood General Sherman in California – Wikipedia records it as being 83.8 m tall with a maximum basal diameter of 1,110 cm and a dbh of 770 cm – therefore it is more than twice as tall and twice as thick as the British girth champ. There are even taller sequoias - the tallest is 95 m! - and even wider sequoias - General Grant has a dbh of 880 cm! (Wikipedia’s Sequoiadendron page has all the stats.)

A visitor to Cluny House Gardens is bound to see red squirrels. There is a feeder beside the redwood, and while I was marvelling at the tree one of the little fellas was eating its fill. This was my first opportunity to observe red squirrels up close – although I couldn’t class them as ‘being in the wild’. The info board next to the tree says that they have been seen just 2 metres from the top!

The Gardens have a relaxed vibe to them. Mind you, I was the only visitor in there! You can borrow a walking stick as you enter (free entry when I visited, but there’s a donation box), and one of the first things you see is a sign asking you to PLEASE WALK ON THE LAWN - I knew straight away this was a cool place.

There is a second giant redwood, although it isn’t quite as big as its buddy. My Champion Trees of Britain & Ireland gives its height as 33 m and its dbh as 331 cm (although it seemed to me there wasn’t much between the two redwoods’ heights).

This is where the second giant meets the grounds. Incredible.

Looking up at the No. 2 redwood. What a fantastic tree!

Here’s one of the cones. I’d love to collect some seed one day and grow my own redwoods.

Under the second redwood, a delicate mushroom: could it be a pink waxcap (Hygrocybe calyptriformis)? But then wouldn’t it have a split cap, or is this just a young specimen?


Posted in Holidays and field trips + Notable trees   |  4 comments





The Birks o’ Aberfeldy

Moness Burn.

I recently spent a fantastic week on my own in Scotland making pilgrimages to big trees and climbing a couple of Munros. At the beginning of my week I walked around the Birks of Aberfeldy on a rather dank and overcast day. The Birks is a small, wooded valley through which flows the Moness Burn. It was originally known as the Den of Moness but the name was changed after Robert Burns visited and wrote the song ’The Birks of Aberfeldy’ in 1787 (‘birks’ is Scots for ‘birches’).

This is a European beech (Fagus sylvatica), although you can’t tell from the moss-covered trunk. Down here in the countryside on the edge of the Peak District, beech trees have beautiful silvery trunks more or less free of moss and lichen. I know our trees would probably have been dripping with lichens before the Industrial Revolution, but I reckon a beechwood is better-looking with its silverware on display.

A statue of Rabbie has been seated by the burn. Someone had attached a Remembrance Day poppy to his lapel.

An oak leaf amongst beech leaves.

I passed a few small waterfalls as I walked up the valley. There was a fair bit of water going over them – it had rained like billyo in the night.

The waterfall on the left drops into the burn just upstream of a wee gorge.

It’s funny how this oak burr is made up of segments that are trying to be hexagonal, as if it has formed like a big, wooden crystal. It kind of looks a bit like a turtle-shell.

Another oak tree – an overgrown coppice.

Eventually I reached the big waterfall, the star attraction of the Birks. This photo doesn’t really do justice to its size and power, but I assure you it was quite impressive in the flesh. There’s a really tall Scots pine growing from the bottom of the braes – you can see part of the trunk running up the left of the photo.

A footbridge over the top of the fall allows for a closer look at the action and the opportunity to walk back down the valley on the other side of the river.

The oaks in their winter coats of lichen really stood out from the bare birks.

A giant old stump exhibited fantastical patterning and had pretty groovy colouration to boot.

Abstract.

If you’re going to encircle a young tree with a metal bench, the tree would probably appreciate if you removed it before… this.


The Birks of Aberfeldy, by Robert Burns

Chorus:
Bonie lassie, will ye go,
Will ye go, will ye go;
Bonie lassie, will ye go
To the birks of Aberfeldy.

Now Simmer blinks on flowery braes,
And o'er the crystal streamlets plays;
Come let us spend the lightsome days,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]

While o'er their heads the hazels hing,
The little birdies blythely sing,
Or lightly flit on wanton wing,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]

The braes ascend like lofty wa's,
The foaming stream deep-roaring fa's,
O'erhung wi' fragrant spreading shaws-
The birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]

The hoary cliffs are crown'd wi' flowers,
White o'er the linns the burnie pours,
And rising, weets wi' misty showers
The birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]

Let Fortune's gifts at random flee,
They ne'er shall draw a wish frae me;
Supremely blest wi' love and thee,
In the birks of Aberfeldy.

[Chorus]


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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.


* * * * *

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!


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Autumn colours






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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.


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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.


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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.


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Autumn colours and Ogden’s Folly at More Hall Reservoir

For whatever reason, the level of water in More Hall Reservoir is currently very low indeed. Lower, even, than it was in January.

I walked all the way around the reservoir in January, on land normally submerged beneath the waters, hunting for a mysterious sign labelled “Ogden’s Folly” which had been the subject of a letter to the local newspaper.

I didn’t manage to find it in January, and a few weeks later the reservoir had filled up again. This week a commenter reminded me of the sign and I went down to have another look on Friday afternoon.

This time I found it! Ogden’s Folly. I suppose the story must go that a chap named Ogden was fishing at this spot, which is on the edge of a sudden, steep drop. The level of the water must have been such that the drop-off was obscured, and Ogden mistakenly assumed that the ground continued to slope gently. When he took a step forward he plunged into the reservoir, and some joker subsequently erected this little sign to immortalise the incident. And by coincidence, an hour later I found a nearby bench looking out over the reservoir that is dedicated to the memory of a Harry Ogden, Founder Member of the Morehall Fly Fishing Club. That’s some nice closure to my hunt.

One of many old stumps usually hidden beneath the waters - ghosts of trees that once lived a happy life by a charming brook.

The receded water level has encouraged lots of new plant growth. This little alder (Alnus glutinosa) was in the company of many alder, birch and willow seedlings and saplings. Any idea what these daisy-like flowers are?

A willow, one a of a pair that grow in the edge of the reservoir.

This is the other. As you can tell by the tide mark on the trunk, these willows are submerged by two or three feet when the reservoir is at capacity.

Stumps and desolation. It’s hard to imagine that before the reservoir was built this section of the river would have been a rural beauty.

The vibrant autumn colours were striking. I wonder if the angler had any success?


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Mushrooms of Langsett (Part Two)

…Continued from Part the First.

The black patches on this sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) leaf, known as tar spots, are the fungus Rhytisma acerinum. Those clusters of red spots are galls caused by the mite Aceria macrorhynchus. Neither have any significant impact on the host tree.

A razor strop or birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) juts from a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens).

An immature fungal fruit body begins to emerge from the soil. Maybe an Amanita?

?????

As above.

I’m fairly sure this is a Suillus something - perhaps a dried-out slippery jack (S. luteus)?

Another Leccinum, but which one? There is so much variation within the different species, I just can never say with any certainty. Could this be a blushing bolete (L. roseofractum)?

Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) and a dry stone wall – a lovely combination. At this time of year the hawthorns are covered in little red fruits called haws. I suppose you could make a jam from these (edit: of course you can!).

Looking up into the rather open crown of the same hawthorn (or one of its neighbours).


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Mushrooms of Langsett (Part One)

I paid a visit to the woods around Langsett Reservoir yesterday to have a play with my new toy, a Nikon D5100 SLR. I knew there’d be plenty of fungi around and I wasn’t disappointed!

I’ve never seen one of these before. I’m by no means confident I’ve identified it correctly but Cystolepiota seminuda is my best guess.

Here’s a typical scene in the part of the woods where I first set about hunting for mushrooms. It’s Scots pine and spruce plantation, with the odd broadleaf chucked in, probably planted in the early 1960s. There were mushrooms about but I didn’t see nearly as many as when I later moved into a mainly broadleaved, birch-dominated part of the woods.

A spruce cone on a conifer stump left behind after thinning. Some small mammal has been making a meal out of it - probably a squirrel (a mouse would have made a neater job and chosen a more secluded place to have its dinner). Whoever was eating it was disturbed (by me?) before the cone could be fully stripped.

Leaving the plantation behind, a cluster of poppies made for a nice juxtaposition.

The birch-dominated part of the woods was also a conifer plantation in the not too distant past, judging by the old stumps everywhere. Native broadleaved species such as downy birch (Betula pubescens) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) have quickly colonised the area, and mushrooms were in abundance!

A couple of small mushrooms at the mossy feet of a young rowan.

An unfortunate incident has befallen this mushroom, providing the opportunity for a good look at its pore tubes.

This spiky little ball definitely belongs in the genus Lycoperdon. I’m fairly sure it’s a L. echinatum.


Continued in Part the Second...


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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.


* * * * *

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

* * * * *

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.


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Hallowe’en (Part Two)

Continued from Part One

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 Brook House Bridge, a place I have been many times before. But I have never been here. The river at the bridge is a lovely stretch, well known to the picnicker and the paddler and always busy with families on a hot summer’s day. The place I discovered on Hallowe’en is just a short walk upriver but it’s a different world; one that I suspect (and hope) doesn’t get so many visitors. This was a world that reminded me of Scotland: a fine river with great stony deposits, meandering through the mist, sharing the valley with heather, bracken and numerous fine Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris).

Scots pines by the Porter or Little Don River.

Looking further upstream…

…and downstream from the same spot.

No flies, but this spider won’t go thirsty.

Scots pine bark.

The tree on the left was a fine specimen of a Scots pine. I’d love to see it in a hundred years’ time.

The same trees, in context. Not Scotland, but the Peak District near Sheffield. I’m very lucky to live here.


* * * * *

Hallowe'en (Part Three)

* * * * *

The fifty-third edition of the Festival of the Trees is online at Trees, Plants & More. Go read!


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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).


* * * * *

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


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An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Three)

The Sunday before last, I returned from the wedding of two friends to one of those perfect autumn afternoons. I couldn’t a waste a beauty like that so, spurred on by the best display of mushrooms on our lawn that I can remember, I set off around Langsett Reservoir anticipating a real smörgåsbord of fungi. I wasn’t disappointed!

So Yorkshire Water are clearfelling a lot of conifers from the North America Plantation on the south-west side of Langsett Reservoir.


[From one of Yorkshire Water’s information boards at Langsett, under the title ‘Reversing Woodland Bird Decline – 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.

With the help of the Forestry Commission and the RSPB we’re restructuring the woodland to create habitats ideal for nightjar, tree pipit, willow warbler, lesser redpoll, redstart, pied flycatcher, wood warbler, and lesser spotted woodpecker.

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. We’ll also be identifying key micro habitats, wet areas and flushes to protect the birds and enable them to thrive.

… The work at North America will complement our management in Langsett woods where veteran trees have been identified, native trees have been planted and wetland habitats have been created.


There was a monster sleeping in the plantation, hidden amongst the trees. See it?

’Twas a big, bad forestry forwarder (a John Deere 1410D Eco III, in fact). This beast transports all the logs cut from the felled trees to a stacking area where they can be loaded onto a lorry and taken away for processing.

A whole load of razor stop or birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) brackets jutting from a dead downy birch (Betula pubescens) stem.

Here a living downy birch grows beneath a canopy of larch. Are they for the chop too?

Just upstream of where the Porter or Little Don River enters Langsett Reservoir at its most westerly point, I took this photo looking over the tree-tops from Brookhouse Bridge. Golden light and creeping shadows.

As I neared the end of my walk the Sun had almost set, but with its last golden rays it illuminated the lower stems of a group of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) in a resplendent display of aesthetic magnificence. Two days after I took this photo – another perfect autumn evening - I rode around Langsett on my bike and just so happened to be passing by these same trees at near enough the exact same time (almost as if I’d planned it or sommat). I was lucky enough to be granted an encore.

Twilight over Langsett.


* * * * *

An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part One)
An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Two)


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An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Two)

Last Sunday I returned from the wedding of two friends to one of those perfect autumn afternoons. I couldn’t a waste a beauty like that so, spurred on by the best display of mushrooms on our lawn that I can remember, I set off around Langsett Reservoir anticipating a real smörgåsbord of fungi. I wasn’t disappointed!

This is definitely some kind of Leccinum fungus, identifiable by the scabers (‘scabs’ or ‘small, rigid projections’) on the stem, but to which species it belongs I could not say for sure. My guess is that it’s a foxy bolete (Leccinum vulpinus), a species that forms mycorrhizal associations with conifers. I found this mushroom growing on the edge of one of the pine plantations by Langsett Reservoir.

This mushroom was nearby and probably belongs to the same species; either way it is a definite Leccinum. It is at an immature stage, with the cap not yet having attained full size.

More Leccinum, with one particularly large example (pine cone for scale!)

Only a couple of days after I went on this walk and took these photos, fungi were the subject of The Times’s Weather Eye column, written by Paul Simons:

It has come as a huge relief to be dry again after weeks of rain, but those downpours left a remarkable legacy – a bumper crop of wild mushrooms.

“This is an amazingly good year for fungi,” said Professor Alan Gange, of Royal Holloway, University of London. “The very wet weather has brought on the mushrooms and many of them are also large – I’ve seen some gigantic ones, three times the size of normal.”

The mushroom bonanza has burst out across the entire country, spurred on by mild autumnal temperatures as well as the rain. “We have had a very good year for boletes, milkcaps, russulas, and even morelles are appearing, which normally fruit in springtime,” said Brian Spooner, the head mycologist at Kew Gardens. “If the mild, damp weather continues, the fruiting will continue until the first frosts.”



The wet autumn has been an enormous boost for fungi because they are 99 per cent water. And they also need water to inflate their mushrooms, rather like filling a balloon from a tap – the more water is pumped into the mushrooms, the larger they tend to grow.

Fungi also thrive in mild weather, and are some of the best natural indicators of the warming climate. Professor Gange made a study of mushrooms around Salisbury using 64,000 records dating to 1950, begun by his father. This revealed that the growing season for many fungi has greatly increased as temperatures have risen – in only 50 years, many fungi have more than doubled the length of their breeding season from 33 days on average to 74 days. And some fungi are producing mushrooms twice a year instead of just once. “The changes in growing season we’ve recorded in fungi are the greatest for any living group of organisms on Earth,” Professor Gange said.

- The Times, 12th October 2010

I definitely know what this fella is: an immature fly agaric (Amanita muscaria).

Classic fly agaric. According to Jordan’s Fungi 1, they are “Dangerously poisonous, hallucinogenic, but generally non-fatal.”

The white bits on top of the cap are “velar remnants, readily washed off by rain”. Velar refers to the veil, the “Protective layer of tissue enclosing the emerging fruit body, which ruptures and disperses (sometimes leaving various remnants).” [Definition from Wild About Britain.]

Here you can see the ring on the stem, “white or tinged yellow, membraneous and pendant with double margin”. The ring is another remnant of the veil.

Again I’m not sure, but I think this clavaroid fungus may be a golden clavaria or golden coral fungus (Ramaria aurea). It was like a tiny bonfire in the leaf litter.


1 Jordan, M. (2004). The Encyclopedia of Fungi of Britain and Europe. Frances Lincoln.


* * * * *

An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part One)
An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Three)


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An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part One)

On Sunday (101010) I returned from the wedding of two friends to one of those perfect autumn afternoons. I couldn’t a waste a beauty like that so, spurred on by the best display of mushrooms on our lawn that I can remember, I set off around Langsett Reservoir anticipating a real smörgåsbord of fungi. I wasn’t disappointed!

This is the overflow for the reservoir. The water level is really low at the moment so it’s bone dry.

See how much of the dam wall is exposed!

Some years ago I came to the top of this cliff a few times with my father to try and photograph the perfect sunset. We might have got a few good ones.

Score! A fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) in a pine plantation on the edge of the reservoir.

Quite a big mushroom – some flavour of Lactarius, I think.

Canada geese (Branta Canadensis). Gearing up for migration?

After climbing away from the water’s edge, I joined a path that headed down through the pines to a sparkling reflection of the evening sunlight…

Walking out of the trees I was met with this sight: the receded waters have revealed a stony beach!


* * * * *

An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Two)
An early autumn evening walk around Langsett (Part Three)


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Oaken Clough & Ewden Force (Part One)

I went for a wander with my father last week. Here he is, taking a photograph in Oaken Clough. You can tell it’s autumn now. [See this photo in black and white?]

Oaken Clough is a small valley surrounded by moorland. It’s a wonderful and pristine world of beauty.

The stream flowing down the valley is dotted with tiny cascades. [See this photo in black and white?]

This birch was growing out of an exposed rock-face at a brave angle.

Those leaves on the right are proof that Oaken Clough does actually have an oak tree in it! I’ve found two so far...

A fungal selection box. I think the top two belong to the same species, but are at different stages of development. The bottom right mushroom was a big ‘un!

A section of gnarly, lichen-encrusted rowan stem.

This spinning foam cake was freshly baked by the stream.


* * * * *

The fifty-second Festival of the Trees is online at Kind of Curious. Go read!


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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.


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A late autumn’s afternoon wander (Part 1)

These rubbery-looking mushrooms were growing out of a dead part of the split oak on Whitwell Moor. The split oak is an English oak (Quercus robur).

Photos taken yesterday.

Lichen growing on a nearby oak that is still managing to hold on to its leaves.

The wee mushroom here was growing from a dead branch overhead. Unusual place for a stalked mushroom, I thought.

A lovely turquoise lichen with bonus pinky-red bits. The dark green crust growing all around the big lichen is lichen too.

These tiny orange brackets were growing out of a dead branch on the ground beneath the oak. Their undersides look sort of bristly.

Tiny mushrooms growing under the big tree that is the mother of the treeblog Set C birches.

These two bigger shrooms were growing close by…


* * * * *

As usual when I put up photos of mushrooms, I’ll tell you I’m pants at identifying mushrooms and then ask for your help.

I’m pants at identifying mushrooms. Help me.


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Recent comments

Your wee mushrooms look to be polyporus, possibly Winter Polypore but inspection of the pore size is needed to differentiate them.

216.958333333 days ago by Peachysteve

yo también encontré esos huevos en mi jardin ,pero no solo en las hojas ,también los ponen en el vidrio de las ventanas y paredes. los encuentro también en la ropa tendida en la cuerda que tengo en el jardin.huevos de qué son ??????????

255.958333333 days ago by Andrea

Don't burn Eucalyptus in a wood burning stove...we spent days scraping out the gum which was like treacle..nice clear sinuses though!

308.958333333 days ago by sunnylanes










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