Friday, 19 November 2010

Sparrow, Seed heads and Liquid Amber

On a cold, sunny morning last week, I walked around the garden with my camera. My "point and shoot" camera is not the best for taking bird photos, but this male sparrow showed no fear and I was able to photograph him at very close range.

House sparrows are said to be decreasing in numbers across the UK, but we have a thriving community of them. They nest in the cavity walls above the garage and they use a tiered ventilation grid to get in and out. We call it Sparrow Towers.... There is plenty of food for them in the garden, hedgerows and out on the Forest, but they are also regular visitors to the bird table, squabbling and chattering away as they learn to feed on the peanut holder.

Sunlight through the lime tree.

Seed heads .......

........and frost on fallen leaves.

The rampant climbing rose, Paul`s Himalayan Musk, was a profusion of scented white-pink flowers this summer. It now glows with small red rosehips that will feed the birds over the coming weeks.

The last pear.

In the last weeks of autumn, the Liquid Amber tree shines and glows in the sunlight. This tree is around twenty five years old and is relatively young. It was planted by the previous owners of our house and is the most beautiful tree. I tried to catch the different depths and hues of maroon, red, red/orange and yellow that are found among its leaves. The colour seems to depend on the amount of sunlight that falls on each part of the tree. Strongest sun produces the deepest, reddest leaves.

The Liquid Amber (Liquidamber styraciflua) is a common southern hardwood in the USA, and apparently grows well in the temperate states to the north of the Gulf of Mexico. Its wood is used for veneer and for plywood. The tree bark is deeply fissured and the branches break easily. We lost a large branch a few years ago after a summer thunderstorm. It is known as the Sweetgum tree and when mature, it produces spiked fruits which are known as gumballs. Our tree must still be too young to bear fruit. The tree can apparently live for around two hundred years.

The Liquid Amber was introduced into Britain in 1681 by the missionary and plant collector, John Bannister. The first British tree was planted for Bishop Crompton in the gardens of Fulham Palace.
(Information from Wikipaedia)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Doppelganger Ponies

The Ginger Pony is nine years old. Born in the gorse on the Forest heath outside, we watched him grow from his first day, and he came to live with us that winter. It was the year of Foot and Mouth Disease and animals could not be moved from the Forest or transported anywhere. Ginger needed a home, and he found one here.

Below is his pretty yearling chestnut niece, grazing on the Forest green this summer. They are both the spitting images of Ginger`s mother, an old chestnut mare who died last winter. If this young pony survives the Forest roads, she will go on to produce foals of her own in New Forest springtimes still to come.

Here are two of our New Forest boys; best friends sharing a stable while they waited to have their hooves trimmed on Saturday. Look to the left and you will see an almost identical matching pair. They are a mother and daughter pair bond who were peering through the back gate from the Forest heath, hoping for a scrap of hay at feeding time.

Many New Forest ponies are related in some way or another, particularly if they are hefted in the same area and if their mothers and grandmothers have been grazing there for generations. Chocolate, our dark bay pony in the stable, is the younger brother of the dark bay mare (called Micro as she was once a very small foal) outside. She helped to look after him when he was a young foal on the Forest. Their mother, a small dark bay mare who we called Muffin, used to wander off a short distance and leave sister and brother grazing and sometimes playing together.

That winter, Muffin managed to avoid the annual round up and still had her foal at foot during the worst of the weather. We kept an eye out for them , with the knowledge of their owner who lives many miles from our village. Eventually, with mare and foal losing weight and with the foal gaining confidence in us, we offered to buy him and he was invited through the gate to join our little herd of New Forest ponies. Muffin was in her late twenties at this stage. The following year, when her newest foal was hit by a car, her owner took her off the Forest and we understand that she has now joined her ancestors.

The Grey One in the stable is half brother to the grey filly foal outside the gate. They are both three years old and share the same father, who is a beautiful steel grey New Forest pony . The Grey One came to us as an orphaned six week old, after his mother had been killed by a Hit and Run driver in our village. A friend found him trying to suckle his dead mother beside the road. The Agister was initially preparing to shoot the foal, as his commoner owner is an elderly man who was unable to rear an orphan. My friend pleaded for the little one`s life and the foal was given to her. We cared for him together for several weeks until he was given to us as we had the time and facilities to raise him.

That summer, 2007, we had three needy and motherless foals with us. All are now lovely, thriving youngsters so it was well worth the night feeds and the hours of work involved. The Grey One is now a fine, sturdy gelding who is growing well and who has the kindest temperament. He was integrated with a kind, older pony as soon as was practical. The Chocolate pony, himself grown from a poorly Forest foal, took over his role of Big Brother and has been a good companion ever since.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

More Autumn Leaves and Lanes

The first Sunday in November was a dry, bright day after nights of gales that had stripped the trees almost bare. Above are the beech trees in the header to my blog, but this time they frame a pathway into the woods of an autumn afternoon.

Through a gap in the hedge, the sloping paddocks of a Commoner`s farm shone lush and green.

Young beeches grew straight and close together, while the old parent trees stood in their own spaces and rose taller, reaching towards the light.

Even when branches were bare, new buds shone against the sky, waiting for winter to pass.

Deep in the shelter of this wooded valley, some held their leaves a while longer.

Out along the streamside path, bog myrtle glowed a coppery bronze against the duller browns of heather and the damp, rusty bracken on the heath.

Holly by the bridge.....

...and a trickling fall of peat stained water dripped and splashed into a draining stream.

The path not travelled. This was far enough for Old Dog and his arthritic legs, so we turned back here and climbed up the hill towards home.

Light was falling over the heath....

....but the sun came out, enough to catch silver birch bark where woodpeckers drill to feed on a crumbling tree stump.........

.....and enough to light patches of gold on the beech leaf carpet crunching beneath our feet.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Something strange about today`s blogpost!

Today`s blog post, "Heavy Horses at Braemore", has appeared underneath my previous post and I don`t know how to move it, so please look for the one dated 19th October, which I finished downloading today. Thank you! DW

Monday, 8 November 2010

An Autumn Walk on Beacon Hill

Last Thursday afternoon, Old Dog and I walked out of the valley, and up onto Beacon Hill. Looking back on the tree line that borders farm fields, the beech trees shone in copper and gold amongst still-green oaks and hazels.

New Forest ponies, sturdy and round after a good summer of grazing on heath and grassland, fed on young gorse shoots by the path.

Young oaks and silver birches were beginning to turn a yellow gold........

...and the sunlit lane wound up the hill, tracing an ancient trackway towards the old iron age hill fort and the hilltop beyond.

We passed ponies feeding on holly, in the sun dappled woodland........

......and the lane wound upwards, into the autumn beech woods .

Clambering through bracken and finding narrow pony tracks, we skirted the edge of the wood. Yellowing silver birches framed views across heathland and valley to the hill where smugglers once passed, bearing contraband to sell in their secret rendezvous on the old London Road.

Sun warmed the marshy heathland, still damp from earlier rain, and the mists rose over ancient burial mounds and the distant miles of woods.

Scrambling up again , towards the trees, Old Dog stopped to catch his breath, to root and snuffle good smells beside the bracken path.

Where beech leaves had already caught the wind, a carpet of copper leaves and crackling beech mast crunched beneath our feet.

Old hollies formed an evergreen understory to the canopy of tall beeches. Rays of late sunlight shone through leaves of bronze, bleached green and gold.

As we followed the lane downhill once more, we found bat boxes high on tree trunks. For years, bat populations have been surveyed in these woods.

Ripening holly berries against the sky. A feast for migrating birds arriving from the east.

Homewards under bright beech branches.....

....past a cottage and catching the scent of late viburnum flowers from a garden tree.

Home at last and Old Dog was tired. Ready for a drink, a biscuit and a sleep . Out in the lane, a pony fed on bramble sprays and holly in the hedge.