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.
This month has been a good one for mushroom collecting and these hedgehog fungi were foraged in Ecclesall Woods in mid-November, which is considered quite late in the year for this species. Hydnum repandum is one of the easiest fungi to identify as it has teeth or spines instead of gills.
They have an irregular convex cap with a slight wavy margin and appear ghostly pale against the browns and oranges of fallen leaves, which often half bury them due to their short stature. It always pays to look down at your feet when walking in the woods – in fact many of the ones I collected looked as if they had been kicked, whether purposefully or not.
Known as the wood hedgehog, wood urchin and sweet tooth, a mushroom that goes by this many names is usually either tasty or poisonous, otherwise there is little reason for it to be given much regard. Fortunately in this case it is due to its deliciousness, it is both sweet and nutty, and has a pleasant texture.
It is among the gourmet mushrooms that are sometimes seen in shops come late summer but never in great quantity. Only gather ones that are still creamy coloured, being careful to cut the stem low down to avoid damaging the mycelium that connects them to tree roots. Like all wild mushrooms, they should be cooked through before consumption.
They can be confused with the edible terracotta hedgehog, H. rufescens, which is aptly named for its warm brown colour, and the bitter tooth, Sarcodon scabrosus, which some regard as poisonous. In the latter case, the colouration is a much darker brownand tastes highly unpleasant.
As always, do not be tempted to use this visual description alone as a definitive ID for collecting fungi. The smell is important: it will have an earthy yet agreeable aroma. If in doubt, make a spore print – this will be white.
Although it is quite late in the season to be foraging for sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa), there were still a good number of edible nuts to be found during the first week of November. Ecclesall Woods is my favourite location for harvesting these delicious nuts. There are many large sweet chestnut trees in the woods, many of which were planted in the 1850s.
Sweet chestnuts are actually a Southern European species that were introduced into the woods as a fast growing alternative to native oak, with which it shares a high tannin content. This makes it a durable timber suitable for uses where a degree of water-resistance is required.
Luckily for us, many of these trees are now large specimens that produce an abundance of delicious nuts. Sadly some sweet chestnuts in Ecclesall Woods have been affected by Phytophthora aka ink disease on account of the dark spot-like stains that are seen on some trees, notably on beech. It is harder to see the early stages on the rough-barked chestnuts.
Should you go looking for chestnuts, remember to leave some for the wildlife. When gathering these I saw not one but two wood mice lurking in nearby brambles – it is not just the squirrels who like a nibble. Only take the big and firm nuts. If they are soft they are past their best; too small and they are a pain to shell.
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.
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.
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 (Lonicerapericlymenum) 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.
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.
Last Wednesday met up with Green City Heritage to make a short film for this year’s Urban Tree Festival. In it we explore the urban woodland within Sheffield General Cemetery, observing appropriate physical distancing guidelines by using a selfie-stick! We are so fortunate to have this fine mature woodland, with many an interesting species, within walking distance of the city centre.
Despite the urban setting the cemetery is a biodiversity hotspot and is popular with both wildlife and people alike. This is why I have chosen to add this location to my list of places for leading guided walks, which I hope to resume later this year.
On a recent visit to Newfield Spring Wood, a woodland close to my home in the southwest of Sheffield, I spotted a classic ancient woodland indicator species: yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon). This foliage of this plant superficially resembles the familiar stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), however it can be easily distinguished when in flower. Stinging nettle has lots of tiny ball-like flowers hanging down in chains, whereas yellow archangel has whorls of bright yellow hooded flowers. The adventurous could also tell them apart by testing the leaves – if it hurts it is a stinging nettle!
On this occasion I saw yellow archangel growing alongside white dead-nettle (Lamium album) – also a non-stinger, which has similar flowers (but in white) and broader leaves. Included below is a photo of them growing together to make identification easier.
Although yellow archangel should be a locally common species associated with the ancient woodlands and hedgerows of Sheffield, what is actually frequently found is Lamium galeobdolon‘Variegatum’ which, as the name suggests, has a variegated leaf. This is a cultivated species that often escapes from gardens into woodlands.
Join me for another virtual walk around Ecclesall Woods in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. In mid-April most trees have now come into leaf and there are wildflowers in every direction. Learn how to identify: beech (Fagus sylvatica); English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta); greater stitchwort (Stellaria holostea); hornbeam (Carpinus betulus); sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) and wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella).