Tag Archives: ancient woodland

Congratulations to the Major Oak

Do you remember voting for your “Tree of the Year” for England? The winner of this competition is the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire.

At present there is no national register of significant trees like the Major Oak. Creating this UK register will show how much we all value these living monuments and will help protect our ancient trees for future generations. Please support the Woodland Trust’s call for a national tree register – you can find the link in their post.

Thank you.

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn in the woods

England’s Tree Of The Year ~ PLEASE VOTE NOW!

Our woods were beautiful at the weekend as we took in the Autumn colours and swished our feet through the deep carpet of leaves along the paths. Trees and woods are such a pleasure at all times of year, but in Autumn they have a special appeal. I’ve shared a couple of images from our walk in this post.

As many of us in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the beauty of our trees and woodlands in their Autumn glory, here in England it’s time to vote for our favourite tree to be crowned England’s Tree Of The Year.

An Autumn walk along the old road
An Autumn walk along the old road is always a treat to the senses

After receiving over 200 nominations from tree-lovers around the country for some of the most amazing trees in England, the Woodland Trust has drawn up its shortlist of 10 special trees. Now we can vote for our own personal favourite from the shortlist. The chosen tree will represent England in the 2015 European Tree of the Year contest.  Why for England only and not the UK? Don’t worry, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are not missing out here, as each country chooses its own tree.

What is the European Tree of the Year contest all about?

“We are not searching for the oldest, the tallest, the biggest, the most beautiful or the rarest of trees. We are searching for the most lovable tree, a tree with a story that can bring the community together.”

European Tree of the Year

There are some wonderful and historic contenders on the shortlist for England’s Tree Of The Year – what they do have in common is that all of them are well-loved:

  1. The Big Bellied Oak in Savernake Forest, one of Wiltshire’s ancient ‘Royal Forests’ dating back to Norman times. With a girth of 10.8 metres, this ancient oak lives up to its name.
  2. The Allerton Oak in Calderstones Park, Liverpool, another contender dating back to medieval times when it is believed to have been used as a court of law.
  3. The Whiteleaved Oak in the Malvern Hills, Herefordshire , thought to be 400-500 years old. This tree is considered significant by the Druids.
  4.  Kett’s Oak in Hethersett, Norfolk, named after Robert Kett, the leader of the Norfolk Rebellion in 1549 who mustered his men under the oak before marching on Norwich.
  5. Newton’s Apple Tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire. This is the tree under which Isaac Newton was sitting when the apple fell on his head and from this experience he subsequently developed his theory on gravity.
  6. The Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede on the River Thames in Surrey is possibly the oldest contender in the list, believed to be over 1400 years old. This tree would have seen King John signing the Magna Carta.
  7.  The Shugborough Yew in Staffordshire is a relative youngster at around 350 years old. But its claim to fame is that it is the tree with the widest span in the UK, with an amazing circumference of 200 yards.
  8.  The Ickwell Oak in Bedfordshire is believed to be 350 years old and is highly regarded by its local community.
  9.  Old Knobbley is an ancient oak in the Essex  village of Mistley and is thought to be at least 800 years old. This tree has inspired a picture book, telling its story.
  10.  The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire is the tree associated with the legend of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. This tree is thought to be 800-1000 years old.

You can see the images of all of these fabulous trees on the Woodland Trust’s website here, where you can also vote for your favourite from the shortlist. Voting closes on 4th November so do take a look and choose your nomination for England’s Tree Of The Year.

Autumn in the woods
An Autumn experience – the beauty of woodland colour and our feet swishing through Autumn leaves

Our ancient trees and woodlands are very precious and I am always keen to support or celebrate these living monuments. Now all I need to do, is to make my mind up which one to choose as Tree Of The Year …

J Peggy Taylor

Yellow Signs of Autumn in the Woods

Yellowing bracken in late September
Sunlight through yellowing bracken in late September

After my surprise and delight at being selected by Cee as one of her Featured Bloggers for my post in last week’s Fun Foto Challenge on the colour blue, this week I have looked for yellow signs of Autumn in my favourite environment, the woods.

When we took a Sunday stroll in one of our local woods last weekend, we could certainly see Autumn is upon us. Yellowing bracken and yellowing leaves were all around us.

Yellowing bramble leaves on the woodland floor
Yellowing bramble leaves on the woodland floor

The Autumn leaf colours that we all so enjoy are a very visible sign that the trees and plants have done their work and are approaching their Winter’s rest. The changing colour we observe is part of the chemical process in the leaves that we know as photosynthesis.

The lower levels of sunlight and cooler temperatures of Autumn mean the leaves are no longer able to produce chlorophyll, the pigment that paints the leaves green in Spring and Summer. As the chlorophyll is used up by the leaf for food and the leaf is no longer able to produce more, we observe the green of the leaf fading to yellow.

The yellow colour is provided by the carotene that has also been present in the leaf but in Spring and Summer is not visible to us under the green cloak of the chlorophyll. We learned all this and more on the changing colours of Autumn leaves from this fascinating Woodland Trust information leaflet.

Yellow sign of tree-felling time
Yellow signs of tree-felling time

The signs of the approaching time of rest for the trees gives rise to another kind of sign in the woods too – Tree Felling time! Autumn and Winter are the seasons for a lot of woodland maintenance work. The woodland you see in my images in this post is currently undergoing a restoration plan. The ancient woods that once cloaked our valley have largely disappeared as farmland, villages and commercial forestry took over.

There is now a move to try and restore some of the remaining woodlands to their former glory, especially in woods such as this one, where small pockets of the ancient woodland remain. With careful planning it is possible to remove the commercial plantation plantings and facilitate the regrowth of indigenous tree and understorey species. We have already seen how successful this can be in other parts of this wood.

Yellow sign - tree-felling time in 'Mirkwood'
Yellow sign – tree-felling time in ‘Mirkwood’

When we visited these woods on Sunday we saw the tree felling signs were in place, ready to remove the fully grown Norway Spruce trees from an area of the wood our children have known as ‘Mirkwood’. If you’re a Tolkein fan, you will recall instantly that dark, dense forest from The Hobbit. So, although we know the restoration of ancient woodland will be wonderful in the long run, it is with a tinge of sadness that we see this part of a childhood play area being felled. Perhaps we can recognise this as a sign of our children growing up too – though I doubt they will ever grow out of building dams in woodland streams or having pine cone battles between the trees!

This post links to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge with the theme of ‘Yellow’ and the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge with the theme of ‘Signs’. Do take a look at the yellows and signs that others have found for us this week’s challenges.

J Peggy Taylor

Hugging Trees for Science … and Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge!

Ahh trees! I am a big fan of trees. All trees. But especially ancient trees. I often think, “If only ancient trees could talk what fabulous tales they’d tell!”

But when I say “ancient” what do I mean? Trees, like us, grow and age at different rates depending on a variety of factors that affect them. A few years ago we took part in the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt here in the UK. This project is trying to measure and map as many ancient trees as possible all over the UK. To take part we learned how to ‘hug’ our old trees to measure their likely age 🙂

We found a few very old Oak and Beech trees around our area, about 300-400 years old. As well as hugging each tree, which was fun (!) we recorded as much information about it as we could including its location, its condition – for example whether it had any broken limbs or hollows in the trunk.

We also looked to see if we could see any creatures or plants living on the trees. Ancient trees are amazingly rich habitats and as trees age the organisms that they support continues to grow – they have their own little ecosystem as well as being significant in the wider habitat.

The fattest old Oak we found was over 4.5 metres around its girth – which was a bit longer than our collective ‘hug’ at that time! But we did check our measurements with a tape measure as well as using the ‘hug’ method. The size of this tree means it is about 400 years old – this was an amazing thought and we talked about the history it had lived through.

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week I wanted to show you tree-hugging but sadly I seem to have misplaced those images so I thought I’d share some photos of some of the wonderful old trees we’ve visited recently instead …

A beech tree we hugged, in our local woods
A beech tree near where our Bluebells grow. We hugged this tree as part of our Ancient Tree Hunt recording 🙂
Broad Oak - a wonderful oak we encountered on a Summer hike
Broad Oak – a wonderful oak we encountered on a Summer hike
Old oak in an ancient woodland that is under restoration - with stray sheep!
Old oak in an ancient woodland near us that is under restoration – with stray sheep! We often walk this way … though we don’t often see stray sheep!
A wonderful beech tree we pass on our journey into town - we stopped off at this country park while we were out this week
A wonderful beech tree we pass on our journey into town – we stopped off at this country park while we were out this week

J Peggy Taylor

Native UK Bluebell in public woodland

Beautiful Bluebells!

Just as I was eagerly anticipating in my last post, we haven’t had to wait long to enjoy the carpets of native Bluebells blooming in our local woods. There are certain parts of our woods where the Bluebells really make themselves at home during May.

The Bluebells are here! Our native UK Bluebells flowering under a beech tree
The Bluebells are here! Our native UK Bluebells flowering under a beech tree

Across the forest floor amongst the feet of beeches, sycamores, rowans and oaks the luxuriant green foliage of Spring flowers provides the backdrop for the beautiful Bluebells themselves. Native UK Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta are a much deeper blue than the Spanish Bluebells. The rich blue sometimes adopts an almost purple hue in the dappled woodland light.

Deep blue - native UK Bluebells bursting through the blanket of last year's bracken
Deep blue – native UK Bluebells bursting through the blanket of last year’s bracken

The native Bluebell’s slender stem hooks over to one side, like a shepherd’s crook. The slim blue blooms hang beneath the crook, turning up the points of their petals when the flower fully opens.

In our woods Bluebells are joined by the clean whites of Wood Sorrel and Greater Stitchwort, the deeper purple of the Dog Violets and the occasional flamboyant yellow of Dandelions. The acid-green of the Wood Sorrel’s fresh trifoliate leaves provide another luminous blast to the woodland floor. For me, these are the colours that I really associate with Bluebell woods at this time of year.

Blooming Bluebells in our woods, with Wood Sorrel, Greater Stitchwort and Dandelions
Blooming Bluebells in our woods, with Wood Sorrel, Greater Stitchwort and Dandelions

Today we saw Bluebells everywhere we walked. They are certainly one of my favourite flowers and just one of the many reasons that make protecting their endangered ancient woodland habitat here in the UK such an important task.

Long may the Bluebells bloom!

J Peggy Taylor

Our first flowering Bluebells of 2014

Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: SPRING!

Here’s a photo challenge I couldn’t resist! What makes Spring for me?

Well, as my regular readers will know, I have been carefully recording my own experiences of Spring’s progress here in the UK for a couple of months now.

But then this week I saw it! For me, it is the very epitome of an English Spring … this beautiful carpet of wild Bluebells … in a wonderful Welsh woodland 😉
… and Suzy Blue’s fabulous photos really are a treat.

If you’re in the UK this is certainly a great time of year to get out for a woodland walk. And we even have a Bank Holiday weekend just waiting to be enjoyed! If you aren’t sure where to find Bluebell woods near you, you might find some ideas on the Woodland Trust’s ‘Visiting Woods’ Bluebells webpage.

The true wild Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta is a flower of our precious and endangered ancient woodlands. This irreplaceable habitat now covers only 2% of the UK and we are constantly fighting to preserve what is left.

Here in the woods on our northern hills, we’ve seen one or two welcome spots of blue beginning to show here and there.

Recent footpath renovation work has not deterred these Bluebells from bursting through the bare earth.
Recent footpath renovation work has not deterred these Bluebells from bursting through the bare earth.

I’m sure it won’t be long now until our woodlands too will be blossoming in carpets of blue.

J Peggy Taylor