Thursday, 15 January 2015

Walking to fitness

"LACK OF EXERCISE A MORE SERIOUS PROBLEM THAN OBESITY" trumpeted today's newspapers. As one who firmly takes to heart any proclamations from The Sun or Daily Mail I grabbed a pair of stout shoes and set off for a walk, determined to keep the Grim Reaper at bay.

After two minutes I stopped to get my breath back and then pushed on. 

Only a few days ago I weighed myself and turned the scales at 12 stones 4 pounds. I ate frugally for the next 24 hours and put in a brisk 3 miles walk. I reweighed myself and found that I had put on a pound. 'Oh dear me,' I said. (Chris says that my words were more colourful, but I can't believe I said what she claims.)

Today's walk was planned to visit areas of Daventry not yet explored; what wonders awaited me on my journey?  [Er - this is Daventry...]

The gall of Psylla buxi on Box. Christchurch Road,
Daventry. 15 January, 2015. Small clusters
of flower buds can be seen.
Box, Buxus sempervirens, is widely planted to form a neat and dense hedge. It does the job very well but really is a dull shrub. It is already carrying tiny flower buds but they will not open for quite a long time. Of more interest are the terminal buds on twigs; they are very commonly thickened and curled inwards to form a cup-shaped structure. This is the work of a psyllid bug, Psylla buxi (formerly Spanioneura buxi), and I noted today that it is abundant hereabouts. 

The flower buds of Prunus laurocerasus were swelling
nicely. Stefen Hill, Daventry. 15 January, 2015

On another evergreen, Cherry Laurel, flower buds were fattening nicely. This is Prunus laurocerasus and despite its thick, leathery, evergreen leaves it is a true member of the Prunus (cherry) genus. It looks superficially so different that many botanists once referred to it as Laurocerasus officinalis but placing it in a different genus is not, it seems, justified.

The biting westerly wind that has been with us for about three days now was still a problem as I strode out west towards Staverton. The bare fields bore a scattering of flint and igneous rocks -  mini-erratics left behind as an ancient glacier melted - but fundamentally the soil is a sticky clay. This is slow to warm up and it could be weeks before plant growth really gets going. I was glad to change direction and head back to Daventry with the wind behind my back.

A tree stump in Thames Road was steadily decaying and bore a large crop of toadstools. They were easily recognised as Honey Fungus, Armillaria mellea.

Honey Fungus, Armillaria mellea, in Thames Road,
Daventry.  15 January, 2015

This is a very variable fungus and some authorities now feel that several species have been lumped together under the general name of Honey Fungus. I'm not qualified to comment further.

I can only hope that my walk was beneficial to health because it sure didn't create much in the way of excitement!

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