Midwinter moments

On the shortest day of the year we ventured to Anglesey Abbey close to Cambridge. This National Trust property has a house , a working flour mill and a large winter garden.

It did not feel very wintery today it was very mild and there were plenty of small insects in clouds.

The winter garden is full of colour with amazing stems in colours you wouldn’t believe. They have been pruned to make dramatic shapes and lots of impact as you follow the winding path.

The path takes you into a glade of silver birch with their striking white bark.

As you follow the path the scent of these Daphne follows you, the mahonias are bright yellow and also heavily scented.

There is lots of yew planted around the grounds creating small enclosed areas with statues and lawns. I loved this corner where the wind had arranged the leaves perfectly.

As we wandered along there are snowdrops pushing through , Anglesey Abbey is famous for the snowdrop displays and has snowdrop days in February.There are also hundreds of hellebores just opening up their flowers.

A walk through the woodland paths was full of butchers broom. Butchers broom is sometimes called knee holly because of its hight and the prickly leaves and it also has red berries. Bunches of this stiff evergreen were used to brush down butchers blocks. It can live well in dense shade beneath trees and is good at competing with tree roots for water and nutrients.It is a plant found in ancient woodlands, it forms clumps and can be older than the trees around it.

In this woodland walk we spied a strange tree , almost Ent like. It has split and grown back together in the main trunk. It looks like either the pair of Ent legs or the eye of a needle, very unusual !

A good walk on the shortest day , looking forward to longer days and more exploring.

21st December Batsford

The day before the winter solstice, the shortest day.This year the shortest day will be December 22nd and then we will begin the climb back into more light and longer days.

Strangely it wasn’t raining, it was mild and I didn’t even need my coat for a walk at Batsford Arboretum.

I was expecting to see some great berries and seed heads but was surprised to find flowers as well.

The hydrangea at the top was one of a few in each patch which looked bright and fresh, most had turned brown and wilted. The bright yellow water marigold was in the middle of the big pool and seems to have its clock wrong!

Water was rushing down the stream and waterfalls today, there has been so much rain.

Berries were certainly out in force and in all shades.

I loved the dried shells of seed heads. The structure of these seed shakers is fascinating.

Water was not only rushing down the hillside it was also clinging to some of the trees and leaves.

At the end of each pine needle there was a perfect drop of water, decorating the tree.

Most of the autumn leaves carpeting the ground are losing their colours and starting to break down. It’s always worth looking under trees, this beautiful cone was lying in a carpet of leaves.

Mahonia was in flower and also had some stunning leaf colours.

Not a typical December day, it was very mild and damp. Trees at the arboretum are covered in buds ready for spring, there are sharp leaves of bulbs pushing though ready for the change of the season. Catkins are tightly packed and ready for action as the old year ends and we move into a new decade!

Every visit to Batsford is full of new discoveries.

Windy walk on the edge

We ventured out to Potton in Bedfordshire to walk on a Sandy ridge ( just outside if Sandy infact)

This is the HQ if the RSPB and is a super place to explore with pines and birches along undulating paths. Because the soil is so sandy the paths are non muddy.

NTX’s John and Michelle has been here a couple of weeks ago and there were lots of fungi and slime moulds around. There were some today but not so many.

A winter walk focuses the eyes on different colours and sights. This tree stump caught my eye because the lichen was such an interesting blue green.

There were plenty of lichens to discover , whole floor areas we’re covered in this grey green species forming a carpet.

As you stroll through areas in the winter you start to notice lichen and moss more and the numbers of plants and the variety of species is huge.

Today has been very blustery but the skies have been bright blue and the temperature very mild. The trees look spectacular against the blue backdrop even the stumps.

This area of birch was very attractive with braken dying down beneath them.

Colour wise some of the mosses were amazingly emerald and striking.

Back to the fungi , here’s a few we saw today;

Other discoveries included plenty of galls on the oak leaves.

This is a super place to walk, there are fantastic trees, cliffs and plenty of bird life . In the summer the wildflowers and insects add to the visit.

Magazine Number 2

Today is the launch of issue two of Explorations, the magazine if naturetableexplorer.com. It is full of fantastic articles covering all areas of the natural world. New features including, poetry page, readers page and book reviews make this a brilliant read which is packed with beautiful photos and amazing facts.

A huge thank you to all the contributors to this issue. If you would like to contribute an article, idea or photo to issue three please contact me through naturetableexplorer@yahoo.com

Above are the two front covers of the magazine, launching today at 6-8 at magazine heaven in Rushden, Northants.

If you would like a copy of the magazine it is available through PayPal at naturetableexplorer@yahoo.com

£5 for one issue ( this includes p and p)

£16 for years subscription of three issues and 3 newsletters . ( includes p and p )

You can also send a cheque , email for the address and I will post out the issue 😀

This is a non profit making project which is aiming to engage and interest more people in nature and the environment . Please become part of the project by contributing to issue three or by purchasing a magazine and spreading the message about the brilliant world around us .

Thanks

Christmas feast

Although it is still November the pigeons were feasting on Christmas. The holly trees along the banks of the river Cam in Cambridge are loaded with bright red berries.

They are a banquet for the birds and the pigeons were busy taking their fill.

Holly is a tree that makes us immediately think of Christmas. We are scouting the hedges for berry laden branches to bring into the house with handfuls if ivy to decorate and bring in the spirit of Christmas.

Holly appears in Pagan folklore as a figure called the holly king who rules nature between the summer and the winter solstices.

Christian legends say that holly sprang up under Christ’s footsteps.The spiny leaves represent the crown of thorns and the red berries drops of his blood.

Holly trees were also traditionally known as lightning conductors and were often planted near houses.

In folklore holly is thought to have protective properties. It is bad luck to fell an entire tree. They are often left taller than the rest of a hedge.

Holly definitely makes us all think of Christmas time and I will be making wreaths and filling pots for the house to make us all feel full of the Christmas spirit.

The pigeon was definitely feeling full of the holly too.

Damp loving Moss

It has been continuously damp or wet, it doesn’t make you feel at you best unless you are a moss.

Yesterday on a damp stroll the stand out bright spots were all taken by emerald green moss.

Moss is a non flowering plant , it reproduces using spores . Moss don’t have true roots , they do have stems and leaves.

They need damp conditions to grow and reproduce. The male cells need water to move. Mosses are really fascinating.Mosses and plants called liverworts both belong to a division of plants called bryophytes . In Great Britain there are a thousand species of these bryophytes.

The moss on this walk was mainly on trees.

A quick look in a trusty botany textbook gives a few more interesting facts about moss.

Mosses usually have radially symmetrical shoots with only one type of leaf.

Most mosses have no internal differentiation of tissues.

Mosses produce capsules full of spores.

The capsule has a cap called a operculum.

Spores are shaken out by the movement of the flexible seta which holds the capsule.

We often walk passed our even over mosses. There is lots to learn about them and they definitely deserve a closer look.

Venus flytrap excitement

This plant sits on the kitchen windowsill. We love having interesting plants in the house. This insectivorous plant is a brilliant plant for interest. It catches flies in its spring like traps and now has put up six flower stems.

Last year we had a flytrap flowering but only a couple of flower stems so this is a real treat. These plants are easy to look after if you remember to water them. They need wet conditions and the pot always has water in the tray. Most books say they need rain water but we only use tap water and they seem to grow fine.

The other plants that are also insectivorous and great to grow are pitcher plants .

These act as a pitfall trap and digest insects that fall into the watery depth of their pitchers.

These trumpet pitchers (Sarrecenia) are available in garden centres and can be grown successfully in the house with care. They look spectacular.

Back to the kitchen Venus flytrap . The structure of the plant is interesting.

These modified leaves are traps for insects. They have sensitive hairs inside that act as a trigger. The two sides can close in a tenth of a second. These plants come from poor soil areas of North America such as north and South Carolina. The plant gains nutrients from the insects it traps and digests.When the trap is shut glands produce enzymes that digest the insect , the chitin of the exoskeleton and the nitrogen rich blood. This can take several days. The leaf will then reopen and the husk of the insect blows away.

First Ice

This morning winter had arrived, the car needed to be scrapped and needed to defrost.

The clear water on the boat cover was full of leaves and was beautiful .

This water is just collected in a tarpaulin but makes wonderful pictures.

The day has been very cold , the first icy morning of the year.

Issue 2 of Explorations

The second Issue of Explorations, the magazine of naturetableexplorer.com is really taking shape.

Articles are in, pages are being designed and proof reading has started.

This issue is crammed with great articles and features including exploring Iceland, Devon beauty , wild boar, poetry , and more.

If you would like a copy of issue 1 or this new issue as it is published (Dec 5th) you can purchase on PayPal at naturetableexplorer@yahoo.com.

Subscriptions are available, three issues a year and three newsletters so none of the year is missed !

This is a non profit project promoting and developing a love of natural history and the wonderful natural world.

EXPLORE MORE

Blow away the cobwebs

It certainly has been a day to blow away the cobwebs and anything else that was standing in the way .

The weather is not the best today with wind and periods of rain. A walk full of autumn colours at Rushden Lakes definitely gives you a spring In your step .

As the leaves fall with this autumnal weather the paths are lined with colour and draw you on.

Even puddles look interesting.

Some areas of scrub and woodland are becoming wet and full of pools, providing different habitats as the year moves on.

This area of scrubby trees is often full of goldfinches and long tailed tits.

There were plenty of squirrels on the walk today, they seem busy finding food and preparing for winter.The fallen leaves frame everything in a halo of colour.

The river Nene is very high after all the rain and flowing quickly. The only birds we saw today were a few swans, a pair of great created grebes and some coots.

Moss thrives in these damp conditions , this tree stump seemed to be sporting an emerald green moss sock.

A quick walk to blow the cobwebs away was full of colour and interest. Two loops of the lake just two miles but so much to see and enjoy. Afterwards feeling refreshed and ready for the day !