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Set A update: grey alders (January 2015)

Grey alder No. 3 on the 5th of January 2015.

It’s now been just over a year since I last wrote an update on the Treeblog trees. That post reported on a visit my father and I made to the grey alders on the 28th of December 2013. The next time either of us saw the alders was a year later on the 5th of January 2015 (Set A Day 2,840) – nearly eight years since I planted them as seeds with my own hands. This post has the photos and measurements we took on that most recent visit, plus three tables and two graphs which gather together for the first time ever all of the height and stem circumference data we’ve recorded over the years.

The photo above shows grey alder No. 3 with my father for scale. No. 3 is currently the tallest of all the Treeblog trees, measuring approx. five metres from base to upper tip. Its stem circumference is 26 cm at the base and 15 cm at a height of 1.5 m, so it is also the girthiest of the Treeblog trees. It has great form and is clearly thriving out here in the wild. This winter it had male (but no female) catkins, unlike last winter when it had no catkins of any kind.

For comparison, this is the same tree a year ago on the 28th of December 2013. Perhaps it’s just the different angles the two photographs were taken from, but doesn’t there appear to have been a significant improvement in form over the last year?

It’s not all good news for No. 3, however. Just when all the old stem wounds had about sealed over, fresh damage has been dealt by those troublesome herbivores. Whether the culprit was a sheep, rabbit, or something else, I don’t ken.

A perfect branch-bark ridge and branch collar. I’ve grown some real trees!

Here’s grey alder No. 2 on the 5th of January, the second-tallest of the alders at approximately 4.6 metres. Like No. 3, which grows but a stone’s throw away, it too is thriving and has fine form. Its stem has a girth of 23 cm at the base, and a girth of 15 cm at 1.5 m.

And to compare – this is No. 2 on the 28th of December 2013 (sorry about the dark picture).

No. 2 currently sports a mixture of male and (both mature and immature) female catkins, just like it did the previous winter.

Unlike the rest of the grey alders, No. 2 had managed to avoid any stem damage… until now. This fresh wound near the base of the stem has ended its lucky streak, but it’s nothing serious.

Last and I’m afraid least, this terrible photo shows grey alder No. 1 on the 5th of January. The poor devil is easily the lowest quality alder these days. It is in quite a different location to its two old nursery-mates, and the elements appear to be giving it a far harder time of things. Not only is it the shortest alder at 3.8 metres tall (although the stem is longer than that if we disregard the tree’s pronounced lean), it also has a significantly thinner stem than the other two. I measured the stem circumference as 18 cm at its base and 10 cm at 1.5 m. This winter I only counted mature female catkins on No. 1, but last year it had both male and (mature and immature) female catkins.

For comparison, grey alder No. 1 on the 28th of December 2013 with my father for scale – a much brighter picture!

As evident in this photo, No. 1 has the most wounded lower stem. It is also much slower in ‘healing’ these wounds than the other two alders, simply because it is growing that much more slowly and not laying down as much new wood – its annual rings will be closer together.


Stat attack!

I have spent some time going back through a lot of old Treeblog updates to ferret out all of the measurement data ever collected from the grey alders. This is now presented altogether - for the first time ever! - in three tables: one for the heights, one for the basal stem girths, and another for the stem girths at a height of 1.5 m from the ground. There’s hardly a wealth of data to show for almost eight years of growth, but I’ve only got myself to blame for that. I’ve even made a couple of graphs, so that the changes in the sizes of the alders can be better visualised.

Long-time followers will perhaps remember that there used to be a fourth grey alder, which in the early days was an absolute stonker of a young tree. After transplantation into the wild in spring 2010 however, it was soon tragically destroyed by sheep. No. 1, the current third-placed alder, grows just a few metres from where No. 4 met its untimely end. With hindsight, this is clearly a bad location for tree planting. I can’t help but wonder what might have been had I planted these poor souls in the same spot as Nos. 2 & 3… But I digress.


Table 1. The heights (in metres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
1st Oct. ‘07 0.04 0.02 0.03 0.01
2nd June ‘08 0.14 0.65 0.12 0.30
20th Apr. ‘09 0.75 0.55 0.65 0.91
27th Jun. ‘09 1.05 0.71 1.09 1.20
19th Aug. ‘09 1.96 1.50 1.70 1.86
28th Mar. ‘10 2.07 1.59 1.90 -
20th Jun. ‘10 2.40 1.80 2.25 1.80
25th Sep. ‘10 2.80 2.50 2.80 1.35
11th Feb. ‘11 - 2.45 2.75 X
13th Mar. ‘11 2.70 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 2.50 3.05 2.75 X
19th Oct. ‘12 3.10 3.50 3.60 X
9th Jun. ‘13 3.30 3.60 3.60 X
5th Jan. ‘15 3.80 4.60 5.00 X


Graph 1. The heights of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

The graph illustrates that No. 1 was actually the tallest alder in early 2010, when I transplanted them all into the wild – its poor location has clearly had an adverse affect on its growth, allowing it to be overtaken by both Nos. 2 & 3. No. 3 itself actually suffered a major setback in April 2011 when it somehow had its top broken off, allowing No. 2 to reign briefly as the tallest alder. It didn’t take long for No. 3 to recover, but a kink half-way up its stem (noticeable in the first photo in this update) still marks this breakage today. Graph 1 also shows the sorry end of No. 4, which gradually shrinks as it is destroyed by sheep.



Table 2. The stem girths (in centimetres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders (measured at base height).

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
20th Jun. ‘10 9.0 9.0 9.5 9.0
25th Sep. ‘10 9.5 11.0 11.5 -
11th Feb. ‘11 - 10.5 12.0 X
13th Mar. ‘11 9.5 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 11.5 13.0 14.0 X
19th Oct. ‘12 15.0 18.0 18.0 X
9th Jun. ‘13 14.0 18.0 19.0 X
28th Dec. ‘13 15.0 19.0 21.0 X
5th Jan. ‘15 18.0 23.0 26.0 X



Table 3. The stem girths (in centimetres) of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders (measured at 1.5 metres above the ground).

Date No. 1 No. 2 No. 3 No. 4
20th Jun. ‘10 4.0 2.0 4.0 2.0
25th Sep. ‘10 5.0 4.5 5.5 -
11th Feb. ‘11 - 5.0 6.0 X
13th Mar. ‘11 5.0 - - X
29th Sep. ‘11 6.0 7.0 7.0 X
19th Oct. ‘12 7.0 9.0 9.0 X
9th Jun. ‘13 8.0 10.0 10.0 X
28th Dec. ‘13 8.0 11.0 12.0 X
5th Jan. ‘15 10.0 15.0 15.0 X


Graph 2. The girths of Treeblog’s Set A grey alders.

This graph shows two sets of data for each alder; the larger girths are the measurements taken at the base of the stem, and the smaller girths are the measurements taken at a height of 1.5 m from the ground (about breast height). The story is similar to the heights – Nos. 2 & 3 are performing well but No. 1 is lagging behind. No. 3 is pulling away from No. 2 in basal girth, but both are performing more or less equally in girth at 1.5 m.

Hopefully I’ll be able to make another visit to see the alders in June. It would be nice to see them in leaf again!


Posted in The treeblog trees





Set A update: grey alders (December 2013)

While I was back down in Yorkshire for Christmas my father and I went off to check up on the Treeblog Set A grey alders, which have now been fending for themselves in the wild since April 2010. I am pleased to report that on the day of our visit - the 28th of December (Set A Day 2467) - all three trees were alive and looking as healthy as they possibly could be for deciduous trees in the middle of winter. I last visited my alders in June with a couple of friends, when we filmed this video outlining their story so far…


So what has changed in the intervening six months?

Grey alder No. 1 on the 28th of December with my father for scale. Despite being solidly stuck into the ground, No. 1 leans significantly to the north. I think this lean has become more pronounced since my last visit, presumably because of the lack of shelter from wind funnelling down the wee valley No. 1 calls home.

I’m not particularly bothered by the lean. Who knows? Perhaps it will correct itself. The neighbouring rowans hardly seem to have been bothered too much by the wind.

Mature female catkins on grey alder No. 1.

On this visit I counted two clusters of mixed immature male and female catkins and five clusters of mature female catkins, or ‘cones’. I first noticed catkins on No. 1 in March 2012 – back then it was a single cluster of immature female catkins (with the attached remains of a solitary flowering male catkin). On a visit in October 2012 these female catkins had progressed to near-enough full size but were still green; I also noticed a couple of clusters of immature male catkins (preparing to flower in spring 2013). On my last visit, in June 2013, I saw a few clusters of immature female catkins – these are now matured into the woody cones I saw a couple of weeks ago.

The nasty grazing wounds inflicted on No. 1’s lower stem soon after planting out are continuing to close up as more woundwood is laid down. It looks like a rabbit has left droppings here too, although why it needed to leave them so close up against my tree is unclear.

You may or may not know this but alder No. 1 stands about 2 km away from Nos. 2 & 3. A fortnight after planting Nos. 2 & 3, my father and I planted Nos. 1 & 4* on the 14th of April 2010 and afterwards, for whatever reason, we left a record of our passing by on my preferred route between the two spots. We scrawled a message on a piece of papery downy birch bark and hid it in a nook beside an ancient stream crossing point. Rather surprisingly, that piece of bark remains in a remarkably well-preserved state in that very nook to this day! Here it is on the 28th of December…

* Grey alder No. 4 was sadly eaten to death by sheep within a year of being planted out.

…and here it is on the day we left it there, almost four years ago!

Grey alder No. 2 on the 28th of December. Still the best of the alders - it has the straightest stem, no stem damage from sheep, and by far the most catkins.

Silhouetted against the sky at twilight, three woody cones (2013’s female catkins) take centre stage while multiple clusters of immature male catkins hang in the background, biding their time until spring arrives.* Besides the three cones in this photo there was another one on its own, three clusters of female-only immature catkins, and 18 clusters of mixed male/female immature catkins. No. 2 had no catkins at all in 2012, but on my visit in June 2013 I counted at least six clusters of immature female catkins (no male catkins though).

* Interestingly, while walking around Drummond Hill up near Loch Tay on the 3rd of January I noticed an alder (probably common alder, Alnus glutinosa) and a couple of hazels (Corylus avellana) that were already unfurling their male catkins into spring mode! A bit early, surely? And yesterday, in Edinburgh, I noticed a couple of hazels by the Water of Leith that were doing exactly the same thing. Is this because of an unusually mild winter? Back in Sheffield I wouldn’t expect to see alder or hazel catkins flowering until February.

This bark on the stem of alder No. 2 caught my eye – there’s something snakeish about it.

Grey alder No. 3 – very tall and sturdy.

No. 3 had its top broken out in April 2011. I don’t know what happened to cause that, but it recovered quickly and all that remains to tell of that distant event is a slight kink in the stem, plus a fragment of the old broken leader. The kink is apparent in the full-tree photo above and shows that No. 3 has roughly doubled in height over the last two-and-a-half years.

I couldn’t find any cones or catkins on No. 3 on this visit, nor could I find any in June 2012. In October 2011 however, I spotted at least six clusters of immature male catkins.

As you can see by this shot of its base, No. 3 is now almost totally ‘recovered’ from the early sheep damage. Hopefully 2014 will see all of the stem wounds nicely sealed up.

Now then, if you’re desperate for some stats I’m afraid I don’t have any up-to-date height measurements… but please feast your eyes on these stem girth measurements taken at both ground level and 1.5 metres from the ground:

Grey alder Stem circ. at base (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Jun 2013
Stem circ. at base (cm)
Dec 2013
Oct ’12 – Dec ’13 Increase (cm)
No. 1 15 14 15 0
No. 2 18 18 19 1
No. 3 18 19 21 3
Grey alder Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Oct 2012
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Jun 2013
Stem circ. at 1.5 m (cm)
Dec 2013
Oct ’12 – Dec ’13 Increase (cm)
No. 1 7 8 8 1
No. 2 9 10 11 2
No. 3 9 10 12 3

No. 3 is doing well for itself, isn’t it? I’ll be back to visit the alders again in the summer, when I’ll try to get some height measurements. Will we be seeing a five metre tall Treeblog tree in 2014?


Posted in The treeblog trees





It’s never too cold to go looking at ancient alders

On Friday afternoon I took my father on a little walk to check out some ancient-looking alders I’d spotted last weekend, when I was unable to get close enough for a good look because the Little Don was in the way.

It was so cold that the Little Don had actually started to freeze over! At work in the morning one of the vans had given the outside temperature as -5 °C, but that was in the middle of Sheffield where it was almost certainly warmer. Proper face-numb-er!

I love these two Scots pines. I love this whole area! It’s brill!

These icicles highlighted the bedding planes in one of the little land-slips.

Looking down on one of the old alders (Alnus glutinosa)…

Here’s another. It’s certainly an old one – look at the girth around the bottom of the trunk. Still, I was hoping they would be a bit bigger. If my memory is correct, the one I found in the autumn a short way away up Mickleden Beck is much bigger and more ancient (in appearance at least).

As well as old alders, five or six yews (Taxus baccata) grow on this side of the river. All of them have thriving, healthy crowns, although none have any serious trunk girth. The smallest of the yews (not the one in the photo) is interesting in that almost the entire tree had died off in some catastrophe, but it has regenerated with a vengeance and the crown is so well-formed and hale that from a distance you wouldn’t believe what a disaster befell it. Up close, you can see the old dead stems and branches and see how only a small line of living bark runs up the back of the trunk, although this appears to be doing its best to encircle the rest of trunk. No wonder yews live forever if this is what they can do!

This, the alder seen from above a few photos back, is the biggest of the handful of alders here. They all look to be coppices – but whether they are naturally coppicing themselves as old stems die off and new ones grow, or whether they have been managed in the forgotten past, I couldn’t possibly know.

It’s a lovely old tree.

When I turned around this hawthorn was trying to limbo or something.

Downy brrrrrch.

This is my absolute favourite kind of light – the late afternoon, pre-sunset light you get on a cloudless day that bathes the landscape in a golden glow. It has the power to make a photograph feel warm even despite it having been taken in Baltic conditions!


Posted in Gone for a walk





Up the Little Don to Mickleden Beck (with a dusting of snow)

Upstream of Brook House Bridge, the Porter or Little Don meanders beneath a landslip of its own making.

On Saturday I went for a walk with a couple of friends, fellow natives of the area who were both back for the weekend. We received a light fall of snow on Friday evening, and there was still a dusting up on the moors in the morning. I drove us to Langsett, and we set off walking anti-clockwise around the reservoir until we reached Brook House Bridge. From there we followed the Little Don upstream, keeping on the left, squelching through bogs and making scrambley diversions around little landslips. At the confluence with Mickleden Beck – where I spied several yews and what looked like three or four ancient alders on the opposite bank, which I’ll be back to take account of soon - we followed this tributary of the Little Don for a bit before clambering up the heathery valley side to meet with the Cut Gate path. At sign No. 50 we took the “path to the right” and walked back to Langsett via North America and the dam wall, arriving in time to eat a little dinner at the Wagon and Horses.

A look back after descending to the flood plain from negotiating one of the landslips.

Downy birch laden with witches’ brooms.

Looking down on Mickleden Beck and another wee landslip. This is only a young stream, not so very far from its source.

By the time we reached the Cut Gate path the sun was out and warming us nicely.

Looking across Mickleden. Just below the centre of the picture are the ancient holly and alder I discovered in October, which was the last time I was here.

One half of a pair of MTBers out for a razz.

Mickleden Beck flows away to meet the Little Don where the first trees are… There are actually sixteen wind turbines in this photo, but you’ll need to view it full-size to find them all. They were clearly visible from where I was standing – me just within the Peak District, they just outside – but were they ruining the view? In my opinion, not a bit. They aren’t really much more unnatural than the rest of the landscape

Langsett Reservoir – filled right up, despite having really quite a low amount of water as recently as my last visit in October. The other local reservoirs I pass regularly (Broomhead and Moor Hall) have also filled surprisingly rapidly over the last month – I thought they’d remain low for a long time. At Langsett this means my ‘beach’ where I sat and read a couple of times in late summer is now completely submerged.

A familiar peaceful pool - recorded by the Ordnance Survey but not given a name. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out it was created by the Luftwaffe during WWII. There are a few craters in the area from the bombing of Sheffield, but that’s another story.

A happily brimmed Langsett Reservoir, serene and tranquil, peaceful and calm. But is that plantation living on borrowed time...?


Posted in Gone for a walk





The view from a suckering rowan in winter

Lichens are just amazing. This one was growing on a detached rowan branch. I’m pretty sure it’s a Xanthoria parietina - one of Britain’s commonest lichens.

This big rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) is interesting because it is surrounded by hundreds of stick-like suckers, many of them dead, that have been sent up from the roots. I’ve never seen a rowan behave like this before, and I wonder why this one should.

The tree had a decent girth for a rowan but it wasn’t particularly tall and looked easy to climb, so I jumped up it.

I couldn’t really have gotten much higher; there were only twigs above me.

On the way home I found this old puffball growing on the moor. It’s definitely a Lycoperdon species - probably L. perlatum, the pearl-studded puffball (I’ve seen these before). Jordan’s Fungi states that L. perlatum has “short pyramidal warts which fall off to reveal endoperidium decorated with a reticulate pattern” (according to the glossary ‘reticulate’ means ‘having a net-like pattern of ornamentation’). Much of the endoperidium does have a net-like pattern.

As an amusing aside, lyco is Greek for ‘wolf’ while perdon is Greek for ‘fart’ –Lycoperdons are literally wolf-fart fungi.

* * * * *

This month’s edition of the Festival of the Trees is hosted by Rebecca of Rebecca in the Woods. Go read!


Posted in Gone for a walk





The Capon Tree in the snow

I spent a few days in Edinburgh at the weekend catching up with old uni mates. While I was studying, travelling between Edinburgh and Sheffield usually meant a long car journey. After making the trip a few times I found out about the Capon Tree, a veteran sessile oak (Quercus petraea) on the route just outside of Jedburgh in the Borders. On the journey home for Christmas 2005 I made my father and sister - who had driven up from Sheffield to collect me - stop at the tree in the dark! Since then, whenever I’ve taken this route I’ve always kept an eye out for the Capon Tree as I’ve passed. I’ve stopped a few times since – most recently on Monday when I was driving home from Edinburgh in the snow.

I’ve seen various sizes and ages attributed to the Capon Tree, but to avoid confusion I won’t repeat them here. The tree is a relic of the ancient Jed Forest which once covered much of the region. It used to consist of two upright stems but sometime during the twentieth century the tree fell in half; one of the stems remains upright and the other is supported almost horizontally by several sturdy beams keeping it off of the floor. The tree is alive and looking healthy but it’s totally hollow at the base; several people could comfortably fit into the space between the stems. I noticed a few mushrooms and icicles growing on the deadwood in there.

A fairly comprehensive web page on the Capon Tree can be found at John Peters’ photography site, complete with photos of the tree in leaf.

There’s a close-up look at some of the rotten timber inside the hollow:

In 2002, in celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, the Tree Council designated the Capon Tree as one of fifty Great British trees ‘in recognition of its place in the national heritage’.

The Capon Tree stands in a small field between the A68 and the River Jed, just south of Jedburgh. If you’re ever in the vicinity it’s well worth a visit, particularly if like me you’re a fan of impressively massive and ancient trees. I’ve heard of another giant oak nearby called the King of the Woods, but I’ve yet to seek it out. That’s a pleasure for a future journey!

Happy Christmas!


Posted in Notable trees





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.


* * * * *

Snow, beautiful snow (Part One)


Posted in Gone for a walk





Snow, beautiful snow (Part One)

I met a horse. It was digging for grass with one hoof.

We are in the grip of an exceptionally cold spell – what the media are calling The Big Freeze. Temperatures this low this early in winter are unusual (something to do with a powerful La Niña this year), and man are they low. Even at midday Sheffield is still shivering several degrees below 0°C and some nights we’re plumbing minus double figures. These low temperatures have come with one of the heaviest falls of snow for a fair few years. Again, it’s unusual to see a snowfall this early in the winter (blame La Niña). After a bit of snow on Friday the 26th of November, it put down a substantial amount on the night of Monday the 29th. It snowed on and off throughout the next day, then went absolutely bonkers during the early hours of Wednesday morning (the 1st of December). The snow continued with some fairly heavy showers during the day but it had more or less petered out by Thursday. We got a wee bit more on Friday night but by then it had already started to thaw, or thaw as much as it can in these freezing conditions.

What’s all that got to do with trees? Not a lot, but I do like snow. Call it context for a little walk I went on yesterday…

This pleasant little oak was basking in the last of the Sun’s golden rays.

The track by which this oak grows had been ploughed, leaving snow piled up as high as the walls that run alongside it.

Further down the track, a Scots pine also enjoyed the golden sunlight. I enjoyed the Scots pine, particularly these illuminated needles.

Close by grow my favourite pair of Scots pines. Maybe I should think of a name for these two. The Two Brothers? The Two Sisters? The Two ____? The ____ Pair? Maybe not.

I am fascinated by the left-most (western) pine’s dual-layer canopy. Simply incredible! Look at it glow in the light of the setting sun.

Try another angle; the pine is still perfection.

The Sun sets over Broomhead Moors. Shadow slides from the Ewden Valley, soon to swallow the Salter Hills. But this walk ain’t over yet…


* * * * *

Snow, beautiful snow (Part Two)


Posted in Gone for a walk





The first snow of winter

I love this pine tree. It’s got a great shape, it’s in a great position, and it’s got a great friend…

It snowed a bit on Friday night. Only a centimetre or two settled but it was enough to bring a real feeling of winter to my walk up to the trig point.

Silhouette: European beech (Fagus sylvatica).

Silhouette: Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris).

Silhouette: downy birch (Betula pubescens) (and a Scots pine).


Silhouette: the Lonely Oak. I arrived with perfect timing to see the sun setting behind my favourite oak tree.

And just over the hill, I arrived in the nick of time to catch my favourite pair of Scots pines basking in the last of the golden sunlight.


Silhouette: Scots pine skeleton (or possibly a larch skeleton).


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





The snow persists (10th January 2010) (Part 2)

Last Sunday when snow blanketed the country I thought it would be awesome if I could get up onto the moors to see Ewden Force, which was sure to be one sweet icicle fest. That turned out to be slightly over-ambitious. Once I got off the beaten path and onto the landrover track that goes up to the Broomhead shooting lodge the going got tough. The snow came to just below my knee and in places was up to the top of my legs! It was a super tough slog up the hill to the lodge but it felt like a real achievement once I made it       one       step       at       a       time. There was only an hour of daylight left after my snow-slowed progression, so I turned my back on the unreachable frozen waterfall wonder and with a slightly heavy heart and a very cold face retraced my lonely footprints. I was within one and a half kilometres of Ewden Force at the shooting lodge, but it might as well have been a thousand miles away. By the time I’d have gotten there it would have been dark and I would have perished in the wilderness or something. It would also have been rather dangerous: I’ve fallen down holes on the moors in broad daylight so who knows what you’re going to be falling down with all that snow concealing the true lay of the land? So no Ewden Force. Disappointing.

Ewden Valley, upper section.

Ditto.

Drifts around the lodge.

Icicle.

Looking across the snowbound valley.

Birch, probably downy (Betula pubescens).

It rained on Friday and Saturday – proper rain for the first time in weeks! – and washed away most of the snow. There are weather rumours that it may snow again mid-week (the BBC is forecasting heavy snow for Thursday)… and for much of February.


* * * * *

Call for Submissions: Festival 44 Returns to the treeblog


Posted in Gone for a walk





The snow persists (10th January 2010) (Part 1)

The eastern Salter Hill.
3rd April 2009

The eastern Salter Hill.
10th January 2010

The western Salter Hill.
29th March 2009

The western Salter Hill.
10th January 2010

Bird tracks under a large yew (Taxus baccata) in the Ewden Valley. As I approached I disturbed several large gamebirds (pheasant or grouse - I am shamefully ignorant of the differences). A large blue barrel stands nearby, some kind of home-made feed dispenser. It must be very important for the birds in a winter like this one.

Looking west towards Pike Lowe. The cluster of trees on the left are alders (Alnus glutinosa) of Owler Carrs.

I took off my rucksack next to one of the alders, and as it lay on the floor snowflakes began to alight upon it. Proper, stereotypical snowflakes, landing and not immediately melting!


* * * * *

Don’t forget that treeblog will be hosting next month’s Festival of the Trees. If you haven’t sent in your submission already, you’ve got until the 30th of January to do so.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Calm down dear, it’s only winter (3rd January 2010) (Part 2)

I love this dead tree. I love the hill on which it used to grow. I love the view from this hill, especially towards the Ewden Valley and Broomhead Moor and Pike Lowe, all of which I also love. You might have seen this tree before.

[Part 1, sir? – more snow & trees, incl. the Lonely Oak.]

The dead tree stands among a cluster of stunted trees at one end of Millstones Wood. The trees in this photo are all Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris) except for the one on the left, which is a beech (Fagus sylvatica).

The setting sun dripped molten gold over the glacial Broomhead Moor but did not thaw that frozen wilderness.

More of those stunted trees…

A wee beech cupule, its two little nuts replaced with one giant snow-nut.

A typical snowy scene inside Millstones Wood.

A whole load of what I’m sure are pine seeds scattered across the snow by a grey squirrel in the canopy above. As it jumped from branch to branch, the snow it dislodged fell in little avalanches to the ground.

I think this was the fallen tree that my and some mates climbed up back in high school days to have our dinner, which would make it the Picnic Tree. These days it’s better known for the frightful cage structure constructed around its exposed root system. Constructed by witches! It is witches, I’m telling you.

The Long Lane Ash (Fraxinus excelsior).


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February’s edition of the Festival of the Trees will be hosted by treeblog! So: people who read or look at or watch or create content on trees on blogs and/or other forms of internetery… please send in your submissions!

Do it.


Posted in Gone for a walk





Calm down dear, it’s only winter (3rd January 2010) (Part 1)

A snowy scene in Lower Whitwell Wood, looking west across Whitwell Moor to distant Millstones Wood.

It’s been snowing a lot lately. In fact, the last couple of weeks have made 2009/2010 the snowiest winter in these parts since 1981/1982. I went for a walk on Saturday afternoon when there was still plenty of snow around up on the tops. It snowed a lot Saturday evening, and I went for another walk Sunday afternoon on which I took these photos. Then yesterday the weather went beserk and it put down, on average, nine inches of snow around the house. And more snow is forecast! It’s brilliant!

A pair of reasonably lonely oaks not far from an even lonelier one.

This bleak and snowy scene may not have much in the way of trees, but I’ve included it here as it’s the view to the south-east from…

…the Lonely Oak. (There are now eleven different photos of the Lonely Oak on treeblog’s Flickr.)

There were a fair few tracks around the Lonely One. The two tracks in the bottom left part of the photo were made by one or more rabbits or hares, (likeliest to be rabbit, I’d say). From the book Animal Tracks and Signs by Bang and Dahlstøm (2001): Each of the regular print groups is made up of four separate footprints, at the back the two short fore prints, one behind the other almost in a line, and at the front the two hind prints, more side by side and usually longer than the fore prints. So the furthest-left track was made by a rabbit/hare heading towards the camera; the track to the right of it was made by a rabbit/hare heading away from the camera. The track with the funny lines coming out of the bottom right corner is probably from a little dog; the lines would have been made by paws skimming the top of the snow.

There were tiny icicles dangling from the Lonely Oak (an English oak, Quercus robur). Is that a gall I spy in the background?

The Trig Point atop the western Salter Hill.

A lovely pair of Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris). They appeared in a couple of posts last March when summer was near and snow wasn’t on my mind.

This would be the view from the top o’ the hill, looking south-west towards the darkly wooded upper Ewden Valley and Pike Lowe (on the horizon, slightly right of centre). Snowtastic.

A snowy cluster of mushrooms. This photo was taken on my Saturday walk, but I’ll sneak it in here. I love those gills.


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Posted in Gone for a walk





The Wigtwizzle Chestnut in the snow

The venerable veteran of Wigtwizzle – a sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) of considerable age and girth.

These photos are from a couple of Sundays ago when, driving home over the moors, I was ambushed by much snow. I couldn’t resist stopping for a few piccies.

These beeches (Fagus sylvatica) grow in the adjacent parkland that once surrounded Broomhead Hall.


Posted in Notable trees





A wintry walk through the woods (Part 2)

Wintry Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) needles in Millstones Wood.

This post continues on from Part 2

The green leaves of a semi-evergreen bramble or blackberry (Rubus fruticosus) intermingle with the orange, crispy, marcescent leaves of young beech (Fagus sylvatica) trees.

A sort of cage formed by leaning sticks against the jutting-out roots of a fallen beech. Who would make such a structure? Kids? Witches? Wood spirits? A pretty freaky thing to chance upon alone in an empty wood on a late winter’s eve.

But my mind is strong like lion. Fear gave way to curiosity and I climbed that tree. It just made my fingers cold, but I gained a better perspective of the patterns formed by all the twigs lying on the woodland floor.

A typical resident of Millstones Wood: a gnarly old beech.

One snowy tussock.

A dead, stunted pine or larch tree still standing on an exposed edge of the wood. In the background the forested Ewden Valley runs off into the distance. This dead tree made an appearance on treeblog last December; a photo in that post was one of my favourites to appear on treeblog in 2008.


Like I wrote in the last post, it snowed again on Sunday and put down a decent amount. I’ve not been able to get out into the countryside to fully enjoy this proper snow yet (there hasn’t been enough to stop me from getting to work, see) but the white stuff is still here on the moors, on the fields, on the trees, etc… Although the main roads were mostly clear of snow by this afternoon, this evening it put down another inch or so. Heavy snow is forecast for tonight.

It’s going to be a White Christmas.


Posted in Gone for a walk





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 walk in the snow (2nd February 2009): Part Two

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) to the left of me, European larch (Larix decidua) to the right...

A row of most snowy beeches (Fagus sylvatica).

In the heart of Millstones Wood...

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 – this and the next photograph have been altered to highlight these.

More snow-sculpture. The oft-mentioned Millstones Wood can be seen in the left half of the background.

Near Ewden Height, and the snow was coming thick and fast. The bush in the foreground is gorse (Ulex europaeus) – a.k.a. whin or furze.

Millstones Wood again. Beech, beech, and more beech.


Posted in Gone for a walk





A walk in the snow (2nd February 2009): Part One

Everything was white.

It snowed pretty heavily Sunday night and most of Monday up here - probably the biggest snowfall in our local area in seven or eight years. It put down a good six or seven inches in our garden; the roads were covered; the treeblog trees were covered; the roofs and lawns and trees and bushes were covered; the hillside was covered. Everything was white. So as a dedicated lover of snow, while the rest of the UK was plunged into chaos (according to the tabloid press), I strapped myself into snow-proof attire and headed for the countryside...

My first port of call: the ‘first wood’ on Whitwell Moor. The trees prominent in the foreground are Scots pines (Pinus sylvestris), but this part of the wood also contains plenty of beech (Fagus sylvatica), English oak (Quercus robur), and larch (Larix decidua).

This split English oak on the edge of the wood featured heavily in a mid-January treeblog post on galls.

Snowy holly (Ilex aquifolium) leaves – those Christmas card favourites.

Hello! It’s the Lonely Oak, last seen with a bit on snow on treeblog in January 2008.

Snow-packed Scots pine needles.

A pair of heavily snow-laden beeches in Millstones Wood, a veritable winter wonderland.

The view south-west from the southern edge of Millstones. Ewden Beck courses through the wooded valley, which splits Broomhead Moor on the left from Upper Commons on the right.

It didn’t snow on Tuesday or Wednesday, so the roads cleared up. But we got another inch or so on Thursday morning. It’s Friday afternoon as I write this and there has been no fresh snow today. The roads are clear, but the gardens and pavements are still covered. To be continued...


Posted in Gone for a walk





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