BBC Radio Sheffield interview

Recently I was invited on BBC Radio Sheffield to talk about the reasons for getting out and about during the winter months. In this interview I describe the appearance of the earliest flowering tree species that are commonly found in woodland, plus some of the more distinctive tree buds that can be seen in mid-January.

We also discussed the value of slowing down to observe nature and of taking the time to learn plant names as a way of making connections with the natural world.

Listen from 2hrs 39 to 2hrs 49.

Sheffield: so close to nature

The folks over at Green City Heritage have been busy editing together this short film about Sheffield’s environmental heritage. In it you can meet some of the people who are advocating on behalf of trees throughout the city. This includes a small contribution from me in my Sheffield Woodland Connections role.

From spreading the appreciation of historic trees and ancient woodland to helping kids to plant new ones, there is a lot of love for trees in Sheffield.

Ecclesall Woods: A Virtual Exploration of the ‘Spring Wood’

A couple of weeks ago I teamed up with Green City Heritage to make this fab short film, in which I talk about the veteran trees of Ecclesall Woods. Come and meet these pieces of living history and learn how to recognise their special qualities.

Film shoot at Sheffield General Cemetery

Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of contributing to a new film being made about the landscape, nature and history of Sheffield General Cemetery. Naturally I was there to talk about trees, and talk I did – for two and a half hours! All of which will be edited down to a five segment.

It was a real honour to be asked: the General Cemetery rates highly on my list of places to appreciate urban woodland and it is large enough to contain ‘wild’ patches that function as wildlife habitat.

The film will be launched at Heritage Open Days 2020, which I’ll be posting more about later.

Woodland Wanders with Sheffield Woodland Connections for Sheffield Tree Week

Sheffield Tree Week starts today and my contribution to the festival is this short film that I recorded over the weekend while walking in the wonderful Ecclesall Woods, the city’s largest woodland.

At this point in the summer the tree canopy is at its most dense and many woodland wildflowers have long since flowered. However there are a few midsummer highlights including: bramble (Rubus fruiticosus), honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) and enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana), all of which are in bloom. Plus ripe and juicy raspberries (Rubus idaeus) where the light levels are higher.

Also included within this video are tips for identifying: hornbeam (Carpinus betulus); larch (Larix decidua); Scot’s pine (Pinus sylvestris) and rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).

Visit the Sheffield Tree Week website for more information.

Sheffield Tree Week 13th to 18th July 2020

Join the city’s week long celebration of trees and woodland. Although the Tree Fayre cannot take place as planned this year the festival has instead gone online. Sheffield Tree Week will include contributions from local and national figures that work with, and are inspired by, trees.

You will be able to participate in a series of webinars with speakers from the world of arboriculture and forestry, plus artists and nature educators. There will also be talks from community groups about their activities and their plans for the city’s trees.

Visit the website for more information.

The trees of Meersbrook Park Walled Garden

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a tour of the Meersbrook Park Walled Garden, Sheffield, in the company of Kaktus, a volunteer and fellow tree enthusiast. This visit was in preparation for a walk that I will be leading here next year. Along with the park itself, the walled garden makes a wonderful place for a tree walk on account of the species variety, many of which are seldom seen in this part of the world.

The spectrally white Himalayan birch
A tunnel formed from white willow

Upon entering the walled garden from the park the first highlight is the ghostly Himalayan birch (Betula utilis), the white bark of which is especially stunning when all the leaves have fallen. Immediately to the right is a tunnel formed from flexible white willow (Salix alba) that is identifiable, even without its leaves, by the yellow stems of younger growth. This tree’s common name comes from the white underside of the leaves, just to clear up any possible confusion.

The deceptive oak-leaved hornbeam has deeply incised leaf margins
Hornbeams are identifiable by their striated silver-grey bark

One of the trees caught me out. It was an oak-leaved cultivar of hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Quercifolia’), which I have never encountered before. A few minutes were spent scratching my head: the leaves were saying ‘oak’ but the bark was something else altogether and I will admit to being thrown off the scent. Only when Kaktus confirmed it was a hornbeam did all the bits of the puzzle fall into place. Even when young the bark has the characteristic striated appearance that is best evoked by the North American name ‘musclewood’.

One of the more exotic specimens found here is the foxglove tree (Paulownia tomentosa) and, despite hailing from Central and Western China, it grows surprisingly well in Northern Britain providing it gets enough shelter from the wind. I will be back in May to check out the spectacular lilac-coloured flowers. For now it can be recognised by the unusual, pointed, seed pods, each apparently containing 200 seeds, which contributes to this beautiful tree being regarded as an invasive weed in North America.

The exotic-looking foxglove tree grows well in this sheltered garden
Yellow berried holly at the Meersbrook Park Road entrance

There are many trees of note elsewhere in the park, some of which I have mapped already, however it is a huge space and I will have to return to complete the rest in the New Year. On my way back to Meersbrook Park Road I spotted a yellow-berried holly, right next to this entrance, which was truly resplendent in the slanting winter sunlight. The birds tend to favour red berries first and so the yellow berries will likely remain throughout winter.

Free woodland walks at Ecclesall Woods – Sunday 20th October

As part of this year’s Feast in the Forest at Ecclesall Woods, on Sunday 20th October, I will be leading two tree ID and woodland appreciation walks. These free to attend walks are designed to support the aims of the Tree Charter.

The first walk will begin at 10.30am and the second at 1.30pm. Meet outside the main entrance to the Discovery Centre ten minutes before the stated start time.

These walks are open to all but places are limited and booking is advisable. To reserve your place please use the contact form.

Woodland walk for Over 50s, Sheffield General Cemetery – 8th November 2019

Want to learn more about trees and woodland in a fun an informal way? Then join Sheffield Woodland Connections, Drink Wise Age Well and Friends of the General Cemetery for an Over 50s woodland walk on 8th November 2019.

To book your free place call: 0800 032 3723.

Meet at the gatehouse entrance at the end of Cemetery Avenue at 1pm.

Woodland walk for Over 50s, Parkwood Springs – 1st November 2019

Want to learn more about trees and woodland in a fun an informal way? Then join Sheffield Woodland Connections, Drink Wise Age Well and Friends of Parkwood Springs for an Over 50s woodland walk on 1st November 2019.

To book your free place call: 0800 032 3723.

Meet at the large car park off Shirecliffe Road at 11am.