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Woodland types : Wet woodlands

Woodland types : Wet woodlands

by Chris ~ 29 May, 2015 ~ comments welcome

After the last ice age, the melt water from glaciers and ice sheets created areas of open and wet habitat. It was a ‘fertile time’ for pioneer species such as willow, birch and alder. Nowadays, wet woodland is scattered throughout the U.K. and Ireland, though western areas with greater rainfall are more likely locations.   Such woodland is associated with poorly drained or seasonally flooded areas, for example, the flood plains of rivers, or the edges of lakes, bogs and fens. Estimates of the area covered by wet woodland vary – but the Forestry Commission gives a conservative figure of 25 to 35,000 hectares. Much of it is relatively inaccessible and of little economic value. In consequence, it is often subject to drainage and/or clearance. Read more…

Woodland types :  Beech Woodlands

Woodland types : Beech Woodlands

by Chris ~ 22 May, 2015 ~ one comment

Beech woodland is native to Southern England and Wales (roughly, south of a line drawn from The Wash to the The Severn).  However, in some parts of the country, beech has been planted systematically, for example, John Holliday of Staffordshire planted some 94000 beech in 1791.  Beech is found throughout Central and Western Europe. It is generally found on freely draining (drier) soils (chalks, limestones and light loams) such as found in the Cotswolds, Chilterns and the Downs. Read more…

Woodlands come in many forms.

Woodlands come in many forms.

by Chris ~ 15 May, 2015 ~ comments welcome

The amount of woodland in the U.K. has increased significantly in the last one hundred years. At the time of the first World War, woodland coverage was at an all time low of about 5%.  The coverage of woodlands now stands at about 12% – much is in the form of coniferous plantation (established to provide a stock of useable wood and timber).  Coniferous plantations were often established on poor quality / marginal land.

However, it is possible to recognise many different types of woodland in the U.K.   How these are described or categorised varies. There is, for example, the Peterken system of stand types* – this is based on the presence of long established tree species. It has 12 main (and 39 subsiduary) types of woodland.   Then, there is the National Vegetation Classification (the subject of a blog some time back) – this Read more…

Chatsworth Arboretum and Pinetum - highly managed woodlands

Chatsworth Arboretum and Pinetum – highly managed woodlands

by Angus ~ 8 May, 2015 ~ comments welcome

In the 1830s the 6th Duke of Devonshire, owner of the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire, was one of the first to plant a pinetum and arboretum.  He did this in partnership with Joseph Paxton, who later became famous for building the Crystal Palace exhibition in London.  Taking a few acres of grazing land above the great house at Chatsworth, they set about planting trees systematically in accordance with the botanical classification used at the time.  It’s very clear that both the Duke and Joseph Paxton had great fun in their creation of some large-scale landscape features.   Read more…

"Landmarks", Robert Macfarlane's new book

“Landmarks”, Robert Macfarlane’s new book

by Angus ~ 30 April, 2015 ~ one comment

According to the new “Landmarks” book, the Oxford Junior dictionary recently removed some words which the editor considered less relevant to today’s young people.  These exclusions included: acorn, ash, beech, bluebell, hazel, ivy, fern, lark, mistletoe, newt and otter.  Such words had to be removed to make space for these more relevant words, amongst others: blog, chatroom, MP3player, broadband, attachment and voice-mail.  This change, which is said by the editor to reflect the reality of modern-day children’s urban lives, is alarming in its acceptance that children might no longer “see the seasons, or that the rural environment might be so unproblematically disposable.”

Macfarlane has an absorbing obsession about both the countryside and about language.  Putting the two together, he has produced a beautifully written book that examines how people think about their outdoor surroundings and particularly how a fertile language has developed around the country.    But, he also brings out the sheer depth of vernacular vocabulary of people who work with the land. Read more…

The life cycle of bumblebees - Part 2

The life cycle of bumblebees – Part 2

by Chris ~ 24 April, 2015 ~ one comment

The first bees to emerge from the eggs are all females. When they emerge they are ‘white’ and their wings are crumpled. Soon, blood or haemolymph is pumped into the veins of the wings – and the wings expand and then harden.   It takes longer (1 / 2 days) for the body colours to develop.

Before long, some of these young females or workers will venture of of the nest to look for food.   They will also take on responsibility for the next batch of grubs, which the queen will have laid whilst the first generation of workers were pupating. The queen now no longer gathers her own food, but is fed by her worker offspring. Read more…

The life cycle of bumblebees (Part 1).

The life cycle of bumblebees (Part 1).

by Chris ~ 17 April, 2015 ~ 3 comments

Different species of bumblebees make their nests in different places (using feathers, hair, dried moss or grass or materials for loft insulation).

White tailed bumblebees May be found under the floor of garden sheds
Buff tailed bumblebees May use air bricks and nest in the cavity walls of house
Early bumblebees Often use old birds’ nests in trees
Tree bumblebees Make use of holes in tree trunks
Carder bees May use grass tussocks, dry leaves e.g. Under bramble thickets


Read more…

Bees and bumblebees : the threat of extinction.

Bees and bumblebees : the threat of extinction.

by Lewis ~ 11 April, 2015 ~ 5 comments

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) publishes the Red List.   It is a list of species that are under threat in different parts of the world; it goes back to 1964 when it published the ‘list of threatened plants’. By 2012, the IUCN assessed a total of 63,837 species and reported on their status in the following terms:

Extinct (EX) – No known individuals remaining.

Extinct in the wild (EW) – Known only to survive in captivity, or as a naturalised population outside its historic range. Read more…

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