Hawthorn blossom

Anderton Country Park is now resplendent with one of the later spring delights, hawthorn blossom. While growing up I remember its being called ‘May blossom’ – this is also known as the May tree. Its appearance is the herald of the coming summer.

Some of the trees or bushes are almost overloaded with glorious white blossom.

white hawthorn

An unfortunate accompaniment is the really heavy pungent scent, which is not good for the hay fever.

According to Wikipedia, “the young leaves and flower buds, which are also edible, are known as “bread and cheese” in rural England” – indeed I recall that this is precisely what my father called it.

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Garden fruit

With the unusually sunny April weather, the fruit bushes/trees in the garden are all suddenly bursting forth in their various ways to flower and then fruit. Lockdown gives the time to look daily, and the speed of development is quite astonishing.

 

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History suggests this development is perilously early, as the danger of a frosty night is ever present until June. We shall see.

Bottle brush

It’s difficult to believe that we would only just be home from Houston according to our original travel plans. We’re just left with family Zoom time and memories, including this pretty bottle brush tree, one of my more successful ventures into gardening in Houston. This one flowers well, early in March. It’s easy to see why it has the name.

bottle brush
flower
bottle brush buds
buds

These plants originate from Australia. They appear to be happy with the Houston climate.

 

Tinder Fungus

These rather fine specimens of tinder fungus, or fomes fomentarius, sat proudly on a dead silver birch stump in Brereton Country Park. These bracket fungi were quite large, around 1 foot in height.

This species typically continues to live on trees long after they have died, changing from a parasite to a decomposer, helping the dead wood to rot.

The name derives from the fact that it was found to be useful as tinder in making fire.

tinder fungus 1tinder fungus 2

This could be the identity of the queried oyster shell fungus in an earlier post, which was found in the same woods.

Wall Wood

Situated near the entrance to Tatton Park, Knutsford’s Wall Wood is hardly a wood, more a grove of trees, triangular with roads on two sides. Enter one of the two paths running through it and you are suddenly isolated from the busyness of the traffic, refreshed for the moments it takes to stroll through. Even a small number of trees can have such an effect.

The wood is currently magnificently carpeted with fallen leaves.

wall wood

I’ve also heard this space called the walled garden; maybe at some time it was walled and contained a garden of fruit trees? (pure speculation)

The only camera to hand was my smartphone. The afternoon light was beginning to fail, so a bit of editing was needed to bring back the colours as I remembered them.

Hottest Day

It has been England’s hottest ever July day. The air is hot and humid, more like summer in Houston. Becalmed all day, without the air conditioning that is regarded as necessary in Houston, I have to take a walk in the evening, now it is slightly cooler, despite impending rain.

We are lucky that Knutsford has a number of smallish green areas. As I walk I become aware of just how hot and oppressive are the streets around the town, heat emanating from the terraced houses and roads. Entering the parks there is an immediate change of atmosphere, cooler, more breezy. The grassy areas, surrounded by trees, have a different feel again, still refreshing. The small ‘walled wood’ is another perceptibly different environment, completely enveloped and protected by trees. By the lake that is the Moor pool a different quality comes from the relatively cool water.

In short, contact with nature – trees, grass, water – makes the extreme heat tolerable. More trees and lakes will not only slow global warming but make its effects more tolerable. More bricks and concrete make things worse. This is common sense, yet we don’t act like it is. The only alternative will be islands of air conditioning for those that can afford it, as in Houston.

As I return home, spots of the anticipated rain begin to fall. The roadside trees help my brisk walk home, removing the need for that umbrella. I pause gratefully in the relative cool under our beautiful weeping birch, before going back into the oven-like house.

Featured image taken in the shade of our weeping birch tree.

Oak

Just how beautiful can the oak tree be in winter! The head of this oak shows superb fractal patterns, reflected in the parallel picture of the whole tree.

This is one of many oaks in the National Trust’s Attingham Park, near Shrewsbury. Also there in the deer park is the wonderful 650-year-old Repton Oak (below), without the vigour of the younger tree, but nevertheless of remarkable longevity.

repton oak

Will today’s young oaks grow to such an age in a time of climate change? It would be a great shame if not.

Catkins

There’s not much apparently going on in the vegetation of the English countryside early February. Most of it is pretty dormant, apart from the odd flowering gorse and some early bulbs coming up. But we did come across these beautiful catkins in full glory in Anderton Country Park.

catkins

Catkins are actually flowers, with inconspicuous or no petals. They occur on a number of different tree types. This BBC Earth post suggests that these photographed are probably of the hazel tree, which has catkins late autumn, which then lengthen and turn golden with pollen towards the end of January.

Here they are close up.

catkins close

Boxing Day in Tatton

Many people were out to walk off the Christmas food in Cheshire’s Tatton Park. A clear sky, sun going down, still water on the lake, trees, gathering mist over the grass – promising ingredients for photographs, despite the reducing light level. How about these trees?

Autumn Colours

This is a great time of year to be walking in woodland. Here are some lovely autumn colours from Anderton Country Park the other day.

  • Oak and birch are quite subdued compared to the vibrant beech.
  • Spindle and rowan give vibrant splashes of red.
  • White poplar gives contrast – as the white underside of its leaves becomes prominent.

Spindle Red

spindle treeMost of the trees in Anderton Country Park are still green, many tinged with yellow and brown. Then there is the occasional splash of red, notably these wonderful Spindle Trees, with red leaves and red-and-yellow flowers. The rest of the year these trees are quite anonymous, but now, what a sight to lift the spirits!

The Hidden Life of Trees

hidden life of treesPeter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees is one of those books that change the way you look at things – the world of trees and forests in particular.

Starting off as a conventional forester, he gradually became aware of the real life that was going on around him, rather than just seeing the trees as objects to be managed.

Trees are complex organisms that live in families, nurture each other, respond to their environment, live in symbiosis with other beings, have a circulation and a food system, move in response to environmental change – indeed they are complex social organisms just as we are. It’s just that their timescales are different – much more extended than ours, just as our timescales are much more extended than those of the mayfly.

The timescale for forests and their tree families measures in the hundreds and thousands of years. When we destroy an ancient forest, we are destroying an ecosystem that has taken many hundreds of years to establish. Most ancient forest in Europe is already destroyed through man’s ignorance, so it is imperative to retain those that remain – they are literally irreplaceable. New planting starts a new process of building up an ecosystem, but who knows if the insects, microorganisms and fungi (let alone the fauna) will ever re-establish themselves.

Wohlleben explains how forests act as a water pump, creating the clouds that give rain to landlocked interiors of continents. Without trees there would be far more desert.

Forests have a calming effect on weather, soak up heavy rains avoiding flooding, absorb masses of carbon dioxide (particularly the older trees), provide the environment for massive biodiversity… There are so many benefits.

And then there are the benefits of simply walking in the forest. Most of us have experienced its wonderful calming effect at some point. I guess that’s because at some level we can sense the majestic life in these great beings.

As more and more virgin forests across the world are destroyed by commercial interests, such as for growing palm oil or animal food, the loss and potential dangers are surely clear. Climate change demands that we need more forest cover, not less, to help alleviate the increase in CO2 and its effects.

The book contains a lot more insights than my brief comments suggest. Do read it. Superb!

Trees

There is increasing awareness across environmental organisations that the problems they are each individually trying to address are all in fact interrelated. Insects, birds, bees, butterflies, hedgerows, trees, etc etc. The whole web of life is under increasing pressure, both in the UK and across the world. And that is before the increasing effects of the ongoing global warming.

On land, trees and hedgerows pay a major role in maintaining a varied ecosystem and support for all these other species. So it is great to see all these organisations in the UK getting together to produce the Tree Charter.

I won’t try to summarise the charter here. A big highlight for me is the maintaining and creating of routes to ensure the interconnectivity of wildlife. Islands of protection surrounded by development are inevitably at risk as their diversity easily comes under pressure. Hedgerows and stands of trees can thus provide vital links between forested areas. And the islands need to get bigger than they are at present in the UK.

If this charter from hereon provided the guiding principles that all government agencies and business organisations work to, we can begin to reverse the downward trends and safeguard our natural environment for future generations.

Go sign the charter!

Of course, the charter does not cover everything, notably side effects of chemical industrial farming. But it’s a good start.