Saturday, 26 November 2011

A Woodland Walk in Autumn

Thursday was a dry day. There has been no rain here for several weeks and temperatures are high for late November. I joined two village friends for a walk , new to them, around the ancient beechwoods . I have photographed this walk before, but every time it is different. The trees change with the seasons, the New Forest foals grow up, fungi and berries come and go.

Here is the hill on my header phototograph, with the two tall beech trees almost free of their autumn leaves. We followed the path and turned into the holly wood, where ponies were chewing on the bark of mature holly trees.

The Old Man of the Woods was still there, in his sentry post overlooking the stream.

Along the path, we crossed a stretch of moorland, where heather and bracken had dried to a rusty gold.

Into the beechwoods....

....where the older trees had shed their leaves but the understorey of holly thrived, dark green.

A bracket fungus on a rotting beech stump.

Some of the beeches and oaks in this wood are many hundreds of years old. When they die and eventually fall, their wood is left to rot. The tree becomes a habitat for invertebrates and a feasting ground for insect eating birds.

Little B, my companions` miniature Yorkshire Terrier, came with us on our walk. We were walking for two hours and he did not tire once. In fact he covered twice the ground that we did! The leaf carpeted woodland was a paradise of smells for a small dog and the occasional squirrel chase was the most exciting way to play. The photo is blurry because he would NOT keep still!

Crossing the stream that drains the peaty moorland.

Back towards the holly wood........

The light was low all day, but pinpricks of yellow gorse and scarlet holly berries brightened dull colours of autumn.

We crossed a carpet of crunching leaves....

....and climbed the hill, out onto the homeward track again.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Old Dog`s Sunday Walk

Yesterday, morning fog slowly thinned under weak sunlit skies and a damp chill stayed in the air. On a family walk, Old Dog and his smallest human friend wanted to stay together. He had slept beside her on the living room floor as she played with a toy farm all afternoon.

Dog on a lead....... a bit of a tangle.....

......but soon sorted out and off for a walk with Granddad.

The moles had been busy, out on the Forest grass.

In woodland leaf litter, we found earthballs emerging....

...and what might have been an orange Fly Agaric.

Bonfire smoke, from a woodland garden, drifted across the valley.

On our way back home for tea, we passed Forest ponies cropping grass still silver with dew from the damp and misty morning.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Fly Agarics and Forest Friends

Mid November. A mild, damp morning on the heath, where gorse is flowering again. At the woodland edge, deep red branches and shining white bark of silver birch trunks show that their foliage has gone. Oak and beech hang on to their leaves until the next strong winds blow through.

Old Dog still loves his daily walks, although progress is slower and the way is shorter now.

The yellow gold of beech leaves against a backdrop of dry brown leaves on an ancient oak.

By the edge of the woodland track, Fly Agaric toadstools are here again. Each autumn they grow in this spot, out of thick layers of leaf mould and amongst the bracken, bramble and grass.

The traditional Fairy Toadstools of childhood story books and folk legend, Fly Agarics are poisonous but beautiful. Roger Phillips writes in Mushrooms and Other Fungi of the British Isles (Pan Books, 1981) that the name derives from the medieval practice of soaking platefuls of the toadstool cap in milk, to stupify flies. He also tells of the use of these toadstools by the reindeer herders of Lapland, who might chew the dried cap to experience the dizzying and hallucinogenic effects of the toxins that the toadstool contains.

Bright moss and a foxglove for next spring.

An old Hazel hedge, showing signs of past coppicing, still shows green leaves beside the path.

Up on the hillside. a cow sleeps with her new born calf in a commoner`s farm field.

The Badgers Set, where local badger families would be sleeping beneath the bank, ready to emerge and forage for worms and insects in the woodland at night.

As we walked, we came upon a little group of New Forest mares who have lived around the village edge since they were born. This mare, Spice, is the sister of our New Forest geldings, Woody and Ginger. She knows us well and came across to greet us.

The New Forest colts have left their mothers now, to be kept on their owners` smallholdings or to be sold at the Pony Sales. The filly foals might stay with their mothers , to expand the family group. This bay filly is tall for her age and looks well after a good first summer on the Forest.

Spice`s grown-up daughter came over to join us.

The foal wandered away but kept a close eye on Old Dog, although the adult ponies are unworried by his presence and seem to know that he is old, frail and no danger to them.

Spice and her daughter followed us down the hill......

Holly berries, on bushes scattered amongst the gorse, are feeding migrant thrushes and blackbirds now.

Underneath the trees, on our way back home, we found clusters of unknown toadstools shining among dried leaves in the grey November light.