More about our oaks.Continue reading “Oak gall ink”
By Ian Bushell.
Southwick Country Park has a number of veteran oaks and one identified ancient oak, but what is a veteran or ancient oak? There are no hard and fast rules; in different environments and soils oaks grow at different rates. Here the underlying Oxford clay provides an excellent medium and the trees are large. One criterion for assessing veteran trees is those with a girth of 3.2 m are considered of potential interest, and those with a girth of 4.7 m as being valuable in terms of conservation.Continue reading “The Park’s Old Oaks”
Our Famous Tree
A message from DKG
“Just to let you know, my photo of the lone oak with the cloud halo above it was shown on the BBC Weather report this morning”
This is tree number 5552: an old pollarded oak standing in the eastern-most corner of Sleeper Field.
We need to take carbon out of our atmosphere and hide it where it can’t contribute, as carbon dioxide, to global warming; the process is called carbon capture and sequestration. Above is the power industry’s solution to the problem; click on the link for FoSCP’s solution:
This is fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) found, rather unusually, under a goat willow in the park; birch and pine are its preferred partners.
The Lone Oak is showing its age; it has dead and dying branches and parts of the trunk are being hollowed out by fungus. We have decided that it should be allowed to get on with being several hundred years old, providing habitat for a whole new spectrum of species; we are not going to interfere. Instead, we have fenced around the tree to keep our park users safe.
The alternative would be to chop bits of it off, in order to protect the picnicking public from falling branches. This summer it became quite the thing to picnic under the Lone Oak, a tribute to its elder status.
The tree will live a long time yet; the fence will mellow, warp, acquire its own little ecology, rot away and be replaced long before the tree is done. An ageing oak tree is a wonderful resource of nesting holes, rotting wood for beetle larvae and a hundred species of fungi, a prop for climbing plants, a garden of mosses and ferns.
With luck, the Lone Oak will stand in Cornfield for centuries to come.
Pictures by DKG
There are three kinds of pigment in a usually green leaf: carotenes which are yellow, red and pink anthocyanins, and chlorophyll, which is the green that masks the other colours until autumn.
Oak trees produce thousands of acorns every year. Somebody has worked out that an oak tree can produce ten million acorns over its lifetime. In a good year, they carpet the ground under the tree.
The summer is over, the nights are drawing in and DKG has sent pictures of sycamore seeds among red leaves.
Click on any picture to enlarge it.
This is a picture of a bracket fungus on an oak tree in the park. The mycelium, which is the main part of the fungus, is growing invisibly inside the tree. This beautiful outgrowth is the fruiting body, part of the fungus’s reproductive system.
By Mary C.
It’s not an instruction to keep your coat on until June; it’s telling you to take your cardigan off when the may is in blossom, which has been known to happen as early as April.
For the last two years, a pair of blue tits has nested in a hole in an oak tree in one of the copses at the southern end of the park. There, they successfully raised broods of chicks under the watchful eye of DKG’s camera.
Ring barking or girdling can kill a tree. It happens when the tree’s bark is removed right the way round its trunk. Accidental girdling may be the result of a carelessly used strimmer, or over-tight wires and ties; it might be mammals gnawing on the bark or, in the case of deer, rubbing their antlers against it.
The vandals are back. Last night we got this message from DKG:
“Just returned from a walk around the park with Chris S. Unfortunately the vandals are back. Four trees have been ring barked in the copse in Village Green, the same area where we had trouble last year. If it was children they knew what they were doing, looking closely at the damage, they were not using small pocket knives.
I dread to think what will be damaged next. Especially with the summer holidays approaching. Once people think it’s a good idea to damage trees in this way, where/what next? “
Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is the earliest of our native flowering trees. In late February it is very distinctive: masses of creamy white blossom on bare black branches. Now, in April, the small nondescript leaves are opening and the plant becomes just one of the many spiny and spiked elements in our hedgerows. In the autumn, blackthorn is once again easily identified by the blue-black fruits we call sloes.
Blackthorn fruits prolifically; the sloes are very bitter but become more palatable after the first frost. Neolithic peoples dried them to sweeten them and archeologists have found straw lined pits full of sloe-stones, which suggests a method of preservation we no longer understand.
The blue part of a sloe’s blue-black colour is a bloom of yeast; sloes will ferment on the tree and intoxicate the birds that eat them. While there is no proof, it is hard to believe that neolithic people didn’t make sloe wine.
The tree’s thorns, hardened in urine or in a chimney, were used as pins, skewers and awls.
Blackthorn wood is tough and resilient and takes a fine polish. It makes excellent tool handles (the earliest examples we have date from the Roman period) but has been used to make blunt instruments, cudgels, knobkerries, shillelaghs, for a lot longer than that. With judicious pruning and a little patience, blackthorn will produce a thick knobbly stick with a lump on the end.
Black Rod’s black rod is supposedly a blackthorn stick.
Pictures: Google Images
We were given three English oak tree saplings for the park. The saplings, perhaps ten years old, were grown from the acorns of ancient Wiltshire oaks: the Cathedral Oak, Cromwell’s Oak and, we were told, the Sherston Oak.
Recently you may have seen that the overhanging willows on either side of the path leading from the pond to Lambrok Meadow have been either removed or pollarded, opening up the whole area.
The hazel bushes in the park are flowering early this year. The catkins are already yellow with pollen; a sunny detail on a wet day.
There were European Hornets (Vespa crabro) hunting in the Lone Oak in October. They are still quite rare in this country, but changing temperatures have extended their range as far north as Nottingham.