Tag Archives: beechwoods

Favourite walks - beechwood path

Favourite Walks for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

We love to walk. Our favourite walks take us on modern multi-user routes, along coastal paths and old railways, but we also love to scramble along leafy, muddy woodland tracks in our own local woods. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, we are sharing walks, both indoors and out. All of the photos I have chosen, feature places we love to walk.

My header shot is of our beautiful local beechwoods. We know and love this path in all seasons and all weathers. Its surface can be dry and sandy or distinctly soggy, with deep puddles and rivulets cascading between the tree roots. Its popularity with cyclists in recent years has prompted the addition of limestone gravel to some parts of the path to keep it passable in wet conditions.

Favourite walks - the aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens
The aerial walkway, Sunderland Winter Gardens

I thought I add one indoor walk for this challenge. Sunderland Winter Gardens are like a little oasis in the heart of the city centre. This high level aerial walkway is a wonderful vantage point from which to view the impressive tropical plants in the Winter Gardens. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge last week, I showed you the fountains you can see both inside and out at Sunderland’s miniature-tropical-rainforest-in-a-giant-greenhouse.

Favourite walks - Whitburn Coastal Path
Walking along Whitburn Coastal Path to Souter Lighthouse

At least once every Summer, we head out to the North East coast and walk along South Shields Leas to Souter Lighthouse or walk the Whitburn Coastal Path. Both of these paths are maintained by the National Trust along this beautiful and fascinating – but also the most dangerous – stretch of England’s coast.

When we aren’t walking coastal paths, we love to walk along old railways. Here in North East England, we have many old railway tracks that have been turned into a connected set of footpaths.

Favourite Walks - Lintzgreen Station, Derwent Walk
Walking through Lintzgreen Station on the Derwent Walk

Here we’re walking through one of the old stations that stood along the Derwent Valley Railway which carried passengers and freight through our leafy green valley last century when coal mines and steel furnaces were the main employers. You can see the train platforms on either side of the track. My son had evidently found something interesting and had climbed up onto the platform from where passengers would have travelled northbound through to Newcastle. This footpath is now known as the Derwent Walk, a multi-user route that forms part of the C2C long-distance cycle route, and which links up to the Waskerley Way, below.

Favourite walks - Waskerley Way
Heading out across the heather moors on the Waskerley Way

The Waskerley Way railway path takes us out over the heather moors and is another favourite walk of ours in Summer when the purple heather blooms. I love walking this path but you have to go prepared – this is real moorland and the weather can change suddenly. A warm Summer’s day in our valley can mean a cool and brisk breeze on the moor and passing showers envelop you – you literally have your head in the cloud! Warm clothing and waterproofs are definitely a good plan.

Favourite walks - going to our camp
Walking to our camp in the woods

Not all of our favourite walks are on wide and well-defined footpaths. We also love leafy woodland tracks. A few years ago we built a camp entirely from natural materials and there I taught the boys to cook outdoors over a small wood fire. The camp was deep in the woods, so the walk to reach it required a bit of scrambling through brambles and steep-sided streams. Here we are taking the narrow track along the top of the stream gorge on our way to cook at the camp.

Favourite Walks - going home along the old railway
Going home along the old railway in our woods

Wherever we may roam, we always return home, and quite often the walk home is along the old railway in our local woods. Just like our favourite beechwood path that we saw at the beginning of this post, we have walked the old railway in every type of weather – sun, rain, fog, frost, ice and snow. We knew all its muddy puddles. We sometimes even sledged along it on the way home from school, years ago when the boys were young.

When the railway was very dry, you could still see the impressions in the ground where the old wooden railway sleepers had lain when it carried the mineral line that took the coal from our village to Newcastle. I’m slightly sad that this Spring the old railway has been resurfaced with gravel to make a modern multi-user route. However, with the increasing rainfall due to climate change, the puddles in some places were becoming so deep and wide, a boat was almost needed! So perhaps the new path surface was the only practical solution 🙂

Do take a look at the walks others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

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Mushroom close-up

Zooming out for the bigger picture

“What’s This?” was the question Cee gave us to ponder for last week’s Fun Foto Challenge. We then had a lot of fun trying to work out what other people had posted.

For my entry, I zoomed in on some natural subjects, focusing on shapes and details. This week, I promised to post the original images so you can see the whole zoomed out picture. Here they are …

1. Woodland waterfall

Miniature waterfall on a woodland stream
Miniature waterfall on a woodland stream

This is one of the many small streams (or ‘burns’ as well call them here in The North 😉 ) that flows into the River Derwent in our local woods. I love this miniature waterfall as it cuts its way through the bedrock and pours down onto the next level below, surrounded by woodland greenery. I often find myself reaching for my camera when I see it. For the challenge, I picked out the water splash detail.

2. Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot

Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot
Hellebores in April snow in a plant pot

This is one of the two pots of the “Washfield Doubles” Hellebores I have on the steps by my back door. In this photo from April 2012, it looks like I was focusing on the quantity of late snow, rather than the plant itself! For the challenge, I chose the detail of the concentric curves of the terracotta pot, its black plastic liner and the topping of clean white snow.

3. Worm’s eye view of a woodland mushroom

Worm's eye view of a large woodland mushroom
Worm’s eye view of a large woodland mushroom

As I am not in the habit of crawling on my belly in beechwoods, you will notice this photo was taken by my son! I am always drawn to the unusual angles of this set of mushroom shots so I thought it would be perfect for the “What’s this?” challenge.

I enjoyed Cee’s photo challenge. I hope you enjoy my zoomed-out photos!

J Peggy Taylor

A woodland wander in search of Wood Avens

There is no better time to enjoy the beauty of our woods than after a spell of Summer rain. The new season’s greenery is washed clean and refreshed. The dark, wet tree trunks contrast strongly with the bright greens of early Summer leaves. The air is laden with the delicious earthy scents of damp woodland, mingled with the fragrance of ‘green’. Did you know you could smell ‘green’? In damp woodlands in June, I am sure you can.

Beechwoods in June after rain
Beechwoods in June after rain

As well as enjoying the woods and their glories generally, on this occasion I was watching out for one particular woodland flower, the Wood Avens Geum urbanum (also known as Herb Bennet). Last week, when I was giving you the answers to my fun plant quiz, I discovered that somehow I did not have any photographs of this very common woodland flower. Hopefully, we would be able to rectify this situation.

Wood Avens growing by woodland path
A bank of Wood Avens growing by a woodland path

Soon after entering the woods, we were spotting Wood Avens growing beside the woodland paths. Their delicate yellow flowers dotted the path-side greenery.

Wood Avens (Herb Bennet)
Wood Avens (Herb Bennet)

Here you can see the Wood Avens plant, nestled in amongst the grasses with its bright yellow flower.

Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) flower
Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) – a closer look at the flower

Here’s a closer look at the Wood Avens flower. The yellow petals are very fragile and look as if they may blow away at any moment.

Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) seedhead
Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) – red hooked seedhead

The Wood Avens flower only lasts a brief time before the red hooked seedhead develops. The seedheads are rather more robust and will stay around across the Summer. The hooks of the ripe seeds would enable them to hitch a ride on a passing animal and so spread the flower seeds further.

Clover leaf raindrop face
Clover leaf raindrop face

Later on our woodland walk, I spotted this little Woodland Spirit resting on a Red Clover leaf. Can you see him too? 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Greater Stitchwort's starry flowers

Let’s find out ‘What I’m going to be when I grow up’! The plant quiz answers.

Last Monday I posed a little plant quiz here on Oak Trees Studio … the plants were mainly flowering woodland plants that had not yet quite flowered. A few of my keen-eyed readers have had some fun puzzling over the photos and trying to work out “What I’m going to be when I grow up”. Everyone correctly identified some of them and came close on others. Here are the plants in their more usual flowering glory, complete with their names.

Mystery wildflower No.1

This one was definitely going to be a member of the thistle family, but which one?

Marsh Thistle Cirsium palustra

The very spiny Marsh Thistle, growing in damp woodland
The very spiny Marsh Thistle, growing in damp woodland

We see lots of these tall and rather slender thistles growing in our damp woodlands.

Mystery wildflower No.2

The best clue I could find was its muddy habitat – this one likes its feet wet. I love its Latin name! I always think it should be a Roald Dahl character.

Brooklime Veronica beccabunga

Brooklime - the puddle flower
Brooklime – the flower that likes to grow in puddles

Here’s a closer shot of those beautiful blue – but rather shy – flowers …

Brooklime flowers
Brooklime flowers

We find lots of Brooklime growing on one of our favourite woodland paths – we call it “the muddy path”!

Mystery flower No.3

This strong-growing umbellifer with its large hairy leaves grows ubiquitously in our area, along roadsides and woodland rides. Perhaps it is not quite so common in other parts of the country, though it evidently reminded some people of other members of the umbellifer family.

Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium

Hogweed flowers with hoverfly
Hogweed flowers with hoverfly

Mystery flower No.4

This delicate woodland flower is almost bursting into flower in our woodlands now. It is a plant with two common names – it probably depends where you live as to which name you know it by. One quiz entrant named it as Wood Avens and that’s its main name in my wildflower ID book so there we are. It’s delicate bright yellow 5-petalled flowers don’t last long and soon turn into hooked reddish seedheads.

Wood Avens (or as I know it, Herb Bennet) Geum urbanum
[and would you believe it! I can’t find any photos of it just at the moment! photo will follow! … fortunately they are almost flowering now! :)]

UPDATE: 15th June 2015 ~ After our woodland wander this weekend – here are the photos I promised🙂

Wood Avens (Herb Bennet)
Wood Avens (Herb Bennet)

Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) seedhead
Wood Avens (Herb Bennet) – red hooked seedhead

Mystery flower No.5

This was the easy one that everyone spotted. The trifoliate leaves and those fluffy pinkish buds were a give-away, weren’t they?

Red Clover Trifolium pratense

Red Clover on the Railway Meadow
Red Clover on the Railway Meadow

… and here’s a closer view of this Summer meadow stalwart.

Red Clover flower
Red Clover flower

Mystery flower No.6

This flower has those small and shiny, spoon-shaped leaves with serrated edges on quite solid, straight stems. Its flowers form as dimpled buttons then burst open with sunny radiance in late Spring and early Summer. Many people will have a version of this flower growing in their gardens.

Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare

Oxeye Daisy flowers with gorse
Oxeye Daisy flowers with gorse

We find Oxeye Daisies growing along some of our old railway paths but they are equally at home along our woodland rides too. I love their sunny flowers.

… and finally – what was that mystery seedling?

At this time of year, the large seed leaves of these tiny seedlings are just beginning to be overshadowed by the first true leaves of this popular forest friend. The woodland floor is dotted with these curious seedlings as they form a mini-forest of their own among the feet of their super-sized parents.

Beech Fagus sylvatica

Beech seedling at the foot of a Beech tree
Beech seedling at the foot of a Beech tree

… and here are our beechwoods in their cool luxurious Summer greens.

Summer Beechwoods

At the end of last week’s quiz post I mentioned how the Beech seedling’s over-sized seed leaves reminded me of an umbrella and how the leaves of the parent tree can make a useful umbrella when caught in a sharp Summer downpour. Here are our younger boys in their Beech tree ‘rain shelter’ when we were caught out in one such Summer rain storm a few years ago.

The beechwood drenching and 'rain shelter'
The beechwood ‘rain shelter’

Thank you to everyone who took part in my little plant quiz and for all your comments. It’s been fun finding the photos of the plants in flower … even though Wood Avens seem to have slipped through our usual enthusiastic level of photography of woodland wildflowers! Ah well, another trip to the woods is going to be needed to remedy that soon 😀

J Peggy Taylor

Weathered wood - old wooden fence

Weathered Wood for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Wood is one of my favourite natural materials and it can always surprise us with its beauty. From seedling trees to decaying logs, for me wood provides a metaphor for the cycle of life. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, we are looking for weathered wood. Weathered wood is often a visual feast as it develops its own individual natural character with unique grain patterns, shapes and textures.

When we walk in our local woodlands we see many tree stumps, fallen trees or logs where the forces of nature and time have left their mark. Along some of our regular paths we have observed the effects of these natural processes on particular stumps and logs over several years. With the gradual effects of decay and weathering, some of our old log ‘seats’ have cracked open to reveal their woody chambers within.

Weathered wood - old tree stump and fungus
An old tree stump with some Sulphur Tuft fungus growing on it

On damp days in early Autumn colourful fungi will sprout from the weathered wood of old tree stumps and logs. The Sulphur Tuft fungus Hyphaloma fasciculare is one of the more common and easily recognisable species that grow on old wood from deciduous trees. Here it is growing on a small Beech stump in one of our favourite beechwoods. We find beechwoods tend to be quite rich in fungi.

Weathered wood - fallen tree
A fallen tree with its remaining stump on the forest floor

This dead tree on the woodland edge was felled by the wind last Spring and now it has developed its own little niche under the holly hedge. The thick grey vines of ivy continue to thrive on the weathered wood of the fallen trunk. On this particular day the late Winter sun was streaming through the trees and lighting up this normally unremarkable spot on the forest floor. I thought it looked quite beautiful and a little magical. You could almost expect The Little Grey Men to suddenly appear from under the fallen tree.

Weathered wood - decaying log
A decaying log

This old tree trunk sits on a steep bankside in a small stretch of ancient woodland within one of our local woods. I love the shapes and patterns that have developed in this old wood and the contrast between rough and smooth. In Autumn this is another old tree trunk that we have previously seen covered in fungi – not the Sulphur Tuft as I showed you earlier, but hundreds of smooth, white Stump Puffballs Lycoperdon pyriforme .

Weathered wood is such a fascinating material. Do take a look at the weathered wood others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Bluebells in woodland

My Favourite Things for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.”

For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week Cee has chosen the chorus of “My Favourite Things” as the theme. I’ve decided to share some of my favourite things that I have posted here on my blog during my first year-and-a-bit of blogging.

My regular blog visitors may have spotted my new blog header – beechwoods in Springtime are a great favourite of mine and we love to walk in the woods and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Spring. For my post header image I have chosen one of my very favourite Spring flowers, bluebells. I posted about the “Beautiful Bluebells!” in our woods last Spring.

Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed
Bee-on-a-flower – a Carder Bee feeding on Common Knapweed

I’m glad to say we’ve never experienced bee stings while spending happy warm Summer hours watching and photographing bees on flowers.

Comma butterfly on thistles
Comma butterfly on thistles

Butterflies are another Summertime favourite of mine. I love the orange of the Comma butterfly against the purple of their favourite food, the thistle flowers.

The cool green tranquility of the river
The cool green tranquility of the river

Here in Northern England we experience all kinds of weather conditions and we have learned to enjoy them all. A rainy day at the river in Spring is always an uplifting experience – you can read my post about this wet woodland walk here.

The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!
The old railway path and railway bridge in the woods where we often walk. This railway was a mineral line carrying coal from local mines. I think in this misty shot it looks like something from a Victorian mystery story!

The old railway path through the woods is a path we have seen in all weathers, from sunny days to Winter snow. The Victorian railway bridge has featured several times on my blog especially as part of my great interest in history in the landscape. The image above is the bridge in colour from my post, “Old rail trails and a bear hunt”, and below it is in black and white for “Victorian railway bridges in black and white”.

Both of these posts were for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which has been my favourite weekly photo challenge here on WordPress. It was from creating the black and white images for the Victorian bridges post that kindled in me an ambition to try my hand at creating more black and white images and taking part in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge. I do enjoy taking part in the photo challenges and learning from others.

Victorian rural railway bridge in snow monochrome
Victorian rural railway bridge in our local woods
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge

Wild roses are another of my very favourite flowers. I think I’ve probably said before, I have different favourite flowers depending on the season – there’s always something to look forward too … or in this case, look back at, after the Summer was done and the cooler days of Autumn were with us. I love my son’s photo of the wild Dog Roses. The roses appeared in my “Pastel pink wild roses” post last October.

Blooming Purple Crocuses
Blooming Purple Crocuses

Purple crocuses with their bright orange stamens are one of my favourite early Spring flowers. These one are in one of my back yard pots along with daffodils and some seedlings of one of our ‘wild’ edible leaves, Garlic Mustard. You can see more about my back yard gardening in “My Blooming Back Yard”.

First salad seedlings 2014
First salad seedlings of 2014 on my window ledge

As well as gardening outside in my yard, I also love indoor gardening too and I grow salad leaves and herbs on my window ledges. In the above photo are my first seedlings of last year – a favourite moment in my gardening year. Just today I was photographing my first salad leaf seedlings of 2015.

Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert
Juicy fresh raspberries for a delicious dessert

A Summer delight for me is picking wild fruit. These delicious raspberries grow in a small patch of woodland not far from our house.

Pink Sweet Peas on willow garden screen

Last Summer I had fun with an interesting vertical gardening experiment in my back yard. I made a jute and willow garden screen and then grew Sweet Peas in air-pruning plant pots to grow on the screen. I shared a number of posts about this project on the willow screen, the air-pruning pots and the Sweet Pea flowers. I was so pleased when my Sweet Peas finally flowered!

Crochet patch and new crochet edging on my jumper
The new crochet border in spike stitch

I couldn’t post about my favourite things without including a crochet project or two. The jute and willow garden screen was crocheted and my recent “Mending a Woolly Jumper Craft Project” involved several types of crochet too.

Turning a shirt collar - before and after
Turning a shirt collar – before and after

Turning a shirt collar is one of those old-fashioned mending tasks that I have always done to extend the life of favourite shirts. The shirt that features in my “Turn a shirt collar” tutorial belongs to my son. He is very fond of this shirt so when the collar began to wear, there was only one thing for me to do …

I decided to post a tutorial on the collar turning process and it has certainly been a favourite among my blog visitors – it is one of the most visited pages on my blog.

A colourful October dawn

To complete my collection of favourites, I want to close with one of my very favourite things, a beautiful sunrise. I am lucky to see a lot of beautiful sunrises and I often share them in my Wordless Wednesday posts. You can see more of my sunrises if you click on the Wordless Wednesday tag on my tag cloud in the sidebar … a beautiful sunrise doesn’t really need many words does it?

I’ve had a lot of fun strolling through my blog photos choosing my favourite things – and I must say I have had to leave out a few too or this post would have gone on forever! Do take a look at what others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week for the chorus of “My Favourite Things”.

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J Peggy Taylor

Woods and Spring for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Springtime in the Beechwood
Springtime in the Beechwood

Spring is one of my favourite seasons of the year. It’s the season when everything bursts back into life after a Winter rest. Walking in the woods is a real treat for the senses in Spring as the trees are developing their fresh green leaves and the Springtime flowers begin to bloom. I know I’ve said before, but you can smell ‘green’ in the air! This is a time of renewal, a time for making new plans. Spring is full of promises to be fulfilled.

Waterfalls tumbling over ancient sandstone rock
Spring leaves stretching out across the busy burn

I’ve chosen beechwoods in Spring for Cee’s Wood and Spring Foto Challenge. I love the way the sunlight filters through the the new citrus-green leaves.

We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds
We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds
Beech bark showing network detail and green algae
Beech bark showing network detail and green algae

The bark on this Beech tree really caught my eye. Beech trunks are usually quite smooth and grey – they always remind me of elephants! But on some trees, like this one, the bark develops into a network pattern. When it rains the rain runs down in rivulets and the algae on it glows an irridescent green against the dark tree trunk. It’s beautiful to see.

J Peggy Taylor

Beechwood sun and shadows

Weekend Nature Round-up – Signs of Spring

We probably all have our own little ways of noticing that Winter may be gradually releasing its icy grip, though this year perhaps ‘soggy’ would be a more appropriate adjective. I have noticed several of my Spring signs this weekend.

Late in the afternoon on Friday as I was busy with my usual housework I was treated to a glorious burst of singing, interspersed with a curious mix of clacking, clucking and peeping. This was one of ‘our’ starlings, singing his little heart out in our eaves. I’m not sure if he knew it was Valentine’s Day but I think he definitely sounded like he was keeping his toes crossed!

Today we took advantage of a sunny and relatively mild February Sunday and headed off into the woods for an afternoon’s ramble. As usual, being an avid nature-watcher I was on the look-out for several signs of a hopefully fairly imminent Spring.

Snowdrops almost blooming
Snowdrops almost blooming

The first of these was right outside our front door – our snowdrops are looking healthy and fit to burst. We’ll have to see what this week’s weather brings, but I’m sure those flowers will be opening very soon.

My second sighting, just a few metres into the wood, was the beautiful golden globes of the Winter Aconites Eranthis hyemalis. I always think of these flowers as ‘the’ promise that Spring is not too far off, so it is always a delight to see them. Rather like the snowdrops, they were just waiting to burst open. I’d thought today’s sun might have tempted them, but they mustn’t be quite ready.

The golden globes of Winter Aconites
The golden globes of Winter Aconites

The third sighting, close to the Winter Aconites, was my first bud-burst of 2014. The elder’s purple buds had burst forth just showing the tips of its tiny purple first leaves.

We stopped to admire the amazing reflections of the winter trees in the deep and muddy puddles along our path. The sun was still quite high and the reflected colours were much greener than a few weeks ago.

On we went, up through the sunlit beechwood, the shadows dancing across the mossy floor. This part of the wood is always full of interest, from fungi to flowers to fruits to creatures, there’s always something to discover. Today we were spotting new fungi growth on some old fallen timber – it was the fairly common Hairy Stereum Stereum hirsutum. Watching an old tree rot may not seem the most exciting thing to do, but deadwood is an amazing haven for wildlife and is especially fascinating to children [like ours] with a keen interest in both fungi and the invertebrate world.

Green shoots that promise bluebells in Spring
Green shoots that promise bluebells in Spring

At the ‘top of the forest’ we spotted the last of today’s new signs of Spring. Under the beech trees some familiar-shaped shoots were beginning to flex their glossy green fingers as they thrust their first leaves towards the encouraging sunshine. Here we saw the promise of bluebells! It will of course be some time yet before we are greeted by their glorious scent drifting on the breeze – but that is definitely something to look forward to.

J Peggy Taylor