Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Root Spinney

A fine morning so, sweep net at the ready, I set out for the little gem that is Root Spinney, a mile or so south of Byfield at SP516516. Ancient woodland it is not, having been planted less than fifty years ago, but the owners of the land planted a well-chosen selection of native trees and shrubs and have, ever since, managed the site very sympathetically.

English Bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Root Spinney, 26 February, 2014

It is likely that there was vestigial woodland already there, for not only does the wood contain some mature oak but it is carpeted with native Bluebells to such an extent that I could not avoid trampling on them. I must revisit the wood in late spring when the plants will form a sea of blue.

Not only is Root Spinney well managed but so too are the surrounding fields. All the fields have broad margins, rarely under 2 metres wide and frequently up to about eight metres.

An Ash tree overhangs a broad field margin
 near Root Spinney. 26 February, 2014

These edges contain a good selection of wild flowers - no rarities as far as I am aware but none the less welcome. They are also a refuge for a wealth of insects, many of which (hoverflies, ladybirds. various bees) are beneficial to crops.

The woodland has a canopy of oak, ash, birch, cherry and willows, with an understorey mostly of hazel but with a few holly, blackthorn and elder bushes. The trees are quite widely spaced, allowing sunlight to reach the woodland floor.

A victim of recent high winds.
Root Spinney, 26 February, 2014

A number of trees have been felled by recent high winds and it appears that they are to be allowed to decay in situ, benefiting wood-boring insects, fungi, etc.

Decaying tree stump at Root Spinney
26 February, 2014

The loose bark provides a refuge for a range of invertebrates, ranging from woodlice and centipedes to snails and spiders. Within a few years woodlice and wood-boring larvae of various insects, aided and abetted by fungi, will completely destroy this tree stump and return the mineral salts to the woodland soil.


Honeysuckle climbed, rope-like, into trees.
Root Spinney, 26 February, 2014
Thankfully there was only a little ivy but Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, was frequent as a climber. The scarlet berries are enjoyed by birds and the leaves are frequently mined by the larvae of micro-moths and small flies. There is also a close association between Honeysuckle and Dormice. A female Dormouse will construct a nest of stripped Honeysuckle bark in which to raise her young. Humans may also enjoy its benefits as "the flowers, in the form of a syrup, have been used successfully in disorders of the respiratory system and asthma" (Potter's Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs...", 1923 edition.) No thanks, I'll stick to Tixylix.

Honeysuckle (the old name of Woodbine now seems little used) is widespread in our county as the map (from the 1995 "Flora of Northamptonshire..." by Gill Gent and Rob Wilson) makes clear.

The public footpath through Root Spinney.
26 February, 2014

The main path, treacherous at the best of times, had been rendered even more difficult by the local hunt. I met Tim Boddington on the footpath and he informed me that the hunt had passed through twice in one day. Unsurprisingly I was forced to tread warily as I pressed on. Awkward though the conditions were, I knew that it would be a worthwhile exercise as, beyond the wood, the same landowners have created some very attractive lakes.

One of the lakes below Root Spinney
26 February, 2014

Though of recent origin these lakes are now home to an interesting range of aquatic flora and fauna, a range which is likely to increase over future years.

Yellow Brain Fungus (?) with the lichen
Xanthoria parietina on a small branch
Root Spinney, 26 February, 2014

Although I have waxed lyrical about the area I saw nothing of outstanding interest today. A small growth of what I believe was Yellow Brain Fungus, Tremella mesenterica, could not be called an epic discovery. But I shall return.

 So I headed home. I didn't use my sweep-net once.

No comments:

Post a Comment