Friday, 5 January 2018


First it was snow and ice, then it was a heavy cold, finally Storm Eleanor. In consequence I have been straining at the leash, champing at the bit - or whatever. Thwarted!
Nevertheless I have at last managed to get out of the house, even if my travels have only taken me as for as Daventry. 
There the gnarled and picturesque Caucasian Wing-nut, Pterocarya fraxinifolia, in Foundry Court, is yet to show any signs of life, but beneath the bark its cells are ticking over, awaiting signs of spring. Insoluble starches are being converted to soluble sugars for distribution to growth points and the swelling buds will demonstrate that all is well - we hope.

A Caucasian Wing-nut stands in Foundry Court, Daventry.
5 January, 2018
We take trees for granted; after all, a tree is just a big plant with a stick up the middle, yet every one is an individual.
A hundred metres from our house stands a Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus. It is not a tree to grab one's attention yet it has its points of interest. It has not been intentionally pollarded or coppiced but its three trunks diverge at an intermediate point; presumably some thirty or forty years ago the leading shoot was damaged and this 'poppice' or 'collard' is the result.
Coppice or pollard? Neither really. A sycamore at
Stefen Hill, Daventry. 5 January, 2018
With all but the most stubborn of leaves now whipped away from our deciduous trees by winter gales this is the ideal time to seek Mistletoe, Viscum album, for now it is at its most conspicuous. But my own searches have been in vain; mistletoe is a very scarce species in Northamptonshire, yet it has not always been so. Miseltoe (sic in older books) was apparently once far more plentiful in our county and John Morton, writing in 1712, tells us that (it is) common enough all over Rockingham Forest, but admits to its scarcity elsewhere in Northamptonshire. John Clare was clearly familiar with it too, writing:

                           And on old thorns the long-leaved Miseltoe
                           Regains fresh beauty as its parent dies!
                                                                        Clare's Shepherd's Calendar, 1827

Now it is rarely seen although, as I have mentioned in a previous blog, it is abundant on lime trees in Kingsthorpe Recreation Ground, in Northampton.
Now, the hours of daylight are lengthening

                          Shine out, fair sun, with all your heat,
                          Show all your thousand-coloured light!

                                                                             Anon. 16th Century

This winter has lasted long enough.

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