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A trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

A trip to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

by Chris ~ 6 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

A small contingent set off from Woodlands HQ in SE London to visit Kew Gardens.  A trip to Kew is always a pleasure but there were a number of things that had induced us to face the rigours of the South Circular - notably

  • The restoration of the temperate house
  • The exhibition of “a legacy of ancient oaks” by Mark Frith
  • A visit to the gallery of Marianne North’s paintings / work
  • It was a beautiful sunny but autumnal day 

We arrived and accessed the car park near the river via Ferry Lane (where there are a good number of disabled spaces - which is not always the case at certain public venues / attractions).  A short walk took us to the Brentford Gate and into the gardens.  For those with limited mobility (or stamina), there is a Kew Explorer stop nearby.   Here you can board the Kew Explorer Land train which runs each day between 11 am and 3 pm.  A complete tour of the Gardens takes  about 40 minutes and ticket holders can get on and off at any stop on the route, re-boarding the ‘train’ when ready. Read more...

Oaks by frith

Mark Frith’s ‘Legacy of Ancient Oaks’ at Kew Gardens.

by Angus ~ 5 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

"At times the tree appeared to draw itself", says Mark Frith in describing his 3-year project to draw 20 veteran oak trees.   Mark was sponsored by Felix Dennis to criss-cross Great Britain finding venerable oak trees, most of which had been alive for 500 years and some of which were over 1,000 years old.   Many of these trees have become local celebrities such as the Gospel Oak  in Hertfordshire or the Major Oak in Nottinghamshire, part of the original Sherwood Forest.  One of them, the Pontfadog Oak which was known as Wales' National tree got into the news in 2013 when a storm blew it over - so Frith's drawing caught this one just in time. Read more...

"Carbon Weevils", a Woodland owner's film about carbon emissions by Tim Britton

“Carbon Weevils”, a Woodland owner’s film about carbon emissions by Tim Britton

by Angus ~ 3 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Tim Britton is the owner of a small woodland where he tries to promote species diversity through what he calls "low key management".  He's created a wildflower meadow, manages several small ponds and keeps a handful of Jacobs sheep.  Tim pursues a lifestyle which is as low-carbon as possible and he heats his house with a wood-burner, using wood from his woodland.  He also minimises his carbon footprint, like many people, by never flying, growing a lot of his own vegetables and travelling by bike and public transport.  He's also been keeping bees for 35 years.

"We're the only creature on earth that's evolved to sniff out the Carbon deposits, dig them out and convert them at high speed into Carbon Dioxide - so bringing our own distinct geological era"  points out Tim Britton.  His film is a response to behaviour which releases carbon and is creating the emerging environmental catastrophe:  "I'm hoping my film, 'Carbon Weevils', will get people to think of themselves in a different light - by taking a step sideways we can laugh and be slightly embarrassed at the same time.  I think serious stuff wrapped up in humour is a good way to get people thinking - and I hope it's just a small nudge towards changing minds." Read more...


Bees and the landscape

by Chris ~ 1 November, 2018 ~ 3 comments

Bumblebees and honeybees seem to be assailed from all sides - pesticides, parasites and viruses, habitat fragmentation, climate change all come into play.     Now a study of honeybees in the North West (of the UK) suggests that there is a clear link between their immediate landscape and the quality of their diet.

Bees collect pollen and nectar for their food    Nectar is converted into honey in the hive, whilst the pollen is converted into beebread / 'bee pollen' .  Read more...

Wildlife corridors

Wildlife corridors

by Chris ~ 28 October, 2018 ~ one comment

The term 'wildlife corridor' is used to refer to any linear feature in the landscape that can be used for migration or dispersal of wildlife.  Wildlife corridors offer the possibility of linking habitats and reducing the isolation of populations.  Linear features vary considerably in size (in terms of width and length), they may not be continuous, for example, a hedgerow may have a gate in it or an opening to a field.   The extent to which a linear feature is broken by gaps has implications in terms of its function as a corridor.  Patches of natural features or a particular habitat type can also enable wildlife to disperse / migrate - the term 'stepping stones' has occasionally been applied to them.   In a countryside that is becoming increasingly fragmented, the role of wildlife corridors has assumed greater importance.  Read more...

box moth

The Box Moth – food, sex and death

by Angus ~ 24 October, 2018 ~ comments welcome

The box moth has recently been ravaging the box hedges of Britain.  Box hedges are like jam sandwiches to these hungry caterpillars and they are making gardens and woodlands unsightly and in some places they are putting at risk the survival of traditional hedging.  Surprising as it may seem, there is an organisation dedicated to promoting boxwood - the European Boxwood and Topiary Society which celebrates and protects ornamental gardens across Europe.

Box Moths (Cydalima perspectalis) come in two forms - the common variant and the darker melanic variant.  Like most animals, their main activities are eating and sex.  The eating is mainly done by the caterpillars which eat the box leaves and create a trail of cobwebs and leaf pellets - part of an affected box bush is shown below :- Read more...

Seeds - the means of dispersal

Seeds – the means of dispersal

by Chris ~ 19 October, 2018 ~ one comment

In general, as plants are fixed in place, they have a bit of a problem when it comes to reproduction. That is, exchanging genetic material with one another and then ensuring that their offspring can establish themselves away from the parents so that they are not in direct competition.   Some plants have solved this by using the wind to move pollen and/or seeds (anemochory), some use water (hydrochory) and many others have entered into associations’ with animals.   

The list of animals providing ‘assistance’ is quite varied.  In the case of pollen, transfer is achieved by beetles, bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, hummingbirds, fruit bats, moths etc.  The dispersal of seeds by animals is known as zoochory.   Read more...

The colours of autumn leaves, and fruits.

The colours of autumn leaves, and fruits.

by Chris ~ 12 October, 2018 ~ one comment

It is now ‘officially’ Autumn, the leaves of deciduous trees have ‘done their job’.  Their photosynthetic abilities are in decline as winter is not conducive to photosynthesis and growth.  Low temperature and low light intensity mean that metabolism slows right down.  The leaves of a tree become a liability in that they would make use of the reserves that the tree has stored away for hard times, plus the leaves offer resistance to the winds of winter so a tree is more likely to sustain damage  (see video clip below) - branches ripped from the stem or the tree may even be uprooted.

So the leaves are ‘discarded’ but before that happens they change colour.  The green colour of the chlorophyll is lost and a variety of other colours emerge - reds, oranges and yellows. These colours are associated with different pigments, the carotenes, xanthophylls and the anthocyanins. Read more...

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