J Peggy Taylor
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.
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.
Soon after entering the woods, we were spotting Wood Avens growing beside the woodland paths. Their delicate yellow flowers dotted the path-side greenery.
Here you can see the Wood Avens plant, nestled in amongst the grasses with its bright yellow 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 😉 ).
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.
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
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