• Natural High

    Monday morning - 8a.m. finds me and my brother Simon scrambling up the western ridge of Great Gable in The Lake District. What a mountain. What a day. What a view.

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  • Cloud gazing

    Sometimes words are superfluous.... so I'll just show you a picture that made me run for the camera tonight.

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  • Petrified forest produces some weird images

    Back in Borth & Ynyslas yesterday principally for a day on the beach, but I just can't help my curiosity when it comes to checking out the petrified forest on the shoreline. Wasn't a particularly low tide yesterday, but a few tree stumps were still exposed. The beach was busy with holidaying families & it made me wonder just how many people really understood the history they were dashing over to get their tootsies in the sea. This was a forest that was submerged some 6-7,000 years ago, but remarkably the old peat beds and many many tree stumps have survived beneath the salt water. Toddle back on my blog to last September & you'll find more pictures and info.

    For now, just enjoy some of the strange details of a lost world.

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  • Those hidden limes continue to intrigue

    Last weekend took us back to a long unvisited yet favourite haunt - the path along the Pentaloe Brook below Haugh Woods & this time we walked further on to complete a bigger loop than we'd done before. Hardly surprising that the walk produced a few new discoveries. That any of the native limes survived in Haugh in the wake of blanket softwood reforestation by the Forestry Commission in the 50s, 60s & 70s is very fortunate, probably largely down to the fact that these trees grow on virtually inaccessible terrain for planting anything. Many of the limes survive in close proximity to the conifer blocks (a feature that I've also seen in some of the intrinsically native lime woods in Lincolnshire) - limes will not be denied! Walk the Pentaloe Brook and you will find these amazing old coppice stools - many precariously hanging on to the steep slopes above the stream. My favourite is this remarkable tree (I've posted it before) that has dropped a bough over the stream that has rooted and grown up as a secondary tree. Interesting to see how the deer have chewed off all the easily accessible leaves from the base, causing the tree to throw up numerous epicormics.

    Further round the loop we walked we found a beautiful small-leaved lime pollard, silvered by an abundance of flower bracts. Lime pollards are far less common than coppice stools in Haugh indicating historically different grazing regimes. One assumes that the stools within the wood were part of stands that were once periodically fenced off to allow them to regenerate. However this pollard sitting on the edge of the wood and overlooking a broad pasture would indicate that this has long been a cleared tract of land for grazing animals, as I'm sure early maps would confirm and perhaps hint at the actual age of the tree. I feel confident it's well over 200 years old, but it would be fascinating to do a bit more research.

    On our way out of the woods we spotted a couple of silver-washed fritillaries, but far too jumpy to get any decent shots.

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  • Back to those Doward whitebeams

    Had another trip back to The Doward to meet up with Dave Green to see if I could put names to some more of the rare Sorbus recently photographed. Although he now lives in Wiltshire, Dave used to live near The Doward for about twenty years and knows these woods like the back of his hand. So meeting up and revisiting many of the trees I'd already photographed plus several more that Dave had noted down the years was something of an education.

    In fact one of the species up here that Dave originally identified as having very specific characteristics back in 2011/12 has actually been named after him (not by him - that's very bad form in taxonomic spheres) & so at present we know of 59 specimens of Sorbus greenii.

    Dave confirmed my previous identification of Sorbus eminentiformis and also showed me Sorbus evansii (named after the botanist Trevor Evans who discovered it in 1983) and Sorbus herefordensis and Sorbus saxicola. These four, along with Sorbus greenii, have the majority of their world populations on The Doward; in fact greenii and herefordensis are found nowhere else in the world. The differences between many of these species (or micro-species, as some people like to refer to them) are often very subtle, as they all tend to grow in very similar locations and leaf shape and size, even on a single tree, can be quite variable. Fruit shape and size can be a useful identification marker, often the only acid tests in some cases are through genetic fingerprints and flow cytometry.

    From 2012/13 another new species was identified on The Doward - Sorbus parviloba had previously only been known on Coldwell Rocks on the Gloucestershire side of the Wye Valley, but now Dave was convinced he had found in on The Doward. After tests at Kew it would seem that some of Dave's discoveries really are parviloba, but others may be a hitherto unknown species. Maybe there's a greentwoii out there!

    Another fascinating and classically situated tree was Sorbus x tomentella (confusingly, once called Sorbus x vagenis, but latterly renamed Sorbus x decipiens) - a hybrid between Sorbus aria (common whitebeam) and Sorbus torminalis (wild service tree) - and there it was, flourishing only a few feet away from both of its two parent trees.

    I'll be heading back to The Doward in a month or so to see the trees in fruit as part of the prep. work for our proposed "Remarkable Trees of Herefordshire", but in the meantime just to say many thanks to Dave G. for his time, help and good company.

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