Friday, 19 January 2018

A Golf Club walk

Northampton Golf Club was originally, as you may have guessed, situated in Northampton. Sometime in the 1980's (I've been unable to establish the exact date) the club moved to a new site near to the village of Harlestone. The original site now forms Bradlaugh Fields, an area rich in wildlife and one of the county's most interesting reserves.
Today Chris and I, together with our old friends Ann and Terry, did a circular walk beginning near Lower Harlestone and taking us across the golf course and back to our starting point via Upper Harlestone. It is a walk we have done many times before and it never fails to reveal features of interest.
The Grade II listed stables of Harlestone House, near Northampton.
19 January, 2018
We parked adjacent to The Stables. It is an interesting socio-economic fact that important land owners seemed, in the past, prepared to spend more on their stables than on housing for their tenants. Thank goodness that those days, when a top echelon of our society wielded so much power and influence, are now behind us, so that even the poorest section of the population may now enjoy affordable, high-quality housing!
The walk starts at the pretty village church of St Andrew, with fine yew trees. Trees were to be a feature of the land through which we passed. On the golf course are several magnificent old Sweet Chestnut, Castanea sativa, trees.
Gnarled old specimens of Sweet Chestnuts are found on the golf course.
Harlestone. 19 January, 2018
Neither Sweet Chestnuts nor the completely unrelated Horse Chestnuts are native to Britain, but this doesn't stop them from being important features of our landscape. Some fine oaks were also prominent.
Oaks can look similar (they are in the same family). Harlestone, Northants.
19 January, 2018

Interesting plants were not confined to the parkland, with a Garrya elliptica gracing a cottage wall. Garryas are dioecious, the plant being either male or female, and invariably the male, with longer catkins, is the gender chosen. The species seems best placed against a wall, where a little shelter from biting winds is available.
Garrya elliptica occupied a favourable spot on a cottage wall.
Harlestone. 19 January, 2018
Some of the fields were flooded but hopefully no measures will be taken to improve the drainage. Sites regularly subject to flooding often support interesting communities of plants and insects and in my youth such wet areas would attract snipe. The photograph shows a small stream to the right displaying significant downward erosion.
Flooded land like this is now unlikely to attract snipe.
Harlestone, Northants. 19 January, 2018
Our usual route was interrupted at one point by a fallen tree. Strong winds on recent days have brought down a number of trees in the area, particularly where they were carrying a heavy growth of ivy. Anyway, the consequence was that we were forced to detour through a patch of woodland. An old tree stump was covered in the fruiting bodies of the Candlesnuff Fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon.
Candlesnuff Fungus on an old stump. Harlestone. 19 January, 2018
It is also known by a number of other names - Carbon Antlers, Stag's Horn Fungus, etc - but whatever its name it is a very common and distinctive feature of decaying hardwood. If I were to return in a few week I would probably find that these fruiting bodies had divided to look much like the antlers of a stag.
We returned to our cars and then went for lunch at a nearby garden centre. It sells books, birthday cards, clothing, jams and other preserves, fish and aquarium paraphernalia together of course with a restaurant. On a good day you may even find that there are plants for sale!



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