Tag Archives: trees

The Gruffalo supports #YorkshireTree

Tea and Trees for the Gruffalo

Yorkshire Tree tea box poem by Julia Donaldson
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler supporting Yorkshire Tree – will you help the Gruffalo?

In my deep dark wood I love to roam
among the trees around my home.
It’s so refreshing, mind restoring.
There’s much to see – it’s never boring.
Please raise a toast to Yorkshire Tea’s
campaign to plant a million trees!
Let’s drink more tea, then we can grow
a lot more trees for the Gruffalo!
“Who is this Gruffalo?” you say.
I’ll introduce him, if I may.

We first met the Gruffalo when our boys were very young. First, we found him lurking in the library picture book boxes. Then, as we grew to love him, the Gruffalo came to stay on our own bookshelves and was soon joined by an audio recording of the book, read by actress, Imelda Staunton, and then subsequently along came The Gruffalo’s Child too. Our boys loved these picture books. They’re wonderfully written by Julia Donaldson, with the text in rhyming couplets that just begs to be read aloud. Axel Scheffler’s fabulous illustrations truly bring the books to life.

Yorkshire Tea and teapot - Gruffalo supports tree planting campaign
Take a cup of #Yorkshire Tree

Now, the Gruffalo has joined the Woodland Trust and teamed up with Yorkshire Tea to support his beleaguered woodland habitat. Schoolchildren are helping with tree-planting not only here in the UK but also in Kenya, where some of Yorkshire Tea’s tea is grown. One million more trees are to be planted by 2020.

I like a nice cup of Yorkshire Tea myself and I couldn’t resist boxes of teabags incorporating Axel Scheffler’s Gruffalo illustrations. And then I found the Gruffalo was supporting my beloved trees! (I am a bit of a tree-nut, as some of you know 😉 .) If you can, make an excuse to visit woods with children this Spring or Summer – your own, your grandchildren, schoolchildren, any children … and you can find some wonderful activity resources on the Yorkshire Tree website, including how to attract a Gruffalo to your woods.

Bluebell time in the woods
Bluebell time in the woods

I hope you’ll join me in drinking #YorkshireTree tea and help the Gruffalo to “stop the wood from disappearing”!

J Peggy Taylor

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Autumn in the woods

European Tree of the Year … and the winner is …

Did you vote for your European Tree of the Year 2015? Now the votes are all in and counted and we have a winner … Estonia’s “Football Tree”! Congratulations, Estonia!

Estonia’s oak tree on a football field received nearly 60,000 votes so is clearly very well loved by its community. This oak tree stands right in the middle of a football field and the players play around it! Who says trees can’t be the centre of attention? 🙂

The Major Oak was England’s first entry in this competition and came in sixth in the vote.

You can find out all of this year’s results on the European Tree of the Year website. All of the trees that were finalists in the competition also become part of the ‘European Trail of Trees’. This means people can find out more about each of Europe’s chosen trees.

Whilst winning is always fun, in this competition it was the taking part that was the most important. The number of votes Estonia’s tree received (about a third of the total votes cast) shows the high regard this special tree has in their country. Here in England we don’t do so well at caring for our special trees and we need to try harder. Hopefully, the interest and support enjoyed by all of the entrants in the Tree of the Year competition will help to make more of us love our trees, especially our very special ancient trees.

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

Dreamy landscapes for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Misty day on the Stoney Road - monochrome
Waiting by the old road in swirling mist – is this a dream?

Imagine – you’re waiting here alone. Darkness will fall soon. Suddenly you begin to hear galloping hooves approaching through the mist. Your heart leaps, but you’re also trembling. You know soon you will be escaping from the lurking dangers of the night …

A Summer's day at the river
A time to dream – Summer on the riverbank

Imagine – you’re sitting on the sunny riverbank on this warm Summer’s day. Shafts of sunlight stream through the tree boughs that overhang the slow-moving river. Your eyes are mesmerised by the river’s kaleidoscope of gentle swirling green reflections as you drift into your sun-warmed dream …

You can find more interpretations of this dreamy challenge on this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

J Peggy Taylor

Colourful Winter sunrise silhouettes the early morning landscape

Winter Sun Silhouettes

I think there is something immensely ethereal and primeval about sunlight in Winter. Here on latitude 55 degrees north, we experience our ‘shortest day’ of the year on 22 December. On that day the sun rises around 8.30am in the morning and sets around 4.00pm in the afternoon. Since it occurs during our normal waking hours in mid-Winter, we notice and often watch the sun as it rises or sets in spectacular fashion. The above image was taken in mid-January at 8.30am. As the sun rose over the woods to the east of us, the sky filled with flaming colour, silhouetting the trees and the valley horizon … and our washing line and the streetlight. Even these mundane details were drawn into this dramatic, glowing dawn.

It is not at all surprising to me that our ancient ancestors were such keen observers of the ‘movements’ of the sun, nor that fire was of such significance to them, especially during those dark Winter days. A few miles across the moors from us, the town of Allendale hosts a unique fire festival on New Year’s Eve (31st December) called the Tar Barl, when flaming barrels of tar are carried through the town as part of the New Year festivities. In northern Europe fire festivals hark back into ancient times when encouraging the return of the sun after the dark days of Winter was an important task.

Browsing through our photo archives for silhouette images for the WordPress Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge this week, I noticed the images that best fitted the theme also had something else in common – Winter sun.

Dark trees silhouetted against snow
The dark silhouettes of the tree trunks stand out against the snow as we return from a Winter walk

The old railway cutting is one of our regular paths so we have seen it in all weathers, as we make our way in and out of the woods. I love the way the snow lights up the cutting, emphasising the dark tree trunks on each side. The pale peach light of the setting sun is just visible directly ahead. When we see that pale peach light, we know we may be treated to a beautiful Winter sunset as our path takes us onwards out of the trees.

Tree and gatepost silhouetted against the Winter's afternoon sun
Tree and gatepost silhouetted against the Winter’s afternoon sun

I showed another image of this location in my last post for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Winter theme. Here on the edge of the wood we can look out right across the upper valley and moors. Beyond the drama of the dark foreground silhouettes of the tree and the gatepost, I also like the middle distance silhouettes of the Winter trees. Their leafless branches expose the stark beauty of their structure, like natural sculptures. In Winter the sun sets behind the distant valley here, so this is a favourite view of ours.

This unusual Winter sun silhouettes the trees through a grey sky
This unusual Winter sun silhouettes the trees through a grey sky

This is another one of those slightly strange Winter sun experiences. My son spotted this silhouetted tree pattern against the sun as it struggled to put in an appearance through the cold and heavy grey sky.

J Peggy Taylor

Spring waterfall tumbling over rocks

Water and Winter for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

To help kindle our creative fires for the ‘Water and Winter’ theme for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, Cee gave this prompt :

“The Water energy is a strong generative force centered in the lower belly. When the Kidney Qi is strong, a person is fearless, determined, and can endure many hardships in pursuit of their goals. Persevering by will power is characteristic of those with strong Kidney Qi. The color for water is blue.”

The substance we know as ‘water’ is a crucial part of life here on Planet Earth. Water truly is a ‘strong generative force’ and it plays such a significant part in the cycle of the seasons. Thinking about the seasons always leads me to think about the natural world and its continual battle for life. In browsing through my archives to choose images for my challenge entry this week I was very much reminded of the hardships nature must endure just to survive, especially during the cold season of Winter. I was also struck by how different our ‘normal’ environments can appear when wrapped in Winter snow.

Oaks silhouetted in snow against pines
The clinging snow traced out the branches of this group of oak trees

This group of oak trees stood out against the dark green pines beyond. I noticed the way the snow had clothed the main branches of the trees. It looked as if the branches had been painted white. The thinner oak twigs retained their red-brown colour and contrasted with both the oaks’ snow-white branches and the darkness of the tall pines.

Soft snow decorates the twigs of this hazel thicket
Soft snow decorates the twigs of this hazel thicket

We often walk by this coppiced hazel. As with the oaks above, the snow has clung to the leafless twigs and branches, giving it a decorated effect. I love the way the snow highlights the underlying shape of this tree.

Winter sun silhouettes - trees and gate in snow
The low Winter sun gives little warmth on this snowy day as it silhouettes the gate and trees

There is a convenient bench just by this gate, on which woodland visitors may linger and look out across the valley. As you can see, this was not a day for sitting or indeed for lingering too long either. It was very cold, but the slowly setting Winter sun gleamed so beautifully across the snow-covered fields.

A heavy November snow fall
A heavy snowfall in November coloured the late afternoon with a snowy blue-grey gloom

This was the first of many snowfalls that Winter. The snow fell so thickly and so quickly. I took this photograph from our front door at around 4.30pm, during a brief interlude when the snow eased off a little. There was this eerie blue-grey light as we looked out eastwards towards the woods. It is very unusual for us to have snow on this scale even before November is out.

Hopefully our Winter this year will not be too harsh.

J Peggy Taylor

Spring flowers blooming by the burn in the old woods

A rainy day by the river for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

There’s nothing quite like a wet woodland walk for reviving the senses and uplifting the soul – and such a walk was a perfect prescription for me this week as I have been rather busy dealing with an irksome legal issue. It also gave me a great opportunity to grab some photos for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week as the theme is Water.

On the day I flung down my papers and pencils and announced that I needed some air, it had been raining all morning. I think up to that point the weather had completely passed me by – my head was definitely elsewhere, full of words and arguments from the problem I was wrestling with.

Living on a northern English hillside means we see quite a lot of rain so we’ve come to enjoy the out-of-doors in pretty much all kinds of weather. Rain was just fine for me today – in fact it was rather soothing as it pattered down on paths and in puddles. I love the way it runs down the tree trunks making networks of rivulets in the patterns of the tree bark. Some of the beech tree trunks were soaked and stood dark and sombre. In stark contrast, the wet lichen on them had adopted a bright, almost other-worldly, iridescent green glow. It was quite beautiful.

Raindrop patterns in a woodland pool
Raindrop patterns in a woodland pool

Walking in the rain also meant that I was carrying my umbrella, which in turn meant I didn’t really have many spare hands for taking photographs. My son liked this as it meant I didn’t stop quite so often!

We headed off down through the woods towards the river. For some reason this seems to be a direction we are often drawn to on rainy days. Not too surprisingly, we passed no-one as we strode along, gulping in deep breaths of the gloriously fresh air. It was my son who uttered the phrase on this occasion, but it’s always said on days like this – “I love the smell of wet woods!” It really is amazing, especially now, in Spring. You can smell green. Yes, I know green is a colour – but in damp woods in Spring, green takes on another dimension. It colours the air with a heady aroma of newly grown leaves and flowers. Ah, yes! You can smell green!

Today there was a yellow afterglow too – gorse! For everyone who doesn’t know, gorse is a very common prickly shrub here in the UK that bears the most beautifully yellow pea-type flowers. In a light Spring breeze you will know you are in the presence of gorse when the gorgeous honey scent reaches your nostrils.

Along the path where we normally spot lots of bees, butterflies and other interesting insects … today we saw just one brave moth! However, the trees were full of birdsong, which we enjoyed as we walked.

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

Soon we were approaching the river. The river has a smell of its own – earthy and distinctive. It rises high up on the moors and gathers its waters as it flows down through the wooded valley. In the part of the valley we were heading to today, the river runs through a rocky gorge and is fed by steep sided streams (we call them ‘burns’ up here in the north 😉 ).

Waterfalls tumbling over ancient sandstone rock
Waterfalls tumbling over ancient sandstone rock

This part of the river is known as ‘the crags’ as there are some substantial sandstone cliffs. It is amazing to think these rocks have been around about 300 million years! They were formed during the Upper Carboniferous period when our part of the world lay next to the equator and these rocks were part of a tropical swamp with huge primitive trees, tree ferns and dragonflies. Our sandstone crags are the remains of fossil soils.

The sandstone crags are the remnants of fossil soils formed over 300 million years ago
The sandstone crags are the remnants of fossil soils formed over 300 million years ago

I wouldn’t say it was tropical today – rather cool in fact! Though, even on hot sunny days it stays cool under the trees along the river. I love the coolness by the river. It is a tranquil and restful place – just what I needed today 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Catching up on Nature’s Calendar

Today I was catching up on my Spring nature records – I had my Elder bud-burst to record from Sunday and then today (as I’d anticipated in my last blog post) at lunchtime I spotted our snowdrops had opened their flowers to this morning’s warm sun. Unfortunately, it started to rain at that point so no photos yet … perhaps tomorrow.

Recording  Snowdrops on Nature's Calendar
Recording my Snowdrops on Nature’s Calendar

Phenology sounds like a phenomenally important kind of science I always think – and it certainly is. But the great thing about phenology is that many of us ‘just do it’ in our own small way without even thinking about it. As we go about our daily lives we notice nature’s own events – we spot snowdrops or bluebells coming into bloom, buds bursting on hedges, trees sprouting new leaves, frogspawn in a garden pond, a butterfly … and so on. We comment too on whether it is earlier or later than we saw them last year.

I tend to record my ‘sightings’ in a small notebook and take photos if possible. I’m usually fine with photos as long as the subject can stand still for long enough! So, flowers and frogspawn, yes; birds or deer, no!

As well as keeping my own notes and photographs I also try to share my nature records. Nature’s Calendar is one of the places where I submit my seasonal sightings. Nature’s Calendar is the Woodland Trust’s web-based phenology project and is also a really good source of information for anyone wanting to learn more about nature and the timing of seasonal events in their local area. This ongoing wildlife survey covers the whole of the UK and it’s easy to use and free to register.

As you would guess, currently Nature’s Calendar is recording Spring sightings as they occur in different parts of the country. Here is a quick peek at the key Spring events Nature’s Calendar would like us to record.

Recording Spring events for Nature's Calendar
Spring events for Nature’s Calendar

Together all of these records help to map changes in natural events over the years so every record submitted really does count. We have taken part in numerous ‘citizen science’ projects as a family and as well as being educational we find they are also lots of fun. … and of course grown-ups too can enjoy recording and learning about nature! So if you’ve never tried your hand at something like this before, why not take a look at Nature’s Calendar … beware though, it can become addictive!!

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

Sunny Saturday in the woods

New month: Nature roundup

We seem to have spun through January and reached February already in 2014. I am relieved to say in our northern valley, apart from periodic bouts of strong winds and gales, we have not suffered with the extreme weather conditions that are being experienced elsewhere in the UK.

Walking out in our local countryside in mild winter sunshine on both days of this weekend I couldn’t help thinking about the people of Somerset and others who are still suffering flooding – a month on – with the weather forecast again offering them little in the way of respite.

In recent winters we’ve had snow that lasted for weeks but this year on the first weekend in February, muddy paths and busy burns were the only signs of winter weather we encountered. The sunshine was very pleasant and we remarked on it with other walkers we met along the way.

Whilst I would say our winter has been relatively mild, we were still very surprised on Saturday when within a short stretch of a favourite woodland path we spotted Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) in three different stages of growth.

Green Hogweed in February
Green Hogweed in February

The first example was particularly remarkable as it was not brown and broken as you’d expect in late winter, but green with newly-formed seed pods! We normally see it at that stage in August not February!

Seedhead stars on old Hogweed stems
Seedhead stars on old Hogweed stems

A little further on, along the stretch of path where summer finds us spotting curious insect-life, some brown stems of last summer’s Hogweed were still standing proud above the remains of other plants and grasses. I love the way the winter light reflects from their starry seedless heads. These old stalks still have beauty to offer yet.

Hogweed with seeds - in February
Hogweed with seeds – in February

Across the path in the lea of the towering mature pine trees we saw our third state of Hogweed. These ones were in full autumn glory, their heads sporting a full complement of perfectly formed seeds – again, a beautiful sight with the morning sun catching them as they danced in the light breeze.

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage by the burn
Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage by the burn

As we retraced our steps homeward we stopped by the burn to seek out any signs of early spring flowers. No Dog’s Mercury or Wood Sorrel yet, but the very-small-flower-with-the-very-long-name was looking promising by the waters-edge. I’m talking about Opposite-Leaved Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium)- which, as you can see, is indeed a very long name for so small a plant. The tiny golden flowers were ready in their buds so I’m sure will appear very soon.

Sunday brought another chance for a sunny walk under azure blue skies. Today’s walk was in a different direction, along the valley side on an old mineral line before dropping into another woodland below. The spring signs I was seeking here were Blackthorn blossom, Gorse, Broom and Primroses. I found two out of four, so wasn’t disappointed.

The Blackthorn buds are filling up but none had burst forth yet. Both Gorse and Broom grow along the old railway line. I thought the Gorse looked particularly beautiful against the amazing blue of the sky.

gorse-against-blue-sky

The birch trees with their white trunks and purple twigs also caught my eye as I walked along.

winter-birches-blue-sky

There was lots of mud in the wood … but no sign of primroses today. Still, there’s plenty of time for them yet.

J Peggy Taylor