Sunday, 20 December 2015

Kentle Wood: last day of autumn

Tomorrow is the Winter Solstice (or the next day according to some sources) and is officially the first day of winter.

I set out for a walk beneath a steel-blue sky. In other years a frost would have whitened the grass and, in fact, it was a little chillier than the last two or three days, but still some degrees above freezing.

My destination was Kentle Wood and the aim was simply exercise; if I had expected much wildlife activity I was to be disappointed.

20 December, and Hogweed is still in bloom.
Browns Road, Daventry. 

Hogweed is still flowering and, if the sun's rays develop some warmth there could be the odd insect visitor, but on balance I reckon the plant is doomed to have its hopes dashed.

White Dead-nettle was blooming too, but this was no surprise. It is an odd day indeed when this tough little plant is without a flower or two.

So, over the stile and into the wood...

As the notice board reminds us, the wood was only planted in 2001. Maturity is a long way off so the fungi, mosses and lichens of ancient woodland are not to be found. In fact, the wood is quite isolated from older woods so it will be difficult for such organisms to get established here. Human help may be needed, as has happened with the recreation of flower-rich meadows.

Few leaves seem to have fallen from this
oak. Kentle Wood,  Daventry.
20 December, 2015 

Some oaks still carried a large complement of leaves, so the devil will have to wait for payment (see yesterday's blog); I'm safe for now!

Hazels in Kentle Wood, Daventry.
20 December, 2015

Hazels are now bearing lots of fully open catkins and present a lovely sight. The air was still, but a breeze should soon begin to distribute the pollen.

The female flowers were not easy to locate. Kentle Wood.
20 December, 2015

After a good deal of searching I was finally able to locate one of the tiny pink female flowers. Not needing to attract bees they are very inconspicuous but over millennia, despite involving a vast wastage of pollen, the system has clearly worked well.

A few mature sycamores stand in Kentle
Wood, Daventry. 20 December, 2015

When the wood was created a few trees were already present. For example this Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus, was, with others, incorporated into the scheme. 

Fungi are probably responsible for the split in this ash.
Kentle Wood, Daventry. 20 December, 2015

A few mature Ash trees, Fraxinus excelsior, are also present. Here an ash tree has split and I'm sure the Woodland Trust will allow the damaged trunk and branch to rot. This process has already started of course and will hopefully encourage more fungi and wood-boring insects to exploit this niche.

The land to the east of the wood has, in recent years, seen the construction of several large warehouses. used by such organisations as Amazon.

Young trees on an unsightly bank.
Kentle Wood, Daventry.  20 December, 2015

Their coloration helps them to blend into the skyline but they can hardly be deemed beautiful. It is therefore pleasing to see that, in the last few weeks, a lot of tree planting has taken place. These should eventually do a good job of screening the buildings. They have been planted liberally in the knowledge that many will fail.

The saplings at the margin of Kentle Wood include
Scots Pine. 20 December, 2015

Several Scots Pine, Pinus sylvestris, have been included and, although it the species is not native to Northamptonshire or, indeed, any part of England, I am nevertheless pleased. These will attract a different suite of insects and so encourage biological diversity. And, of course, all these trees will help to stabilise the bank on which they grow.

I'd completed my daily stint of walking and the sky was steadily clouding over. I headed for home - a decision vindicated when it began to rain a little later.

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