• Cold... very cold

    Last night was the coldest night so far this winter, getting down to around -10C. Jan found this amazing frost pattern on her studio window. Never seen anything quite like it before.

    Got all wrapped up early this morning and headed off down the valley. Lots of great ash pictures - you may get a wee look later, but also found this hoar frosted barbed wire.

    The work of the freezing weather is so beautiful, yet so transient and, of course, unrepeatable.

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  • An old friend on a bitter winter's day

    Yes, like so many people in Wales and The Midlands we got a huge dump of snow last night. Woke to that so distinctive white glow on the bedroom ceiling and the sound of.... well absolutely nothing outside. The muffler blanket of snow has smothered everything. A few blackbirds squabbling over the hips on the wild rose, a spotted woodpecker getting all bossy with the tits on the nuts, and that's about all that was going on. It's been blizzarding most of the day - 6" of snow and white fields, white sky to the point where I came over a rise and lost all sense of perspective - a huge white tablecloth of a landscape was suddenly one dimensional with its criss-cross creases of hedges and fences and the occasional scar of a tree or a copse. Ploughed down the hill to see that old friend, the ash pollard, & all is still well with it. Flat or is it soft light? Sometimes it's hard to know, but anyway here it is in spartan winter splendour.

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  • Birchfest

    Last few days of good light gave me a couple of opportunities to check out some of the stands of birch round here & the autumn colours this year have been pretty good. Birch is such an undervalued tree, but makes its own very distinctive contribution to the treescape all through the seasons. Many foresters still view it as a weed, but what we should be doing is harnessing the virtues of this tree. Yes, a lot of birch is used to make plywood, but taken to another level it makes the most glorious birch block floors - in Scandinavia particularly... well they do have a lot of birch over there. I have used it to make picture frames before now & they look stunning. I wonder what it would be like if used to make furniture. I'm sure someone has done this already... And then of course there's birch sap wine - the Scots know all about that. Have tried it up there, but never actually had a go at making any. Project for next spring.

    I have an upcoming illustrated talk as part of Herefordshire Tree Week on the 28th November - "Heritage Trees of the Welsh Borders" - 7.30 at Kington Primary School, admission £5. I'll have tree books and cards with me too, so if you're looking for that special prezzie... Love to see you there.

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  • In the woods - discoveries and thoughts

    In between the days working on my forthcoming book I've been out and about in the local woods and, as seems to happen so often, discovering the unusual or previously unnoticed trees. One only has to take a slightly different turn in an otherwise familiar wood, or perhaps see a location that most of the year might be shrouded in foliage, to make new discoveries.

    Nupend Wood, near Fownhope, is an outlier of the Haugh Woods group that cover a large portion of the Woolhope Dome. Some folks have been barracking the Forestry Commission forever about their (perceived) mismanagement of these woods, and no doubt they have some valid points, but beyond, and sometimes in amongst and in spite of the ranks of conifers the irrepressible broadleaf trees, along with many veteran yews, are still a prominent feature of these woods. Nupend is a fairly small tract of woodland, but is actively managed by the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust. I walk through it several times a year and love the rich mix of trees and wild flowers to be found there as well as the birds and butterflies that good practise have drawn in. The impressive ancient small-leaved lime coppice stool that clings on to the edge of one of the numerous and long disused quarries is a tree I've never spotted before, although I must have walked within thirty or forty feet of it many times. All the branches and stems that you can see in the picture almost certainly emanate from the same tree. Dating such a remarkable tree is well nigh impossible, but 3-500 years wouldn't be out of the question and perhaps it's considerably older and, just for a change, humans can take the credit for keeping it alive and kicking. If it hadn't been coppiced regularly down the years it might easily have expired long ago. The conundrum now is what will be the best management plan for its future... undoubtedly more coppicing, but after such a long spell of non-intervention I hope this will be done in several cycles rather than one fell swoop.

    A few days later & I found myself in Badnage Wood, near Tillington, to the northwest of Hereford city, enjoying the late afternoon sunlight driving into the edge of this predominantly oak wood. In the western edge of the wood that I walked there is little evidence of much truly old growth, most of the big oaks looking about 80-120 years, and mostly planted trees reared as standards I suspect as not a lot of evidence of old coppice. Looking up I was reminded of an article I saw recently about crown shyness between trees (see Crown Shyness on Wiki) & yes, there it was - distinct borderlines between the adjacent crowns of the oaks. Pointless my regurgitating everything from Wiki, but it's just one of those casually noticed phenomena that suddenly makes sense.

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  • ... and then this happened

    Heading home last night and spotted some great light on a hedgerow ash. Ran across the field to catch a picture before the storm clouds blacked everything out... and then this happened. How often when you see a rainbow & there isn't a decent picture to be made? Perhaps it's a little optimistic to have a rainbow over an ash tree.

    A few talks coming up this month for anyone interested:

    14.10 - West Midlands Tree Wardens Forum, Birmingham - "Ash"

    15.10 - 'Out of Nature' exhibition at Newport House, Almeley - "New Perspectives of Ancient Trees"

    19.10 - Welsh Historic Gardens Trust, Swansea "The British Oak"

    24.10 - Stoke Lacy Garden Club - "Treescape"

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Archie Miles photography

Archie's Blog

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