Monday, 5 January 2015

Badby and Badby Woods

Chris was off to Byfield today to meet up with her friend Lynda, so I arranged for her to drop me at Badby.

I made my way through the village and then, approaching via a steep hill, on to the Church of St Mary the Virgin. It is a fine, Grade II listed building dating from the 13th century with interestingly contrasting masonry. There were once quarries in the area but clearly the stone comes from more than one source.

An east-facing window in Badby Church,
Northants.  5 January, 2015

All the masonry consists of Jurassic sandstone but some has almost a terracotta hue - and very attractive it is too.

I would have lingered in the churchyard but it was a grey, chilly morning and I paused only to look at some curious gravestones. Should this lumpy piece of masonry be called a table gravestone or a pillow gravestone? (Gravestones are sometimes pillow-shaped, apparently signifying eternal sleep.) I could make out no trace of an inscription.

Opposite the church was a sign indicating the Knightley Way and heading south towards Badby Woods. I didn't hesitate.

A mist hung over the woods and it was very
wet under foot. The muddy footpath swooped downwards so conditions were treacherous but I avoided mishap.

On this steep footpath there had clearly been much erosion with tree roots becoming exposed as soil was washed away. But this sycamore seemed to be well anchored.

Holly, Ilex aquifolium*, was common beside the track. Many of the leaves bore a thin yellow-green encrustation. I had hoped to find that it was one of the curious foliicolous lichens, but a microscope proved that I was out of luck for it was merely a mildew, Erysiphe polygoni.

Once in the woodland I found a good deal of holly, perhaps originally having arrived on bird droppings from gardens in the village. Female plants carried berries and, on the leaves, the pale yellow mines of the fly, Phytomyza ilicis. I have never found a holly bush without these mines.

Hypogymnia tubulosa at Badby Woods,
Northamptonshire. 5 January, 2015

Growing on a dead branch was a lichen which I vaguely recognised. 

Once home I photographed it and was able to identify it as Hypogymnia tubulosa - common but new to me. Isn't it pretty!

Evernia prunastri . Badby Woods, Northamptonshire.
5 January, 2015
Stereum hirsutum on a dead branch. Badby Woods,
Northamptonshire.  5 January, 2015

Perhaps marginally more attractive is Evernia prunastri, a very common species which I found in several places, usually on tree branches but sometimes on the trunk.

Undoubtedly far more colourful and eye-catching is this fungus, Stereum hirsutum.
Extremely common it may be but I was happy to find it. It goes without saying that fungi such as this Hairy Stereum (to use its common name) play a vital role in the decomposition of dead wood and its eventual return to the soil as humus.

I did photograph other lichens but I am in a benevolent mood and will not try your patience by showing them. Jays screamed and woodpeckers were drumming away on suitable branches as I pressed on through the dank woodland.

Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, corkscrewed its way up convenient branches. It was already in leaf, just slightly ahead of elder, whose buds were swelling but were yet to unfold. In his poem, 'Broomsgrove' John Clare writes that:

   The woodbine may nauntle here...

nauntle being a dialect word apparently meaning 'to rise' or 'to rear'. Certainly it will rise to great heights in suitable conditions.

In contrast to the slender honeysuckle vines, great trunks of oak bore the huge swollen growths of Crown Gall, caused by Agrobacterium tumefasciens - tumescent indeed.

Garrya elliptica in a garden at Badby,
Northants. 5 January, 201

So, 'twas back to the village and its gardens, where my attention was caught by the long male catkins of Garrya elliptica. These silky catkins can sometimes reach a length of some 15 centimetres and, although I admit that the shrub is quite dull for much of the year, I am very fond of it. Catkins there may be, even pollen, but there will be no seed. Garrya bears the male and female flowers on separate plants and no one seems to bother planting a female. Indeed, I doubt whether female plants are available in this country.

Yellow Brain Fungus, Tremella mesenterica.
Hedgerow near Badby, Northants. 5 January, 2015
Badby sits in a valley beside a tributary of the River Nene. The area in general is hilly with Northamptonshire's highest point, Arbury Hill (225 metres), only a short distance outside the village. So for me, unfit after the Christmas festivities, it was quite a long drag up and out of the valley to those broad sunlit uplands (sorry, I got carried away) to Daventry. Yellow Brain Fungus, Tremella mesenterica, provided a splash of bright colour on dead branches in a hedgerow.

The scarlet berries of White Bryony, Bryonia dioica
in a hedgerow near Badby, Northants. 5 January, 2015
I paused yet again, this time to photograph the fruit of White Bryony, Bryonia dioica, ramping through the same hedgerow. Birds seem not yet hungry enough to take them. Although safe for birds they are, for humans, very poisonous. Even the juice on the skin can induce an unpleasant rash with blistering. These fruits, eaten in quantity, can be fatal. Strange to think that this climber is a member of the same family as cucumbers and melons.

By now the sun was warm on my back - and very welcome it was too. Welcome also was the coffee I was drinking fifteen minutes later having made it home in one rather weary piece.

* Although, on the face of it, the inclusion of the Latin name seems pointless, I get a great many 'hits' from other countries, particularly the USA. For people outside the Britain the name 'Holly' or 'Honeysuckle' may mean little.

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