Wasp heaven

We sat outside yesterday afternoon with a cup of tea and Tim had a cream scone. There were no wasps unlike a few months ago . The numbers are very low.

After a while one wasp came to check out the raspberry jam, I decided it deserved a feed up . The video of the wasp in heaven is worth a look !

The only wasps to survive the winter are the queens who will hibernate and start a new colony in the spring. The males will all die .

Although through the summer months the wasp is cursed and swatted by picnic goers and cream tea eaters it is worth remembering that they are important part of the ecosystem.

Walking on leaf carpets

An amazing October day at Batsford arboretum with blue skies .

The leaves are changing slowly and beginning to fall.

Leaf carpets are forming.

It is surprising the variety of carpet patterns as we walked around.

Lots of colours and shapes.

All sizes

Here is a gallery of carpets.

Every visit to Batsford is full of wonderful discoveries.

Not your normal nut

I love collecting hazelnuts , eating them on a walk is a treat. This year the hazel trees have been loaded with these tasty treats.A walk through Kettering a few days ago turned up an unusual hazel tree with very spiky cases.

The nuts in these are smaller , they are called Turkish hazels (Corylus colunda).

These hazels are often grown as ornamental trees and grow well in urban areas. The nuts are very striking.

It is great to discover new things when you aren’t expecting it .

Our rabbits are very fond of hazel leaves , it is their favourite food .

London Adventure

We boarded the 08.22 to London this morning for a London adventure . The weather was warm and the sky blue as we sped into St Pancras.

Walking through the park in Russel Square it was full of primary school groups having fun, people enjoying the sun and fantastic London Plane trees.

These wonderful trees account for over half of London’s tree population.

It was ‘discovered’ in the mid 17th century in John Tradecsant’s nursery in Vauxhall.

It is a hybrid of the American sycamore and the Oriental Plane.

The trees were planted in large numbers during the industrial revolution when pollution levels were high, these trees with their peeling bark layers are hardy to difficult conditions.They also require little root space.

Some of the oldest planes in London can be found in Berkley Square, there are about 30 trees planted in1789.

They are very attractive trees. Today in the park some of the leaves have already fallen, the gardeners were sweeping and leaf blowing them up. This will be an ongoing task !

Walking further by the front of the British Museum there are some fantastic specimens along the road. They are amazingly tall as you can see in the photos against the tall London houses.

Walking further along museum road we discovered a shop full of some of my favourite things.

The window display was brilliant.

They even had the elusive mammoth tooth Rowan and I went searching for in August !

It’s just not the same to buy one it’s back to Norfolk for us to discover one of our own.

A great day out !

Snail Safari

It had rained in the night and after some lovely blue sky this morning it rained some more. In a gap in the weather we set out on a Sunday morning walk.

This became a safari of snails ! The conditions must have been perfect for these molluscs they were everywhere.

They especially like to climb the trees . There was a lovely variety of colour on this safari.

Banded snails can vary from plain to fully striped. They can have up to five stripes on each whorl. They can also be pink, there were a large number of pink snails up the trees today.

There are two banded snails, the white lipped ( Cepaea hortensis ) which looking at these snails with their pale lips are what we saw today and Cepaea nemoralis which has a dark lip and is therefore sensibly called the dark lipped banded snail.

They are amazing the way that they can move through areas of small twigs as well as bark and trees. They were climbing any stem available.

I love this photo the air is so damp and the twigs so wet the snail has droplet if water decorating it’s shell.

There is a huge variety of these snails to look out for.

It felt very autumn like today the leaves are starting to turn colour. Looking forward to the colour changes as they progress.

As the leaves fall the lovely lichen again starts to take centre stage.

This was a great morning explore and definitely all about the snails.

Geese under the moon

The moon was a slither tonight. It was almost dark at 7.15pm when we decided to have a walk around the lake.

It has been a wonderful day of blue skies but there is definitely a cool nip in the air and that was true tonight. The sky was rather lovely over the lakes.

Although it seemed to be a calm time almost time for sleep there was an awful lot of noise and activity from birds.

The Canada geese were gathering in large numbers and it seemed they were discussing which direction to fly off for the night. They seemed to fly off in groups heading in different directions over a 15 minute period.

If you look carefully in the photo there are large groups of geese. The video below is of them making noise and then leaving.

In the background of the video above the trees there are a second group of noisy birds, a great flock of rooks getting ready to roost.

Much quieter were the Moorhen family, mum and two chicks also moving towards nest for the night. I love the way moorhens move.

As we finished the loop around the lake blackbirds were flitting through trees and robins were hopping along the posts and ground. There was a lot of activity.

The sky was wonderful, hoping for a fine day tomorrow to do some exploring !

Conkers everywhere

Conkers are laying glossy brown under trees all over. Horse Chestnuts are not native to Britain, they were introduced in the 1600s.They do not feature strongly in our woodland but they are found across the country.A horse Chestnut in the spring covered in fantastic candelabra shaped flowers. The buds ( sticky) followed by the delicate leaves are beautiful in Spring followed by these gorgeous flowers. It is a tree that has a lot to offer the eye !

The first ever game of conkers that was recorded was in 1848 on the Isle of Wight. The game was played before this but with cob nuts.

The conker still in its case above was found yesterday in a field opposite the botanic gardens in Cambridge. There were plenty of conkers to be collected however a large number were safe as they had landed in cow pats!

When you first collect a conker it has a wonderful Varnished quality almost glossy . This quickly goes as it dries, these conkers from yesterday varied in size and shape , I fancy the flat one at the front , this is the one I would have soaked in vinegar or dried especially for a game of conkers.

The world conker championships are held in the village of Ashton in Northamptonshire and has been going since 1965.

I love the spiky cases of conkers , this one from yesterday looks like a bronze sculpture I sat it on the mantelpiece.

Horse Chestnuts are a common sight,’there are estimated to be 470,000 tree across the country.

Conkers are not fit for human consumption but deer ,cattle and horses do eat them. People put them in wardrobes to deter moths and in rooms to chase out spiders. Who knows if this works, it seems unlikely.

Horse Chestnuts are suffering from a pest at the moment called the leaf miner moth. The larvae of the moth burrows into the leaves , they become dry and brown and eventually are killed. You will have noticed some trees have gone brown very early in the year because of this.

These larvae were first observed in Macedonia in 1985 and then in London in 2002 . They are spreading 40-60 km a year.

Although it does not affect the health of the tree it does cause damage to leaves and makes the trees more susceptible to other diseases.

Another problem facing the horse chestnut is bleeding canker. This has increased in the last five years. It can affect any age of tree, mature trees can be disfigured. Younger trees can be killed in 3-5 years.

Let’s hope that the trees win out against these threats and continue to grace the countryside with their wonderful canopies of flowers and harvest of conkers in the Autumn.

New features on Nature Table Explorer

I love exploring and writing this blog , discoveries and travels shared are great fun.

Today I have updated the website and added some new pages to the menu at the top of the page.

I hope you enjoy them.

Click on menu and you will now find:

  • An updated about page with contact details
  • Explorations magazine- this has information about issue one and the launch and follow up activities. This will be updated with information about further issues.
  • Explorations newsletters- this has digital copies of the newsletters published to read or download.
  • Wild flower year– this is a page I’m excited about.I will be posting flowers with their dates as I discover them throughout the year.
  • Events– this page has all the dates for newsletters and magazine publication. It also has dates for contributors to the magazine. As there are more events with naturetableexplorer.com they will be listed on this page.
  • Schools and groups- this page will be added tomorrow with school and group materials and offers for talks and activities. There are examples of workshops that have been delivered on this page. I am available to work with groups and schools of all ages and abilities.

I hope this will add a new dimension to the blog linking it with the magazine and encouraging more people to become part of EXPLORATIONS either through the readers pages sending in stories and photos or by sending in articles and ideas.

Issue one is available to buy via PayPal at £5.20 which includes postage and packaging. Issue 2 is out on December the 5th. I’d love you to be involved with issue 3 , email all ideas and contributions to

naturetableexplorer@yahoo.com

Remember EXPLORE MORE!

Cambridge Botanic Gardens in the rain.

The question this morning was will we or won’t we?

Visit the botanic gardens , shall we risk it or not ?

We did, getting out of the car we felt rather smug , no rain what was all the fuss about. As I walked back from the ticket machine the heavens opened!!

Well we are here now so off we went exploring boots on, waterproofs zipped up.

The first encounter was with this lovely moorhen, at first the rain seemed of no consequence but as it got heavier it headed for a cave of plants in the stream bank.

Cambridge Botanic Gardens are a fantastic place to explore with brilliant planting and habitats and a range of glasshouses.

In issue two of EXPLORATIONS there will be a feature about travelling the world in these glasshouses.

Today the weather gave the gardens a fresh green hue and it was surprising how many flowers were still in full bloom especially in the bee borders .

These geraniums were even more beautiful in the rain.

At the end of the glasshouses there is a shady area full of ferns , tree ferns and two wonderful cork oaks.

Another feature of the rain is that it identified some wonderful spiders webs all horizontal sheet webs in a large area of plants. The delicate spiders were hanging under the centre of each web.

They were very difficult to photograph as the webs were across these pointy stems.

After a warm up cup of coffee we headed back to the car , passing a perfect weeping willow , like a painting.

Explore more … even in the rain !

Seed harvest

This is a great time of year to harvest seeds for next year.

A packet of seeds is expensive and often contains very few seeds. If you have grown plants this year collect the seeds and grow your own collected seeds.

A few simple steps to ensure success

  • Wait until the seed heads are ready and ripe.
  • Choose a day when it is really dry.
  • Tap the seeds into an envelope
  • Seal and label
  • Store in a dry cool Place until spring.

If you have a larger seed head you can put a paper bag over the whole flower head tie a rubber band around and then hang up in a dry place.

Cosmos seeds are really easy to collect and the flowers are great all summer attracting insects.

The seed heads at the top of the article are from Nicotiana sylvestris each little brown pot shaped seed pot contains hundreds of seeds .

I am waiting to harvest sweet peas seeds and purple french beans.

A quick walk around the garden shows lots of seed collecting targets.

Poppy

Wallflower

Campanula

Mallow

Acanthus

Lupin

Sunflower

I have already collected marigolds and others so hopefully there will be plenty of colour next year with no expense !