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Peat - a vast carbon (and water) store

Peat – a vast carbon (and water) store

by Lewis ~ 21 April, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Last year, the Woodland’s blog reported on the moorland fires around the U.K. and this Easter weekend yet another fire has been reported at Ilkley  These fires have a devastating effect on local wildlife.  Sadly,  extensive peat wildfires have occurred in places as diverse as Indonesia (in 2015) and Greenland.  

The fire (in Indonesia) and its associated smoke was responsible for the deaths of people and animals,  and caused billions of pounds of damage through the destruction of homes and businesses.  Also,  the fires released truly massive amounts of carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. Read more...

Can the UK keep out tree diseases? - a view from Professor Nicola Spence

Can the UK keep out tree diseases? – a view from Professor Nicola Spence

by Angus ~ 16 April, 2019 ~ one comment

Recently, I met up with Nicola Spence, the UK's Chief Plant Health Officer: her observations took me on a hair-raising tour of the battlements that keep British trees safe from foreign invaders. To give an idea of the importance of plant health she pointed out that in the 1960s and 1970s Dutch Elm Disease from Europe killed between 10 and 20 million trees; the recent Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus), which also came from continental Europe, is in the process of wiping out about 80% of the UK's ash trees. Consequently her department is very vigilant to stop any further invasions of pathogens or insects that could attack our trees. For example Defra and the Forestry Commission have successfully dealt with localised outbreaks of Sweet chestnut blight and in Kent there was a recent infestation of trees by the Asian Longhorn Beetle which meant cutting down and incinerating all trees within a 100 metre radius.

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Insect Pollinators in decline

Insect Pollinators in decline

by Lewis ~ 13 April, 2019 ~ one comment

The science journal Nature has published the results of another insect survey, specifically of pollinating insects.   The UK pollinator monitoring scheme looked at some 353 species of bees, bumblebees and hoverflies.  The survey analysed 700,000+ sightings of pollinating insects over thirty years or more (1980 to 2013).  The survey yielded information about the changes in the range of these different pollinators - that is the different parts of the countryside that these insects were found in.  The survey did not attempt to determine actual numbers of bees etc in an area.   There were “winners and losers’ in the survey but the overall picture was somewhat depressing. Read more...

Learning to make a hurdle with hazel rods

Learning to make a hurdle with hazel rods

by Angus ~ 10 April, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Dan Watson has been making hurdles for 30 years and reckons there are over 200 hurdle-makers in the UK.  The process is physically demanding but also very skillful.  Dan now uses his own small woodland and in a single day he can make three hurdles - by contrast it took me a whole day and lots of help to get mine half finished - hurdle-making gets much quicker, and neater, with experience.

There are several skilled operations in creating a hurdle.  You start by selecting the hazel rods from hazel coppice and cut them at the base.  Next, you take these branches to your working area and trim off the side twigs being careful to cut upwards to avoid creating tears in the bark.  A base plate is needed with holes and ours had nine so that none uprights could be put into the base making a hurdle six feet wide and eventually about 4 foot high. Read more...

April’s Monthly Mushroom : Coral Slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa)

April’s Monthly Mushroom : Coral Slime (Ceratiomyxa fruticulosa)

by Jasper ~ 4 April, 2019 ~ comments welcome

These monthly posts have endeavoured, as much as possible, to focus on a particular mushroom, toadstool or other fungal organism of interest that might be in season around the time they appear online. This means we have now reached a potentially tricky time of year. “March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb”, as the saying goes.

A few weeks ago, when it was still cold and wet, I had considered looking at a number of jelly fungi that I was still finding oozing from damp stumps and fallen trunks, or maybe one of the brackets still hanging on from Winter. Then after the incongruously meekly-named Storm Kevin brought a hail of dead twigs and branches down to ground level for closer inspection, I thought about zooming in to meditate more fully on some of the resupinate crust fungi that I found attached to them. Read more...

Bushcraft and survival skills at the Ultimate Activity Company, near Hereford

Bushcraft and survival skills at the Ultimate Activity Company, near Hereford

by Angus ~ 28 March, 2019 ~ one comment

I’ve never opened a tampon before, so my newfound friend Tamsin showed me how. Then I started unpeeling it to find it’s really just compacted cotton wool. Tampons turn out to be ideal for lighting a fire if you don’t have matches because they are really compressed cotton wool and can be lit with a small spark. I did have a fire steel in my survival kit box and just like our friendships, we were soon creating sparks and warming up.  We were at the Ultimate Activity Company’s short course on what to do in the wild when things go awry.

Andy, our trainer, with his background as a marine, explained the imaginary position we were in: on a sailing trip eight of us had moored our boat in a sheltered sea loch on the west coast of Scotland and during the night the wind riled up causing the boat to hit a rock. It sank, leaving us just enough time to get off with little more than what we stood up in (along with my survival kit in a watertight tin).   Two of the crew had gone off to get help - leaving six of us to survive outdoors, perhaps for several days. Read more...

Unusual or exotic trees : The Quince, Cydonia oblonga.

Unusual or exotic trees : The Quince, Cydonia oblonga.

by Chris ~ 22 March, 2019 ~ comments welcome

The quince is endemic (native) to south west Asia, the Caucasus; an area occupied by countries like Turkey, Georgia, Northern Iran, Azerbaijan, and Armenia - where it can be found growing on rocky slopes and woodland margins.  The quince can survive in a variety of climates.  It even flourished (in historical times) in the heat of Mesopotamia, however,  in order to flower properly it needs to experience a cool or cold period when the temperatures drop below 45oF.

It belongs to the Rosaceae (Rose) family, which also includes apples and pears.  The fruit of the Quince is not dis-similar to a pear but it is generally larger, ‘knobbly’ and a bright ‘golden yellow’ colour.  The tree itself can grow to a height of 5 to 8 metres and to a width of some 5 metres.   Read more...

March’s Monthly Mushroom: Frosty Bonnet (Mycena tenerrima)

March’s Monthly Mushroom: Frosty Bonnet (Mycena tenerrima)

by Jasper ~ 15 March, 2019 ~ comments welcome

There are not many signs of mushrooms about at the moment, as we transition to a time of emergent Spring greens and Monty Don back on telly. Resupinates  continue to flourish in the dank places beneath logs, while the remnants of certain brackets  persist on trunks and stumps. Nevertheless, aside from a few notable exceptions, like St. George’s Mushrooms or Morels, there won’t be many of the more obviously mushroom-shaped fungi around over the coming few months.

Read more...

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