J Peggy Taylor
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.
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.
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
Here in the UK the season of Spring comes into full bloom in the month of May. For me, May is THE month to get out for a healthy and enjoyable walk in the countryside.
I do most of my local walking in woodland where I find there is so much to see in Springtime. In some of my recent posts I’ve been sharing my Spring walks and the delights that are out there waiting for us. If you want to find out more about woodland walks you may find the Woodland Trust’s ‘Visiting Woods’ pages useful.
The month of May also happens to be National Walking Month here in the UK. The Living Streets charity is one of several organisations involved in promoting events during this month, including Walk to Work Week (12-16 May) and Walk to School Week (19-23 May). You can find out more from their website http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/national-walking-month?
Why not walk this May? It’s an excellent and FREE way to enjoy the out-of doors and it’s good for the body, mind and soul 🙂
J Peggy Taylor
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The birch trees with their white trunks and purple twigs also caught my eye as I walked along.
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
There’s nothing quite like a woodland walk in winter. I love the woods at all times of year, but in winter I think woodland has its own special magic.
There’s always plenty to watch out for as we wander along – and I do mean ‘wander’. Wandering allows plenty of time to absorb the atmosphere and enjoy the intricacies of the natural world.
Leafless trees stand proud in their stark winter beauty. We notice the different colours of the twigs and branches – some purple, some orange, some green … and some are actually brown. The golden winter sun adds its own glow, and we see pink reflections on a group of white birch trunks cast from the red larch twigs 40 feet above us.
We notice and name the numerous species of conifer trees as we pass along another path. I remind my son how to distinguish between Scots and Corsican Pine by counting the needles in each tuft.
We see the recent winter rain has turned a normally-languid-stream into a torrent, gushing on its busy way through the culvert under the road.
The next path we take is a real woodland path, carpeted with last year’s leaves and punctuated at frequent intervals by another winter woodland favourite of mine … mud! Mud, mud, glorious mud! We squelch through some patches but decide to edge around the larger swamps where the ooze looks to be of a more dubious depth.
When we reach the pond, it looks oddly flat without its reeds, rushes and waterside flowers. We spot a few pond snails but most of the pond’s inhabitants will be resting safely in the silt at the bottom.
We noticed a number of trees with broken limbs as we walked today. The weather has certainly reminded us of its power this winter – wind and water have both caused a fair amount of damage and misery here in the UK. We’ve been lucky and have got off fairly lightly up here in the hills.
Our homeward wander takes us along one of our regular and well-known paths. We watch the squirrels chasing through the undergrowth before darting suddenly up another tree. One sits motionless by an oak tree only a few metres away from us. We watch, the squirrel sits – we move on first.
Again we enjoy the beautiful golden winter sunshine … and more mud! The puddles in the railway cutting are full of blue sky and pink clouds overlaid with dark reflections of the winter trees.
Then, wending our way homeward, we spot a promise of Spring – flowering alder catkins. My son took this quick shot of the catkins against the setting sun – beautiful.