Nature has an incredible way of overcoming what are seemingly insurmountable difficulties, the grass that grows through tarmac, the hedges that burst into leaf after being shattered by flail hedge cutters, the birds that are willing to return to an environment that was once so hostile it threatened their very existence. When the times are tough, as they have been for everyone over the last few weeks as the corona virus ravages across the globe, it’s reassuring to put anxieties to one side and simply watch a red kite stretching its wide wings as it floats in the sky or a silent barn owl slicing through the dusk as it searches for its supper. The Wood can offer us a place to relax in as well as wonder as we observe the ever changing and adaptable ways of nature.
What’s happening in the Wood?
The Jubilee Wood continues to show signs of bursting into life, with green shoots emerging on the hawthorn trees and brambles, and one of the crab apples around the central area is already flowering, if somewhat half heartedly at the moment. The glossy, elongated, arrow shaped leaves of the Wild Arum, Arum maculatum, can be seen around the bottom of the hedges, often with attractive dark spots on. Some people know it better as Lords and Ladies, ‘cuckoo pint’, or Jack in a pulpit and it’s distinctively shaped flower has not surprisingly led to many names with bawdy associations.The flower is designed to attract flies for pollination and its fruit, which is a spike of bright orange berries can be a common sight in woodlands in autumn, but like many wild berries these are toxic to humans.
The leaves of the low growing Speedwells, Veronica persica and Veronica chamaedrys, are also all around the wood and as its name indicates, it was seen as good luck when seen on journeys. In Ireland in years gone by, ‘speed you well’ was even sewn into clothes as a good luck charm to protect against accidents. Introduced to this country from Asia by the Victorians, the common names for speedwells include ‘bird’s eye’, cat’s eye, and Farewell. The bright blue flowers brighten up the darkest of woodland corners and it won’t be long before they are flowering.
The newts are back (if they ever went away)
On the amphibian front, the first newts have been seen in the pond which is full to the brim after the continuous rain and grey skies of February. With the lack of cold weather this winter some people are wondering if they did much hibernating at all. Fortunately March has been much drier and the warm days of sunshine have been a relief to those of us who have had to keep at home. The occasional sharp ground frosts have made surfaces slippery but at least the paths around the wood are finally drying out although it doesn’t take much rain to make them soggy again. The previous dark, waterlogged areas under the hawthorn and blackthorn are disappearing and muntjac are making the most of the young trees for cover.
New Identification Sheets
Five new identification sheets have been added to the folder in the arbour , so once people can get out and about again there will be an opportunity to put a name to what you’ve found there. Thanks to Michael for ordering them and making an excellent holder to keep them all together and protected from the weather.
As I write this, the clocks have been turned forward to remind us that it’s officially British Summer Time and those of us who have been waking up early will certainly be aware that the birds don’t worry about man made time constraints. What can be more uplifting than hearing a dawn chorus as the sun starts to rise?! Perhaps tired new parents suffering from sleep deprivation might not agree but on the whole, it’s a pretty wonderful experience which doesn’t cost anything and can be enjoyed by all of us. Ready to nest, the birds are making use of the many bird boxes in the wood and perhaps before very long there will be fledglings, who with any luck, will also be joining in the dawn chorus this time next year…..
As we wait to see how the next weeks unfold, perhaps we can start to appreciate rather than resent this opportunity to slow down, an opportunity to observe and listen to the sights and sounds of nature, the Wood will be there waiting for all of us, providing us all with a wonderful place to just be.
www.wildlifetrusts.org – useful activities for all the family