Wednesday, 28 December 2016


Just back from a Christmas break near Beaminster, in Dorset. You may not find a lot about the place in guidebooks but it is really a lovely little town. It is the sort of place that the locals want to keep quiet about or it could get too touristy. Having said that we didn't spend a great deal of time there as we were busy in nearby towns such as Lyme Regis and Bridport.

We stayed in Hooke or, to be more precise, Hooke Court, a fine old building of considerable antiquity and where 'Time Team' did some archaeological work in March 2016, finding material dating back to the 16th century. The site itself though is much older, with the Saxon earl, Aelthric, apparently having lived on the site but clear archaeological evidence for this is lacking.
Hooke Court, near Beaminster, Dorset.  22 December, 2016
During the dig much interest was centred on the 'moat' - a semi-circular water feature occupying a large proportion of the grounds but it does not appear to have been a defensive feature.
The arc-shaped lake at Hooke Court. 22 December, 2016
All very interesting but, given the lovely weather, we spent much of the time at the coast. The nearest seaside town was Bridport, a bustling and interesting place but with no pretensions as a seaside resort. However, West Bay, nearby, had achieved some fame as the setting for ITV's 'Broadchurch'; the towering cliffs were a feature of the programme. 
Towering cliffs at West Bay, Bridport, Dorset. 23 December, 2016
They were impressive but free of any obvious fossils - though an expert would probably have located a few. All the rocks around the area are of Jurassic age but not necessarily providing rich pickings for a palaeontologist.
Weymouth was graced with a visit from us, as was Lyme Regis, but we only spent a brief time at the latter. The weather was particularly fine for our day in Weymouth, with Chris able to enjoy sunshine on the harbour wall.

Weymouth Quay was bathed in sunshine. 27 December, 2016
The three-masted training ship Pelican of London is based at Weymouth and is an attractive vessel, built in 1947 to 16th-17th century designs. For construction to have been completed in a time of severe post-war austerity strikes me as remarkable. It was refitted some years later for its present use.
T.S. Pelican of London in Weymouth harbour. 27 December, 2016

But what of the wildlife? To be honest I spent very little time looking for flowers and insects; late December is not usually a productive month for these things. The wet valley bottom below Hooke Court had a few examples of Tufted Sedge, Carex elata.
Tufted Sedge formed hummocks at the wet valley
 bottom at Hooke, Dorset. 24 December, 2016
This is extremely rare and close to extinction in Northamptonshire due to drainage, but is locally frequent in parts of Britain. I had not seen any specimens for many years although the large tussocks it forms are very distinctive.
The only other plant to catch my attention was in a municipal garden at Lyme Regis. A specimen of Euphorbia characias subspecies wulfenii was being grown in a remarkable fasciated form. I assume that it had been selected for this peculiarity. Fasciation is the abnormal behaviour of meristematic tissue. It often takes the form of flattened branches but in this case had occurred at the leaf shoot, producing an odd crested (cristate) appearance.

This fastigiated Euphorbia grew in gardens at Lyme Regis,
Dorset. 24 December, 2016
It had been many years since I had last visited Dorset. This winter break has made Chris and I consider a further visit in, perhaps, May.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


Apologies to Dylan Thomas - if he can hear me, but there was little to see today on my walk home from Daventry, having left Chris in town with the car. I'm certainly not grumbling as it was a beautiful, sunny morning and various Calliphorid flies (the posh name for blowflies) were enjoying the warmth of south-facing wooden fences. Let's hope this fine spell is with us for a bit longer as I am not enthusiastic over white Christmases. Also enjoying a south-facing aspect was a clematis, its four purple, petaloid sepals showing that it was some form of Clematis x lawsoniana.
This is really a group of very similar hybrids with, as their parents, the Chinese Clematis lanuginosa crossed with the Mediterranean species, Clematis viticella. Although it is not really obvious, Clematis species are closely related to Anemone with a genus from Madagascar, Clematopsis, providing the link. (Ed. Thanks Tony, I really wanted to know that!)
In a border was a solitary specimen of Shaggy Ink-cap, Coprinus comatus. This is a species I associate with late summer and autumn so I was a little surprised to find  it.
This is a good edible species if it can be gathered before if dissolves into the inky liquid after which the species gets its common name - and yes, in the past it really was used as a source of ink from time to time.
Almost home now. Still the yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is flowering in a neighbour's lawn. It really shouldn't; no good can come of it.
Finally a pause as I reach our front garden. Are there any signs of spring bulbs pushing through? Yes, Iris reticulata is poking through the gravel. Its blue and gold flowers should be with us in a few weeks.
What about the crocuses? Yes, they are there too. I have chosen mostly the blue forms of Crocus chrysanthus as, among the yellowish gravel, the colour after which the species is named - Greek Chrysos - gold, wouldn't really stand out.

Home! Time for a last-minute bit of prezzie-wrapping before Chris gets back!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Lichens galore

I commented in a recent blog ('And winter has barely started', 5 December) that this is the time of the year when lichens come into their own. That being the case, a sensible person would carry about their person a pocket knife and a container or two in order to collect samples. It goes without saying that I have not equipped myself properly.

Earlier today I went out for a bit of exercise - a walk of only two or three miles to chase away feelings of lethargy; I ought to have walked further but not only were conditions grey and chilly but a drizzly rain began to fall, dampening both my clothing and enthusiasm.

Along Yeomanry Way stands a small group of Common Lime trees. Their trunks, on the eastern side, were grey and lacking in interest but on a whim I strolled around the back as it were, with a vague memory of Boy Scout lore regarding the south-west aspect of trees. The contrast was astonishing. It may have been a suburban situation but the lichen flora was remarkably rich. Of course the species present were commonplace and the variety was limited but over considerable areas no bark was visible beneath the lichenous crusts.
Physcia aipolia on the bark of a lime tree. Yeomanry Way, Daventry.
19 December, 2016
One of the most abundant was Physcia aipolia. There are several rather similar species but nevertheless it is distinctive enough for me to be confident about this. It is known as a crustose species forming, as it does, a crust on suitable substrates, in this case tree bark. Also crustose and also favouring tree bark is Lecanora chlarotera but the fruits (ascocarps) tend to have a brown to buff disc with a pale margin. It is often to be seen in supermarket car parks!
Lecanora chlarotera was abundant on the same tree
Present too was Parmelia sulcata, a very common foliose lichen. Crustose lichens are almost inseparable from the substrate but with foliose species, as can be seen, the lobes of the thallus can be partially lifted and removed from, in this case, the bark.
Extensive patches of Parmelia sulcata occurred too.
Perhaps our most abundant lichen - almost a 'lichen weed' - is Xanthoria parietina, but we must exercise a little care, as X. aureola (more correctly X. ectaneoides) could be confused with it.
Xanthoria parietina? Probably, so why am I uneasy? Yeomanry Way,
Daventry. 19 December, 2016
It is especially abundant on the twigs of elder and I found it several times during my walk but the species on the lime trees I am a little uneasy about. This close-up doesn't seem quite right - but am I looking for a problem that isn't really there?
At least three other species were noted (and an expert would have found more) but for these I'll need to return and procure proper samples. Nevertheless I'll mention one more lichen. Psilolechia lucida is abundant even in towns, where large patches of it occur on damp walls.
Psilolechia lucida occupying a typical habitat in Christchurch Way,
Daventry. 19 December, 2016
 It is easily overlooked when dry but seems to stand out in rainy conditions and looks, as the late Tom Chester put it, 'almost as if a small child with a large green stick of chalk has been on the rampage' (British Wildlife, Vol 8, No 3). (Tom's mention of  'a school child' reminds us that he was the Head Teacher of a Northamptonshire school.) I found it, not on the lime trees, but on a brick wall as I neared home - damp.

Tony White:

Saturday, 17 December 2016


At this time of the year Mistletoe, Viscum album, tends to be the subject of magazine articles, with much discussion of its ritual significance and so on. (A pupil of mine once assured me that Christ, at his birth, received presents of gold, frankincense and mistletoe.) But it is worth considering from a purely botanical angle as it is, rather obviously, a curious plant, but also a very interesting one. It has at various times been placed in the Loranthaceae family and the Viscaceae family, but it is now generally agreed that is related to the sandalwoods in the Santalaceae family.
Mistletoe in apple trees: drawing by Christine Hart-Davies

The distinguished taxonomist, John Hutchinson, in his two-volume work 'British Wild Flowers' (1955 edition) described it as 'truly parasitic' but, fifty years later, few botanists would accept this. Admittedly it could not survive without its host tree which, in Britain is usually apple, hawthorn, lime or poplar (recently I travelled by TGV down to Auxerre in France and, from the train window saw huge quantities on poplar) but it is perfectly able to perform photosynthesis via its pale yellow-green leaves and all it takes from the host is water plus a few minerals. It is surely best described as a hemi-parasite.

In Britain it has three centres of distribution with smaller concentrations elsewhere. By some distance the British heartland of this species is the Herefordshire/Gloucestershire/Shropshire area and yet, not far away, in for example Monmouthshire, North Devon and Wiltshire, it is quite rare and I know of no obvious explanation for this. There are secondary centres of distribution in Surrey and Somerset.

Mistletoe is dioecious, that is, the plants are either male or female, and on the face of it this is a considerable disadvantage as a single seed, deposited on a tree by, perhaps, a thrush, would be isolated. However a single seed is poly-embryonic, that is, it can produce several seedlings and it appears that these may be a mixture of male and female plants. Incidentally the Mistle Thrush may indeed be a frequent distributor of the seeds and it is significant that this bird's Latin name is Turdus viscivorus, which may be translated as 'the mistletoe-eating turd thrush'. However, a seed I 'sowed' on an apple tree in Byfield produced only a male plant, with no sign of siblings. (Incidentally this is ideally done in about March.) In Northamptonshire it is a rarity but a good place to see the species is at Kingsthorpe Recreation Ground, in Northampton, where hybrid limes, Tilia x europaea, once carried somewhere in the order of a hundred plants although a recent check suggested a number have disappeared. Elsewhere in Northampton I have noted it on False Acacia, Robinia pseudoacacia, trees in the Weston Favell area of the town. Although rare in Northamptonshire John Clare seems to have been familiar with it, writing:
                                   And on old thorns the long-leaved miseltoe
                                   Regains fresh beauty as the parent dies!
                                                                               Shepherds Calendar, 1827
It will grow on native oaks but there it is extremely rare and Keith Spooner, writing in the journal Cecidology, vol 31, 2, could only find about five examples still extant. A small number of records in Britain are known from red oaks but these are North American species introduced into parks and so on.
Pliny the Elder recorded that mistletoe berries in a drink would make a barren animal fertile and this idea may be associated with a belief in ancient Greece that mistletoe functioned as the genitals of the oak. Of course, lopping it off with a sickle was regarded as ritual emasculation. This association with fertility is the original idea behind 'a kiss under the mistletoe'. My old copy of 'Potter's Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations' describes it as 'a tonic'; I suspect that this is a euphemism for aphrodisiac!
I am getting away from my intention, expressed in the opening paragraph, of sticking to the botanical interest of mistletoe. The genus Viscum consists of 80-100 species found worldwide with the exception of the Americas, but even there it has been introduced to California, where it has spread steadily, and to Vancouver Island. As a parasite - albeit in only a limited way - it may not be welcomed everywhere.
The habit of Mistletoe is distinctive for it forms unmistakeable, almost spherical bunches, making a plant easy to spot and rather different from the witches' broom growths often seen on birch.
The rather drooping shape of Witches' Brooms on birch.
Daventry, 13 December, 2016
The shape of a mistletoe clump is due to its dichotomous growth. Each year every branch simply forks, producing two leaves on each new extension. As this generally happens every year it is possible, by counting the number of times a branch has forked, to roughly establish the age of the plant.

Mistletoe on Hybrid Lime, Kingsthorpe Recreation Ground, Northampton.
17 December, 2016. Note the more spherical shape of the clump.
Clumps can exceed four feet in diameter and I have certainly seen some with this sort of dimension on the continent, but British examples tend to be smaller. I continue to be on the lookout, as winter is the optimum time to survey your neighbourhood for this remarkable plant.

Tony White:

Monday, 12 December 2016

Borough Hill Farm

A potentially attractive walk exists from Borough Hill Farm, a mile or so to the east of Daventry, and entering the town through the Southbrook area. I resolved to give it a bash.

Chris, en route to Weedon, dropped me off beside the busy A45 and I set off, heading north along the road towards Borough Hill Farm. The weather conditions were not ideal; it was mild enough and windless, but the sky was uniformly grey and a light drizzle was falling. The top of the transmitter on Borough Hill was shrouded in cloud and the whole landscape was misty.
Borough Hill through mist and drizzle. 12 December, 2016
My walk took me over the course of the old railway track, the line once connecting Weedon and Leamington via Daventry and, although I could have accessed it, there seemed little point. Beside this track a couple of lakes exist but they are of recent construction and are not shown on my Ordnance Survey map.
One of the Newnham Grange Lakes. 12 December, 2016

Known as Newnham Grange Lakes they are designed for anglers but are surely very welcome and should prove a magnet for wildlife; as I approached a Grey Heron and a Cormorant took flight. On the other side of the road a splendid example of Pedunculate Oak, Quercus robur, stood. The acute angles on the branches and crooks showed just why this was so valuable for shipbuilding (but rubbish for wooden legs).
An oak such as this would give shipbuilders a choice of angled timbers.
Nr Daventry, 12 December, 2016
I plodded on and, just before reaching Borough Hill Farm, I turned west and left the road. Soon I was making my way up a fairly steep slope, the side of Borough Hill. The ground was clearly acid and, although none of the classic calcifuges such as Heather, Calluna vulgaris, were present, there were swathes of Bracken, Pteridium aquilinum, beside the track, some patches covering several hundred square metres. Like Gorse, Bracken does not demand acid soil but seems happier on it and is only occasionally found over lime.
Bracken formed large thickets. Borough Hill Farm, Daventry.
12 December, 2016
The plant is generally a noxious agricultural weed but the individual fronds are undeniably attractive. The generic name of pteridium refers to the wing-like form of these fronds and comes from the Greek pteron, a wing.
I looked in vain for 'little black puddings', the small, sausage-shaped galls caused by the fly, Dasineura pteridis, a species apparently apparently confined to bracken. I may make a return visit for this next summer. Progress was pleasing and I knew that as I rounded the hill Daventry would come into view. Except that it didn't; the path suddenly came to a halt with a thicket of brambles blocking the way.
No way through! The footpath petered out on Borough Hill.
12 December, 2016
I left the track and forced my way through woodland aiming to remain parallel to the intended route. It was slow progress but not without interest. There were dead trees to be negotiated - but the rain had increased to a steady and heavy drizzle.
Like a dog with laryngitis, this tree had no bark.
Near Daventry, 12 December, 2016
Most impressive was a huge coppiced sycamore. The coppicing must have taken place at least fifty years ago and it is just possible to make out my glove, placed on the trunk for scale. It took about twenty paces to walk around this huge mass.
I cannot recall seeing a larger coppiced tree.
Near Daventry, 12 December, 2016
I struggled on for another hundred yards or so but it became obvious that no further progress was possible and I about-turned and retraced my steps.
The heavy drizzle gradually abated and I was soon on the farm track and re-crossing the bridge over the old railway. Only one other thing is worth mentioning. I stepped aside to allow a 4x4 to pass and noticed at the roadside an oak leaf. It was clearly one of the North American species - they are very distinctive - and I brought it home for keying-out. The tufts of brown hairs in the axils of the leaf-veins were still clearly to be seen, showing it to be Quercus palustris, known in the U.S.A. as Common Sallow.(In Northamptonshire Common Sallow is an alternative name for Goat Willow, Salix caprea.) I had a good look around but failed to find the tree from whence the leaf had fallen. Odd!
A leaf of Common Sallow, American style.
Near Daventry, 12 December, 2016

Sunday, 11 December 2016

A farrago

farrago  n. a disordered mixture.

And that sums up the observations I made on my morning walk today.
Daventry has its limitations. There are, for example, a limited number of retail outlets (Chris grieves that there is no Marks and Spencer's), but as compensation there are lots of open spaces with any number of interesting walks to be made.

Today I set off to explore the more immediate neighbourhood of which, I am ashamed to admit, I know little, to visit an area known as The Grovelands. On my way I passed a number of birch trees. We have three native birches in Britain and the best-known is clearly the Silver Birch, Betula pendula. It is an excellent choice for the garden as it is fast-growing and quickly develops into a graceful tree.
Not long-lived but lovely while it is with us. Silver Birch, Badby Road West,
Daventry. 11 December, 2016
Despite its delicate appearance it is as tough as old boots and is a pioneer species, having been quick to colonise open ground as ice and snow retreated at the end of the last Ice Age.
By now the autumn fruits and berries which hitherto have sustained birds have largely gone. Elder berries disappeared long ago, to be followed by those of rowans, but rose hips are still available and, as they grow softer and birds go hungrier, they will become acceptable.
Not a bird's first choice, but if needs must...
Pressing on I soon reached the Grovelands area, but not before passing some gaunt, dead trunks of elm trees. They each had a girth of some 10-12 inches (250-300 cm) and this seems to be the usual size they attain before succumbing to Dutch Elm Disease. Of course the root-stock remains intact and healthy, soon to throw up new shoots. Elm is the main (only?) food-plant of the White-letter Hairstreak, Satyrium w-album, and this butterfly has suffered a decline since the appearance of Dutch Elm Disease. I am pleased to learn that resistant strains of elm are currently being planted to help in the butterfly's recovery.
Dead elm was present in hedgerows. Daventry. 11 December, 2016

Few plants were in flower, an exception being Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis. One specimen could scarcely have borne more flowers even though the chance of a visit from a pollinating insect was remote.
Rosemary in the Grovelands area, Daventry. 11 December, 2016
But there was promise of things to come. The buttercup relative, Helleborus foetidus, was already carrying its pale yellow-green inflorescences and in a month or so the flowers could be fully open. They can hardly be termed spectacular, but I for one will be pleased to see them.
Stinking Hellebore,aka Dungwort. Grovelands, Daventry.
11 December, 2016
The species has an odd status hereabouts. G. Claridge Druce, in his  Flora of Northamptonshire, published in 1930, mentions no localities for the species in the west of Northants. The latest (2012) flora of the county, by Gill Gent  and Rob Wilson  shows a scattering of records around this area and suggests, 'The apparent spread of this species is probably indicative of its popularity as a garden plant...' Really? Its vernacular names of Stinking Hellebore and Dungwort tell you rather a lot about the plant and I suspect few people choose to grow it. For me the plant's presence is still a puzzle.

Another plant promising flowers soon was Spurge Laurel, Daphne laureola. This is another puzzle for it too has insignificant flowers: small, pale lime green and easily overlooked. Although these flowers are fragrant the plant is not an obvious choice for the gardener, and yet here it is. It prefers a taste of lime in the soil and as a native Northamptonshire plant it is most common in the east. I suspect it is bird sown for, despite the berries being very poisonous to humans, thrushes eat it with alacrity.
The decidedly unspectacular Spurge Laurel. 11 December, 2016
A large specimen was present in a garden and the plant I photographed was one of several presumed offspring within a few yards of it. As can be seen, it is decidedly unspectacular.
Gorse, furze or whin. Daventry, 11 December, 2016
Finally, and far from dull, a gorse bush was ablaze with colour along Badby Road West. Like the Rosemary its chances of having an insect pay a call are practically zilch but self-pollination will have to suffice.


Friday, 9 December 2016

Out with the old...

We are currently enjoying a spell of unseasonably mild weather but only a few days ago we had a sequence of very frosty nights. The consequence of these frosts was that several species, which up to that point had been looking very attractive, took a nasty knock. Flowering nutmeg, Leycesteria formosa, had, on 17 November, still been splendid.

Flowering Nutmeg, aka Himalayan Honeysuckle
Stefen Hill, Daventry 17 November, 2016

Now it is looking forlorn, its inflorescences shrivelled and almost black. This would be a good time for fairly heavy pruning as it is a shrub which quickly produces new and vigorous growth.
The same plant on 9 December, 2016
Stag's Horn Sumach, Rhus hirta, has been affected in a different way, but the results have been equally drastic. In this case it is the leaves rather than the inflorescences which have suffered. In the middle of last month the foliage was ablaze with orange and scarlet.
Stag's Horn Sumach, Christchurch Drive, Daventry, 14 November, 2016
Now the branches are bare, but it does allow one to examine the twigs and note the rather furry appearance, rather like a stag's antlers when 'in velvet' and giving the shrub its popular name.
A twig from the same plant, 9 December, 2016
But out with the old and in with the new. There is already promise of things to come. There is, for instance, good old Laurustinus, Viburnum tinus. It is not spectacular but it is so dependable. '...there is a steady consolation in the firm, robust, rather hard and bright cheer of its coral buds and snowy white blossoms', wrote Helena Swanwick in the Manchester Guardian (as it then was) in December, 1918.

Laurustinus in Balliol Road, Daventry. 9 December, 2016
It may be lacking in fragrance but, come wind or snow, it is there. A Boris Johnson of a plant - reliable, dependable...

The flowers in greater detail.
 One drawback is that, in recent years, many specimens have been ravaged by the Viburnum Leaf Beetle, Pyrrhalta viburni, and this can be very disfiguring.
Another Viburnum is currently in flower. Viburnum x bodnantense is one of our most popular winter-flowering shrubs with its clusters of icing-pink flowers. These are, theoretically at least, fragrant, but it frequently blooms in very cold conditions and I often cannot detect the scent.

Viburnum x bodnantense, The Slade, Daventry.
9 December, 2016

It is a hybrid between Viburnum farreri and V. grandiflorum and was developed at Bodnant Gardens in North Wales.
Fomes fomentarius? The Slade, Daventry. 9 December, 2016

Allowing myself to drift off-topic for a moment, a Rowan tree nearby was covered in bracket fungi. A closer look suggested that it was the Hoof Fungus, Fomes fomentarius, but I couldn't obtain a fragment for a closer look. It will inevitably lead to the death of the tree.
A closer look
Now, where was I?
Mahonias, in various forms, give us flowers through autumn and winter, going on into spring. They are fragrant and much visited by bees - except in winter. They are closely related to the genus Berberis but differ in having flowers in racemes and leaves that are pinnately compound. The specimen I saw today was probably Mahonia japonica but M. bealei is almost identical and some authorities regard the latter as just a form of M. japonica. Whatever the name it is a lovely , very fragrant too and, had I a larger garden it would certainly find a prominent place in it.
Mahonia japonica, Stefen Hill, Daventry. 9 December, 2016
So, we are approaching the shortest day but there is much to be seen and no doubt certain bulbs and corms are stirring in preparation for flowering early in the new year.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Liriope and Liriodendron

In Northampton, with time to kill, I decided to visit Delapre Abbey. This proved to be trickier than I had anticipated.
It is a fine old building but has been seriously neglected for decades. This situation is now being remedied but the whole building is currently surrounded by tall wooden boarding so I was completely unable to get a satisfactory photograph of the structure. Instead, carefully stepping through muddy patches, I made my way to the gardens at the rear.

In high summer these gardens are a fine sight but I suspected that there would be little to see in December: my suspicions proved correct. The only plant in flower consisted of a bedraggled clump of Liriope muscari. This distant relative of Asparagus is known by a number of names, none particularly flattering, and include Monkey Grass and Lilyturf. In fact this east Asian plant is named in honour of Liriope, a Greek woodland nymph who was the mother of Narcissus.
A clump of Liriope muscari. Delapre Abbey, Northampton.
7 December, 2016
In all honesty it is not an exciting plant. Horticulturalists tend to refer to it, rather disparagingly, as a 'useful' plant; certainly it tolerates shade quite well. The specific name 'Muscari' refers of course to the genus Muscari, i.e. the Grape Hyacinths, but a close-up shows that the similarities are superficial.
I strolled around for a few minutes in a rather desultory manner then, deciding that nothing more was to be seen, began my puddle-dodging journey back to my car. I was carefully watching where I placed my feet and had a surprise. All around were the very distinctive leaves of a Tulip Tree, with their lower lobes jutting out at right angles and the leaf tip oddly truncated.
The leaves of the Tulip Tree at Delapre Abbey, Northampton.
7 December, 2016
The Latin name for this species is Liriodendron tulipifera, which brings about an odd coincidence, because in most gardening dictionaries it is directly followed by the aforementioned Liriope. I looked upwards. Where was the parent tree? In fact I was standing directly beneath it and, despite being leafless, the tree was unmistakeable.
The trunk, with its strangely swollen base.
It was a huge specimen with an oddly swollen base to the trunk. This species often attains great size and it is said that in its native North America the indigenous people would use the massive trunk for hollowed-out canoes. The 'Latin' name is really Greek, being based on the Greek words leirion, a lily and dendron, a tree. The flowers of this tree are, to my mind, magnificent and it deserves to be much more widely planted. It is related to the Magnolias in the ancient Magnoliaceae. The distribution of this family is curious and is surely a consequence - in part at least - of 'continental drift'. But that, as they say, is another story.
The sun was sinking early beyond the oaks at Delapre Abbey.
7 December, 2016

As I resumed my walk back to the car an odd-looking bird crossed overhead. It settled briefly in the branches of a nearby oak, pausing long enough for me to see that it was a Little Egret. I stealthily approached it in the hope of a photograph but it was easily spooked and flew off. I raised my camera in the vain hope of snatching a picture but had no luck. However the resultant picture reminded me that, as we approach the shortest day, the sun sinks early. It was only three p.m.

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