Monday, 26 January 2015

Kentle Wood Daventry

A pleasantly bright and reasonably warm morning prodded me into taking a brisk walk. The intention was to discover what happens to Browns Road, in north-west Daventry, as it peters out and deteriorates into a muddy track. From then on it is known as Browns Lane. 

Stereum hirsutum on an old tree stump, Thames Road,
Daventry. 26 January, 2015

I paused several times en route to examine mosses, lichens and fungi without finding anything remarkable. A tree stump sported a colourful growth of Hairy Stereum, Stereum hirsutum, but this is a very widespread and common fungus.
Yellow lichen forming a crust on brickwork

Brickwork nearby was scabbed by a yellow lichen which appeared to be the abundant and ubiquitous Xanthoria parietina. And yet...
Xanthoria parietina on a brick pillar box. Thames Road
Daventry. 26 January, 2015

I had a niggly feeling that it was different but close examination of the ascocarps showed a pale margin and an egg-yolk centre. This, plus one or two other features with which I will not bore you, showed that my initial diagnosis was correct.

Helleborus foetidus on waste roadside ground. Thames
Road, Daventry. 26 January, 2015

A little further on and I was both pleased and a little surprised to find Stinking Hellebore, Helleborus foetidus, in flower. I should not have been surprised at it is one of our earliest native flowering plants to bloom but I was delighted nevertheless. The flowers, only about 15 millimetres across, are hardly spectacular but merit a closer look where it will be seen that the sepals, which perform the function of petals, are neatly edged with purple.

I pushed on, going up Browns Road to a point where the deteriorating surface showed that my walking shoes, though stout, were barely adequate. Nevertheless, adroitly avoiding puddles and mud patches, I continued - and got a surprise.

Kentle Wood is a recently planted (2000-2001) 30 acre site belonging to the Woodland Trust. It was planted by volunteers, including local school children, to celebrate the millennium - and I had been completely unaware of its existence!

Young ash trees, Fraxinus excelsior,  have been planted
in large numbers. Kentle Wood, Daventry.
26 January, 2015

Trees included cherry, willow, oak, hawthorn, hazel - and lots of ash. It sounds churlish to make any criticism of the project but ash is probably Northamptonshire's commonest tree yet hundreds have been planted compared with relatively few oaks. Having got that niggle off my chest I have to say that it has been a fine effort.

Currently the hazel catkins occupy centre stage. There is likely to be a heavy harvest of nuts in the autumn, yet I hope that they are largely left for the wildlife; hazel nuts are cheap enough in the shops.

Galls were present on the twigs of oak. These are the very familiar Marble Galls (often wrongly referred to as Oak Apples), caused by a cynipid wasp, Andricus kollari. These old galls can persist for years.

Beech leaves are also persistent and some of those still clinging bore the gall of a fly. It may be Phegomyia fagicola, a relatively uncommon cecidomyid fly but I will need to find fresh specimens to be certain.

A broad ride at Kentle Wood with a mature ash tree to the far right and,
 with rust-coloured leaves, a young beech tree. Kentle Wood,
26 January, 2015

Although it will be many decades before this woodland can be regarded as mature it is likely to receive many visits from me. A handful of mature trees of ash and oak are already present and over the years insects from these trees will move on to colonise younger specimens.

So, now a more knowledgeable man, I set off for home, only briefly detained by a patch of the lichen, Parmotrema perlatum, on a roadside tree.


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